Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Killigrew, Robert

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1444241Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 31 — Killigrew, Robert1892Thomas Seccombe (1866-1923)

KILLIGREW, Sir ROBERT (1579–1633), courtier, grandson of John Killigrew of Arwennack, Cornwall, and son of Sir William Killigrew, by Margaret, daughter of Thomas Saunders of Uxbridge, Middlesex, was born in London, probably in 1579. His father, though always in debt, kept up a large house in Lothbury, London, and held the post of groom of the privy chamber to Queen Elizabeth, by whom he was granted the right to farm the profits of the seals of the queen's bench and common pleas. This privilege was, in spite of numerous protests, confirmed to him by the queen in 1577 (see Burghley Papers, Lansdowne MSS. 25 and 83). In return for his perquisite Killigrew supported the court interest in parliament, where he represented Helston in 1572, Penryn in 1584, and the county of Cornwall in 1597. He was knighted by James I at Theobalds on 7 May 1603, and represented Liskeard in the parliament of 1604. Appointed chamberlain of the exchequer for 1605–6, Sir William Killigrew sat once more for Penryn in 1614, and died in Lothbury on 23 Nov. 1622 (P. C. C. Savile, p. 96).

As ‘Robert Killegrew of Hampshire’ he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on 29 Jan. 1590–1, aged 11. In 1601 he was returned to parliament for St. Mawes, Cornwall. Knighted by James I at Hanworth on 23 July 1603, he sat for Newport in the parliament of the following year, and was sitting for Helston in May 1614, when during the debate on ‘undertaking’ he ‘offered to pluck Sir Roger Owen off his chair,’ or at any rate ‘laid hands on him, used an unkind countenance to him, and sharp words.’ His sequestration was demanded, but on the intercession of Sir Edward Montagu, and considering the circumstance that ‘his father, brother, and uncle, all in the house do condemn the fact,’ he was allowed to acknowledge his error at the bar (Commons' Journals, i. 483). Killigrew represented Newport again in 1621, Penryn in 1623, Cornwall in 1625, Tregony in 1626, and Bodmin in 1628. The family interest in Cornish boroughs must have been very strong, since in 1614, while his father was still alive, and other members of the family held Cornish seats, Sir Robert gave a seat at Helston to Sir James Whitelocke (Liber Famelicus, p. 41; cf. Courtney, Parl. Representation of Cornwall, p. 18).

In the middle of May 1613 Killigrew, who had just emerged from the Fleet prison—the cause of his confinement is unknown—paid a visit to Sir Walter Raleigh in the Tower. On leaving Raleigh he was hailed from a window by another prisoner, Sir Thomas Overbury. Killigrew had been on friendly terms with Overbury, and stood for some minutes in private conversation with him. For this offence he was on 19 May committed once more to the Fleet (Winwood, Memorials, iii. 455), but his detention was a short one, as on 7 July 1613 he was appointed captain or keeper of Pendennis Castle for life (State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1611–1613, p. 242). That he permitted Killigrew to converse with Overbury was one of the charges brought against Sir William Waad, lieutenant of the Tower, previous to his dismissal in June 1613. But Killigrew was more intimately concerned with the mystery in which Overbury's death was involved. He had obtained a great reputation among the courtiers as a concoctor of drugs and cordials, and as a man of general scientific attainments (see a letter of his to Sir Dudley Carleton on a perspective glass; ib. 1618–19). According to a statement made by Killigrew at the investigation regarding Overbury's last days (3 Oct. 1615) Somerset had in May 1613 sent to him on three separate occasions for one of his white powders. The first of these powders was avowedly for Overbury, and was to be forwarded, he was told, in answer to the prisoner's own request for an emetic (see Gardiner, History, ii. 182). Somerset alleged that it was one of Killigrew's powders that had such bad effects on Overbury on the night of 3 June 1613. But it came out in the evidence that these effects were attributable to a fourth powder, and Killigrew solemnly affirmed that Somerset had from him but three, all of which were quite harmless, and similar to those he was in the habit of dispensing (Amos, The Great Oyer of Poisoning, pp. 106–7, 144). On Somerset's downfall Killigrew found a friend in Buckingham, who wrote on his behalf to Bacon in 1619 about a suit for certain concealed lands. He lost favour by a duel which he had with Captain Burton on 7 Jan. 1618, but recovered it sufficiently to be appointed prothonotary of chancery for life on 31 Oct. 1618. In 1619 he was granted some lands in Windsor Forest, and from this date until his death he accumulated small perquisites about the court. He would have obtained more both for his sons and on his own account if he had not given offence to Buckingham by his complaints against his agent, Sir James Bagge (see Killigrew's letter to Lord Conway, Forster, Eliot, ii. 67). In 1625 a grant of 350l. was made to him by parliament for the repair of three Cornish strongholds, the castles of St. Mawes, St. Michael's Mount, and Pendennis. In this year also, in a debate concerning the supply demanded by the new king, Killigrew moved in the interest of the court that the question should not be put, thus averting from the royal party the humiliation of open defeat (Debates in Parliament, 1625, Camd. Soc., p. 120). On 8 Sept. 1625 it was mentioned that he was likely to succeed Sir Dudley Carleton as resident ambassador to the States-general, and he was actually appointed on 7 Feb. following (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1625–6). On 2 Jan. 1630, once more in England, he was appointed vice-chamberlain to the queen. Killigrew was an original shareholder in the New River Company, incorporated 21 June 1619, and bore a part in the draining of the Lindsey Level in 1630 (ib. 1629–31, p. 426). He died at his country seat, Kineton Park, Hanworth, in the spring of 1633. His will was proved 12 May 1633 (P. C. C. Russell, 69). Although he shared the fiery temper characteristic of his family, Killigrew was a man of much originality and business capacity.

He married Mary, daughter of Sir Henry Woodhouse of Kimberley, Norfolk, and niece of Sir Francis Bacon (Blomefield, Norfolk, ix. 353). She survived him, and remarried Sir Thomas Stafford, gentleman-usher to Queen Henrietta Maria. The Countess of Warwick remarks of her in her autobiography (Percy Soc. 1848, p. 9), ‘she was a cunning old woman who had been herself too much, and was too long versed in amours.’ Killigrew had five sons, including William (afterwards Sir William), Thomas the dramatist, and Henry the divine, who are separately noticed, and seven daughters, one of whom, Elizabeth, married Francis Boyle, first viscount Shannon. She had a daughter by Charles II, Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Boyle, alias Fitzroy (d. 1684), who became Countess of Yarmouth (Jacob, English Peerage, ii. 482; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. vii. 258, viii. 98).

[Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub.; Archæologia, xviii. 99 (pedigree); Vivian's Visitations of Cornwall, 1887, pp. 268, 271; Miscellanea Genealog. and Herald, new ser. i. 370; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Metcalfe's Knights, Append. p. 222; Spedding's Bacon. passim; Harl. MSS. 7002 and 7006; Sloane MS. 203, fol. 38; Dugdale's Hist. of Imbanking, 1772, p. 424; Nichols's Progresses of James I, ii. 641; W. P. Courtney's Parl. Representation of Cornwall, pp. 42, 169, &c.; Gardiner's History, v. 429; Returns of Members of Parl.; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. vii. 454, 550.]

T. S.