Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Magnus, Thomas

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MAGNUS, THOMAS (d. 1550), ambassador, said by Wood to have been a foundling, and called at first ‘Among us,’ was really the son of John and Alice Magnus, and born at Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire. Wood is probably correct in saying that he was ‘a doctor from beyond the sea,’ as he incorporated in a doctor's degree at Oxford in 1520. He had already attracted the favourable notice of the court, and became archdeacon of the East Riding of Yorkshire in 1504, upon the promotion of Richard Mayhew [q. v.] to the see of Hereford. At the beginning of Henry VIII's reign he was chaplain to the king and one of the royal servants. Before Flodden he was employed in carrying money to the army, and for the rest of his life was occupied in border affairs. He had many acquaintances in Scotland, with whom he was constantly corresponding, and duly reporting the information he thus acquired to the privy council. His chief associates in the work were Dacre and Williamson. In February 1513–14 he was at Edinburgh, and on 17 Jan. 1514–15 he wrote to the pope on behalf of Gavin Douglas [q. v.], who was trying to obtain the see of Dunkeld. This he probably did to please Queen Margaret, who sent her commendations to him about the same time, and was always friendly to him; he had some share in the management of Margaret's English property (cf. Letters and Papers Henry VIII, ed. Brewer, ii. i. 48, ii. 3335, 4677, iii. i. 166). In the north he acted as a receiver for Wolsey (ib. ii. i. 250). In October 1515 he was with Dacre at Harbottle, Northumberland, when Queen Margaret was delivered of a daughter, and sent accounts of the mother's health to Henry. On 30 May 1516 he was one of the commissioners to arrange the terms of the Scottish treaty, and in January 1516–17 negotiated a prolongation of the truce. He obtained a grant of the deanery of the collegiate church of St. Mary in Bridgenorth Castle, Shropshire, on 14 Aug. 1517, and, 1 Sept. 1518, was a commissioner to make inquiries in Yorkshire for concealed wardships and marriages; and in May 1519 he was in Edinburgh again as the bearer of a letter from Henry to James V. As a king's chaplain he was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520; he seems also about this time to have become a member of the privy council. The king had given him a Welsh rectory in 1519, and in 1520 added the office of receiver of the lands of the king's wards and a canonry of Windsor. A valuable survey, which he drew up as receiver of the Duke of Buckingham's lands in 1521, is preserved in the Record Office (ib. iii. i. 1286).

Magnus, however, was mainly employed on the border. He was acting in 1523 as paymaster of the forces there, and was called treasurer of wars in the north, attending to the navy accounts at times (ib. iv. i. 162). In September 1524 he was sent with Roger Ratcliffe on a mission to Scotland (ib. iv. i. 162, 729, 767, Wolsey's instructions). Their business was to reconcile, if possible, Margaret and Angus, to counteract French influence, and to propose a marriage between James V and the Princess Mary. The queen, however, was obstinate. The ambassadors unwisely took part in Angus's riotous proceedings, and were rebuked by the queen for their interference. They left for England on 29 Nov. without having accomplished their ends. Further preferment had been meanwhile bestowed on Magnus. On 7 May 1521 he had become prebendary of North Kelsey, and on 25 March 1522 of Corringham in Lincoln Cathedral. He was also made master of the chapel of St. Mary, near York Cathedral.

Magnus in February 1524–5 acted as mediator between Angus and the queen, and behaved, as Gilbert Kennedy, second earl of Cassillis [q. v.] said in writing to Wolsey, ‘like a wise and true man.’ A definitive treaty with Scotland was concluded by Magnus on 15 Jan. 1525–6, but he remained in the north as a member of the Duke of Richmond's council at York, seeking in correspondence with Scotsmen to oppose the French policy, and at the same time helping to keep peace on the border. James was well disposed towards him, and wrote, 8 Jan. 1526–7, to ask him for ‘ratches’ and bloodhounds.

On 11 Dec. 1529 he became custodian of the hospital of St. Leonards at York. He also had the living of Bedale, Yorkshire, and a house at Sibthorpe, Nottinghamshire, which Wolsey borrowed when going to Southwell, 18 April 1530. His duties, however, were hardly religious, and he was excused on 11 Feb. 1530–1 from observing the statute of 21 Henry VIII as to residence of spiritual persons. What religious opinions he had seem to have been at the service of the king. He wrote to Cromwell, 1 July 1535, that he had been actively engaged in his archdeaconry in spreading the king's views as to the papal jurisdiction, taking with him an Austin friar who was a good preacher, and preparing a book, of which he circulated 140 copies among the clergy. He resigned his canonry in 1547 and his prebend in 1548, died at Sessay in Yorkshire 28 Aug. 1550, and was buried in the church there. His brass is reproduced in Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 32490, v. 41. From a note in his will it has been assumed that at one time he was domestic chaplain to Thomas Savage, archbishop of York [q. v.] He had founded a chantry and free school at Newark-on-Trent in 1529 for the benefit of himself, his parents, and his sisters. Some of his letters will be found in Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 24965, 32646, 32651, and 32655.

[Letters and Papers Henry VIII, ed. Brewer and Gairdner, passim; Lansd. MS. 980, f. 82; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl.; Hamilton Papers, i. 8, 10, 96, 635, ii. 433, 489; Rymer's Fœdera, xiii. 549, 566, 788; Thoroton's Nottinghamshire, ed. Throsby, i. 403; Wood's Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 53.]

W. A. J. A.