Palmer, Thomas (d.1553) (DNB00)

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PALMER, Sir THOMAS (d. 1553), soldier, was the youngest of the three sons of Sir Edward Palmer, by his wife, the sister and coheiress of Sir Richard Clement, of the Moat, Ightham, Kent. His grandfather, John Palmer, of Angmering, Sussex, was a member of a family that had settled in Sussex in the fourteenth century; and of his father's two younger brothers, Robert was the founder of the Palmers of Parham in Sussex, while Sir Thomas served with distinction in the garrison at Calais. He was early attached to the court, and in 1515 he was serving at Tournay. On 28 April 1517 he was one of the feodaries of the honour of Richmond. The same year he became bailiff of the lordship of Barton-on-Humber, Lincolnshire. He was a gentleman-usher to the king in 1519, and at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. On 22 Aug. 1519 he was made overseer of petty customs, of the subsidy of tonnage and poundage, and regulator of the custom-house wherries; in 1521 he became surveyor of the lordship of Henley-in-Arden, and he also had an annuity of 20l. a year. He served in the expedition of 1523, and the same year had a grant of the manor of Pollicot, Buckinghamshire. The next year he had a further grant of ground in the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle, London. On 10 Nov. 1532 he was knighted at Calais, where he had become captain of Newenham Bridge. He was favourably noticed by Henry VIII, who played dice with him, and in 1533 he became knight-porter of Calais, an office of considerable importance. He was taken prisoner by the French in an expedition from Guisnes, and had to ransom himself. He gave an account of this and other services to Cromwell in a letter of 1534. He acted as commissioner for Calais and its marches in 1535 in the collection of the tenths of spiritualities. Palmer was at the affair of the Bridge of Arde in 1540, and the next year, wanting to secure a special pension, had leave to come over to London to try and secure it. In July 1543, when treasurer of Guisnes, he went with the force under Sir John Wallop against the French, and in August 1545 Lord Grey sent him on a message to the king. In this year he was captain of the ‘Old Man’ at Boulogne, presumably resigning it to his brother.

When Henry VIII died, Palmer had secured a reputation for unbounded courage. Though he hated Somerset, he was at first a member of his party, and was told off for service on the border. In 1548 he several times distinguished himself by bringing provisions into Haddington; but, having command of the lances in an expedition from Berwick, his ‘sellfwyll and glorie in that joorney dyd cast awaye the whoalle power, for they were all overthrowen.’ He seems none the less to have continued to hold his appointments at Calais. On 11 June 1550 he was sent with Sir Richard Lee to view the forts on the Scottish border, and provide for their repair.

Palmer, on 7 Oct. 1551, was the first to disclose Somerset's treason, the declaration being made in Warwick's garden (cf. Dixon, Hist. of the Church of England, ii. 393, 397–398). He had evidently hoped to rise with Northumberland; having secured several monastic grants, he was building himself a house in the Strand. On 18 Feb. 1551–2 he had a pardon for all treasons, doubtless to clear him from all suspicion as a former follower of Somerset; and on 3 March following he was appointed a commissioner for the division of the debatable land on the borders. He was an adherent of Lady Jane Grey, and had been too prominent to escape when Northumberland fell. He was sent to the Tower on 25 July 1553, arraigned and condemned on 19 Aug., and brought out for execution on 22 Aug., with Sir John Gates, the Duke of Northumberland, and others. He had heard mass before execution, and taken the sacrament in one kind; but when he came on the scaffold, covered with the blood of those who had just been beheaded, he made a manly speech, in which he said that he died a protestant.

Of Sir Thomas's two elder brothers, the first, Sir John, known as ‘Buskin Palmer’ or ‘Long Palmer,’ was sheriff of Surrey and Sussex successively in 1533 and 1543. He became a noted dicer, and, having been constantly in the habit of winning money from Henry VIII at cards, he was hanged, though upon what exact grounds or at what date is uncertain.

His second brother, Sir Henry Palmer (d. 1559), ‘of Wingham’ in Kent, was a man of much greater repute. He commenced a soldier's career by serving as a ‘spear of Calais,’ but about 1535 he became acting bailiff of Guisnes; he was bailiff in 1539, and in the same place held the offices of master of the ordnance, treasurer, supervisor and warden of the forest. He was a gentleman of the king's household in 1544. He distinguished himself greatly in the capture of Boulogne in 1544, and had his arm broken. He now came to Boulogne as member of the council, and as early as 1546 was master of the ordnance. In August 1549 he retired from the Bullenberg, with leave of Lord Clinton, and levelled the walls. He was in consequence degraded, and Lord Clinton reprimanded. Palmer was not a coward, but saw that the small forts could not be held if more men were not supplied. His place as captain of ‘the Old Man’ seems to have been given to Sir John Norton. When Queen Mary came to the throne he must have been in great danger. He was arrested by Sir Thomas Moyle in July 1553, but was soon at large, as in December he was at Calais again. He stayed on there during Mary's reign. In December 1559 he made an expedition from Guisnes with Lord Grey, and was badly wounded in the arm in an attack on a fortified church. In the French attack on Calais in 1558 he was reported to be killed, but he seems only to have been taken prisoner, and was subsequently ransomed. He returned to his seat at Wingham, which he had secured after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1553, and he died there before September 1559. The pedigree of 1672 states that there was a portrait of him at Wingham. Sir Henry Palmer married Jane, daughter of Sir Richard Windebank of Guisnes, and left three sons—Sir Thomas [q. v.], ‘the Travailer,’ Arnold, and Edward.

[Letters and Papers, Henry VIII; Chron. of Calais, p. 42, &c., Chron. of Queen Mary and Queen Jane, p. 21, &c., in the Camden Soc.; State Papers, Henry VIII, vol. x.; Ordinances of the Privy Council, vols. vii., &c.; Lit. Rem. of King Edw. VI (Roxb. Club), p. 353, &c.; Cal. of State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1547–80, p. 105, Add. 1547–65, p. 492, For. Ser. 1553–8, p. 230; Froude's Hist. of Engl. vol. vi.; Zur. Letters, 3rd ser. (Parker Soc.), pp. 367, 577; Metcalfe's Knights; Pedigree of the Palmers of Sussex, 1672, privately printed 1867; Strype's Mem. of the Ref. II. i. 123, &c., ii. 207, &c., III. i. 24, &c., ii. 182, &c., Annals, I. i. 64, II. ii. 22, &c., Cranmer, p. 451; Betham's Baronetage, i. 212, &c.; Nicolas's Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VIII and of Princess Mary; Hasted's Hist. of Kent, iii. 700, &c.]

W. A. J. A.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.214
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
161 i 9 Palmer, Sir Thomas (d. 1553): for 1550 read 1551
ii 5 for Queen Jane read Queen Mary