Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sheffield, Edmund (1564?-1646)

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SHEFFIELD, EDMUND, first Earl of Mulgrave (1564?–1646), only son of John, second baron Sheffield of Butterwick, Lincolnshire [see under Sheffield, Sir Robert, ad fin.], by Douglas, daughter of William Howard, first baron Howard of Effingham, was born about 1564, and succeeded to his father on 10 Dec. 1568 (Doyle, Official Baronage, ii. 541; Complete Peerage, by G. E. C., v. 417). In 1573 his mother secretly married the Earl of Leicester [see Dudley, Robert], and Sheffield seems to have been for a time Dudley's ward (Hatfield MSS. ii. 200). In 1582 he was one of the lords whom Queen Elizabeth ordered to accompany the Duke of Anjou to Antwerp (Camden Annals, 1582). In 1585 he served as a volunteer under Leicester in the Netherlands (Motley, United Netherlands, ed. 1869, i. 345; Stowe, Chronicle, p. 711). In 1588 he commanded the White Bear, one of the queen's ships, in the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Howard knighted him on 25 July 1588, and in a letter to Walsingham commends him as not only gallant but discreet’ (Laughton, Defeat of the Spanish Armada, i. 210, ii. 322). For these services Elizabeth granted Sheffield in 1591 the manor of Mulgrave in Yorkshire, which was part of the forfeited estate of Sir Francis Bigod (Hatfield MSS. iv. 105). On 21 April 1593 Sheffield was elected a knight of the Garter (Doyle). About 1594 he was a candidate for the wardenship of the west marches, and in 1595 he applied to Cecil for the post of lord president of the north. Suspicions of his religion caused by the fact that he had married a catholic were said to be the cause of his ill-success (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581–90 p. 145, 1595–7 p. 140, 1580–1625 p. 365). Yet he seems to have been suspected very unjustly, and a letter from the north in 1599 praises his zeal in apprehending priests. ‘He will undertake any service against the papists, for God hath called him to a very zealous profession of religion’ (Cartwright, Chapters of Yorkshire History, p. 174; cf. Laughton, i. 66). On 13 Jan. 1598–9 Sheffield was appointed governor of Brill (Collins, Sidney Papers, ii. 71–80; Egerton Papers, p. 270).

Under James I he obtained the object of his ambition, and became lord-lieutenant of Yorkshire (1 Aug. 1603) and president of the council of the north (19 Sept. 1603). These two posts he held till 1619, when he resigned his presidency to Lord Scrope. This resignation was probably not a voluntary one, for Sheffield having executed a catholic priest without the king's leave, James promised the Spanish ambassador that he should be removed (Doyle, ii. 541; Gardiner, History of England, iii. 137; Court and Times of James I, ii. 136). An accusation of arbitrary conduct was also brought against him, but without result (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1603–10, pp. 24, 531, 577).

From 1616 to his death Sheffield was vice-admiral of the county of York. He also interested himself in colonisation, and was a member of the councils of the Virginia Company (23 May 1609), and of the New England Company (3 Nov. 1620). In the latter capacity he was one of the signers of the first Plymouth patent on 1 June 1621 (Brown, Genesis of the United States, ii. 999).

At the coronation of Charles I Sheffield was raised to the dignity of Earl of Mulgrave (5 Feb. 1626). Nevertheless he ultimately joined the opposition to that sovereign, was one of the twelve peers who signed the petition of 28 Aug. 1640, and took the side of the parliament during the civil war. The causes of Mulgrave's conduct are obscure. He appears to have been on tolerably good terms with Buckingham and Laud (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1627–8, p. 200; Laud, Works, vii. 24, 29), but had some grievance against Strafford, probably arising out of financial disputes (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1635, p. 362; Lords' Journals, iv. 206). Mulgrave's age prevented him taking an active part in the war; all his family influence was exerted for the parliament. ‘This may be said of a Fairfax and a Sheffield,’ remarks a newspaper of the time, ‘that there is not one of either of those names in England but was engaged for the service of the parliament’ (Weekly Intelligencer, 24 Sept. 1644).

Mulgrave's estates being mostly situated in the king's quarters, he was obliged to petition parliament for support, and was granted 50l. per week for his own subsistence, and 10l. per week for his grandson, Lord Sheffield (Lords' Journals, vi. 528, vii. 280). His proxy vote in the House of Lords, in the hands of Lord Say, played a decisive part in the dispute between the two houses over the new model, and its transference in 1646 to the Earl of Essex gave the presbyterians the majority in the upper house (Gardiner, Great Civil War, ii. 187, iii. 105). Mulgrave died in October 1646, in his eighty-third year, and was buried in Hammersmith church, on the south side of the chancel (Brown, p. 999). He married twice: first, Ursula, daughter of Sir Robert Tyrwhitt of Kettleby, Lincolnshire, by whom he had six sons, who all predeceased him, and nine daughters. The second son, John, was father of Edmund Sheffield, second earl of Mulgrave [q. v.] (G. E. C. Complete Peerage, v. 417; Dugdale, ii. 387). Secondly, 4 March 1619, Mariana, daughter of Sir William Irwin (Court and Times of James I, ii. 145). By his second marriage he had three sons and two daughters. His daughter Mary was the wife of Ferdinando, first lord Fairfax, and the mother of Sir Thomas Fairfax and of Colonel Charles Fairfax, who was killed at Marston Moor (Fairfax Correspondence, vol. i. pp. xxi, xlv, 165, iii. 131). Another daughter, Frances, was the wife of Sir William Fairfax, who was killed at Montgomery in 1644. Of Mulgrave's sons by his second marriage, James was captain of a troop of horse in Essex's army in 1642, and Thomas colonel of a regiment of horse in the new model in 1645 (Peacock, Army Lists, pp. 49, 107; Markham, Great Lord Fairfax, p. 197).

[Doyle's Official Baronage, vol. ii.; G. E. C.'s Complete Peerage; a life of Mulgrave is given in Alexander Brown's Genesis of the United States, 1890, vol. ii.; several of Mulgrave's letters are printed in the Fairfax Correspondence; his instructions as president of the north are printed in Prothero's Constitutional Documents; other authorities named in the article.]

C. H. F.