Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Throckmorton, Nicholas
THROCKMORTON, Sir NICHOLAS (1515–1571), diplomatist, born in 1515, was fourth of the eight sons of Sir George Throckmorton of Coughton, Warwickshire. His grandfather, Sir Robert Throckmorton (son of Thomas, and grandson of Sir John Throckmorton [q. v.]), was a privy councillor under Henry VII, and died in 1519 while on a pilgrimage to Palestine. His mother was Katharine, daughter of Sir Nicholas, lord Vaux of Harrowden, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Henry, lord Fitzhugh, and widow of Sir William Parr, K.G. She was thus aunt by marriage to Queen Catherine Parr, and Sir Nicholas claimed the queen as his first cousin. His father, Sir George, incurred, owing to some local topic of dispute, the ill-will of Cromwell, whose manor of Oversley adjoined that of Coughton. Early in 1540 Cromwell contrived to have his neighbour imprisoned on a charge of denying Henry VIII's supremacy, but Lady Throckmorton's niece, Catherine Parr, used her influence with the king to procure Sir George's release. Sir George was one of the chief witnesses against Cromwell at his trial, which took place in the same year, and was consulted by Henry VIII in the course of the proceedings. After Cromwell's fall Sir George purchased Cromwell's forfeited manor of Oversley. He was sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire in 1526 and 1546, and built the great gatehouse at Coughton. He died soon after Queen Mary's accession. Sir Robert Throckmorton (d. 1570), Sir George's eldest son and successor in the Coughton estate, was succeeded by his son Thomas (d. 1614), who, as a staunch catholic, suffered much persecution and loss of property during Elizabeth's reign. Thomas Throckmorton's grandson Robert was a devoted royalist, and was created a baronet on 1 Sept. 1642. The baronetcy is still held by a descendant.
Michael Throckmorton (d. 1558), a younger brother of Sir George and Nicholas's uncle, arranged in 1537 to enter the service of Cardinal Pole at Rome, with a view to acting as a spy on him in the interest of the English government; but Michael deceived Cromwell, and became the loyal and affectionate secretary of the cardinal. For a time he wrote home to the English government letters favourable to Pole without exciting suspicions of his duplicity. He is credited with the authorship of a volume entitled ‘A copye of a very fyne and wytty letter sent from the ryght reuerende Lewes Lippomanus, byshop of Verona in Italy,’ London, 1556, 8vo. Michael Throckmorton, who received a grant of Haseley in Warwickshire from Queen Mary in 1553, finally took up his residence at Mantua, where he died on 1 Nov. 1558 (cf. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII; Nine Historical Letters of the Reign of Henry VIII, by J. P. C[ollier], 1871; Cal. State Papers, 1547–80, pp. 67, 75–6). His son Francis was long known at Mantua by his hospitable entertainment of English visitors; he was buried at Ullenhall, Warwickshire, in 1617.
Nicholas was chiefly brought up by his mother's brother-in-law, Lord Parr. In youth he served as page to the Duke of Richmond, and probably went to Paris with his master in 1532. With two brothers he joined the household of his family connection, Catherine Parr, soon after her marriage to Henry VIII in July 1543. Unlike other members of his family, he accepted the reformed faith of his mistress, and remained a sturdy protestant till his death. He and two brothers were present as sympathising spectators at the execution of Anne Askew, the protestant martyr, in 1546 (Narratives of the Reformation, Camden Soc. pp. 41–2).
Throckmorton entered public life as M.P. for Malden in 1545, and sat in the House of Commons almost continuously till 1567. The accession of Edward VI was favourable to his fortunes. With the king's religious sentiment he was in thorough sympathy, and Edward liked him personally. He accompanied the army of the Protector Somerset to Scotland in August 1547, and, after engaging in the battle of Musselburgh, was sent to bear the tidings of victory to Edward. The king received him with the utmost cordiality and knighted him. He was subsequently appointed a knight of the king's privy chamber and treasurer of the mint in the Tower (Acts of Privy Council, iv. 76, 77, 84). He also received a grant of an annuity of 100l., which he resigned in 1551 in exchange for the manor of Paulerspury in Northamptonshire and other land in adjoining counties. He was present at the unfortunate siege of Boulogne in 1549–1550, and later in 1550 attended to give evidence at Gardiner's trial. He represented Devizes in the House of Commons from 1547 to 1552, and sat for Northamptonshire in Edward's last parliament in March 1553.
Throckmorton's signature was appended to the letters patent of 7 June 1553 which limited the succession of the crown to Lady Jane Grey and her descendants (Chronicle of Queen Jane, p. 100). Immediately after Edward's death and Lady Jane's accession, Throckmorton's wife acted by way of deputy for Lady Jane as godmother of a son of Edward Underhill, the ‘Hot-Gospeller,’ at his christening in the Tower of London (19 July 1553); the boy was named Guilford after Lady Jane's husband (Narratives of the Reformation, p. 153). On the same day Mary was generally proclaimed queen. Throckmorton is reported to have been at the moment at Northampton, and when Sir Thomas Tresham formally declared for Mary there, he is said to have made a protest in Lady Jane's favour, which exposed him to personal risk at the townspeople's hands (Chron. of Queen Jane, p. 12). But Throckmorton's devotion to Lady Jane was more specious than real, and he had no intention of forfeiting the goodwill of her rival Mary. He was credited by his friends with having taken a step of the first importance to Mary's welfare on the very day of Edward VI's death by sending her London goldsmith to her at Hoddesdon to apprise her of the loss of her brother, and to warn her of the danger that threatened her if she fell into the clutches of the Duke of Northumberland (Legend of Throckmorton, vv. 111 et seq.; cf.Goodman's Life and Times, i. 117). On Mary's arrival in London she showed no resentment at Throckmorton's dalliance with Lady Jane's pretensions, and he sat as member for Old Sarum in her first parliament of October–December 1553.
But early next year Throckmorton's loyalty was seriously suspected. On 20 Feb. 1553–4 he was sent to the Tower on a charge of complicity in Wyatt's conspiracy. On 17 April 1554 he was tried at the Guildhall. Although he had not taken up arms, the evidence against him was strong. One of Wyatt's lieutenants, Cuthbert Vaughan, swore that he had discussed the plan of the insurrection with Throckmorton. Throckmorton admitted that he had talked to Sir Peter Carew and Wyatt of the probability of a rebellion, and had been in familiar relations with Edward Courtenay [q. v.] Throckmorton defended himself with resolute pertinacity, and, in spite of the marked hostility of Sir Thomas Bromley and other judges, he was acquitted by the jury. The trial was memorable as affording an almost unprecedented example of the independence of a jury at the trial of one who was charged by the crown with treason. The London populace rejoiced, but the government marked its resentment by ordering the jurors to the Tower or the Fleet; they were kept in prison till the end of the year, when they were released on the payment of a fine amounting to 2,000l. (Holinshed, Chronicle, ii. 1747; State Trials). Nor was Throckmorton allowed to benefit immediately by the jury's courage. He was detained in the Tower till 18 Jan. 1554–5 (Machyn, Diary, p. 80); and next year, when a kinsman, John Throckmorton, was arrested on a charge of conspiring with Henry Dudley to rob the treasury, he was again brought under suspicion, but no action was taken against him. His kinsman was executed on 28 April 1556 (cf. Cal. State Papers, 1547–80, p. 78). Meanwhile he was a frequent and a welcome visitor of the Princess Elizabeth at Hatfield, though his protestant zeal exceeded that of the princess, and at times drew from her an angry rebuke.
Elizabeth's accession to the throne opened to him a career of political activity. He was at once appointed chief butler and chamberlain of the exchequer, and was elected M.P. for Lyme Regis on 2 Jan. 1558–9. In the following May the more important office of ambassador to France was bestowed on him (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom., 1547–80, p. 128). On 9 Jan. 1559–60 the queen signed instructions in which he was directed to protest against the assumption of the arms of England by Francis II, who had married Mary Queen of Scots on 24 April 1558, and had ascended the French throne on 10 July 1559 (Hatfield MSS. i. 165–7; State Papers, Foreign, 1559–60, No. 557). Francis died on 5 Dec. 1560, and Throckmorton was much occupied in the weeks that followed in seeking to induce Queen Mary to forego ‘the style and title of sovereign of England,’ and to postpone her assumption of her sovereignty in Scotland. Throckmorton had many audiences of her, and acknowledged her fascination. They corresponded on friendly terms, and despite differences in their religious and political opinions, he thenceforth did whatever he could to serve her, consistently with his duty to his country (cf. Labanoff, Lettres de Marie Stuart, i. 94, 128). He now succeeded in reconciling Elizabeth to the prospect of Queen Mary's settlement in Scotland. But he endeavoured to persuade Mary to tolerate protestantism among her subjects, and did not allow his personal regard for her to diminish his zeal for his own creed. The Venetian ambassador in France described him (3 July 1561) as ‘the most cruel adversary that the catholic religion has in England’ (Cal. Venetian State Papers, 1558–80, p. 333). He showed every mark of hostility to the Guises and of sympathy with the Huguenots, and urged Elizabeth to ally herself publicly and without delay with the Huguenots in France and the reformers in Scotland. Little heed was paid to his proposals.
On 28 Oct. 1560 he wrote with disgust to Cecil of the rumour that the Earl of Leicester was contemplating marriage with the queen (FROUDE, vi. 439 sq.). In November he sent his secretary, one Jones, to remonstrate with the queen on the injurious effect that the reports of such a union were having on her prestige abroad (Hardwicke, State Papers, i. 165). Elizabeth was displeased with his frank importunity, and in September 1561 Throckmorton begged for his recall. Cecil, to whose son Thomas he was showing many kindly attentions in Paris, recommended him to remain at his post, but in September 1562 Sir Thomas Smith (1513–1577) [q. v.] arrived to share his responsibilities, and, as different directions were given by the home government to each envoy, Throckmorton's position was one of continual embarrassment, and his relations with his colleague were usually very strained (cf. Wright, Queen Elizabeth, i. 155, 174). Throckmorton never ceased to warn the queen that Europe was maturing a conspiracy to extirpate protestantism, and that it was her duty to act as the champion of the reformed faith. Largely owing to his representations, Elizabeth reluctantly agreed in October 1562 to send an English army to the assistance of the French protestants, who were at open war with their catholic rulers, and were holding Havre against the French government. Throckmorton joined the Huguenot army in Normandy, and after the battle of Dreux (19 Dec. 1562) was carried as a prisoner into the camp of the catholics and was detained. He arrived at Havre in February 1563. On 7 August 1563 he was arrested by the French government on the plea that he had no passport. Cecil expostulated with the French ambassador in London, and Throckmorton was set at liberty (Hatfield MSS. i. 277; cf. Cal. Venetian State Papers, 1557–80, p. 373; Lettres de Catherine de Médicis, vol. ii.). In the spring of 1564 he was engaged in negotiating at Troyes a peace with France, and found, as he conceived, his chief obstruction in the conduct of his colleague, Sir Thomas Smith. A violent quarrel took place between them while the negotiations were in progress, but the treaty of Troyes was finally signed on 1 April 1564, whereupon Throckmorton withdrew from the French embassy.
Next year another diplomatic mission was provided for Throckmorton in Scotland. On 4 May 1565 instructions were drawn up directing him to proceed to Scotland to prevent the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots with Darnley. He hurried to Mary at Stirling Castle. The queen received him reluctantly, and turned a deaf ear to his protest against her union with her cousin. He returned home leisurely, pausing at York to send Cecil the result of his observations on the temper of northern England, where he detected disquieting signs of hostility to Elizabeth's government. Later in the year he addressed a letter of advice to Mary urging her to show clemency to the banished protestant lords, and especially to the Earl of Moray (Melville, Memoirs, 1683, pp. 60–3).
Throckmorton was created M.A. at Oxford on 2 Sept. 1566, and next year was, on the recommendation of the Earl of Leicester, named a governor of the incorporated society which was to control the possessions and revenues of the preachers of the gospel in Warwickshire. On 30 June 1567 Throckmorton was ordered to proceed to Scotland for a second time. A dangerous crisis had just taken place in Queen Mary's affairs. Her recent marriage to Bothwell after Darnley's murder had led to the rebellion of the Scottish nobles, and they had in June imprisoned her in Lochleven Castle. As a believer in the justice of Mary's claims to the English succession and an admirer of her personal charm, Throckmorton was anxious to alleviate the perils to which she was exposed. Elizabeth's instructions gave him no certain guidance as to the side on which he was to throw English influence. He travelled slowly northwards, in the hope that Elizabeth would adopt a clearer policy. On arriving at Edinburgh in July he told Mary at a personal interview that Queen Elizabeth would come to her rescue if she would abandon Bothwell. His persuasions were in vain (MS. Cotton, Calig. C. 1, ff. 18–35), but on 24 July the imprisoned queen wrote thanking him for the good feeling he had shown her (Labanoff, Lettres, ii. 63). At the same time he opened negotiations with the Scottish lords. Elizabeth reproached him with his failure to secure Queen Mary's release (Thorpe, Scottish State Papers, ii. 824–46). In self-defence Throckmorton disclosed to the Scottish lords his contradictory orders, but the queen resented so irregular a procedure, and he was recalled in August (cf. Melville, Memoirs, 96 seq.).
Throckmorton thenceforth suffered acutely from a sense of disappointment. His health failed during 1568, but he maintained friendly relations with Cecil, to whom he wrote from Fulham on 2 Sept. 1568 that he proposed to kill a buck at Cecil's house at Mortlake. He had long favoured the proposal to wed Queen Mary to the Duke of Norfolk, and he was consequently suspected next year of sympathy with the rebellion of northern catholics in Queen Mary's behalf. In September 1569 he was imprisoned in Windsor Castle, but he was soon released and no further proceedings were taken against him. He died in London on 12 Feb. 1570–1. Shortly before he had dined or supped with the Earl of Leicester at Leicester House. According to the doubtful authority of Leicester's ‘Commonwealth,’ his death was due to poison administered by Leicester in a salad on that occasion (Leicester, Commonwealth, 1641, p. 27). Leicester, it is said, had never forgiven Throckmorton for his vehement opposition to the earl's proposed marriage with the queen. No reliance need be placed on this report. Throckmorton had continuously corresponded on friendly terms with Leicester for many years before his death, and they had acted together as patrons of puritan ministers (cf. Thorpe, Scottish Papers, i. 210 seq.; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, p. 291); Cecil wrote to Sir Thomas Smith of their markedly amicable relations on 16 Oct. 1565, and described Throckmorton as ‘carefull and devote to his lordship’ (Wright, Life and Times of Elizabeth, i. 209). Throckmorton was buried on the south side of the chancel in St. Catherine Cree Church in the city of London.
Throckmorton married Anne, daughter of Sir Nicholas Carew, K.G., and sister and heiress of Sir Francis Carew of Beddington, Surrey. Of three daughters, Elizabeth (baptised at Beddington 16 April 1565) married Sir Walter Ralegh [q. v.] Of two sons, the elder, Arthur (1557–1626), matriculated from Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1571, aged 14; he was M.P. for Colchester in 1588–9; joined in 1596 the expedition to Cadiz, where he was knighted; inherited from his father the manor of Paulerspury, Northamptonshire, of which county he was sheriff in 1605, and was buried at Paulerspury on 1 Aug. 1616. Sir Nicholas's younger son, Nicholas, who was knighted on 10 June 1603, was adopted by his uncle, Sir Francis Carew (1530–1611) of Beddington, took the name of Carew, and succeeded to the Beddington property, dying in 1643 (cf. Lysons, Environs of London, i. 52 et seq.; cf. art. Ralegh, Sir Walter, ad fin.).
Much of Throckmorton's correspondence as ambassador in France between 1559 and 1563 is printed in Patrick Forbes's ‘Full View of Public Transactions in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth,’ 1740–1 (2 vols. fol.), in the ‘Hardwicke State Papers’ (1778, i. 121–62), and in the ‘Calendar of Foreign State Papers.’ His Scottish correspondence is calendared in Thorpe's ‘Scottish State Papers.’ A few of his autograph letters are at Hatfield and among the Cottonian, Harleian, Lansdowne, and Additional manuscripts at the British Museum. The mass of Throckmorton's original papers came into the possession of Sir Henry Wotton. Wotton bequeathed them to Charles I, but the bequest did not take effect. After many vicissitudes the papers passed into the possession of Francis Seymour Conway, first marquis of Hertford (1719–1794), whose grandson, the third Marquis of Hertford, made them over to the public record office, on the recommendation of John Wilson Croker, before 1842 (cf. Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. iv. 455).
A portrait of Sir Nicholas, painted when he was forty-nine, is at Coughton. An engraving by Vertue is dated 1747.[A poem called the Legend of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, consisting of 229 stanzas of six lines each, gives in a vague fashion the chief facts of his life. It professes to be spoken by Throckmorton's ghost, after the manner of the poems in the Mirrour for Magistrates. The authorship is uncertain. It was first printed from a badly copied manuscript at Coughton Court by Francis Peck [q. v.] in an appendix to his Life of Milton in 1740, and was inaccurately assigned by Peck to Sir Nicholas's nephew, ‘Sir Thomas Throckmorton of Littleton in coun. Warwick, knt.’ Apparently the person intended was Thomas Throckmorton ‘esquire’ (son of Sir Nicholas's brother, Sir Robert Throckmorton), who died on 13 March 1614–15, aged 81, and was buried at Weston Underwood, Buckinghamshire (Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, iv. 399). The best version of the poem is that transcribed by William Cole and now in the British Museum Addit. MS. 5841; another is in Harl. MS. 6353. John Gough Nichols prepared an improved edition from these manuscripts in 1874. Browne Willis compiled in 1730, from the family papers at Coughton, a History and Pedigree of the Ancient Family of Throckmorton; this still remains in manuscript at Coughton, but was used by Miss Strickland in her Lives of the Queens of England. There is also at Coughton a ‘Gens Throckmortoniana’ assigned to Sir Robert Throckmorton (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. App. pp. 256–8). Other papers of the Throckmorton family are preserved at Buckland Court, Faringdon (see Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. No. iv. pp. 168–76). Pedigrees and accounts of the family are in Dugdale's Warwickshire, ii. 749, Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, iv. 399, Nash's Worcestershire, i. 452, Betham's Baronetage, i. 486, and Wotton's Baronetage, ii. 359 sq. See also Froude's History; Lingard's History; Wright's Life and Times of Queen Elizabeth, passim; Fuller's Worthies, ed. Nichols, iii. 280; Strype's Annals and Memorials, passim; and the state papers and the official calendars mentioned above.]