CHALONER, Thomas (c.1564-1615), of Steeple Claydon, Bucks., Guisborough, Yorks. and Chiswick, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c.1564, o.s. of Sir Thomas Chaloner† by Etheldreda or Audrey, da. of Edward Frodsham of Elton, Cheshire. educ. St. Paul’s 1573; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. 1578, BA from Magdalen Hall 1582; G. Inn 1583. m. (1) Elizabeth (d. 22 June 1603), da. of William Fleetwood I, 7s. 4da.; (2) Judith (d. 30 June 1615), da. of William Blount of London, wid. of John Gregory of Hull, 4s. 3da. suc. fa. Oct. 1565. Kntd. 1591.1
J.p. Bucks. 1592; governor, afterwards chamberlain, to Prince Henry from 1603.2
Chaloner was a baby at the time of his father’s death, and his education is said to have been supervised by his father’s friend Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Chaloner studied at St. Paul’s under Dr. Malin, and at Oxford, where he dedicated to Burghley his father’s political works. He himself wrote easily in English and Latin, displaying a preference for pastoral verse. Although the Oxford register indicates that he obtained a degree in 1582, most authorities assert that he went abroad in 1580 and spent several years on the Continent, particularly in Italy. He is said to have returned by 1584, and then to have frequented the court. It was probably about this time that he married Elizabeth Fleetwood, daughter of his father’s old friend. He was presumably the Thomas Chaloner in the train of the Earl of Leicester in the Netherlands early in 1586, but his return to Parliament for St. Mawes that autumn was probably due to Lord Burghley. His father-in-law, Fleetwood, also a friend of Burghley, had represented the borough in 1571.3
Chaloner was described by Henry Peacham as ‘truly honest’, and a ‘lover of all excellent parts’. He was particularly interested in natural science, becoming ‘no inconsiderable master of natural knowledge, very little cultivated in our country at that time’. It may have been partly due to his discussions with learned Italians that, in 1584, when still in his early twenties, he published a treatise on nitre, ‘wherein is declared the sundry cures by the same effected’. It would be interesting to know more about Chaloner’s relations with Francis Bacon, for the two had much in common. It could have been through his friendship with the Bacon brothers that he moved into the circle of the Earl of Essex, with whom he served in the French wars. He was knighted by the King of France.4
Towards the end of 1596, therefore, having obtained through Essex a licence to travel abroad, Chaloner set out for Florence with the Earl’s blessing, whence he wrote frequently to Essex and to Anthony Bacon, sometimes using the name Thomas Bentivolus, but there is no reason to suppose that he acted as a secret agent. After leaving Italy he appears to have spent some time in France in 1598 and 1599. From Paris he sent back news of the Edict of Nantes. Towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign he went to Scotland, where he found favour with King James, who appointed him to an office ‘of great weight and care’, having principal charge and custody of the person of Prince Henry, and the control of his household, the post being usually described as governor to Prince Henry. He enjoyed a career at court at least until the death of the prince, and perhaps for the rest of his life. Chaloner was a benefactor of St. Bees school in Cumberland, to which he gave a ‘very fit close wherein the school is built’ His will was made on 16 Nov. 1615, two days before he died. At his request he was buried next to his second wife in Chiswick parish church, where a monument was erected to his memory.5
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. M. I. Chiswick; St. Paul’s Reg.; Chaloner Fam. (anon.) 12; VCH Bucks. iv. 227; G. Lipscomb, Bucks. iii. 80; Lansd. 27, f. 40.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 192; T. Birch, Prince Henry, 32-3.
- 3. Biog. Brit. ed. Kippis, iii. 419; R. C. Strong and J. A. Van Dorsten, Leicester’s Triumph, 113; W. E. Courtney, Parl. Rep. Cornw. 82.
- 4. T. Fuller, Worthies (1840), iii. 393; Lansd. 152, f. 52 seq.; DNB; M. I. Chiswick.
- 5. PRO Index 6800, f. 611d; HMC Hatfield, ix. 98; Birch, Mems. ii. passim; CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, p. 444; PCC 95 Rudd; DNB.