FLETCHER, Giles (1546-1611), of Cranbrook, Kent and St. Katharine Coleman, London.
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Family and Education
bap. 26 Nov. 1546, yr. s. of Richard Fletcher of Watford, Herts. educ. Eton c.1561; King’s, Camb. scholar 1565, fellow 1568-81, BA 1570, MA 1573, LlD 1581. m. 16 Jan. 1581, Joan, da. of Thomas Sheafe, clothier, of Cranbrook, 3s. 5da.
Dep. public orator, Camb. Univ. 1577-82; commissary to chancellor, Ely diocese 1580; chancellor, Chichester diocese 1582; j.p. Suss. 1582; remembrancer, city of London Jan. 1586-July 1605; ambassador to Russia and master of requests extraordinary 1588; treasurer, St. Paul’s cathedral 1597; member of a mission to the Netherlands May 1598.
Fletcher’s father was ordained by Ridley in 1550, deprived of his living of Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, in 1555, and after Elizabeth’s accession became vicar of Cranbrook and Smarden, Kent. Fletcher secured his appointment as commissary to the chancellor of Ely diocese while still at Cambridge, but gave up his fellowship and moved south on his marriage. In July 1581 he was a commissioner for visiting Chichester cathedral, of which diocese he became chancellor in 1582. He evidently secured his return for Winchelsea in 1584 through the 10th Lord Cobham, warden of the Cinque Ports. The minutes of the town assembly for 30 Oct. 1584 referred to letters received from the Privy Council and the lord warden, ‘purporting the nomination of our barons to the Parliament’, and on 3 Nov. they elected Fletcher ‘in accomplishment of the letters of the Privy Council’. He is recorded as having sat on three parliamentary committees, one concerning the placing of clergymen (16 Dec.), another on vagabonds (26 Feb. 1585) and a third on piracy (24 Mar.).1
About January 1586, Fletcher was sent on a diplomatic mission as an assistant to Thomas Randolph, the English ambassador to Scotland, under whose protection he seems to have been at this time. By that May, however, he was writing from Edinburgh to Walsingham pleading for employment in England. The following year, he and Richard Saltonstall, governor of the Merchant Adventurers, went on an abortive mission to Hamburg to negotiate ‘for the privileges of the English merchants there’. Subsequently they visited Stade with more success. Fletcher’s special mission to Russia (where Randolph had been ambassador) in 1588, ‘for the renewing of the English intercourse then interrupted and in a manner dissolved’, was evidently undertaken partly in the Queen’s service, but also on behalf of the community of English merchants trading to that country. After suffering various humiliations and achieving certain commercial concessions, Fletcher considered himself scantily rewarded. Elizabeth herself recognized ‘the great indignities shewed unto our princely highness by the gross usage of our ambassador’, but Fletcher never received the promotion he expected to master of requests in ordinary. During the 1590s he was employed by the Privy Council on such demeaning tasks as torturing seminary priests, for which he received some financial return in the treasurership of St. Paul’s. In 1598 he went on a further diplomatic mission on behalf of the Merchant Adventurers, this time to The Hague. He again conducted difficult negotiations competently, but failed to consolidate his position with the Cecils. An attempt to do so through literary activities was also unsuccessful. Burghley snubbed his efforts to write a Latin history of the period, and the publication of his Russe Commonwealth in 1591 gave offence to the Russia Company. When the Cecils refused a final appeal for a mastership of requests in 1596, he must have realized they would never help him, and so he turned to the Earl of Essex, who in the long run nearly ruined him altogether. The immediate result, however, was that Essex used his influence to save Fletcher from ‘the Exchequer claws’, when, as executor of his brother the bishop of London, Fletcher was being pressed to pay more than £1,400 owed by the bishop to the Queen. Though himself ‘rich in that which maketh a man poor, many children’, Fletcher took his brother’s eight children into his own home. In April 1600 it was rumoured that he might be attached to Bishop Bancroft’s diplomatic commission to confer with an embassy from Denmark, but Bancroft, writing to Cecil and complaining of ill health and his five recent ‘fits’, remarked that the ‘bruit’ of Fletcher’s appointment ‘hath brought me one fit more’. One way and another it is a tribute to Fletcher that he did not allow himself to become involved in the Essex rising, though he was close enough to the Earl to be detained just afterwards. He wrote to the lord mayor and to Sir Robert Cecil, pleading for release for the sake of his wife and children. ‘I have erred’, he confessed, ‘in my affection towards that Earl, but I have erred with her Majesty, your honour and many thousands’. He said he was £500 in debt and due to pay £200 on the approaching quarter day. His only resources were the sales of ‘my poor house wherein I dwell and of my office, if I can assign it to some fit man’. At liberty by 21 Mar. he began negotiations for the sale of his city office (by then worth £100 p.a.), and in November he asked for certain leases in reversion. He had already obtained, in 1600, a lease of the rectory at Ringwood, Hampshire, from his old college. He finally resigned as remembrancer 2 July 1605, receiving a lump sum of £200. In November 1610 he was negotiating with the Danish ambassador on behalf of the Merchant Adventurers. On 11 Feb. 1611 ‘or thereabouts’, he made a nuncupative will, proved 13 Mar., bequeathing his goods, after discharge of his debts, to his wife. He died 11 Mar.2