COTEEL, Thomas (aft. 1579-1640), of Martin Lane (St. Martin's Lane), London; later of Litchfield, Ashe and Steventon, Hants.
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Family and Education
Coteel’s ancestors were Flemish merchants living at Antwerp. His father Thomas was born there, but left around the time of the ‘Spanish Fury’ of 1576, arriving in London about three years later. Resident in St. Martin Orgar by 1583, he amassed a sizeable fortune by trading in such commodities as oil, tin and English cloth.6 Knighted in 1609, Thomas secured denizenship by 1618, and became a prominent figure in the capital. In 1613 his contacts included the courtier Sir Thomas Lake I*, while his funeral in 1635 was attended by the leading lawyers (Sir) Robert Heath* and Sir John Bramston, as well as a party of City dignitaries.7
Coteel must have been born in England, since he never sought the grant of naturalization which he would otherwise have needed in order to serve in Parliament. Having a German mother and Flemish father who, in the 1580s, attended the Italian Protestant services held at Mercers’ Hall, his upbringing was presumably cosmopolitan. Although he seems not to have travelled abroad until 1608, he strongly commended the educational value of foreign tours. He certainly maintained ties with his relatives in Brabant, where his father apparently owned property.8 Coteel initially entered the world of commerce as a moneylender, with his father supplying the capital for the loans.9 However, he branched out in 1611, taking over the management of a licence for exporting sheepskins from the patentee Gilbert Lee. Having paid £1,000 for this privilege, Coteel fell victim three years later to an informer who challenged the validity of his title in Common Pleas. After losing this battle, he attempted to renegotiate his contract, but Lee unilaterally resumed control of the patent in 1616 and Coteel subsequently failed to recover his interest.10 In 1619, during an investigation into illegal bullion exports by London’s merchant stranger community, he was accused of smuggling out up to £4,000, though this charge was dropped for lack of evidence.11 Coteel seems to have been a familiar face in the City, but he probably never rivalled his father’s personal standing. In 1622 he shipped cloth to Spain, and seven years later lent money to a consortium led by the earl of Thanet (Sir Nicholas Tufton*), but few other traces of his business ventures survive.12
In 1625 Coteel was elected for Camelford. His connection with Cornwall dated from 1609, when his sister Mary married Sir Richard Edgcumbe*, and he became a trustee of his brother-in-law’s estates. This role brought him into contact with Edgcumbe’s gentry relatives in the east of the county, such as the Speccotts and Manatons, and it was undoubtedly through this Cornish network, most probably with the assistance of Sir Richard’s cousin, Sir Nicholas Prideaux, that his nomination to Camelford was arranged. Coteel’s reasons for entering the Commons are unknown, and he left no trace on the Parliament’s records.13
By the mid-1620s Coteel had begun to explore the property market. At first he acquired estates temporarily as security for loans, as in 1624, when he obtained a manor on the Isle of Wight from its debt-ridden owner, Sir Bowyer Worseley.14 However, Sir Thomas Coteel in his own lifetime transferred the bulk of his remaining assets to his eldest son, who invested much of this income in land. In 1625 Coteel paid £5,300 for the Hampshire manor of Steventon, which became his country seat.15 Later in the same decade he bought properties in Lancashire, Essex and London, though Hampshire remained the principal focus for his new purchases, which in 1628 included a smaller seat at Litchfield, near Steventon.16
In November 1630 this concentration of estates resulted in Coteel being pricked as Hampshire’s sheriff. By law this appointment obliged him to reside permanently in the county during his term of office. Not surprisingly, Coteel immediately appealed against his selection, but the king merely conceded that he might absent himself from his duties when he needed to visit his father or attend to his business in London. Accordingly, Coteel relied on his under-sheriff to fulfil many of his local functions, but it was soon apparent that the Crown had made a poor choice.17 As sheriff, Coteel was required to report every 40 days to the Privy Council on the enforcement of social regulations by Hampshire’s magistrates. The scale of this task was compounded when the Book of Orders was issued in January 1631. Coteel needed the full co-operation of the county’s justices, but while he was on friendly terms with the Isle of Wight j.p. Sir John Oglander*, his status as a comparative newcomer to Hampshire severely limited his ability to exert pressure on the other magistrates.18 Coteel successfully dispatched reports to London during his first two months as sheriff, but from the outset he had problems assembling the certificates on which his statements were based. In March 1631 he had to inform the Council that the justices had declined to update their certificates any further for the time being.19 His credibility suffered a further blow when a new commission for compounding for knighthood was issued two weeks later. Notwithstanding his obligation as sheriff to assist the commissioners, Coteel was himself summoned before the Council for non-payment, though he handed over a substantial fine of £300 in May, and seems subsequently to have helped identify other refusers.20 In a letter to Sir Richard Edgcumbe in August he complained of the deleterious effect of the shrievalty on his private affairs, adding: ‘ I praise God I am now, hitherto well wasted, over the greatest part of that charge’. He completed the transfer of his responsibilities in the following December.21
In 1633 Coteel sold Steventon back to its original vendor, but he kept his other Hampshire properties and continued to invest in land in the county, particularly in the Isle of Wight. Nevertheless he held no further offices there after his shrievalty ended, and apparently remained primarily a London resident until his final years.22 Coteel never married. As his younger brother Daniel was also childless, from around 1630 Coteel promoted his nephew Piers Edgcumbe* as his eventual heir, appointing him as trustee of several of his estates.23 Piers corresponded with his uncle while travelling on the Continent in 1631. When Sir Richard Edgcumbe summoned the young man home early, Coteel intervened, arguing that he should be allowed to complete his planned itinerary, and adding: ‘[my] tender affection for your son’s welfare cannot justly be drawn into suspicion’. Piers’ position was strengthened in 1635, when Coteel fell out with several other relatives while acting as executor to his father Sir Thomas. After this dispute dragged on for two years, he instructed his servants that on his own death only Piers was to be allowed access to his goods and papers.24
In early 1640 Coteel prepared inventories of his books at Litchfield which shed considerable light on his cultural horizons. He is known to have spoken both French and Dutch, but he was presumably also fluent in Italian, for out of nearly 70 books listed, over 40 were in this language. He may of course have been introduced to Italian as a child through his parents’ church. Coteel possibly acquired his copies of popular authors such as Aretino and Machiavelli in London, though he would have had to import other more obscure works, or purchase them while abroad. Several of the books, such as Petrarch’s Sonnets, represent typical humanist taste of the period. A discernible bias towards classical Roman literature, more modern letters and history, and scientific topics, also bears comparison with the taste of other contemporary collectors. Nevertheless, it was unusual for someone of Coteel’s background to own this quantity of books, and indeed the virtual absence of religious works from these lists may indicate that he kept other volumes elsewhere. Not all his purchases followed mainstream tastes. His possession of two tomes on the Low Countries naturally reflects his family background. However, his collection of Roman historians appears to have omitted obvious figures such as Livy and Tacitus in favour of minor names like Dio Cassius and Eutropius, while his interest in classical literature extended to the Greek comedies of Aristophanes. Since Coteel collected all these works in Italian translation, it is unclear whether he mastered either Latin or Greek. More conventionally, he also acquired English books on the gentry pursuits of hawking and hunting, publications for the lute, and the predictable volumes on ‘discoveries, travels, [and] plantations’, presumably by authors such as Hakluyt and Purchas.25
On 31 Aug. 1640 Coteel formally designated Piers Edgcumbe as his heir, his brother Daniel having died in the previous year, and made over to him the bulk of his property. He died a few days later at Litchfield. Although his will left his burial-place to the discretion of Piers, his executor, he undoubtedly intended his body to rest in the vault at St. Martin Orgar assigned to his family when his father died five years earlier. However, when Piers attempted to arrange this, a dispute erupted between the parson and churchwardens over their respective fees. The funeral finally went ahead on 9 Oct., after the London diocesan chancellor ruled that the corpse should be interred before the fees were agreed. Fortunately, under the circumstances, Coteel had left instructions for his body to be embalmed and sealed in lead pending his obsequies.26 Having already decided to settle the majority of his possessions on Piers, Coteel had used his will of 13 June 1639 to dispose of lesser legacies among his family and friends. Despite the earlier family disputes Coteel seems ultimately to have adopted a charitable attitude towards his relatives. His eight nieces, including those who had challenged Sir Thomas’ will in 1635, were all left around £300 each, as was Piers’ younger brother Richard. Coteel’s surviving sister was to receive £500. Another £100 was set aside for his ‘kindred beyond the seas’. Piers secured the administration of the estate unopposed, and Coteel’s lands and papers passed to the Edgcumbe family.27
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xv), 192.
- 2. Reg. St. Clement Eastcheap and St. Martin Orgar (Harl. Soc. Reg. lxviii), ii. 109.
- 3. Cornw. RO, ME 3003.
- 4. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 56.
- 5. I.o.W. RO, JER/BAR/3/9/8, p. 1.
- 6. Vis. London, 192; Returns of Aliens in London (Huguenot Soc. x), ii. 273; iii. 195; APC, 1591, pp. 274-5; C2/Chas.I/W124/122; REQ 2/414/116.
- 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 148; Returns of Aliens, iii. 195; Add. 71131H; Cornw. RO, ME 2992.
- 8. Returns of Aliens, ii. 273; Italian Church of London Mins. (Huguenot Soc. lix), 24; C2/Chas.I/W95/47; Cornw. RO, ME 3000; PROB 11/184, f. 127v.
- 9. Cornw. RO, ME 883, 3012.
- 10. REQ 2/399/39; C66/1620; E190/19/5; CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 591-2.
- 11. O.P. Grell, Dutch Calvinists in Early Stuart London, 157, 163, 166; Add. 12497, ff. 52, 68.
- 12. E190/25/9; Cornw. RO, ME 2995, 3012; APC, 1628-9, pp. 271-2.
- 13. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 142; Cornw. RO, ME 3064; C66/2121/23; J. Maclean, Trigg Minor Deanery, iii. 129-30.
- 14. C54/2191/26; 54/2394/20; 54/2575/13; 54/2576/16; C2/Jas.I/C10/50; 2/Chas.I/T27/65.
- 15. C54/2617/17; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 133; C2/Chas.I/W95/47.
- 16. C54/2704/11; 54/2710/28; 54/2720/11; 54/2734/21; 54/2743/17; 54/2780/12; 54/2841/9.
- 17. Cornw. RO, ME 2871, 2880, 2884; CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 4.
- 18. Cornw. RO, ME 2869; APC, 1630-1, p. 213; I.o.W. RO, OG/BB/191, 199.
- 19. Cornw. RO, ME 2874, 2884.
- 20. Cornw. RO, ME 2875, 2878, 2880, 2891; E401/2450.
- 21. Cornw. RO, ME 2885, 3000.
- 22. C54/2914/40; 54/2956/10; 54/2960/9; 54/2961/10; 54/3000/5; 54/3006/12; 54/3043/1-2, 26; 54/3044/6.
- 23. Vis. London, 192; C54/2841/9; 54/2957/17; 54/2959/13.
- 24. Cornw. RO, ME 876, 3000; C2/Chas.I/W95/47; PROB 11/173, ff. 208v-9v.
- 25. Cornw. RO, ME 884-5, 2996, 3006; J.R. Hale, Eng. and the Italian Renaissance, 9-10; J. Stoye, Eng. Travellers Abroad (1989), p. 298; additional observations and research by Susan Stead of Univ. Coll. lib., London.
- 26. Cornw. RO, ME 848, 876-7, 983, 3003, 3005, 3008; St. Martin Orgar Regs. 109-11.
- 27. PROB 11/184, f. 127r-v; Cornw. RO, ME 877 (the original, and more accurate will-text).