THYNNE, Thomas (c.1577/8-1639), of Longleat, Wilts. and Cannon Row, Westminster.
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Family and Education
b. c.1577/8, 1st s. of Sir John Thynne* and Joan, da. of Sir Rowland Hayward† of Cripplegate, London, alderman and ld. mayor of London.1 educ. Brasenose, Oxf. 1592, aged 14;2 earl of Hertford’s embassy, Brussels 1605;3 I. Temple 1616.4 m. (1) 16 May 1594, Maria, (d.1611), da. of George Tuchet, 11th Lord Audley, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) incl. Sir James† and Sir Thomas†, 1da.;5 (2) c.1612, Catherine (bur. 23 May 1650), da. of Charles Howard, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 1da.6 suc. fa. 1604; kntd. 20 Aug. 1604.7 d. 1 Aug. 1639.8 sig. Thomas Thynne.
Steward of various Crown manors, Wilts. 1604-at least 1608;9 col. of militia ft., Wilts. 1605-at least 1611;10 sheriff, Wilts. 1607-8, Glos. 1621-2, Som. 1629-30, Salop 1633-4;11 j.p. Salop 1614-at least 1625,12 Wilts., Glos. and Som. 1624-d.;13 dep. lt., Wilts. by 1624;14 commr. subsidy, Glos., Salop and Wilts. 1624, Glos. and Wilts. 1629,15 Forced Loan, Glos. and Wilts. 1626,16 disafforestation, Roche Forest, Som. 1627,17 repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Glos. 1632;18 dep. forester, Selwood Forest, Som. by 1633;19 commr. sewers, Glos. and Wilts. 1635,20 oyer and terminer, Hants, Wilts. and Dorset 1635-6.21
Born to a family with long experience in Parliament and local office, and heir to a substantial Wiltshire estate, Thynne outraged his parents at the tender age of 16 when he wed without their prior knowledge Maria Tuchet, granddaughter of his father’s hated enemy, Sir James Mervyn [Marvyn]† of Fonthill Gifford. He first met Maria at Beaconsfield on his return to London with his Oxford college friend John Mervyn, Sir James’s nephew, and was so besotted with her that he married her that very evening.22 The marriage was kept secret for less than a year, during which time the feud with Mervyn was further embittered by the murder of Henry Long, a Thynne relation, by Mervyn’s supporters.23 Sir John Thynne was not only incensed at Maria’s blood ties with Mervyn, but also that that her father, Sir George Tuchet, had not provided a dowry. To his wife Sir John wrote of
my proud undutiful son who after all these my troubles will be now a counterfoil and revolt, and has to me most undutifully demeaned himself to my no small grief, and for which cause I will also especially stay to see the same either settled or no longer dissembled, and you and yourself no longer abused, for to my face he used me undutifully, and is such cause of contempt of me as I neither can nor will endure, but will put him to the point of either having of her or utterly leaving of her.24
He tried unsuccessfully to have the marriage annulled in the Court of Arches, while warning his son that ‘with her he shall have nothing but those virtuous qualities she brought from Court.’25 Mervyn, however, hoped to make the marriage a basis for a general reconciliation, and provided Thynne and his young bride with Compton Bassett manor.26 Furthermore, in both 1601 and 1604 he provided Thynne with a parliamentary seat at Hindon. Thynne played no recorded part in either assembly.
On the death of his father in November 1604, Thynne inherited the Longleat estate. However, he was not appointed to his father’s place on the county bench for another 20 years. Early in 1605 he accompanied the earl of Hertford, the family patron, on the latter’s embassy to Brussels.27 On his return, in September, Mervyn, perhaps in an attempt to bolster his son-in-law’s local standing, transferred to Thynne his colonelcy of a regiment of militia foot.28 The following month Thynne, also keen to raise his status, was returned as knight of the shire in place of his late father, despite already serving for Hindon.29 However, the Commons deemed this action irregular, and on 9 Nov. instructed that another knight to be chosen instead.30
In November 1607 Thynne was pricked as sheriff of Wiltshire, an office he found onerous, time-consuming and expensive. Further demands were placed on him as steward of the Crown’s manors in Wiltshire the following year by the lord treasurer, and his own large estates required his attention. Assailed on all fronts, in August 1608 he approached Hertford, the county’s lord lieutenant, to be allowed to resign his colonelcy. Hertford, however, was astonished at this request, describing it as ‘peremptory and undutiful’ in a letter to Mervyn, who subsequently persuaded Thynne to stay on. But if it now appeared that Thynne was ready to resume his militia duties, on 2Nov., before the next muster was due, he evaded those duties altogether by moving his entire household to London for the winter, to Hertford’s amazement and annoyance.31
In October 1608 Thynne’s title to Caus Castle, in Shropshire, was questioned by the Privy Council, which required him either to provide proof of ownership or to compound. The following year Thynne, then evidently awash with cash, hoped to snap up a barony for as little as £3,000, but instead he was prevailed upon by his brother-in-law, Mervin Tuchet*, 12th Lord Audley, to spend £3,650 on buying the latter’s manor of Warminster. Thynne soon regretted this latter transaction, for in a letter to his wife he complained that the purchase price was so exorbitant that ‘no man would come near it’.32 Following the death of his wife Maria in 1611, Thynne married into the powerful Howard family, whose orbit he had already entered since he was identified as one of the Howard clients who served on the jury in the murder trial of Edward Morgan earlier that same year.33 His new wife, Catherine, bore him the first of three sons in March 1614, whom he named Henry. Doubtless at the request of the head of the Howard clan, lord chamberlain Suffolk, Anne of Denmark agreed to act as godmother, and to bestow upon the boy the additional name Frederick, after her father. The christening was originally scheduled to take place on 29 Mar., but at the last moment Suffolk ordered a delay of one day as his younger brother, Sir Thomas Howard*, who had consented to act as godfather, would be in Wiltshire on the 29th standing for election as knight of the shire.34 Thynne himself, caught up in these domestic arrangements, appears not to have sought re-election to Parliament.
In June 1616 Thynne was once again rumoured to be negotiating for a title. The sale price mentioned - £10,000 - suggests that he was angling for an earldom, but if so nothing came of these overtures.35 The fall of the Howards in 1618 seems not have affected Thynne adversely. In December 1620 he was again elected to Parliament, this time on the interest of his former brother-in-law Mervin Tuchet, now 2nd earl of Castlehaven, who had inherited the Mervyn interest at Fonthill Gifford in 1611. Returned for Heytesbury, Thynne played no recorded part in the proceedings of the 1621 Parliament, except to be appointed to the committee for the bill to limit legal actions (6 Feb.), a measure which perhaps interested him personally, as he was regularly involved in litigation in defence of his property interests.36 Towards the end of the Parliament Thynne was pricked as sheriff of Gloucestershire. His selection sparked off a debate over whether a Member chosen as sheriff could remain in place, but on 21 Nov. the Commons resolved that he could.37 Thynne again sat for Heytesbury in 1624. Appointed to the committee for the bill to allow lawsuits to be heard in the counties rather than at Westminster (1 Mar.),38 he otherwise left no mark upon the parliamentary records.
At the beginning of 1625 the former attorney-general Sir Henry Yelverton* endeavoured to persuade Thynne to part with £8,000 in return for a viscountcy, but despite Yelverton’s confident expectation of success Thynne resisted the temptation.39 In April 1625, following the summons of a fresh Parliament, Thynne resolved to stand for the knighthood of the shire, and to that end appealed to Sir Henry Ludlow* for assistance. However, his hopes were dashed on learning that the earl of Pembroke and William Seymour*, 2nd earl of Hertford, had excluded him in favour of Sir Francis Seymour*, Hertford’s younger brother. Sir Henry Ley*, also nominated for the shire, raised Thynne’s hopes by suggesting that Seymour, having already once represented the county, might step down, but this was not to be.40 Instead, Thynne was obliged to settle for Hindon, the borough he had represented in 1601 and 1604-10. He made no impact upon the records of the Parliament. Thynne again served for Hindon in 1626, when he was appointed to just one committee. This concerned the bill to allow a fellow Wiltshire gentleman, Sir Charles Snell, to make a jointure (8 May).41
Following the dissolution of June 1626 the king increasingly resorted to unparliamentary taxes to supply his needs. Thynne contributed £50 to the loans raised by privy seal in 1626,42 and, presumably paid his share of the Forced Loan in 1627. However, like the rest of Wiltshire magistrates, he declined to pay Ship Money when it was demanded in February 1628. Indeed, he and his fellow justices informed the Privy Council ‘that His Majesty’s present occasions would be sooner supplied by a parliamentary way than by this now required by His Majesty’.43 Protests like these helped persuade Charles to abandon his attempt to levy Ship Money in favour of subsidies, for which purpose a new Parliament had been summoned. Thynne, supported by the sheriff of Wiltshire, Walter Long II*, made one last attempt to obtain a county seat. Promising that he would ‘bring you a hundred freeholders who will give their votes for you’, Long claimed that Thynne ‘shall not need to make any doubt of obtaining’ a seat as ‘I will show you a way that you shall be sure of it’.44 However, Long’s confidence proved misplaced, for during his last Parliament Thynne again sat for Hindon. As ever Thynne seems to have contributed little to the Commons’ proceedings. On 12 May he was named to a committee for a bill to increase the number of preaching curates and redress the general neglect of preaching and catechising, and on 16 June he was appointed to consider a private land bill. Nevertheless, he was one of only 12 Members who accompanied the Speaker on Sunday 22 June to ask Charles to prorogue the session.45 He left no trace on the records of the 1629 session.
Thynne was pricked as sheriff of Somerset in November 1629, but instead of residing in his shrievalty as the law required he obtained permission to continue living at Longleat. In 1631, following the expiry of his term of office, it was discovered that he had imposed fines on only a handful of gentry for failing to take up knighthoods, for which offence he himself was fined £200.46 This negligence, and the fact that in 1608 he had attempted to resign his militia commission, perhaps reflected Thynne’s disdain for the burdens of local office rather than overt hostility to the policy of forcing men to compound for knighthood. Certainly, as a member of the Wiltshire bench since 1624, Thynne rarely attended sessions.47 Thynne was again required to serve as sheriff only three years later, this time for Shropshire, and had it not been for a Star Chamber case, in which he was prosecuted for depopulation, he would have been pricked as sheriff of Wiltshire in 1634.48
Although somewhat lax when it came to discharging the duties imposed on him by local office, Thynne was active in pursuing his own financial interests. He augmented his already extensive estates by the astute management of the royal forests within Wiltshire: as deputy forester for Selwood Forest in 1633, he drew up a survey of royal lands and acquired the lion’s share of those sold off by the Crown, which property was merged with the Longleat estate.49 By the 1630s Thynne was perhaps the wealthiest commoner in England.50 Indeed, he was so rich that in 1634 he was not only able to offer Thomas Wriothesley, 4th earl of Southampton, a portion of £40,000 if Southampton would marry his daughter, but also to propose that his eldest son marry Southampton’s daughter without a reciprocal dowry.51
Thynne died on 1 Aug. 1639, leaving extensive properties in seven counties.52 He was buried in the family vault at Longbridge Deverill, Wiltshire, and his funeral, held at great expense, was attended by numerous peers and dignitaries.53 In his will, drawn up shortly before he died, he left £20,000 to his daughter for her dowry and made generous provision for Frederick Henry, his son by his second marriage. In order to provide for his sons by his first marriage, however, Thynne instructed his wife, Lady Catherine, to surrender her dower lands under pain of being denied the right to act as his executrix. Lady Catherine was so horrified at the prospect of giving up her jointure though that, following her husband’s death she refused to prove the will. Thynne’s eldest surviving son, Sir James was equally incensed, for despite having never been disobedient he stood to lose above £10,000 in real and personal estate. Despite an attempt by the king to negotiate a settlement, a series of acrimonious lawsuits ensued. Sir James accused his stepmother of withholding household goods that were rightly his and of having unduly influenced his father for the benefit of herself and her son, while Lady Katherine vigorously defended her right to retain her jointure and charged him in Star Chamber with seizing control of Longleat and its contents by force.54
Thynne’s portrait, together with those of both his wives, is at Longleat.55 His two surviving sons from his first marriage both served in Parliament, Sir James representing Wiltshire in 1640 and Sir Thomas sitting for Hindon in the 1660s.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Henry Lancaster / Andrew Thrush
- 1. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 461; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 164.
- 2. Al. Ox.
- 3. NLW, Carreglwyd ms I/699; HMC Bath, iv. 200.
- 4. I. Temple admiss. database.
- 5. Vis. Wilts. (Harl. Soc. cv-cvi), 193; Two Elizabethan Women ed. A.D. Wall (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xxxviii), pp. xxvi, xxxii; PROB 11/186, f. 416v.
- 6. Vis. Wilts. (Harl. Soc. cv-cvi), 193; R.C. Hoare, Hist. Wilts. ‘Heytesbury’, 61; Regs. Westminster Abbey ed. J.L. Chester, 143; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 338; HMC Var. viii. 51.
- 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 135.
- 8. Glos. IPMs ed. W.P.W. Phillimore and G.S. Fry (Brit. Rec. Soc. xxi), 164.
- 9. E315/310, f. 35; Earl of Hertford’s Ltcy. Pprs. 1603-12 ed. W.P.D. Murphy (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 132.
- 10. Hertford’s Ltcy. Pprs. 92, 132, 168.
- 11. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 51, 120, 125, 154.
- 12. VCH Herts. v. 84-5.
- 13. C231/4, ff. 168, 334.
- 14. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 407.
- 15. C212/22/23; Add. 34566, f. 132
- 16. C193/12/2, ff. 21, 64.
- 17. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 290.
- 18. Glos. RO, TBR A1/1, f. 80.
- 19. J.E. Jackson, ‘Selwood Forest’, Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxiii. 283.
- 20. C181/5, f. 44.
- 21. C181/4, ff. 64, 146, 187, 193.
- 22. Two Elizabethan Women, p. xxvi.
- 23. Wilts. Arch. Mag. i. 305-21.
- 24. Longleat, Thynne Pprs., vii. f. 335.
- 25. Ibid. vi. ff. 73, 80, 82, 84; vii. f. 335; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, ii. 186.
- 26. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. viii. f. 12; Misc. Her. and Gen. i. 361-2.
- 27. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. viii. ff. 73, 80.
- 28. Hertford’s Ltcy. Pprs. 92.
- 29. C219/35/2/110.
- 30. CJ, i. 257a.
- 31. Hertford’s Ltcy. Pprs. 113-14, 131-2, 136-7.
- 32. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. viii. f. 90; Two Elizabethan Women, 50-1.
- 33. SP46/174, f. 199. For details concerning this trial, see SIR JOHN EGERTON.
- 34. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. viii. ff. 110, 111v; CB, ii. 102 (but note that Henry Frederick’s birth-date is incorrectly given as March 1615).
- 35. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 10; Letters of Philip Gawdy ed. I.H. Jeayes, 181.
- 36. CJ, i. 511a; C78/186/6; C2/Jas.I/R1/56.
- 37. CD 1621, iii. 407; iv. 419; v. 398-9; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 311.
- 38. CJ, i. 687a.
- 39. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 461.
- 40. Procs. 1625, pp. 703-4; Procs. 1626, iv. 396-7.
- 41. Procs. 1626, iii. 189; Vis. Wilts. 184.
- 42. E401/2586, p. 547.
- 43. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. viii. ff. 127-8, 131, 133.
- 44. Procs. 1626, iv. 394.
- 45. CD 1628, iii. 367; iv. 331, 404; HMC Cowper, i. 351.
- 46. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 105; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, ii. 96.
- 47. Wilts. RO, A1/150/5.
- 48. Strafforde Letters, i. 337.
- 49. Jackson, 283.
- 50. L. Stone, Fam. and Fortune, 232.
- 51. Strafforde Letters, i. 338.
- 52. Glos. IPMs, 154-64; C142/765/47.
- 53. C2/Chas.I/T13/23; HMC 4th Rep. 294.
- 54. HMC Var. viii. 51; Add. 11045, f. 44v; HMC Cowper, ii. 240; C2/Chas.I/T13/23; PROB 11/186, f. 416v; HMC 4th Rep. 26; Thynne Pprs. lxii., box 15, no. 44; HMC 6th Rep. 175-6, 186; LJ, ix. 189, 197.
- 55. M.L. Boyle, Biographical Cat. of Portraits at Longleat, 87-8, 122.