Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bysshe, Edward (1615?-1679)

BYSSHE, Sir EDWARD (1615?–1679), Garter king of arms, the eldest son of Edward Bysshe of Burstow, Surrey, a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, by Mary, daughter of John Turnor of Ham, in the parish of Bletchingley in the same county, was born at Smallfield, in the parish of Burstow, in or about 1615. His ancestors were lords of the manors of Burstow and Horne, and some of them owners also of the manor of Bysshe, or Bysshe Court, in Surrey. In 1633 he became a commoner of Trinity College, Oxford, but before he took a degree he entered Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the bar. He was elected M.P. for Bletchingley to the parliament which met at Westminster on 3 Nov. 1640, and afterwards taking the covenant, he was about 1643 made Garter king of arms in the place of Sir John Borough, who had followed the king to Oxford. On 20 Oct. 1646 votes were passed in the House of Commons that Bysshe should be Garter king of arms, and likewise Clarenceux king of arms, that William Ryley should be Norroy king of arms, and that a committee should be appointed to regulate their fees (Whitelocke, Memorials, 229). In 1654 he was chosen burgess for Reigate, Surrey, to serve in ‘the little parliament’ which met at Westminster on 3 Sept. 1654, and he was returned as member for Gatton in the same county to the parliament which assembled on 27 Jan. 1658–9.

After the Restoration he was obliged to quit the office of Garter in favour of Sir Edward Walker, but with difficulty he obtained a patent dated 10 March 1660–1 for the office of Clarenceux king of arms. The latter office was void by the lunacy of Sir William Le Neve, and was given to Bysshe in consideration of his having during the usurpation preserved the library of the College of Arms. The appointment was made in spite of the remonstrances of Sir Edward Walker, who alleged that Bysshe had not only usurped, but maladministered the office of Garter, and that if he were created Clarenceux it would be in his power to confirm the grants of arms previously made by him (Addit. MS. 22883).

He received the honour of knighthood on 20 April 1661 (P. Le Neve, Pedigrees of the Knights, 135), and he was elected M.P. for Bletchingley to the parliament which met at Westminster on the 8th of the following month. During that parliament, which lasted seventeen years, he is said to have become a pensioner, and to have received 100l. every session. Wood, who speaks very harshly of Bysshe, says that after obtaining his knighthood ‘he did nothing but deturpate, and so continued worse and worse till his death,’ which occurred in the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden, on 15 Dec. 1679. He was obscurely buried late at night in the church of St. Olave, Jewry. He married Margaret, daughter of John Green of Boyshall, Essex, serjeant-at-law. She survived him. He edited:

  1. ‘Nicolai Vptoni de Studio Militari Libri Quatuor. Iohan. de Bado Aureo Tractatus de Armis. Henrici Spelmanni Aspilogia. Edoardus Bissæus e Codicibus MSS. primus publici juris fecit, notisque illustravit,’ Lond. 1654, fol. Dedicated to John Selden. The notes, originally written in English by Bysshe, were translated into Latin by David Whitford, an ejected student of Christ Church, Oxford.
  2. ‘Palladius, de Gentibus Indiæ et Bragmanibus. S. Ambrosius, de Moribus Brachmanorum. Anonymus, de Bragmanibus,’ Lond. 1665, 4to. In Greek and Latin. Dedicated to Lord-chancellor Clarendon.

At one time he contemplated writing the ‘Survey or Antiquities of the County of Surrey,’ but the work never appeared. Even Wood is constrained to admit that Bysshe was during the Commonwealth period a ‘great encourager of learning and learned men,’ and that he understood arms and armoury very well, though he ‘could never endure to take pains in genealogies.’ A modern and less prejudiced writer remarks that the praise of being a profound critic in the science of heraldry cannot justly be denied him. He is more learned and more perspicuous than his predecessors, and was the first who treated the subject as an antiquary and historian, endeavouring to divest it of extraneous matter (Dallaway, Science of Heraldry in England, 342).

[Berry's Sussex Genealogies, 199; Brayley's Surrey, iv. 295, 296; Publications of the Harleian Soc. viii. 135; Manning and Bray's Surrey, i. 292, ii. 285, 318, 319; Harl. MS. 813, art. 40; Addit. MSS. 22883, 26669, 26758, f. 13 b; Lansd. MS. 255, ff. 55, 58; Moule's Bibl. Heraldica; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 612; Noble's College of Arms, 236, 239, 248, 260, 261, 264, 280; Lists of Members of Parliament (official return), i. 502, 510, 529; Surrey Archæological Collections, iii. 381; Willis's Notitia Parliamentaria, iii. 236, 250, 266, 293; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 1218.]

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