Copley, Thomas (DNB00)


COPLEY, Sir THOMAS (1534–1584), of Gatton, Surrey, and Roughay, Sussex, and of the Maze, Southwark, who was knighted (perhaps by the king of France), and created a baron by Philip II of Spain, and who is frequently referred to by contemporaries as Lord Copley, was one of the chief Roman catholic exiles in the reign of Elizabeth. Camden styles him ‘e primariis inter profugos Anglos.’ He was the eldest son of Sir Roger Copley by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Shelley of Michelgrove, a judge of the common pleas [q. v.], and was one of the coheirs of Thomas, last lord Hoo and Hastings, whose title he claimed and sometimes assumed. Lord Hoo's daughter Jane married his great-grandfather, Sir Roger Copley. Another daughter married Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, and was the great-grandmother of Anne Boleyn. The lords of the manor of Gatton then, as for nearly three centuries afterwards, returned the members of parliament for the borough, and in 1554 Copley, when only twenty years of age, was returned ‘by the election of Dame Elizabeth Copley’ (his mother) as M.P. for Gatton. He sat for the same place in the later parliaments of 1556, 1557, 1559, and 1563, and distinguished himself in 1558 by his opposition to the government of Philip and Mary (Commons' Journals). He was then a zealous protestant, and was much in favour with his kinswoman Queen Elizabeth at the commencement of her reign. In 1560 she was godmother to his eldest son Henry. According to Father Parsons (Relation of a Trial between the Bishop of Evreux and the Lord Plessis Mornay, 1604) the falsehoods he found in Jewel's ‘Apology’ (1562) led to his conversion to the church of Rome. After suffering (as he intimates in one of his letters) some years' imprisonment as a popish recusant, he left England without license in or about 1570, and spent the rest of his life in France, Spain, and the Low Countries, in constant correspondence with Cecil and others of Elizabeth's ministers, and sometimes with the queen herself, desiring pardon and permission to return to England and to enjoy his estates; but acting as the leader of the English fugitives, and generally in the service of the king of Spain, from whom he had a pension, and by whom he was created baron of Gatton and grand master of the Maze (or Maes) (Camden). He also received letters of marque against the Dutch. His title of baron and these letters form two of the subjects of the correspondence that passed between himself and the queen's ministers (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser.) Much of his correspondence is to be found in the ‘State Papers,’ and in the Cottonian, Lansdowne, and Harleian MSS. He died in Flanders in 1584, and in the last codicil to his will styles himself ‘Sir Thomas Copley, knight, Lord Copley of Gatton in the county of Surrey’ (Probate Office). By his wife Catherine, daughter and coheiress of Sir John Luttrell of Dunster, Somerset, he had four sons and four daughters. His eldest son Henry, Queen Elizabeth's godson, died young; William succeeded at Gatton. The third son was Anthony [q. v.]

John Copley (1577–1662), the youngest son of Sir Thomas, was born at Louvain and became a priest, but in 1611 left the church of Rome for that of England, and in 1612 published ‘Doctrinall and Morall Observations concerning Religion: wherein the author declareth the Reasons of his late unenforced departure from the Church of Rome; and of his incorporation to the present Church of England …,’ imprinted by W. S. for R. Moore, London, 1612, 4to (Brit. Mus.) In the same year he obtained the living of Bethersden in Kent, to which he was collated by Archbishop Abbot; he resigned it four years later on receiving from the same prelate the rectory of Pluckley in Kent. We find from the ‘State Papers’ and the ‘Commons' Journals’ that he and the puritan squire Sir Edward Dering [q. v.] were at constant feud. Dering complains of Copley's ‘currishness’ in a characteristic letter dated 27 May 1641. In 1643 the House of Commons found him to be a ‘delinquent,’ and sequestered the living of Pluckley. On the Restoration his benefice was restored to him, and he died there in 1662, aged 85. Thomas Copley (1594–1652?), the eldest son of William Copley of Gatton (the heir and successor of Sir Thomas, and elder brother of Anthony and John), became a jesuit, and took an active part in the foundation of the colony of Maryland.

[Cal. S.P. Dom. 1547–80, 1581–90, 1591–4, also Harl. Lansd. and Cotton. MSS.; Commons' Journals; Strype's Annals; Camden's ‘Annales;’ Loseley MSS.; Collect. Topog. et Geneal. v. viii.; Hasted's Kent; Life of Father Thomas Copley, a founder of Maryland, by K. C. Dorsey, in the ‘Woodstock Letters,’ 1885 (Baltimore, U.S.A.); Proceedings in Kent, Camd. Soc. p. 47.]

R. C. C.