Dethick, William (DNB00)

DETHICK, Sir WILLIAM (1543–1612), Garter king-of-arms, second son of Sir Gilbert Dethick [q. v.], born in 1543, was introduced into the College of Arms at an early age, and in 1564 went to France with his father to present the order of the Garter to Charles IX. On 11 Feb. 1566–7 he was appointed Rouge Croix pursuivant, and in that capacity he in 1568 accompanied his father, with the Earl of Sussex, to invest the emperor Maximilian II. Leaving the earl's suite at Salzburg, he travelled in Italy. He was promoted to the office of York herald by patent 24 March 1569–70 (Rymer, Fœdera, ed. 1713, xv. 679). He now presumed to issue grants of arms, and in issuing these documents used a seal inscribed ‘Gulielmus Dethicke armig. Primarius Heraldus Eboracensis,’ thus invading the office of Norroy, the king-of-arms of the north (Addit. MS. 25247, f. 291 b). By patent, 21 April 1586, he was created Garter king-of-arms in succession to his father. He induced Nicasius or Yetzworth, one of the clerks of the signet, to insert words in the bill with a view to usurp the offices of the provincial kings-of-arms, Norroy and Clarenceux, who had the sole right of granting arms, with the consent of the earl-marshal. Glover, Somerset herald, complained to the queen, who ordered Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir Francis Roe to investigate the matter, and they reprehended Nicasius for his oversight so sharply that ‘the poor old man for very grief died’ (Harl. MS. 1453, p. 82). Under the terms of his patent Dethick interfered with Clarenceux when that official visited Lincolnshire, and long and acrimonious disputes ensued. Dethick was accused of having in 1571 emblazoned in a pedigree the arms of the Duke of Norfolk on the right, and those of the queen of Scots on the left. It was further alleged that he had granted the royal arms of England, with very little difference, to one Daukin, a plasterer. A royal commission suspended Dethick from his office, to which, however, he was restored by the clemency of the queen. In August 1587 he assisted in conveying the remains of Mary Queen of Scots from Fotheringhay to Peterborough Cathedral, where they were ‘royally and sumptuously interred by the said Garter’ (Nichols, Progresses of James I, i. 252).

In 1593 he became a member of the old Society of Antiquaries (Hearne, Curious Discourses, ed. 1771, ii. 431). In 1595 he was censured by the commissioners for executing the office of earl marshal on a charge of having given to George Rotherham, esq., the arms of Lord Grey of Ruthyn. In 1596 he was sent with the Earl of Shrewsbury to present the Garter to Henry IV of France. When the Earl of Essex, in February 1600–1, entered London with the alleged intention of seizing the queen's person, Dethick accompanied Lord Burghley into the city to proclaim him a traitor. Essex at his trial exclaimed, ‘I saw no herald but that branded fellow, whom I took not for an herald.’ To this the answer was that ‘an herald, though a wicked man, is nevertheless an herald.’

James I knighted Dethick 13 May 1603 (Addit. MS. 32102, f. 149 b; Nichols, Progresses of James I, i. 120). He was present at the coronation, but became unpopular at court on account of a rumour that he had hinted something derogatory to the title of the Stuarts to the English crown. He was temporarily supplanted by Segar, Somerset herald, who by a bill passed under the signet was appointed Garter king-of-arms. But Dethick soon after this disseisin was reinstated, for in August 1603 the king despatched him to Peterborough to place a rich pall of velvet on the coffin of Mary Queen of Scots, and on the 8th of the following month he was joined in a commission, by his proper style, to invest the Duke of Würtemberg. The circumstances of this investiture led to fresh censures of his conduct. Upon his return home a warrant passed the signet office in May 1604 to pay yearly to William Segar, therein named Garter, the charges of the escutcheons for the knights companions. Dethick was forbidden to wear his tabard on Christmas day 1604, and in the court marshal held on 26 Jan. 1604–5 the lords commissioners declared his majesty's pleasure that Dethick, ‘upon some approved misdemeanours’ committed in the execution of his office of Garter, should be deprived of it. Dethick sought redress from parliament and from the court of common pleas, but finally, at the request of the king, he submitted and surrendered his office, having his annuity increased from 40l. to 200l. during his life, together with an exemption from all taxes. He died in 1612, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral, where a monument with a Latin epitaph was erected to his memory.

Dethick was a man of the most tyrannical disposition, and had an ungovernable temper. He drew on himself the paternal curse for striking his father with his fist, and he wounded his brother with a dagger in Windsor Castle. He charged some members of the College of Arms ‘with felony, some he beate, others he reviled, and all he wronged’ (Addit. MS. 25247, f. 293). At the funeral of Sir Henry Sidney at Penshurst he beat the minister in the church. In Westminster Abbey, at the funeral of the Countess of Sussex, he struck two persons with his dagger. For this offence he was indicted at Newgate, but got off through the favour of Fleetwood, the recorder. For calling a clergyman ‘a bald, rascally priest’ and striking him he was sentenced by the spiritual court to imprisonment and a fine of 100l. While acknowledging these faults, Anstis observes that ‘this Garter was very active and diligent in his imployment,’ and a man of good capacity and much knowledge.

He married Thomasine, only daughter of Robert Young, citizen and fishmonger of London, and had issue three sons.

His works are: 1. ‘A Brief Account of Germany, according to its several Divisions or Circles, with the Descents of its Chiefest Families,’ Harl. MS. 2287. 2. ‘Account of the Grisons and of their Government,’ Harl. MS. 2287. 3. ‘A Booke of the Armes of the Noblemen in Henry the Fifts tyme,’ Harl. MS. 1864; cf. Addit. MS. 6298. This splendidly written and illuminated volume was presented by Dethick to Queen Elizabeth on 1 Jan. 1588–9. 4. Account of his mission with the Earl of Shrewsbury to invest Henry IV of France, 1596, Addit. MS. 6298, f. 280. 5. A collection of papers formed by his father and himself, consisting of documents relating to the order of the Garter, the installation of knights, royal and other funerals, with many warrants and letters chiefly on heraldic subjects, Addit. MS. 10110. 6. Historical and heraldic collections, Harl. MS. 2227. 7. ‘On the Antiquity of Ceremonies used at Funeralls,’ 1599, in Hearne's ‘Curious Discourses,’ ed. 1771, i. 199. 8. ‘On the Antiquity of Epitaphs in England,’ in ‘Curious Discourses,’ i. 256. 9. ‘On the Antiquity of the Christian Religion in this Island,’ in ‘Curious Discourses,’ ii. 164.

[Addit. MSS. 5843, p. 180, 19816, ff. 80–99, 22591, f. 95, 23750, f. 43, 25247, ff. 291 b–96; Anstis's Order of the Garter, i. 386–99; Beltz's Memorial of the Order of the Garter, p. xcvi; Dugdale's St. Paul's, p. 51; Egerton MS. 2581; Gent. Mag. new. ser. ix. 31; Guillim's Heraldry (1724), 383; Harl. MSS. 304, art. 65, 1429, art. 23, 1438, art. 2, 1441, art. 37, 1453, art. 5, 6; Historical Manuscripts Commission, Rep. iii. 163, vi. 227, 244, vii. 139, 657, viii. Append. pt. iii. p. 35, x. 10; Lansd. MSS. 13 art. 62, 18 art. 5, 43 art. 27, 51 art. 30, 54 art. 83, 84, 77 art. 86, 80 art. 22, 25, 85 art. 62, 66, 67, 73, 74, 108 art. 97, 285 f. 216; Noble's College of Arms, pp. 168, 178, 184, 197; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. v. 366.]

T. C.