Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ascham, Antony

ASCHAM, ANTONY (d. 1650), parliamentarian ambassador at Madrid, was 'born of a genteel family, educated in Eton school, and thence elected into King's College, Cambridge, 1638.' He took the parliament side in the civil war, and was appointed tutor to James, duke of York. In 1648 he published his 'Discourse of what is lawful during confusions and revolutions of government,' a treatise determining within what time allegiance might be transferred from a sovereign to those who had conquered him. It was answered by Dr. Sanderson (whose tract on the subject was formerly printed with Walton's 'Lives'), and republished in 1689 without the author's name. In August 1649 Ascham was the Hamburg agent of the republic, and in the following June he was appointed resident at Madrid, at a salary of 800l. a year. Clarendon (then Sir Edward Hyde and ambassador for Charles II) sneers at his rival's incompetence; but Milton, some years after, recommending Marvell to Bradshaw, thinks it sufficient commendation to say that 'Mr. Marvell will do as good service as Mr. Ascham.' The dignity of the new resident was jealously guarded by a formal introduction to the Spanish ambassador, and by a special commission under the great seal. At Madrid Hyde was assured that no embassy was in question; it was only that a gentleman had come with letters from the parliament to the king. The letters were never delivered, for the day after his arrival Ascham and his interpreter, De Rivas, were murdered at their inn by John Guillim and William Spark, who, with their four accomplices (Henry and Valentine Progers, John Halsal, and William Arnet), took sanctuary immediately afterwards. The parliament not only demanded their punishment, but ordered that six persons, who had been in arms for the king and had not been admitted to compound, should be at once seized and tried by the high court of justice, an order repeated in November. The Spaniards, to save appearances, took the assassins out of the church, tried, condemned, and restored them to sanctuary, where they were maintained by the contributions of 'persons of quality' till they all had opportunity to escape. Spark, the only protestant among them, was alone recaptured and executed. In 1652 the murderers were excepted from the act of oblivion, and provision was made for Ascham's relations, and so late as 1655 the topic of the murder is urged in Cromwell's declaration against Spain. The pleadings for the punishment of the murderers, translated from the Spanish, were published in 1651 and are reprinted in the 'Harleian Miscellany' (iv. 280, ed. Park).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 628, 750; Clarendon's Hist.; Thurloe's State Papers; Cal. State Papers, Domestic, 1649-55.]

R. C. B.