Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ashley, Anthony

ASHLEY, Sir ANTHONY (1551–1627), clerk of the privy council, was descended from an ancient family which had settled, from the time of Henry VI, at Wimborne St. Giles, in Dorsetshire. Of Ashley's early career we have no information; but we gather from his epitaph that he added to his studies, probably pursued at Oxford, the usual accomplishments of a gentleman of the period, namely, martial exercises and a mastery of several languages acquired in foreign travel. He certainly became clerk of the council before 1588. The earliest account of his services in that office known to us is to be found among the 'State Papers' (Domestic series), under date of 12 Nov. 1588, where we find him at Ilton, drawing up, by order of the council, 'A Schedule of the Names, etc. of the Spaniards on board the St. Peter the Great (one of the ships of the armada), driven into Hope Bay, near Salcombe.' Early in 1589 he received instructions from Lord Burghley to assist and 'be in company with Sir John Norris and Sir Francis Drake in their journey towards Spayne' (Lansd. MS. 104, 46). An account of this expedition is given by Camden. About this period probably he received the grant of the office of clerk of the castle and county court of York. We next hear of him at Oxford, where, with seventeen others, he received the degree of M.A. on the occasion of the queen's visit, 27 Sept. 1592 (Nichols's Prog. of Eliz.). Perhaps his most distinguished foreign service was that of secretary for war in the famous 'honourable voyage unto Cadiz.' On this occasion, in June 1596, he received the honour of knighthood, with others, at the hands of the two 'Lordes-generall' of the expedition. Lord C. Howard and the Earl of Essex (Hakluyt, i. 617). Like all other men in high positions he was not without enemies. On 3 Feb. 1611, more than a year after he had resigned his public offices, rewarded by two pensions, he was summoned before the Star-chamber to answer charges that could not be sustained by those who preferred them. His services were never wholly dispensed with or forgotten, as he was made a baronet by King James I, 3 July 1622 (Nichols's Prog. James I, iv. 771). By Nichols he is credited with having been the first to introdtice cabbages into England. Sir Anthony Ashley died in London, probably at his house in Holborn, 13 Jan. 1627, aged 76 years, and was buried at Wimborne St. Giles, where his fine monument is preserved. He was twice married, first to the only daughter of P. Okeover, Esq., of Staffordshire; second, to Dame Phillipa Sheldon, a kinswoman of G. Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, who survived him. By the marriage of his daughter and heiress with Sir J. Cooper, Bart., the grandson of Sir Anthony Ashley became the first Earl of Shaftesbury. Ashley was undoubtedly the author of an important naval work, although the identity of Ashley, its writer, and Ashley, the clerk of the council, has not been previously pointed out. Four years before the defeat of the Spanish armada in 1588 there was published, in Holland, the first known collection of 'Sea Charts' sailors, afterwards known as a 'waggoner,' the title of which was: 'Spieghel der Zeevaardt vande navigatie der Westersche Zee,' by Lucas Janz Waghenaer, Leyden,1584, folio. It would appear that in the following year Lord Charles Howard, of Effingham, lord admiral of England, drew the attention of the privy council to the work, which met a great want of our early seamen under the Tudors. The work being 'esteemed by the chief personages of the grave counsell worthy to be translated and printed into a language familiar to all nations,' the task of translating it into English from the Dutch was committed into the hands of Anthony Ashley. The title of the work in its English dress runs thus: 'The Mariners Mirrour . . . of Navigation, First made and set fourth in divers exact Sea Charts by that famous Navigator Luke Wagenar of Enchuisen, and now fitted with necessarie additions for the use of Englishmen by Anthony Ashley. Heerin also may be understood the exploits lately atchived by the right Honorable L. Admiral of England with her Maties Navie, and some former services done by that worthy knight Sr Fra. Drake,' fol. London, 1588. The exploits of the lord admiral referred to his pursuit of the armada up the Channel into the North Sea; the services of Sir Francis Drake relate to 'The Voyage to Cadiz in 1587,' mentioned by Hakluyt, 1599, vol. ii. pt. 2, p. 121. The book was dedicated by Anthony Ashley to Sir Christopher Hatton, the then newly appointed lord chancellor, his friend and patron, whose arms and crest adorn the work. In the dedication the author apologises for the delay in its publication 'by reason of my daylie attendance on your L. and the rest of my Lordes of her Maisties most Honourable privie counsell;' which words serve to show beyond all dispute that the clerk of the council and the author of the 'Mariners Mirrour' are one and the same person. One letter from Ashley to Cecil is printed by Strype in his 'Memorials.' Among the Cecil MSS. at Hatfield are three series of thirty-five letters from Ashley to the Earl of Essex, Cecil, and others, ranging from 26 Sept. 1591 to 12 Dec. 1600, temp. Elizabeth, and from 13 April 1603 to 1 July 1615, temp. James I.

[Biog. Dict. Soc. D. U. K. 1842; Camden's Annales, ii. 10; Hakluyt's Voyages. 1699, i. 617; Hutchins's Hist. of Dorset, 3rd ed. vol. iii.; Nichols's Prog. Eliz. iii. 160; ibid. James I, iv. 771; Strype's Annals, iv. 288; Wood's Fasti Oxon. 1813, i. 161; Lansd. MS. 104, 46; Hist. MSS. Comm. third, fifth, and sixth Reports, appendices; Notes and Queries (3rd series), xii. (4th series), i.]

C. H. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.9
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
170 i 32 Ashby, Sir Anthony: for 1627 read 1628
ii 4 after Eliz.) insert He was M.P. for Tavistock in 1588 and for Old Sarum in 1593
25 for 1627 read 1627-8