Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Crane, William

1329102Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 13 — Crane, William1888William Barclay Squire

CRANE, WILLIAM (fl. 1530), master of the children of the Chapel Royal, is one of the most curious figures in the history of early English music. Of his birth and parentage nothing is known, but he was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal so early as 4 June 1509, and must already have been in some favour, for on that date he was appointed water-bailiff of the town and harbour of Dartmouth. He did not hold this office long, for on 23 Nov. of the following year it was granted to the mayor and corporation of the town in consideration of an annual rent of twenty-two marks, payable to the receiver-general of the duchy of Cornwall, and of sixteen marks payable during pleasure to Crane on surrender of his patent of 4 June 1509. On 3 Feb. 1511 he took a prominent part in the pageant of ‘The Golldyn Arber in the Arche Yerd of Plesyer’ at Westminster [see Cornysshe, William], on which occasion the mob was so unruly that many of the dresses, among which was Crane's, were torn to pieces. On 18 Aug. of the same year a tenement in Marte Lane, All Saints Stayning, was granted to Crane and one Thomas Cremour, a draper. He seems already to have combined a merchant's business with his professional occupations, for in March and October 1512 his name occurs in connection with loans of large sums of money, and on the 6th of the latter month a license was granted to him and Hugh Clopton to export six hundred sacks of wool. In February 1513 he received through the Earl of Wiltshire a loan of 1,000l. from the king, and in July of the same year a glimpse of another branch of his business is obtained by the entry of a payment to him of 94l. 7s. 1d. for cables. On 21 Feb. 1514 Crane was appointed to the important post of controller of the tonnage and poundage of the small customs in the port of London, it being expressly mentioned that he was to perform the duties of the office in person. On 8 Aug. following he was licensed to export wools, hides, and other merchandise not belonging to the staple of Calais. On 27 Sept. 1515 he received a similar license to export broad cloths and kerseys. For the next few years nothing is heard of him, but his name occurs in a list of the Chapel Royal of 1520, and in January 1523 we obtain a very curious insight into his many occupations in a license to him to go abroad in the retinue of Lord Berners, deputy of Calais, in which document he is described as ‘gentleman of the household, alias of the parish of St. Dunstan's-in-the-East, London, alias comptroller of the petty customs in the port of London, alias of London, draper, alias of Havering-at-Bowre.’ About this time he seems to have been a wine merchant as well as a draper, for the accounts of the king's household record the receipt of 20s. for a hogshead of Gascon wine sold to him. In a list of estreats of a subsidy leviable upon the king's household in February 1524, Crane is rated at 66l. 13s. 4d. In May 1526 he was appointed master of the children of the Chapel Royal, in which office he received 40l. per annum for the ‘instruction, vestures, and beds’ of twelve boys. For their board he seems to have been paid 26l. 13s. 4d. yearly, but whether this sum was for board alone is rather doubtful, as there are other quarterly entries, varying from 42s. 6d. to 48s. 8d. for the wages and board wages of one Robert Pery, who may have been one of the choristers. In spite of the duties of his new office Crane continued to thrive in his former business. On 28 Jan. 1527 he obtained a license to import five hundred tons of Toulouse wood and Gascon wine, and on 2 Feb. following a similar license was granted him, the amount not being specified. On 6 May 1528 we learn that he had been lately appointed to furnish the king's ships called Le Caryke, alias Le Kateryn Forteleza and Le Nicholas Rede, and also three galleys called Le Rose, Le Henry, and Le Kateryn. For these he received 800l., to be spent on furnishing the ships and in wages for the workmen. Two years later the appointment (8 May) of Richard Brame as comptroller of the tonnage and poundage in the place of Crane shows that he had either resigned or been deprived of this post, but the wine business seems to have gone on prosperously, for in December of the same year there are records of wine for the king being cellared at Crane's house. In spite of his numerous occupations Crane did not neglect his duties as master of the children; in 1528 he received the usual sum of 6l. 13s. 4d. for playing before the king, and on 15 June 1531 he was paid 3l. 6s. 8d. for costs of a journey to provide children for the Chapel Royal, it being then the custom to press boys with good voices into the service of the choir. He must have been in high favour with Henry VIII, for in June 1532 he was paid nineteen angels, ‘in money current 7l. 2s. 6d.,’ which he won of the king at archery. On 19 Nov. 1531 he obtained a grant in fee of Beamonde's Inn and two other messuages adjoining in the parish of St. Michael, Cripplegate, which had come to the crown by the attainder of Francis, lord Lovell. We learn from a casual mention that in 1534 he was keeper of Havering Park, Essex, but it is probable that he held this post so long ago as 1523. On 24 June 1535 he was appointed water-bailiff of the port of Lynn, Norfolk, and on 1 March 1542 received a patent to export for his advantage four hundred tuns of double beer. He was shortly before this still master of the children, and played before the king in January 1540. The date of his death is at present unknown, but it was probably before 1560; his successor as master of the children at the Chapel Royal was Richard Bower, who died in 1563. Crane was a married man, and had at least one daughter, who in January 1535 was betrothed to one Christopher Draper, who was in holy orders. On the engagement coming to the ears of the Archbishop of York it drew forth from him a severe reprimand. In June of the same year ‘a maid called Crane's daughter’ was abducted by a priest of St. Albans named Thomas Kyng, but there is nothing to show whether these were the same persons. It is not known whether Crane wrote any music; his name is not found in any contemporary collection, and it is hardly probable that he would have time to devote himself to composition in the midst of the incongruous occupations of merchant, court musician, and custom-house officer.

[The details of Crane's biography are almost entirely derived from the Calendars of State Papers (Dom. Ser.) of Henry VIII; a little additional information is supplied by Collier's History of Dramatic Poetry, ed. 1879, i. 73, 95, 116, and the Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VIII, ed. Nicolas, pp. 33, 52, 76, 83, 99, 100, 140, 227, 287, and 291.]

W. B. S.