Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drury, William (1527-1579)

DRURY, Sir WILLIAM (1527–1579), marshal of Berwick and lord justice to the council in Ireland, third son of Sir Robert Drury of Hedgerley, Buckinghamshire, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Edmund Brudenell, esq., was born at Hawstead in Suffolk on 2 Oct. 1527. Having completed his education at Gonville Hall, Cambridge, he attached himself as a follower to Lord Russell, afterwards created Earl of Bedford. Accompanying this nobleman into France on the occasion of the joint invasion of that country by Charles V and Henry VIII in 1544, he took an active part in the sieges of Boulogne and Montreuil, but had the mishap to be taken a prisoner during a skirmish in the neighbourhood of Brussels. On being ransomed he served for a short time at sea, becoming ‘an excellent maritimal man.’ In 1549 he assisted Lord Russell in suppressing a rebellion that had broken out in Devonshire owing to the reforming and iconoclastic government of the protector Somerset. Though, like his patron, a staunch adherent of the reformed church, he refused to countenance the ambitious designs of the Duke of Northumberland in his attempt to alter the succession, and on the death of Edward VI he was one of the first to declare for Queen Mary. His religion, however, and his connection with the Earl of Bedford rendering his presence distasteful to Mary, he prudently retired from court during her reign (Collectanea Topographica, vi. 92; Cullum, History of Hawsted, p. 133; Fuller, Worthies, Suffolk, Cooper, Athenæ Cantab.)

The accession of Elizabeth at once restored Drury to public life; and the government of Mary of Lorraine seeming to call for English interference in Scotland, he was despatched to Edinburgh in October 1559 to investigate the state of parties there, and to view the new fortifications of Leith, then said to be rapidly approaching completion. The propriety of sending him on this secret mission was at first doubted by Cecil, owing to the fact that his brother ‘was thought to be an inward man with the emperor's ambassador.’ But his conduct speedily removed these suspicions, and confirmed Sir Ralph Sadler's opinion of him as being ‘honest, wise, and secret.’ Elizabeth having determined to assist the lords of the congregation, and the siege of Leith having been undertaken, Drury had again the misfortune to fall into the enemy's hands; but beyond a short detention he seems to have suffered no other injury, for on 10 Oct. 1560 he married Margaret, daughter of Thomas, lord Wentworth, and widow of John, last lord Williams of Thame, in the church of St. Alphage, London. His experience, prudence, and personal bravery qualifying him for service on the borders, he was, in February 1564, appointed to succeed Sir Thomas Dacre as marshal and deputy-governor of Berwick, an office which he continued to fill until 1576, and his letters to Cecil regarding the progress of events in Scotland are among the most important state documents relative to this period. In April 1567 he received a challenge from Bothwell for uttering foul reproaches against him, but having expressed his willingness to meet him, the earl's ardour cooled and the meeting never took place. The winter of 1569–70 was an anxious time for the wardens of the marches owing to the rising of the northern earls. But the rebellion having been suppressed, and the Earl of Northumberland carried off a prisoner to Lochleven Castle, Drury and Sir Henry Gates were, in January 1570, commissioned to treat with the regent Murray for his surrender. While passing through the streets of Linlithgow on his way to meet them, Murray met his death at the hand of Bothwelhaugh. Drury too seems to have had at the same time a narrow escape, ‘for it was meant by Ferniehurst and Buccleuch to have slain him on his return from Edinburgh.’ Owing to the nightly raids of the Scots, the state of the north country at this time was such, he wrote to Cecil, ‘as it would pity any English heart to see.’ And in April 1570 he accompanied the Earl of Sussex on a retaliatory expedition into Scotland. Ninety castles and strongholds razed to the ground and three hundred towns and villages in flames marked the course of the army through Liddisdale, Teviotdale, and the Merse. On 11 May, having been knighted by the lord-lieutenant, Drury, with an army of 180 lances, 230 light horse, and 1,200 foot, again entered Scotland. Marching rapidly to Edinburgh he endeavoured, according to his instructions, to persuade Lethington and Grange to a ‘surcease of arms’ on Elizabeth's terms; but failing in this he hastened to Glasgow, only to find that the Duke of Chatelherault and the Earl of Westmorland had raised the siege and taken refuge in the highlands. Lord Fleming, however, was at Dumbarton, and with him he endeavoured to open negotiations, which were brought to an abrupt termination by a dastardly attempt to assassinate him, not without, there was good reason for believing, the connivance of Lord Fleming himself, to whom accordingly Sir George Cary sent a challenge, which was declined by that nobleman. On his return journey he razed the principal castles belonging to the Hamiltons and ravaged the whole of Clydesdale with fire and sword. The good effect of these raids proving only temporary, he was despatched in May 1571 into Scotland to discover the relative strength of parties there, and Elizabeth finding from his report that the regent was ‘in harder case than was convenient for the safety of the king,’ he was ordered ‘to travail to obtain a surcease of arms on both sides so that it may be beneficial for the king's party.’ His travail was in vain; but while at Leith he again narrowly escaped being shot in the open street. These repeated attempts to take his life caused him considerable anxiety, not so much, he wrote to Lord Burghley, on account of personal danger, but more because of his wife and children. In February 1572 Thomas Randolph was joined with him on the same bootless errand. They were politely received by the regent and by those in the castle; but, finding their intervention ineffectual, they returned to Berwick on 23 April. But the arrival of De Croc in May with instructions from the French king to persuade the queen's party to submit to the regent induced Elizabeth once more to send Drury to assist in negotiating a peace. Fearing that he might never return from a journey so fraught with danger, he besought Lord Burghley to extend his favour to his wife and children if he chanced to end his life in her majesty's service. On 12 July he wrote that he had again been attacked on the highway; this being the eighth shot that had been discharged at him in Scotland after the like sort. With De Croc playing his own game little good could be expected from the negotiations; and having heard that a request had been made to Burghley that some more efficient person than himself might be sent, he expressed his hope that their wish might be granted, ‘for he would sooner serve the queen in Constantinople than among such an inconstant and ingrate people.’ At last Elizabeth determined to reduce the recalcitrants by force; and once more, in April 1573, he appeared in Edinburgh; this time with an English army and a heavy train of artillery at his back. The castle having refused to submit, he planted his guns with skill and care. On 21 May the assault commenced. Day and night the batteries blazed, and on the 28th the castle surrendered. With its capture, the death of Maitland, and the execution of Kirkcaldy of Grange, the civil war came practically to an end. Drury, it is said, was greatly distressed at the fate of Kirkcaldy, ‘for he was a plain man of war and loved Grange dearly.’ A few days before his death Kirkcaldy said of Drury that ‘he had ever found him deal uprightly in his sovereign's cause,’ and there can be little doubt that it was his probity of conduct that caused him to be so much hated and detested by the time-serving men around him. It ought to be remarked that the very vague and probably malicious charge preferred against him of ‘taking’ the crown jewels of Scotland is without foundation in fact (Sadler, State Papers, i.; Machyn, Diary, p. 244; Calendar of Foreign Papers, vii. viii. ix. x.; Calendar relating to Scotland, i.; Churchyard, Chips; Melville, Memoirs; Birrell, Diary; Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, ii. 247, 330).

In 1574, owing to the threatening state of affairs in Ireland, the privy council had half determined to send him with an army into Munster. But the danger passed away, and with it the necessity for immediate action. In 1576, however, Elizabeth having given her consent to the re-establishment of a resident government in Munster and Connaught, he was persuaded, much to the satisfaction of Sir Henry Sidney, to accept the post of president of Munster. No sooner had he been established in his government than he proceeded to reduce the province to order and obedience. The nobility and gentry were obliged to enrol the names of their followers and become sureties for their good and peaceable behaviour; assessments levied for the maintenance of the army and the increase of the revenue; Limerick Castle repaired and other garrisons fortified; the practice of coyne and livery suppressed; sheriffs appointed in Desmond and Thomond; assizes held at Cork, Waterford, Limerick, and Kilkenny, and four hundred natives hanged for malpractices within a year. His government was severe, but he found the natives on the whole well inclined to justice, though the anger of the nobles was hot against him for his interference between them and their peasantry, especially in the matter of coyne and livery. But troublous days were at hand, and Sidney, foreseeing what he was unable to resist, obtained the appointment of Drury as lord justice on 26 April 1578, and shortly afterwards took his departure into England. Hardly had he received the sword of state when the country was convulsed by the landing of James Fitzmaurice and Dr. Sanders in Kerry on 18 July 1579, and the subsequent rising of the Earl of Desmond. Stricken down though he was with ‘the disease of the country,’ and barely able to sit in his saddle, the lord justice determined ‘to stand stoutly to the helm,’ and Colonel Malby having inflicted a defeat on the rebels he proceeded about the end of September to take the field against them. But before he was able to accomplish his purpose he was obliged to return to Waterford, where he died about 13 Oct. 1579. His body was embalmed and taken to Dublin, where, after lying in state for some time, it was buried almost secretly in St. Patrick's Cathedral, the funeral obsequies being left to a more convenient season. Subsequently a monument bearing his effigy was erected in his honour, no vestige of which now remains. He was a man of sincere piety; faithful to his trust and loyal to his queen; severe in his government, but endeavouring to be scrupulously just (Carew Cal. ii.; Hamilton, Irish Cal. ii.; Cox, Hibernia Anglicana, i.; Mason, History of St. Patrick's Cathedral).

[There is a fairly accurate but incomplete life in Cooper's Athenæ Cantabrigienses. The sources of information mentioned in it have, however, been for the most part superseded by the publication of the Calendars of State Papers as noticed above.]

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