Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Edmondes, Clement

EDMONDES, Sir CLEMENT (1564?–1622), clerk to the council, was born at Shrawardine in Shropshire. His parentage is not known, but he is described in the Oxford matriculation register as a yeoman's son, 'pleb. f.' (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xi. 152). This disposes of the statement made by some of his biographers, that he was the son of Sir Thomas Edmondes [q. v.], comptroller and afterwards treasurer of the household to James I. The latter, besides being only three years the senior of Clement Edmondes, was born at Plymouth, and there is no evidence of a relationship between them. Anthony à Wood, followed by other writers, states that his father was an earlier Sir Thomas Edmondes, who was comptroller of the household to Henry VIII, but no other evidence of the existence of this personage can be found (Athenae Oxon. ii. 322-3). He matriculated at Oxford 8 July 1586, entering as clerk or chorister at All Souls' College, of which he became a fellow in 1590. He proceeded to the degree of B.A. 5 Nov. 1589, and to that of M.A. 14 Oct. 1593. A letter from Edmondes to a Mr. Reynolds, in 1598, is among the Marquis of Salisbury's manuscripts (Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. app. p. 2566). It is probable that Edmondes owed his political advancement in great part to his marriage with a lady of the court, which took place at St. Alphage Church by license dated 15 Feb. 1597-8. His wife was Mary Clerk, described as attendant upon the Lady Stafford, and daughter of Robert Clerk of Grafton, Northamptonshire, her parents' consent being attested by her brother Lewis and by her kinsman, Mr. John Johnson, one of her majesty's chaplains. Ralph Edmondes, of St. Martin Vintry, draper, attests the consent of the parents of his brother Clement, who is described as of St. Alphage parish, and thirty rears of age (Harl. Soc. xxv. 247). On July 1600 Edmondes was the bearer of a despatch from Sir Francis Vere with news of the battle of Nieuport (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 1598-1601, p. 446). On 5 May in the following year he entered the service of the city of London as colleague and assistant to the remembrancer, Dr. Giles Fletcher [q. v.], receiving half the fee and a livery gown yearly (City Records, Repertory 25, ff. 229 a, 283 a, 3176). Four years later, 2 July 1605, on the resignation of his distinguished chief, he was appointed to the office, at a yearly salary of 100l. (ib. Rep. 27, f. 37 a). In this capacity he drew the assurance made by the king for certain large sums of money borrowed of the city, for which, on 30 March 1608, he received a warrant from the privy council for 1131. 13s. 4d. As the official mouthpiece of the city he was in constant communication with the court, and made such good use of his opportunities as to obtain, 13 Aug. 1609, the grant of the office of clerk of the council for life. On his consequent resignation of the office of city remembrancer, which seems to have afforded him much leisure for literary work, the city presented him with forty angels for a velvet cloak (ib. Rep. 29, f. 66 a).

Between 1610 and 1612 Edmondes benefited largely from the forfeiture of recusants' estates, and on 4 Oct. 1613 he received a grant of the office of mustermaster-general. He is also said by Wood to have been a master of requests. In December 1614 and the following months he was engaged in Holland as a commissioner to treat with the United Provinces concerning disputes as to throwing open the East India trade and the Greenland fisheries. He was knighted by James I at Hampton Court 29 Sept. 1617, in company with Sir George Calvert and Sir Albert Morton, who were also clerks of the council. Edmondes seems not to have been above taking a bribe to promote the interests of suitors to the privy council. The mayor of Exeter, in August 1620, sent him 'two pieces of 44s.' to hasten a matter which he had before the council (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 1619-23, p. 172), and in May 1621 he was accused by a Mr. Leate of having received a bribe from the Spanish merchants for favouring them in a subsidy raised for the suppression of pirates (ib. p. 255). Edmondes represented the university of Oxford in the third parliament of James I, which met 20 Jan. 1620, and was dissolved 8 Feb. 1621, his colleague being Sir John Bennet. His final promotion was to the office of secretary of state, but he was prevented from entering upon its duties by his death, from apoplexy, which took place on 13 Oct. 1622, at his town house at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, at the age of fifty-eight. His will, dated 30 April 1621, was proved in the P. C. C. 28 Oct. 1622 (92, Savile). He purchased the manor of Preston, near Northampton, of a descendant of the Hartwell family, in whose possession it had been for many generations. He was buried in Preston Church, where a monument and memorial stone were erected to his memory with English and Latin inscriptions. He had three children—a son, Charles, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, all of whom survived him.

Edmondes had a high reputation for learning and as a writer on military art. Anthony à Wood says 'he was a learned person, was generally skill'd in all arts and sciences, and famous as well for military as for politic affairs, and therefore esteemed by all as an ornament to his degree and profession.' Fuller writes: 'This author may pass for an eminent instance to what perfection of theorie they may attain in the matter of war who were not acquainted with the practick part therof.' His name appears among the subscribers to Minsheu's polyglot dictionary in 1617. His works were:

  1. 'Observations upon the first five books of Caesar's Commentaries,' dedicated to Sir Francis Vere, fol. London, 1600. 'Observations on the Sixth and Seventh Books,' fol. London, 1600. Another edition, fol. London, 1604. With medallion portraits of Csesar and (?) Edmonds. This edition is not mentioned by bibliographers, but a copy is in Dr. Williams's Library in Grafton Street, Gower Street, and the title-page is in the Guildhall Library. Another edition of the first five books, dedicated to Prince Henry, with his portrait, fol. London, 1609. Other editions, with the eighth book of commentaries by A. Hirtius and his commentaries on the Alexandrian and African wars, appeared in 1655, 1677, and 1695, all published in London. An edition without place or date is in the library of Merton College, Oxford.
  2. 'Observations on the Landing of Forces designed for the Invasion of a Country. … With some animadversions by Sir Walter Raleigh,' 8vo, London, 1759. This is a reprint from the author's previous work.
  3. 'The Manner of our Modern Training, or Tactick Practice,' appended to the various editions of the 'Observations on Caesar's Commentaries.'

The following have not been published: 'History of the United Provinces,' 1615 (Exeter Coll. Oxford, MS. 103); 'Description of the Polity of the United Provinces,' 1615 (Bodleian Library, Tanner MS. 216, and manuscripts of Lord Calthorpe, Grosvenor Square, Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. p. 46); 'Report touching the Flooded Lands in the counties of Lincoln, Northampton, Huntingdon, Cambridge, and Norfolk,' 1618 (Bodleian Library MSS.); 'A Few Words to the Trained Bands and Souldiers of London Citie in these Perilous Times,' 19 June 1642, fol. 20 pp. (Guildhall Library MS. 3). This is a clever forgery, purporting to have been written at the above date, and consists of a slightly altered transcript of the treatise on modern tactics, No. 3 above.

[Wood's Athenae Oxon. ii. 322-3; Fasti Oxon. pt. i. col. 239; Fuller's Worthies; Metcalfe's Book of Knights, p. 172; Remembrancia, or Letter-book of the City of London, p. 47 n.; Syll. to Rymer's Foedera, ii. 838; Bridges's Hist. of Northamptonshire, i. 382-3.]

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