Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fletcher, Giles (1549?-1611)
FLETCHER, GILES, LL.D. (1549?–1611), civilian, ambassador, and poet, was certainly born in or about 1549 at Watford, Hertfordshire, as appears from his own statement on being admitted to the university of Cambridge. It has hitherto been supposed that he was a native of Kent. His father, Richard Fletcher, was vicar of Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, from 1551 to 1555, and was subsequently rector of Cranbrook and vicar of Smarden, Kent. Giles was educated at Eton, whence he was elected to King's College, Cambridge, being admitted a scholar on 27 Aug. 1565, and a fellow on 28 Aug. 1568. He proceeded B.A. in 1569, and commenced M.A. in 1573. In 1576 he took an active part in opposition to the provost, Dr. Goad, and signed articles accusing the provost of maladministration and infringement of the college statutes. These articles were laid before Lord Burghley as chancellor of the university. His decision was unfavourable to the provost's opponents, and Fletcher had to sign a formal submission and apology.
He was deputy orator of the university in 1577. On 28 Oct. 1579 the provost of his college enjoined him to divert to the study of the civil law. On 3 July 1580 he was constituted commissary to Dr. Bridgwater, the chancellor of the diocese of Ely. On 16 Jan. 1580–1 he married Joan Sheafe of Cranbrook. In 1581 he was created LL.D., and on 5 July in that year was in a commission for visiting the church of Chichester, of which diocese he occurs as chancellor in 1582. Subsequently he appears to have been living at Cranbrook. In the parliament which began 23 Nov. 1585 he served for Winchelsea. He was remembrancer of the city of London from January 1586–7 to 1605.
He was sent to Scotland with Thomas Randolph, the English ambassador in that country. There is a letter from Fletcher to Sir Francis Walsingham, dated Edinburgh, 17 May 1586, giving an account of the proceedings of the general assembly, and in conclusion begging to be employed in some honest service in England. At a subsequent period he was employed in negotiations in Germany, Hamburg, and Stade. In 1588 he was despatched on a special embassy to Russia, being probably recommended to this post by Randolph, who had formerly been ambassador to that country. Before he set out Fletcher was made a master extraordinary of the court of requests. In Russia he was treated with the greatest indignity, but he nevertheless contrived to secure for the English merchants very considerable concessions. The queen sent a formal complaint to the emperor, remonstrating on the manner in which Fletcher had been treated. He returned to England in 1589, and it is believed that he was soon afterwards made a master of requests in ordinary. He was certainly about the same time constituted secretary or remembrancer to the city of London.
In 1590 he formed the design of writing an extensive history of the reign of Queen Elizabeth in Latin. He applied to Lord Burghley for assistance and the communication of state papers, and consulted him on his plan, especially as to whether he should undertake to justify at length the marriage of Henry VIII with Anne Boleyn, and at what point he should commence his work. He forwarded a scheme in Latin of his first book, to comprise the first year of Elizabeth's reign, with a paper of articles in which he desired information.
His account of Russia, which appeared in 1591, excited no little alarm on the part of the Eastland merchants of England. Pointing out the passages which they believed were calculated to give offence to the emperor, they memorialised Lord Burghley. The book was quickly suppressed, and it is only within the last few years that this very curious and interesting work has reappeared in its integrity.
Fletcher was one of the commissioners empowered by the privy council on 25 Oct. 1591 to examine Eustace White, a seminary priest, and Brian Lacey, a disperser of letters to papists, being empowered to cause them to be put to the manacles and such other tortures as were used in Bridewell. His brother, the bishop of London, a few months before his death made strenuous efforts to obtain for Fletcher the situation of master extraordinary in chancery. It does not appear that he was successful. Fletcher was one of the bishop's executors. This trust involved him in great difficulties, and he was only saved from arrest by the interposition of the Earl of Essex. On 20 June 1597 he was presented by the queen to the office of treasurer of the church of St. Paul, vacant by the elevation of Dr. Bancroft to the see of London. In 1600 he obtained from King's College, Cambridge, a lease of the rectory of Ringwood, Hampshire, for ten years. It had been previously leased by the college in 1596 for a similar term to Richard Sheafe of Cranbrook, clothier. An expression of sympathy for his unfortunate patron, the Earl of Essex, led to his being committed in February 1600–1 to the private custody of Mr. Lowe, one of the aldermen of London. On 14 March following he appealed for release to Sir Robert Cecil in a letter stating that he was infirm through grief of mind for this restraint, and the affliction of his wife and children.
In the reign of Elizabeth he was plaintiff in a suit in chancery against Nathaniel Pownall on personal matters. There was also a bill filed by him, Joan, his wife, and Phineas, his eldest son, against John Hall, respecting the site of the manor of Hynwick, Worcestershire, and a pasture lying on the banks of the Severn below the park of Hallow, under a lease granted by the Bishop of Worcester. In November 1610 he was employed by the Eastland merchants to treat with Dr. Jonas Charisius, the king of Denmark's ambassador, touching the removal of the trade from the town of Krempe. He died in the parish of St. Catherine Colman, Fenchurch Street, London, where he was buried on 11 March 1610–1611. His daughter Judith was baptised at St. Thomas the Apostle, London, 1 Aug. 1591. His son Nehemias was buried at Chelsea 12 June 1596. His sons Phineas and Giles are noticed in separate articles.
Fletcher's lease of Ringwood had been renewed by King's College in 1605. On 5 Aug. 1611 James I sent a letter to the provost and fellows to grant his widow the term of ten years in that parsonage.
The following is a list of the works written by or ascribed to Fletcher: 1. Latin verses (a) in the collection presented by the Eton scholars to Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, 1563; (b) prefixed to Foxe's ‘Acts and Monuments,’ 2nd edit. 1570; (c) subjoined to Carr's ‘Demosthenes,’ 1571; (d) with Walter Haddon's poems, 1576; (e) before Peter Baro's ‘Prelections on Jonah,’ 1579; (f) on the motto and crest of Maximilian Brooke in Holinshed's ‘Chronicles,’ p. 1512; (g) in the Cambridge University collection, on the death of Sir Philip Sidney, 1587. 2. A Latin letter in the name of the university of Cambridge. In ‘Epistolæ Academiæ,’ MS. ii. 455. 3. A brief of his ‘Negotiation in Moscovia.’ In Lansd. MS. 60, art. 59; Ellis's ‘Letters of Eminent Literary Men,’ 76–85; and Bond's ‘Russia at the Close of the Sixteenth Century,’ p. 342. 4. ‘Of the Russe Common Wealth; or, Manner of Government by the Russe Emperour (commonly called the Emperour of Moskouia), with the Manners and Fashions of the People of that Country,’ London, 1591, 8vo. Dedicated to Queen Elizabeth. Abridged, with the suppression of material passages, in Hakluyt's ‘Voyages,’ i. 474. Reprinted also, with the suppression of some passages and many verbal differences, in ‘Purchas, his Pilgrimes,’ iii. 413. Epitomised by Harris, in his ‘Collection of Voyages,’ i. 542. Reprinted as ‘The History of Russia, or the Government of the Emperour of Muscovia, with the Manners and Fashions of the People of that Countrey,’ London, 1643, 1657, 12mo; also with the proper title, from the original edition, in Edward A. Bond's ‘Russia at the Close of the Sixteenth Century,’ published for the Hakluyt Society, London, 1856, 8vo. There is a manuscript copy of the ‘Russe Common Wealth’ at University College, Oxford (MS. No. 144). Another manuscript copy is preserved at Queens' College, Cambridge. 5. ‘Answers to matters objected against Mr. Horsey by the Emperour's Counsel of Rusland.’ In Bond's ‘Russia at the Close of the Sixteenth Century,’ p. 373, from a manuscript in the state paper office. 6. ‘Licia, or Poemes of Love: in Honour of the admirable and singular Vertues of his Lady, to the imitation of the best Latin Poets, and others. Whereunto is added the Rising the Crowne of Richard the Third,’ 4to, n. d. Dedication to Lady Molineux, wife of Sir Richard Molineux, dated from the author's chamber 4 Sept. 1593. An edition of this work, prepared by the Rev. Alexander B. Grosart, who has prefixed a ‘Memorial-Introduction,’ was printed for private circulation in the ‘Miscellanies of the Fuller Worthies' Library,’ 1871. Cf. Hunter's ‘New Illustrations of Shakespeare,’ ii. 77, 78; Dyce's ‘Account of the Lives and Writings of Beaumont and Fletcher,’ pp. xv, xvi. 7. ‘Reasons to moue her Majesty in some Commisseration towards the Orphanes of the late Bisshopp of London,’ Lambeth MS. 658, f. 193; Dyce's ‘Account of the Lives and Writings of Beaumont and Fletcher,’ p. xiv, and less correctly in Birch's ‘Elizabeth,’ ii. 113. 8. ‘De literis antiquæ Britanniæ, Regibus præsertim qui doctrina claruerunt, quique Collegia Cantabrigiæ fundarunt,’ in Latin verse, Cambridge, 1633, 12mo. Edited by his son Phineas. 9. ‘An Essay upon some probable grounds that the present Tartars, near the Cyprian Sea, are the Posterity of the Ten Tribes of Israel.’ Printed in Samuel Lee's ‘Israel Redux,’ 1677, from the author's manuscript, furnished by his grandson, Phineas Fletcher, citizen of London; and again by Whiston in his ‘Memoirs,’ 1749, p. 576, from a manuscript formerly in Sir Francis Nethersole's library, under the following title: ‘A Discourse concerning the Tartars, proving, in all probability, that they are the Israelites, or Ten Tribes, which, being captivated by Salmanaser, were transplanted into Media.’ 10. Three Eclogues in ‘Poemata varii argumenti,’ 1678. They are entitled respectively ‘Contra Prædicatorum Contemptum,’ ‘Querela Collegii Regalis,’ and ‘De morte Boneri.’[Addit. MS. 6177, p. 151; Ames's Typogr. Antiq. (Herbert), p. 1128; Baker MS. iv. 14 seq.; Beloe's Anecdotes, v. 222; Biog. Brit.; Birch's Elizabeth, ii. 77, 78, 100, 101, 113, 114, 150, 171, 223, 224; Memoir by E. A. Bond; Chamberlain's Letters, temp. Eliz. p. 106; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. iii. 34 (unpublished); Cotton. MS. Nero B. v. 333; Dixon's Personal Hist. of Lord Bacon, p. 317; Dyce's Lives of Beaumont and Fletcher; Ellis's Letters of Eminent Lit. Men, p. 76; Faulkner's Chelsea, ii. 128, 196, Fuller's Worthies, ‘Kent;’ Green's Cal. State Papers, Dom. James I, ii. 66; Grosart's Memorial-Introduction to Licia; Heywood and Wright's King's and Eton Colleges, pp. 239–41, 245, 248, 252; Horne's Cat. of Queen's Coll. Library, p. 1002; Hunter's Illustr. of Shakespeare, ii. 77, 78; Jardine on Torture, p. 92; Lansd. MSS. xxiii. art. 18–20, 24, 26, 36, lx. art. 59, lxv. f. 154, lxxii. art. 28, cxii. art. 39; Ledger Coll. Regal. ii. 537, iii. 19, 132; Lemon's Cal. State Papers, Dom. ii. 100, 646; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy), ii. 357; Lloyd's State Worthies, p. 662; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), pp. 810, 1358; Lodge's Illustr. ii. 547; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 107; Lib. Protocoll. Coll. Regal. i. 227, 238, ii. 19; Stephenson's Suppl. to Bentham's Ely, p. 32; Strype's Annals, ii. 420, 422, iv. 268 fol.; Strype's Grindal, 267 fol.; Thorpe's Cal. State Papers, Scottish Ser. p. 521; Willis's Not. Parl. iii. (2) 107; Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), i. 191.]