Open main menu


GAGE, Sir JOHN (1479–1556), statesman and military commander, was the only son of William Gage of Firle Place, Sussex, by Agnes, daughter of Benjamin Boleney of Bolney, Sussex, and a cousin of William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester (History of Hengrave, pp. 227–31). Being under age at his father's death (1496) he was put under the guardianship of Stafford, duke of Buckingham, and 'educated for court and camp under his eye.' Gage accompanied Henry VIII on the French campaign of 1513 (30 June to 24 Nov.). His name frequently occurs between 1510 and 1522 as a commissioner of peace for Sussex (State Papers, Dom. Henry VIII, 1509–14, 1515–16, 1521–3). He was also appointed governor of Guisnes, and afterwards of Oye, in France. His name first occurs in connection with Guisnes in the State Papers for 1522, and in August of that year he received the additional post of comptroller of Calais (ib. 1521–3, pp. 945, 1029, &c.). He was recalled to England to take his seat on the privy council, and in 1528 created vice-chamberlain to the king, a post which he held till 1540, being also made captain of the royal guard. In 1529 he entered parliament as member for his own county, and on 22 May 1532 was installed K.G. (Register of the Garter, 1724, pp. 421, 423). Gage was constantly employed on commissions by the king. In 1532 he went over to survey some lands at Calais, and in the same year he was employed in the north of England from December till the spring. On his return to court he had a quarrel with Henry. 'Master vice-chamberlain departed from the king,' writes one of the courtiers to Cromwell, 10 April 1533, 'in such sort as I am sorry to hear; the king licensed him to depart hence, and so took leave of him, the water standing in his eyes.' For the sake of the long friendship between himself and Gage, Cromwell is requested to induce the vice-chamberlain to return to court 'within a fortnight,' and to be a means for obtaining the king's favour. The dispute was probably connected with Catherine of Arragon, for though Gage had signed the petition to the pope for the divorce (ib. 1530, p. 2929), he was in May examined 'about the Lady Catherine,' and, being a man 'more ready to serve God than the world,' he doubtless had spoken on her behalf to Henry (ib. 1533, pp. 418, 470). In the following January it was reported that the vice-chamberlain had 'renounced his office and gone to a charterhouse, intending, with the consent of his wife, to become a Carthusian' (ib. 1534, p. 8). This intention was not carried out, and Gage, though a zealous catholic, did not scruple to share in the spoils of the church (cf. grant of priory of Kelagh, 20 March 1540), and was also on the commission for the surrender of religious houses. The week before Easter 1540 he went with other commissioners to report on the state of affairs at Calais (State Papers and Letters, Henry VIII, viii. 299, 303). He was back at court before Cromwell's arrest, and profited greatly by his friend's disgrace, receiving the posts of constable of the Tower, comptroller of the household, 9 Oct. 1540, and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He had also been one of those employed to negotiate Henry's divorce from Anne of Cleves in July (ib. viii. 404).

Gage commanded the expedition against Scotland which ended in the defeat and death of James V at Solway Moss (1542), and brought his Scotch prisoners back with him to the Tower in the winter, riding before them in his office as constable when they were taken for trial to the Star-chamber (Wriothesley, Chronicle, Camden Soc. i. 139). He afterwards (1543) went again to Scotland to treat of the betrothal of Prince Edward to the infant queen of Scots. At the siege of Boulogne, where he shared the command with Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, being lieutenant of the camp and general captain of the cavalry, he was created a knight-banneret. Gage was present at the funeral of Henry VIII, and was appointed one of the executors of the king's will (Burnet, Hist. of Reformation, i. 369), receiving a bequest of 200l. Gage was a member of the privy council, but differences soon arose between him and Somerset, who when he became protector expelled him from the council and from his post of comptroller of the royal household, whereupon Gage joined Southampton, the leader of the catholic party, and was one of those who signed the declaration against the protector. Gage and Southampton only reassumed their seats on the council to resign them upon the accession to power of Dudley, earl of Warwick. Gage had, like Dudley, married into the Guilford family (Philippa, daughter of Sir Richard Guilford or Guldeford, first cousin to Dudley's wife, being Gage's wife), but had no sympathy with the plot for Lady Jane Grey, and was therefore suspended from his post as constable of the Tower a few days before she was there proclaimed queen. Gage, as a zealous catholic, was at once high in Mary's favour. He received her at the Tower gates on her arrival in London on 3 Aug. 1553 (Wriothesley, Chronicle, ii. 94), and was restored to his office of constable and created lord chamberlain of her household. He bore her train at the coronation (1 Oct. 1553), and helped to hold the pall over her (Strype, Mem. III. i. 28, 55, 56). As lord chamberlain Gage carried the news of Wyatt's rebellion to the lord mayor, 25 Jan. 1553 and shared the panic raised by the march of Knevett and Cobham into London. Gage was stationed at the outer gate of Whitehall (Queen Mary and Queen Jane, p. 131), and 'he and his guard, being only armed with brigandines, were so frightened, and fled in at the gate so fast, that he fell down in the dirt, and so the gate was shut' (Strype, Mem. III. i. 138). 'Old Gage fell down in the dirt, and was foul arrayed … and … came in to us so frightened that he could not speak' (Nicholls, Narratives of the Reformation, Camden Soc., pp. 165, 167). At Mary's marriage with Philip of Spain the lord chamberlain was again one of her train-bearers (25 July 1554). On Palm Sunday, 18 March 1555, he received Elizabeth under his charge as constable at the Tower gates (Queen Mary and Queen Jane, pp. 70, 168). He seems to have treated the princess severely, 'more for love of the pope than for hate of her person' (Heylyn, Hist. of Reformation, ii. 259; Burnet, ii. 503), and on her release was, with Sir Thomas Pope [q.v.], placed as a guard over her at her own house. Gage died at his house, Firle, Sussex, on 18 April 1556, and was buried on 25 April, 'with II herolds, with a standard of arms, and four of images, and with a hearse, and two (white branches), two dozen of stuffs, and eight dozen of stockings' (Machyn, Diary, p. 105), at West Firle Church, where he and his wife lie under a fine altar-tomb. By his wife Philippa he had four sons and four daughters. His portrait, painted by Holbein, is at Hengrave.

[Authorities cited above; Hist. of Hengrave; Sharp's Peerage, vol. ii.; Gillow's Bibl. Dict.; Foxe's Acts and Mon. v. 514.]

E. T. B.