Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Hoddesdon, Christopher
HODDESDON, Sir CHRISTOPHER (1534–1611), master of the Merchants Adventurers' Company, born in 1534 (Cat. State Papers, Dom. 1601–3, p. 165), was son of Simon Hoddesdon of Hoddesdon and Edgeworth, Hertfordshire, by his wife Jane, daughter of John Etheridge of Edgeworth. In a letter written to Sir Robert Cecil in 1602, Hoddesdon states that in 1544, when he was only ten years old, he 'came from Dantzig by land through all the marine towns except Stade and Emden, and found no Englishman trading nor cloth to be sold but by the steleyard men' (id. p. 160). It was to developing English trade in the north-east of Europe that Hoddesdon devoted his life. In youth he was a clerk in the office of Sir George Barnes (more correctly Barne), merchant, alderman, and in 1552 lord-mayor of London, whose granddaughter he married ; she was Alice, daughter of Alexander and sister of Christopher Carleill [q. v.], while (Sir) Francis Walsingham was her step-father. These relationships explain much of Hoddesdon's subsequent career. In May 1553, when Richard Chancellor [q. v.] was sent to open up the trade with Russia, Hoddesdon, according to his own account, accompanied him. He also went with Chancellor on his second voyage in 1555, and was left in Russia as agent for the company. For two years his headquarters were at Nijni Novgorod ; then he became head of the English factory at Moscow, and he is mentioned in Jenkinson's letter from that city dated 18 Sept. 1559 [see Jenkinson, Anthony], The Russia trade was exceedingly profitable, and Hoddesdon states that during his residence at Moscow he obtained 13,644l. for English goods which cost only 6,608l.
Hoddesdon returned to England in 1562 to supervise his own business in London ; but early in 1567 the company sent him to Narva to develop English trade in the Baltic, and Queen Elizabeth, by letters dated 16 March 1566-7, recommended him to the j protection of the kings of Denmark and Sweden. He took with him seven ships containing 11,000l. worth of cloth, kerseys, and salt, which he disposed of at a profit of 40 per cent. In 1569 he was again sent to Narva, where he remained for some years as chief of the English factory he had established there. In the following year he asked the Russia Company to send out thirteen ships well armed under the command of William Borough [q. v.], and on 10 July following this squadron defeated six Polish pirate ships off Tiiter in the gulf of Finland. Hoddesdon himself wrote announcing this victory to Ivan IV of Russia. While at Narva Hoddesdon was accused of trading on his own account instead of looking exclusively after the interests of the company. About 1574 he began to be employed by Queen Elizabeth as a financial agent in Germany; on 23 July 1575 he was commissioned to receive at Heidelberg fifty thousand crowns due to the queen from Conde, and on 11 June 1576 he was again sent to Germany to raise a loan of 200,000l., returning on 18 Oct. (Cal. State Papers, For. 1575-7, Nos. 252, 812, 995, 1133-5; Walsingham's 'Diary,' apud Camden Soc. Miscellany, vi. 28). In 1577 he went to Hamburg with 20,000f for Duke John Casimir, for the levy of reiters destined first for France, and afterwards for the Low Countries. In 1578 he was master of the Merchants Adventurers at Hamburg. At the same time he continued trading on his own account, and on 21 Aug. 1579 he was licensed 'to bring saltpetre and gunpowder from Hamburg' (Acts P. C. 1578-80, pp. 249, 309). In 1580 and 1581 he was engaged in commercial negotiations on behalf of the government at Emden and Antwerp (Cotton MSS. Galba, B. xi. 425, C. vii. 81, 86, 127, 142).
By this time Hoddesdon had acquired a considerable fortune, part of which he invested in purchasing the manor of Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, and, like most merchants of the time who became landed proprietors, he sought to improve his estates by enclosures. This brought him into collision with his tenants, and a dispute between them was pending for many years before the privy council and star chamber (Acts P. C. 1587-8 pp. 80, 85-7, 106, and 1590 pp. 213, 310, 318). On 26 June 1585, writing from Bishopsgate Street, Hoddesdon declined an office that had been offered him by the queen, unless he might have an allowance of 40s. a day (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581-90, p. 247). Soon afterwards he became an alderman of Cambridge, which he represented in parliament February-April 1593, receiving 5l. 12s. wages at the rate of 2s. a day (Off. Ret. M.P. i. 427; Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, ii. 521). From November 1591 to November 1592 he served as sheriff of Bedfordshire (Lists of Sheriff's, P.R.O., 1898).
Before 1600 Hoddesdon had become master of the Merchants Adventurers' Company, and he was a staunch defender of their privileges against the infractions of them contained in licenses and monopolies granted to courtiers (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1601-3, pp. 160, 164). He was knighted by James I at Whitehall on 23 July 1603. just before the coronation, and died at Leighton Buzzard, where he was buried on 14 Feb. 1610 - 1611 (Addit. MS. 14417, f. 42). By his first wife he had a son, Francis, who was committed to Walsingham's care when Hoddesdon went to Hamburg in 1577, and seems to have died young; he is said to have had another son, Christopher, who turned papist. His only daughter, Ursula, married about 1585 Sir John Leigh of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, and their son, Sir Thomas Leigh, married Mary, granddaughter of Lord-chancellor Ellesmere. Hoddesdon married, secondly, Elizabeth, daughter of William Blount of Olbaston, Leicestershire, whom he made his sole executrix, and by whom he had no issue.
[Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1580-1611, and For. 1575-7; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent, 1575-90; Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 14417, f. 42; Visitation of Bedfordshire (Harl. Soc.), p. 175; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, iii. 622; Metcalfe's Knights, p. 149; Chester's Marriage Licences; Tanner MS. cclxxxviii. 179 sqq.; Hakluyt's Principall Navigations, 1589, pp. 299, 301, 425, 426; Joseph von Hamel's England and Russia, 1854, pp. 125-8; Ehrenberg's Hamburg und England im Zeitalterder Konigin Elisabeth (1896); Early Voyages and Travels to Kussia (Hakluyt Soc.), pp. liv, 109, 218; information from Mr. A. J. Butler; authorities cited.]