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Randolph, Thomas (1523-1590) (DNB00)

RANDOLPH, THOMAS (1523–1590), ambassador, son of Avery Randolph of Badlesmere, Kent, was born in 1523. He entered Christ Church, Oxford, at the time of its foundation, and graduated B.A. in October 1545, and B.C.L. in 1547–8. Shortly afterwards he became a public notary; and in 1549 he was made principal of Broadgates Hall (now Pembroke College), Oxford. He continued there until 1553, when the protestant persecutions under Queen Mary compelled him to resign and retire to France. According to his own statement he had from his father, as long as he professed ‘the life of a scholar, sufficient for that state;’ and, when he ‘travelled,’ he ‘found him somewhat more liberal’ (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1561–2, No. 635). Sir James Melville refers to Randolph's indebtedness to him ‘during his banishment in France’ (Memoirs, p. 231). Randolph seems to have mainly resided in Paris, where he was still living as a scholar in April 1557 (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1553–8, p. 299). It was probably during his stay in Paris that he came under the influence of George Buchanan, to whom, in a letter to Peter Young, tutor of James VI, he refers in very eulogistic terms as his ‘master’ (Buchanan, Opera Omnia, vol. ii., App. p. 18). Among his fellow-students and intimates in Paris was Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange [q. v.] (Letter of Randolph, 1 May 1570, Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1569–71, No. 875).

Soon after the accession of Elizabeth, in 1558, Randolph was acting as an agent of the English government in Germany (ib. 1558–9, No. 68), but in a few months returned to England; and, probably soon afterwards, ‘procured, without his father's charge,’ a ‘farm in Kent, the house where he was born’ (ib. 1561–2, No. 635). Doubtless his acquaintance with the Scottish protestants in Paris suggested to Elizabeth the employment of Randolph in the task of bringing Arran, who had been compelled to flee from France, from Geneva to England [see under Hamilton, James, second Lord Hamilton and first Earl of Arran. Under the name of ‘Barnabie,’ he was also sent in the autumn of 1559 to secretly conduct Arran into Scotland (ib. passim). He left for London on 25 Nov. (ib. 1559–60, No. 328), but was again sent to Scotland in March 1560 (ib. No. 805), where his representations had considerable influence in encouraging the protestants against the queen-regent, and in effecting an understanding between them and Elizabeth. The success of his mission suggested his continuance in Scotland as the confidential agent of Elizabeth; but probably, being an ardent protestant, he was the representative rather of Cecil than the queen. Although by no means a match for Maitland of Lethington as a diplomatist, the fact that he possessed the confidence of the protestant party enabled him to exercise no small influence in Scottish politics. His numerous letters, penned frequently with graphic force, are among the most valuable sources of information for this period; but, although they abound in interesting details regarding the Queen of Scots and her court, and the political plots and social intrigues of which it was the hotbed, his more significant statements must, unless otherwise confirmed, be read with caution. It is necessary to make full allowance for his religious and national prejudices, the frequently tainted sources of his information, and the special purposes of Cecil and Elizabeth.

In April 1562 Randolph accompanied the Queen of Scots, who meanwhile professed for him a warm friendship, in the expedition to the north of Scotland which resulted in the defeat and death of Huntly; and he even took part in the campaign, ‘being ashamed to sit still where so many were occupied’ (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1562, No. 648). In June 1563 he obtained license to go to England on private business (ib. 1563, No. 847); but on 20 April 1563 he was again sent to Scotland with the special aim of entangling the Scottish queen in negotiations for an English marriage. The task committed to him was ungrateful, both because he was in great doubts as to the real purpose of Elizabeth, and because he well knew that it was hopeless to seek to outwit Maitland.

By the direction of Elizabeth, Randolph did his utmost to prevent the marriage of Mary to Darnley, and after the marriage declined to recognise Darnley's authority. His representations and promises were mainly responsible for the rebellion of Moray. In February 1565–6 he was accused by Mary of having assisted Moray and her rebellious subjects with a gift of three thousand crowns, and was required to quit the country within six days (ib. 1566–8, No. 107). Ultimately he retired to Berwick, and while there he was, after the murder of Riccio, accused by Mary of having written a book against her, called ‘Mr. Randolph's Phantasy’ (printed by the Scottish Text Society in Satirical Poems of the Time of the Reformation) [see Jenye, Thomas ]. He was recalled to England about June 1566, and apparently it was shortly after his return that he was appointed postmaster-general (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1547–80, p. 286). On 2 Nov. 1567 he obtained from Robert Constable an assignment of the office of constable or keeper of the castle of Queenborough and steward of the lordship or manor of Middleton and Merden in the county of Kent (ib. p. 301). In June 1568 he was sent on a special embassy to Russia in behalf of the English merchants trading in that country (Instructions to Thomas Randolph, Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1566–8, No. 2272); and he succeeded in obtaining from Ivan IV the Terrible a grant of certain privileges to the merchant adventurers (ib. Dom. Ser. 1547–1580, p. 338), which led to the formation of the Russian company. Of his embassy an account is published in Hakluyt's ‘Voyages.’ He returned from Russia in the autumn of 1569 (ib. For. Ser. 1569–71, No. 384); and early in 1570 he was again sent to Scotland (ib. No. 648), where he remained about a year. Towards the close of 1571 he married Anne Walsingham, sister of Francis Walsingham, and daughter of Thomas Walsingham of Chiselhurst. Before the marriage he received, on 1 Oct. 1571, an assignment from Thomas Walsingham and William Crowner of letters patent of the custody of the manor and hundred of Middleton and Merden in the county of Kent, at the rent of 100l. per annum, to be paid to his intended wife (ib. Dom. Ser. 1547–1580, p. 424).

In October 1573 and April 1576 he went on special embassies to France (ib. 1572–4 No. 1206, 1575–7 No. 719). He was sent to Scotland in February 1577–8, but too late to prevent the fall of Morton. After the imprisonment of Morton in 1580 he returned to Scotland to conduct negotiations in his behalf. At a convention of the estates, held on 20 Feb. 1580–1, besides presenting a paper declaring the ‘Intention of the Queen's Majesty and her Offers to the King of Scotland’ (printed in full in Calderwood's History, iii. 488–95), he, in a speech of two hours' duration, denounced Esmé Stewart, created by the king Duke of Lennox, as an agent of Rome. If anything, however, his bold intervention only helped to seal Morton's fate. Having failed to thwart the purposes of Lennox by a public accusation, he now attempted, with Elizabeth's sanction, to concoct a plot for the seizure of him and the young king; but, the plot having been betrayed, he fled to Berwick, after he had narrowly escaped death from a shot fired into the room he occupied in the provost's house at Edinburgh (see proofs and illustrations in appendix to Tytler's History of Scotland). Randolph was sent on his last mission to Scotland in January 1585–6 with instructions for the negotiation of a treaty between the two kingdoms, to which he succeeded in obtaining the signature of James VI. He held the joint offices of chancellor of the exchequer and postmaster-general till his death, which took place in his house in St. Peter's Hill, near Thames Street, London, on 8 June 1590, when he was in his sixty-seventh year. He was buried in the church of St. Peter's, Paul's Wharf. Randolph, during his embassies, was kept very short of money, and had frequent difficulty in paying his expenses. Nor, important as had been his services, did he receive any reward beyond the not very remunerative offices above mentioned. The statement of Wood that he was knighted in 1571 is not supported by any evidence. Randolph is supposed to have been the author of the original short Latin ‘Life of George Buchanan,’ but this must be regarded as at least doubtful. He took a special interest in the progress of Buchanan's ‘History,’ and offered his aid—with money if necessary—towards its completion.

By Anne Walsingham Randolph had a son Thomas, who succeeded him (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1601–3, p. 284). He had also a son (Ambrose) and a daughter (Frances), who married Thomas Fitzgerald. He is said to have married, probably as second wife, Ursula Copinger (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. viii. 13).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 563–5 and Fasti, i. 125 and passim; Archæol. Cantiana, passim; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Buchanani Opera Omnia; Cal. State Papers, Foreign and Domestic, reign of Elizabeth; Cal. Hatfield State Papers.]

T. F. H.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.231
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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279 i 26 Randolph, Thomas (1523-1590): for the autumn of 1562 read April 1562