Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Weldon, Anthony

WELDON, Sir ANTHONY (d. 1649?), historical writer, of Swanscombe, Kent, descended from a younger branch of the family of Weltden of Northumberland. His father, Sir Ralph Weldon, knighted on 24 July 1603, was clerk of the Green Cloth to Queen Elizabeth and James I, and his uncle, Anthony, clerk of the kitchen. Sir Anthony, who succeeded to his uncle's office on the resignation of the latter in 1604, and to his father's in 1609, was knighted on 11 May 1617 (Hasted, History of Kent, i. 261; Nichols, Progresses of James I, iii. 299). He accompanied James I to Scotland in 1617, and is said to have been dismissed from his post at court in consequence of the discovery of his authorship of a libel against the Scottish nation (Secret History of James I, ii. 102). Two letters written by Weldon to Secretary Windebank in 1634 prove that he still kept friends at court (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1633–4, pp. 220, 244). Other letters, including a scheme for the better assessment of ship-money and a complaint against the gunpowder monopoly, show signs of hostility to the government of Charles I (ib. 1637–8, pp. 233, 598; Larking, Proceedings in Kent, p. 48). During the civil war Weldon was one of the chief men in the parliamentary committee in Kent, and energetically maintained the authority of parliament during the insurrections which took place in that county in 1643 and 1648 (Report on the Duke of Portland's Manuscripts, i. 296, 312, 472, 708; Tanner MSS. lxii. 175, 179; Clarke Papers, ii. 15). On 24 Oct. 1648 parliament ordered him 500l. as a reward for his faithful services (Commons' Journals, vi. 61). He died about 1649.

A portrait, or rather a caricature, of Weldon is given in the ‘Antiquarian Repertory’ (ed. 1808, ii. 320).

By his marriage with Elinor, daughter of George Wilmer, Weldon had eight sons (of whom the youngest, Colonel George Weldon, was father of Ralph Weldon [q. v.]) and four daughters (Hasted, i. 261). His eldest son, Ralph (fl. 1650), was colonel of a Kentish regiment of foot, under the command of Sir William Waller [q. v.] in 1644, and in April 1645 became a colonel in the new model. He commanded the brigade detached by Fairfax to the relief of Taunton in May 1645, and also had command of a brigade at the siege of Bristol in the following September (Sprigge, Anglia Rediviva, ed. 1854, pp. 19, 104, 126). On 25 Oct. 1645 the two houses passed an ordinance making him governor of Plymouth (Lords' Journals, vii. 374, 661, viii. 43). In that capacity he obtained various successes (Colonel Weldon's taking of Inchmere House, near Plymouth, 1646, 4to; Articles of Agreement for the Surrender of Charles Fort, 1646), but was involved in continual difficulties from want of money to pay the soldiers of the garrison. Many of Weldon's letters representing their necessitous condition are in print, and, to prevent mutiny, he was finally obliged to raise money on his personal security for their payment (Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, i. 324, 326, 343; Commons' Journals, v. 362, 494, 571). In June 1656 4,000l. was still owing to him, and on 23 Dec. 1656 he was ordered by the Protector 3,300l. in satisfaction for the debt (ib. vii. 419, 549; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1656–7, pp. 209, 224).

Another son, Anthony Weldon (fl. 1650), was successively captain under Lord Esmond in the garrison of Duncannon, major of the Earl of Lincoln's regiment of horse in Lincolnshire, and major to Sir Michael Livesey's Kentish regiment of horse in Sir William Waller's army. He quarrelled with all these commanders, presenting to parliament in 1643 a charge against the Lincolnshire committee, and in 1644 articles against Sir Michael Livesey (Commons' Journals, iii. 245, 508; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644, p. 171). In 1645 Weldon took service under the Spaniards in Flanders, but lost his command, and was imprisoned owing to a dispute with Lord Goring. In 1648 he returned to England, and endeavoured to get leave to raise a regiment for Venetian service out of the royalist prisoners in the power of the parliament (Commons' Journals, vi. 60). In March 1649 he denounced the intended publication of a translation of the Koran to parliament, and obtained authority to seize it. On 11 Dec. 1650 the council of state issued a warrant for his arrest, and on 30 Nov. 1654 the Protector, on his own petition, ordered him a pass to go beyond seas (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–50 pp. 42, 530, 1650 p. 568, 1654 p. 403). Weldon was the author of an autobiographical pamphlet of some interest, called ‘The Declaration of Colonel Anthony Weldon’ (1649, 4to).

These two Colonel Weldons are frequently confused with each other, and with a third, viz. Colonel Michael Weldon (fl. 1645) of the Northumberland family, who was employed by parliament as agent to the Scottish council in May 1643 (Lords' Journals, vii. 49). He commanded a regiment of horse in the Scottish army, which entered England in 1644, was also high sheriff of Northumberland in that year, and was very active in suppressing moss troopers on the border in 1645 (Report on the Duke of Portland's Manuscripts, i. 202, 344; Thurloe, State Papers, i. 25, 36, 41).

Sir Anthony Weldon was the author of: 1. ‘The Court and Character of King James I,’ 1650, 12mo; a second edition, ‘whereto is added the Court of King Charles,’ appeared in 1651, and is reprinted in the ‘Secret History of the Court of James I,’ 1811, 2 vols. (i. 299 to ii. 72). This is a collection of scandalous gossip about the two kings and their ministers and favourites. A few of the stories it contains embody personal reminiscences, or information received from personages concerned in the incidents related. Heylyn, in his ‘Examen Historicum,’ summarily dismisses Weldon's book as an infamous libel. It was immediately answered by William Sanderson in his ‘Aulicus Coquinariæ’ (reprinted in ‘Secret History of James I,’ ii. 91), and also in his ‘Complete History of the Lives and Reigns of Mary Queen of Scots and her son James’ (pt. ii. 1656). A second answer is contained in Goodman's ‘Court of King James I’ [see Goodman, Godfrey], which was first published by J. S. Brewer in 1839. ‘I never read,’ says Goodman, ‘a more malicious-minded author, nor any who had such poor and mean observations’ (i. 412). 2. ‘A Cat may look at a king; or a Brief Chronicle and Character of the Kings of England from William the Conqueror to the Reign of Charles I,’ 1652, 16mo; this was reprinted in 1714 (see Somers Tracts, ed. Scott, vol. xiii., and again in 1755). 3. ‘A Perfect Description of the People and Country of Scotland,’ 1659, 12mo. This is reprinted in the ‘Secret History of the Court of James I’ (1811, ii. 76) and in Nichols's ‘Progresses of James I’ (iii. 338). Manuscripts of it are to be found in Harleian MS. 5191, Lansdowne MS. 973, and the Record Office (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1623–5, p. 550).

[Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, ii. 868; Hasted's Kent, i. 261; Secret History of the Court of James I, 1811.]

C. H. F.