Henry Killigrew (diplomat)

Last updated

Arms of Killigrew: Argent, an eagle displayed with two heads sable a bordure of the second bezantee. The bezantee bordure indicates a connection to the ancient Earls of Cornwall KilligrewArms.PNG
Arms of Killigrew: Argent, an eagle displayed with two heads sable a bordure of the second bezantée. The bezantée bordure indicates a connection to the ancient Earls of Cornwall

Sir Henry Killigrew (c. 1528 [1] – 1603) was a Cornish diplomat and an ambassador for the Kingdom of England in the sixteenth century. He was several times employed by Elizabeth I in Scottish affairs and served as one of the English appointees to the Council of State of the Netherlands in the United Provinces in 1586 and 1587–1589. He served as a Member of Parliament for Newport & Launceston in 1553, for Saltash in 1563, and for Truro in 1571–2. [2]



He was the fourth son of John III Killigrew (d.1567) of Arwenack, the first Governor of Pendennis Castle, of an old Cornish family, by his wife Elizabeth, second daughter of James Trewenard of Trewenard. He was probably educated at Cambridge, but there is no definite information on the point. [3] Killigrew served as a gentleman in the household of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, [4] and became a lifelong follower of the Dudleys. [5]

On 18 February 1553, he was returned member of parliament for Newport-juxta-Launceston. He assisted Sir Peter Carew in escaping to the continent in January 1554, and during the remainder of Queen Mary of England's reign appears to have been in exile. Killigrew was in Paris in July 1556, when he was described by the English authorities as a rebel. From a French base, he and his brother Peter engaged in piracy. [6]

In August 1557, Henry was present at the Battle of St. Quentin, where Sir James Melville stated of him that "Harry Killygrew, an Englis gentilman, my auld friend", held his horse while he got his wound dressed after his escape. Killigrew was recalled to England on the accession of Elizabeth, and she employed him on various diplomatic missions, including one to Germany in connection with negotiations for a defensive league. In July 1559, he went for a short time to assist Nicholas Throckmorton in France. [4]

Killigrew counted both Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and William Cecil, Lord Burghley as his patrons. He wrote to Dudley in 1562, regarding their Protestant policies: "In these cases, I take you to be as one". [5] In July 1562 he led a military contingent at Rouen, as part of the Newhaven expedition. [7]

In June 1566, he was sent on a mission from Elizabeth to Mary, Queen of Scots, for the "declaration of sundry things necessary to be reformed between them for the preservation of their amity", and to congratulate her on the birth of Prince James. One issue was an accusation that a parrott sent to Mary had been stolen at Berwick-upon-Tweed. [8] On 24 June 1566, the Earl of Moray escorted him to Edinburgh Castle where he met the Earl of Mar and went to the Queen's bedside, and after speaking with her, he saw Prince James with his wet-nurse. [9] He returned to England in July. After the murder of Darnley he was sent to Scotland with a special message to the Queen of Scots, which he delivered to her "in a dark chamber".[ citation needed ]

On 20 April 1572, he was elected M.P. for Truro. In September, shortly after the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, he was again sent to Scotland, in connection with the negotiations for the surrender of the Queen of Scots to the Protestant lords, who would then immediately execute her. This was a scheme so secret that, apart from Killigrew, only Queen Elizabeth, Cecil and Leicester were privy to it on the English part. Due to the Earl of Mar's sudden death, nothing came of it. [10]

Killigrew ultimately succeeded in persuading Elizabeth to send an English force to assist in the siege of Edinburgh Castle, and in numerous letters to Burghley minutely described the siege, and the negotiations, some involving Nicolas Errington, connected with its surrender.

After Edinburgh Castle fell in June 1573 he negotiated the removal of cannon from Hume Castle and the keeping of jewels belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots, including the "Great H of Scotland" disputed by Agnes Keith and Regent Morton. [11] Morton gave him a gilt and engraved silver basin, three covered cups, a silver salt, and a gold ring. [12] A year later he reported that Regent Morton had discovered a letter from William Kirkcaldy of Grange the defeated and executed commander of the castle, to Mary, Queen of Scots, in which he listed the locations of the jewels she had left behind in Scotland, and that William Drury, Marshall of Berwick, had taken some jewels in pledge for a loan of £600. [13] In August 1574, he was approached by the Flemish mining entrepreneur Cornelius de Vos, who wanted to negotiate with William Cecil. [13]

Killigrew was sent back to Scotland in May 1575 to discuss with Regent Morton Elizabeth's refusal to make a formal mutual league with Scotland, pensions for the Regent and the nobility, and the custody of Mary, Queen of Scots. [14]

Subsequently, he was employed in similar diplomatic missions in Scotland, Germany, France, and the Low Countries. The Treaty of Nonsuch gave the English crown the right to designate two councillors to the Dutch council of state. [15] Killigrew served as an English Councillor on the Dutch Council of State in 1586, and again in 1587–1589. [1] While in attendance on the Earl of Essex in France he was knighted on 22 November 1591. He was the first in England to write political memoirs to highlight and defend his actions during his career as a public servant. [16] He died in the spring of 1603, his will having been proved on 16 April.

Artistic activities

David Lloyd praises Killigrew in his Worthies for his learning and his artistic accomplishments. He states that, while a good musician, he was especially skilled as a painter, being "a Dürer for proportion ... an Angelo for his happy fancy, and an Holbein for oyl works", [17] but no authenticated work of his brush is known. Killigrew gave £140 to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, for the purchase of St. Nicholas Hostel, the materials of which were applied to the construction of the lodge for Dr Laurence Chaderton, the first master. His London residence was in Lothbury.[ citation needed ]


Killigrew lived in Hanworth in Middlesex and Falmouth in Cornwall. On 4 November 1566 Killigrew married in the church of St Peter Le Poer, London, Catherine, fourth daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke and Anne Fitzwilliam. He thus became Cecil's brother-in-law. His wife died in 1583. On 7 November 1590, he was married in the same church to Jaél de Peigne, a French Huguenot. She was naturalised in June 1601. After Henry's death, she remarried on 19 April 1617 George Downham, Bishop of Derry, and died around 1632.

By his first wife, Killigrew had four daughters:

By his second wife, he had a daughter and two sons:

Joseph, ten years old at his father's death, succeeded to his estates.

In fiction

He is a major character in the historical novel The Grove of Eagles by Winston Graham, which shows him in a generally sympathetic light. The novel turns largely on the declining fortunes of his nephew John Killigrew of Arwenack, who looks in vain to his uncle's influence to protect him from bankruptcy (in real life Henry did frequently help out his nephew financially, but could not prevent his ultimate ruin). Henry is portrayed as one of the few advisers whom the Queen really trusts: "as close to her as a Father Confessor". Another character notes that while many courtiers come and go, a few like Henry serve the Queen decade after decade. His second marriage to Jael de Peigne is shown as being somewhat troubled, as his beautiful and much younger wife is discreetly unfaithful to him.


  1. 1 2 Bell pp. 189–190
  2. Bindoff, Stanley, House of Commons, (1982), p.466-7
  3. "Killigrew, Henry (KLGW553H)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. 1 2 Adams p. 154
  5. 1 2 Adams p. 19
  6. Loades p. 274
  7. Adams p. 156
  8. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 2 (Edinburgh, 1900), pp. 287-289.
  9. Joseph Bain, Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 2 (Edinburgh, 1900), p. 290 no. 401.
  10. Chamberlin pp. 194–198
  11. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 5 (Edinburgh, 1907), pp. 40-41, 47-48.
  12. Charles Thorpe McInnes, Accounts of the Treasurer: 1566-1574, vol. 12 (Edinburgh, 1970), p. 350.
  13. 1 2 William Boyd, Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 5 (Edinburgh, 1907), p. 36.
  14. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 5 (Edinburgh, 1907), pp. 153-154.
  15. Adams p. 84
  16. Girouard pp. 51, 465

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley</span> King consort of Scotland (1546–1567)

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was an English nobleman who was the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the father of James VI of Scotland and I of England. Through his parents, he had claims to both the Scottish and English thrones, and from his marriage in 1565 he was king consort of Scotland. Less than a year after the birth of his son, Darnley was murdered at Kirk o' Field in 1567. Many contemporary narratives describing his life and death refer to him as simply Lord Darnley, his title as heir apparent to the Earldom of Lennox.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton</span> Regent of Scotland during the minority of King James VI

James Douglas,4th Earl of Morton was the last of the four regents of Scotland during the minority of King James VI. He was in some ways the most successful of the four, since he won the civil war that had been dragging on with the supporters of the exiled Mary, Queen of Scots. However, he came to an unfortunate end, executed by means of the Maiden, a predecessor of the guillotine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray</span> Regent for King James VI of Scotland from 1567-70

James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray was a member of the House of Stewart as the illegitimate son of King James V of Scotland. A supporter of his half-sister Mary, Queen of Scots, he was the regent of Scotland for his half-nephew, the infant King James VI, from 1567 until his assassination in 1570. He was the first head of government to be assassinated with a firearm.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Hamilton, 3rd Earl of Arran</span> Scottish earl and regent (1537–1609)

James Hamilton, 3rd Earl of Arran (1537–1609) was a Scottish nobleman and soldier who opposed the French-dominated regency during the Scottish Reformation. He was the eldest son of James Hamilton, Duke of Châtellerault, sometime regent of Scotland. He was of royal descent, and at times was third or fourth in succession to the Scottish crown; several royal marriages were proposed for him, but he eventually never married. He went to France with Mary, Queen of Scots, where he commanded the Scots Guards. After returning to Scotland, he became a leader of the Protestant party against Mary and her French supporters. However, he went insane in 1562 and was confined for the rest of his life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Erskine, Earl of Mar (died 1572)</span> Scottish noble

John Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar was a Scottish aristocrat and politician. He was the custodian of the infant James VI of Scotland and Regent of Scotland.

Patrick Ruthven, 3rd Lord Ruthven played an important part in the political intrigues of the 16th century Scotland. He succeeded to the lordship in December 1552. The Ruthven lordship encompassed the offices of Provost and Constable of Perth, and Sheriff of Strathearn.

Mary Fleming was a Scottish noblewoman and childhood companion and cousin of Mary, Queen of Scots. She and three other ladies-in-waiting were collectively known as "The Four Marys". A granddaughter of James IV of Scotland, she married the queen's renowned secretary, Sir William Maitland of Lethington.

Archibald Douglas, Parson of Douglas, was also Parson of Glasgow, a Senator of the College of Justice, Ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I of England, and a notorious intriguer.

Thomas Randolph (1523–1590) was an English ambassador serving Elizabeth I of England. Most of his professional life he spent in Scotland at the courts of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her son James VI. While in Scotland, he was embroiled in marriage projects and several upheavals. In 1568-1569 he was sent on a special embassy to Russia, visiting the court of Ivan the Terrible.

Lady Jean Stewart, was an illegitimate daughter of King James V of Scotland by his mistress, Elizabeth Bethune.

Alexander Home, 5th Lord Home was a Scottish nobleman and Warden of the Eastern March.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Seton, 7th Lord Seton</span>

George Seton V, 7th Lord Seton (1531–1586), was a Lord of the Parliament of Scotland, Master of the Household of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Provost of Edinburgh. He was the eldest son of George Seton, 6th Lord Seton, and Elizabeth Hay, a daughter of John Hay, 3rd Lord Hay of Yester. His childhood and schooling were in France.

Ninian Cockburn was a Scottish soldier and officer of the Garde Écossaise, a company which guarded the French king. He had an ambiguous role in political relations between Scotland, France and England during the war of the Rough Wooing and the Scottish Reformation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marian civil war</span>

The Marian civil war in Scotland (1568–1573) was a period of conflict which followed the abdication of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her escape from Lochleven Castle in May 1568. Those who ruled in the name of her infant son James VI fought against the supporters of the Queen, who was exiled in England. Edinburgh Castle, which was garrisoned in her name, became the focus of the conflict and surrendered only after an English intervention in May 1573. The conflict in 1570 was called an "intestine war in the bowels of this commonwealth", and the period was called soon after an "intestine war driven by questions against authority."

Robert Melville, 1st Lord Melville was a Scottish diplomat, administrator, jurist, and intriguer, and uncle of the poet Elizabeth Melville.

Annabell Murray, Countess of Mar (1536–1603), was a Scottish landowner, courtier and royal servant, the keeper of the infant James VI and his son Prince Henry at Stirling Castle

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cornelius de Vos</span>

Cornelius de Vos or de Vois or Devosse, was a Dutch or Flemish mine entrepreneur and mineral prospector working in England and Scotland. He was said to have been a "picture-maker" or portrait artist. De Vos is known for gold mining in Scotland and founding saltworks at Newhaven near Edinburgh.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicolas Elphinstone</span> Scottish courtier and diplomatic messenger

Nicolas Elphinstone was a Scottish courtier and diplomatic messenger.

Nicolas Errington was an English soldier, military engineer, and administrator.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Christopher Rokeby</span>

Christopher Rokeby, Rokesby, Rooksby, or Rooksbie was an English soldier and secret agent.



Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Henderson, Thomas Finlayson (1892). "Killigrew, Henry (d.1603)". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography . Vol. 31. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Further reading