Sir Thomas Gresham the Elder ( // ; c. 1519 –21 November 1579), was an English merchant and financier who acted on behalf of King Edward VI (1547–1553) and Edward's half-sisters, queens Mary I (1553–1558) and Elizabeth I (1558–1603).
In 1565 Gresham founded the Royal Exchange in the City of London.
Born in London and descended from an old Norfolk family, Gresham was one of two sons and two daughters of Sir Richard Gresham, a leading merchant mercer and Lord Mayor of London, who was knighted by King Henry VIII for negotiating favourable loans with foreign merchants.
Gresham was educated at St Paul's School. After this, although his father wanted Thomas to become a merchant, Sir Richard first sent him to university at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.He was concurrently apprenticed in the Mercers' Company to his uncle Sir John Gresham, founder of Gresham's School, while he was still at Cambridge.
In 1543 the Mercers' Company admitted the 24-year-old Gresham as a liveryman, and later that year he left England for the Low Countries, where, either on his own account or that of his father or uncle, he both carried on business as a merchant whilst acting in various matters as agent for King Henry VIII. In 1544 he married Anne Ferneley, widow of the London merchant Sir William Read, but maintained residence principally in the Low Countries, basing his headquarters at Antwerpin present-day Belgium (then the Spanish Netherlands), where he became renowned for his adept market-play.
When in 1551 the mismanagement of Sir William Dansell, King's Merchant to the Low Countries, had caused the English Government much financial embarrassment, the authorities called Gresham for advice, thereafter following his proposals. Gresham advocated the adoption of various methods—highly ingenious, but quite arbitrary and unfair—for raising the value of the pound sterling on the Antwerp bourse which proved so successful that in just a few years King Edward VI had discharged almost all of his debts. The Government sought Gresham's advice in all their money difficulties, and also frequently employed him in various diplomatic missions. He had no stated salary, but in reward of his services received from King Edward various grants of lands, the annual value of which at that time amounted ultimately to about 400 pounds a year.
On the accession of Queen Mary in 1553 Gresham fell out of favour at Court for a short time with Alderman William Dauntsey displacing him. But Dauntsey's financial operations proved unsuccessful and Gresham was soon re-instated; and as he professed his zealous desire to serve the Queen, and manifested great adroitness both in negotiating loans and in smuggling money, arms and foreign goods, not only were his services retained throughout her reign (1553–1558), but besides his salary of twenty shillings per diem he received grants of church lands to the yearly value of 200 pounds. Under Queen Elizabeth's reign (1558–1603), besides continuing in his post as financial agent of the Crown, Gresham acted as Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the Court of Duchess Margaret of Parma, Governor of the Netherlands, and was appointed a Knight Bachelor in 1559 prior to his departure. The unsettled times preceding the Dutch revolt compelled him to leave Antwerp on 10 March 1567; but, though he spent the remainder of his life in London, he continued his business as merchant and government financial agent in much the same way as he had always done. [ citation needed ]His enterprises made him one of the richest men of his generation in England.
Queen Elizabeth also found Gresham's abilities useful in a variety of other ways, including acting as gaoler to Lady Mary Grey (sister of Lady Jane Grey), who, as a punishment for marrying Thomas Keyes the sergeant-porter, was imprisoned in his house from June 1569 to the end of 1572.
In 1565 Gresham made a proposal to the City of London's Court of Aldermen to build, at his own expense, a bourse or exchange—what became the Royal Exchange, modelled on the Antwerp bourse—on condition that the Corporation provided for this purpose a suitable location. In this proposal he seems to have had a good eye for his self-interest as well as for the general good of the City's merchants, for by a yearly rental of £700 obtained for the shops in the upper part of the building he received more than sufficient return for his trouble and expense.
The foundation of the Royal Exchange is the background of Thomas Heywood's play: If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody part 2, in which a Lord extols the quality of the building when asked if he has ever seen "a goodlier frame":
In 1544 he married Anne Ferneley, widow of Sir William Read, a London merchant. By his wife he had an only son who predeceased him. He also had an illegitimate daughter who married Sir Nathaniel Bacon (c. 1546–1622), half-brother of Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, becoming Anne, Lady Bacon.
Gresham died suddenly, apparently of apoplexy, on 21 November 1579 and was buried at St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate in the City of London.
Apart from some small sums to various charities, Gresham bequeathed the bulk of his property (consisting of estates in London and around England giving an income of more than 2,300 pounds a year) to his widow and her heirs, with the stipulation that after her death his own house in Bishopsgate Street and the rents from the Royal Exchange should be vested in the Corporation of London and the Mercers Company, for the purpose of instituting a college in which seven professors should read lectures, one each day of the week, in astronomy, geometry, physic, law, divinity, rhetoric and music.Thus, Gresham College, the first institution of higher learning in London, came to be established in 1597.
Gresham's Law (stated simply as: "Bad money drives out good") takes its name from him (although others, including the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, had recognised the concept for years) because he urged Queen Elizabeth to restore the debased currency of England. However, Sir Thomas never formulated anything like Gresham's Law, which was the 1857 conception of Henry Dunning Macleod, an economist with a knack for reading into a text that which was not written.
The Gresham family crest is: On a Mount Vert a Grasshopper Or,(a golden grasshopper on a green mound); it is displayed by Gresham College, which he founded, and also forms the weathervane on the Royal Exchange in the City of London, also founded by him in 1565. The Faneuil Hall at Boston, Massachusetts, has also borrowed this heraldic device. The Gresham coat of arms is blazoned: Argent, a Chevron Erminés between three Mullets pierced Sable.
According to ancient legend, the founder of the family, Roger de Gresham, was a foundling abandoned as a new-born baby among long grass in Norfolk during the 13th century and found there by a woman whose attention was drawn to the child by a grasshopper. Although a beautiful story, it is more likely that the grasshopper is simply a canting heraldic crest playing on the sound "grassh-" and "Gresh-". The Gresham family uses as its motto Fiat Voluntas Tua ('Thy will be done').
Sir Nicholas Bacon was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal during the first half of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. He was the father of the philosopher and statesman Sir Francis Bacon.
The Royal Exchange in London was founded in the 16th century by the merchant Sir Thomas Gresham on the suggestion of his factor Richard Clough to act as a centre of commerce for the City of London. The site was provided by the City of London Corporation and the Worshipful Company of Mercers, who still jointly own the freehold. It is trapezoidal in shape and is flanked by Cornhill and Threadneedle Street, which converge at Bank junction in the heart of the City. It lies in the ward of Cornhill.
Gresham College is an institution of higher learning located at Barnard's Inn Hall off Holborn in Central London, England. It does not enroll students or award degrees. It was founded in 1597 under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham, and hosts over 140 free public lectures every year. Since 2001, all lectures have also been made available online.
Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, KG, known as Lord Burghley from 1598 to 1605, was an English politician, courtier and soldier.
Sir Anthonis Mor, also known as Anthonis Mor van Dashorst and Antonio Moro, was a Netherlandish portrait painter, much in demand by the courts of Europe. He has also been referred to as Antoon, Anthonius, Anthonis or Mor van Dashorst, and as Antonio Moro, António Mouro, Anthony More, etc., but signed most of his portraits as Anthonis Mor.
Sir Thomas Chaloner was an English statesman and poet.
Sir Richard Clough, known by his Welsh contemporaries as Rhisiart Clwch, was a merchant from Denbigh, north-east Wales, and an agent of Queen Elizabeth I of England.
Sir William Harpur was a merchant from Bedford who moved to London, amassed a large fortune, and became Lord Mayor of London. In 1566 he and his wife Dame Alice gave an endowment to support certain charities including education. The endowment became the Harpur Trust, which supports four independent schools in Bedford today.
Sir John Gresham was an English merchant, courtier and financier who worked for King Henry VIII of England, Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell. He was Lord Mayor of London and founded Gresham's School. He was the brother of Sir Richard Gresham.
Peter Osborne, Esquire, (1521–1592) was Keeper of the Privy Purse to King Edward VI, at a time when great constitutional changes affected the management of public finance. Of reformist sympathies in religion, his career was in abeyance during the reign of Queen Mary but regained momentum as Remembrancer in the Exchequer under Elizabeth, working usually to his marital kinsman Lord Burghley, and he sat in seven parliaments between 1559 and 1589.
Sir Henry Neville of Billingbear House, Berkshire, was a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to King Henry VIII.
Sir Richard Gresham was an English mercer, Merchant Adventurer, Lord Mayor of London, and Member of Parliament. He was the father of Sir Thomas Gresham.
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Sir Thomas Offley was a Sheriff of London and Lord Mayor of London during the reign of Queen Mary I of England. A long-serving alderman of London, he was a prominent member of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, thrice Mayor of the Staple, and a named founding Assistant of the Muscovy Company.
The bourse of Antwerp was the world's first purpose-built commodity exchange. Falling into disuse in the 17th century, from 1872 until 1997 the restored building housed the Antwerp Stock Exchange. After further restoration, the building is now part of an events venue that goes by the English name Antwerp Trade Fair. The Royal Exchange, London was modelled on the Antwerp Exchange.
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