Thomas Roe

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Sir Thomas Roe
Born c. 1581
Low Leyton near Wanstead in Essex
Died 6 November 1644 (aged 63)
Spouse(s) Lady Eleanor Beeston
Parent(s) Sir Robert Rowe
Elinor Jermy

Sir Thomas Roe (c. 1581 – 6 November 1644) was an English diplomat of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. Roe's voyages ranged from Central America to India; as ambassador, he represented England in the Mughal Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Holy Roman Empire. He sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1614 and 1644. Roe was an accomplished scholar and a patron of learning.

Diplomat person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization

A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with one or more other states or international organizations. The main functions of diplomats are: representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state; initiation and facilitation of strategic agreements; treaties and conventions; promotion of information; trade and commerce; technology; and friendly relations. Seasoned diplomats of international repute are used in international organizations as well as multinational companies for their experience in management and negotiating skills. Diplomats are members of foreign services and diplomatic corps of various nations of the world.

Elizabethan era epoch in English history marked by the reign of Queen Elizabeth I

The Elizabethan era is the epoch in the Tudor period of the history of England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603). Historians often depict it as the golden age in English history. The symbol of Britannia was first used in 1572, and often thereafter, to mark the Elizabethan age as a renaissance that inspired national pride through classical ideals, international expansion, and naval triumph over Spain. The historian John Guy (1988) argues that "England was economically healthier, more expansive, and more optimistic under the Tudors" than at any time in a thousand years.

Mughal Empire dynastic empire extending over large parts of the Indian subcontinent

The Mughal Empire or Mogul Empire was an empire in the Indian subcontinent, founded in 1526. It was established and ruled by the Timurid dynasty, with Turco-Mongol Chagatai roots from Central Asia, claiming direct descent from both Genghis Khan and Timur, and with significant Indian Rajput and Persian ancestry through marriage alliances; the first two Mughal emperors had both parents from Central Asian ancestry. The dynasty combined Persianate culture with local Indian cultural influences visible in its court culture and administrative customs.



Sir Thomas standing before the Great Moghul SIR THOMAS STOOD BEFORE THE MOGUL.gif
Sir Thomas standing before the Great Moghul

Roe was born at Low Leyton near Wanstead in Essex, the son of Sir Robert Rowe of Gloucestershire and Cranford, Middlesex, and his wife Elinor Jermy, daughter of Robert Jermy of Worstead, Norfolk. He matriculated at Magdalen College, Oxford, on 6 July 1593, at the age of twelve. In 1597 he entered Middle Temple [1] and became esquire of the body to Queen Elizabeth I of England. He was knighted by James I on 23 July 1604, and became friendly with Henry, Prince of Wales, and also with his sister Elizabeth, afterwards briefly Queen of Bohemia, with whom he maintained a correspondence and whose cause he championed.

Leyton district of East London, United Kingdom

Leyton is a district of east London and part of the London Borough of Waltham Forest, located 6.2 miles (10 km) north-east of Charing Cross in the United Kingdom. It borders Walthamstow and Leytonstone in Waltham Forest, Stratford in the London Borough of Newham and Homerton and Lower Clapton in the London Borough of Hackney. The district includes part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which hosted the 2012 Olympic Games, as well as Leyton Orient Football Club, although it is predominantly residential. It consists mainly of terraced houses built between 1870 and 1910, interspersed with some modern housing estates.

Wanstead district in east London, England

Wanstead is a district of east London, England, which is part of the London Borough of Redbridge.

Essex County of England

Essex is a county in the south-east of England, north-east of London. One of the home counties, it borders Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent across the estuary of the River Thames to the south, and London to the south-west. The county town is Chelmsford, the only city in the county. For government statistical purposes Essex is placed in the East of England region.

In 1610, Roe was sent by Prince Henry on a mission to the West Indies, during which he visited Guiana and the Amazon River. He tried to reach the Lake Parime location of the fabled El Dorado, that was represented in the map of Thomas Harriot in 1596. However, he failed then, and in two subsequent expeditions, to discover the gold he was seeking.

West Indies Island region in the Caribbean

The West Indies is a region of the North Atlantic Ocean in the Caribbean that includes the island countries and surrounding waters of three major archipelagos: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles and the Lucayan Archipelago.

The Guianas region in north-central South America

The Guianas, sometimes called by the Spanish loan-word Guayanas, are a region in north-eastern South America which includes the following three territories:

Amazon River longest river in South America

The Amazon River in South America is the largest river by discharge volume of water in the world, and by some definitions it is the longest.

Jahangir investing a courtier with a robe of honour watched by Sir Thomas Roe, English ambassador to the court of Jahangir at Agra from 1615-18, and others Jahangir investing a courtier with a robe of honour watched by Sir Thomas Roe, English ambassador to the court of Jahangir at Agra from 1615-18, and others.jpg
Jahangir investing a courtier with a robe of honour watched by Sir Thomas Roe, English ambassador to the court of Jahangir at Agra from 1615–18, and others

In 1614, Roe was elected Member of Parliament for Tamworth. [1] From 1615 to 1618, he was ambassador to the court at Agra, India, of the Great Mughal Ruler, Jahangir. The principal object of the mission was to obtain protection for the East India Company`s factory at Surat. At the Mughal court, Roe allegedly became a favorite of Jahangir and may have been his drinking partner. This greatly enhanced Roe's status with the Mughals.[ citation needed ] His journal was a valuable source of information for the reign of Jahangir.

Tamworth (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1997 onwards

Tamworth is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2010 by Christopher Pincher, a Conservative.

Agra City in Uttar Pradesh, India

Agra is a city on the banks of the river Yamuna in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is 378 kilometres (235 mi) west of the state capital, Lucknow, 206 kilometres (128 mi) south of the national capital New Delhi, 58 kilometres (31 mi) south of Mathura and 125 kilometres (78 mi) north of Gwalior. Agra is one of the most populous cities in Uttar Pradesh, and the 24th most populous in India.

India Country in South Asia

India, also known as the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country by area and with more than 1.3 billion people, it is the second most populous country and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, while its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

In 1621, Roe was elected MP for Cirencester. [1] He received diplomatic credentials to the Ottoman Empire on 6 September, arriving at Constantinople in December. In this role, he obtained an extension of the privileges of the English merchants. He concluded a treaty with Algiers in 1624, by which he secured the liberation of several hundred English captives. He also gained the support, by an English subsidy, of the Transylvanian Prince Gabriel Bethlen for the European Protestant alliance and the cause of the Palatinate.

Cirencester was a parliamentary constituency in Gloucestershire. From 1571 until 1885, it was a parliamentary borough, which returned two Member of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom until 1868, and one member between 1868 and 1885. In 1885 the borough was abolished but the name was transferred to the county constituency in which it stood; this constituency was abolished for the 1918 general election.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Asia, Europe and Africa

The Ottoman Empire, also historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Algiers City in Algiers Province, Algeria

Algiers is the capital and largest city of Algeria. In 2011, the city's population was estimated to be around 3,500,000. An estimate puts the population of the larger metropolitan city to be around 5,000,000. Algiers is located on the Mediterranean Sea and in the north-central portion of Algeria.

Through his friendship with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril Lucaris, the famous Codex Alexandrinus was presented to James I, [2] and Roe himself collected several valuable manuscripts which he subsequently presented to the Bodleian Library. 29 Greek and other manuscripts, including an original copy of the synodal epistles of the council of Basle, he presented in 1628 to the Bodleian Library, after his letters of appointment had been revoked on 26 October 1627. [3] But Roe did not leave Porte until June 1628. A collection of 242 coins was given by his widow, at his desire, to the Bodleian Library after his death. He also searched for Greek marbles on behalf of the Duke of Buckingham and the second Earl of Arundel. [4]

Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople position

The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople–New Rome and ranks as primus inter pares among the heads of the several autocephalous churches that make up the Eastern Orthodox Church. The term Ecumenical in the title is a historical reference to the Ecumene, a Greek designation for the civilised world, i.e. the Roman Empire, and it stems from Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon.

Cyril Lucaris Patriarch of Constantinople

Hieromartyr Cyril Lucaris or Loukaris, born Constantine Lucaris, was a Greek prelate and theologian, and a native of Candia, Crete. He later became the Greek Patriarch of Alexandria as Cyril III and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as Cyril I. He is alleged by Calvinists, both of his time and modern, to have strove for a reform of the Eastern Orthodox Church along Protestant and Calvinist lines. Attempts to bring Calvinism into the Orthodox Church were rejected, and Cyril's actions, motivations, and specific viewpoints remain a matter of debate among scholars. However, he is recognized by the Orthodox Church as a hieromartyr and defender of the Orthodox faith against both the Jesuit Catholics and Calvinist Protestants. The official glorification of Hieromartyr Cyril Loukaris took place by decision of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on October 6, 2009, and his memory is commemorated on June 27.

Codex Alexandrinus handwritten copy of the Bible in Greek

The Codex Alexandrinus is a fifth-century manuscript of the Greek Bible, containing the majority of the Septuagint and the New Testament. It is one of the four Great uncial codices. Along with the Codex Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus, it is one of the earliest and most complete manuscripts of the Bible. Brian Walton assigned Alexandrinus the capital Latin letter A in the Polyglot Bible of 1657. This designation was maintained when the system was standardized by Wettstein in 1751. Thus, Alexandrinus held the first position in the manuscript list.

In 1629, Roe was successful in another mission undertaken, to arrange a peace between Sweden and Poland. In so doing, he was able to help free up Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden to intervene decisively in the Thirty Years War on the side of the Protestant German princes. Roe also negotiated treaties with Danzig and Denmark, returning home in 1630, when a gold medal was struck in his honour. In 1631, he sponsored the Arctic exploration of Luke Fox; Roes Welcome Sound was named in his honor. [5]

In January 1637, Roe was appointed Chancellor of the Order of the Garter, with a pension of £1200 a year. Subsequently, he took part in the peace conferences at Hamburg, Regensburg and Vienna, and used his influence to obtain the restoration of the Palatinate, the emperor declaring that he had "scarce ever met with an ambassador till now." In June 1640, he was made a privy councillor. In November 1640 he was elected MP for Oxford University in the Long Parliament and sat until his death in 1644 at the age of about 63. [1] He was buried in the parish church of St. Mary in Woodford, London.


Roe married Eleanor, Lady Beeston, the young widowed daughter of Sir Thomas Cave of Stanford-on-Avon, Northamptonshire in 1614, just weeks before embarking for India. [6] (see Cave-Browne-Cave baronets for the background of the family). Not going to India, his wife accompanied Roe on the subsequent embassy to Constantinople. The couple were childless and adopted an orphaned girl introduced by Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia. When Eleanor died in 1675 she was buried alongside him in the parish church of St. Mary, Woodford. [7]


Sir Thomas Roe Travels to India
A Dutch account of Sir Thomas Roe's travel to Jahangir's court 3.jpg
A plan of travel to India
A Dutch account of Sir Thomas Roe's travel to Jahangir's court 2.jpg
Sir Thomas Roe meets Great Mughal
A Dutch account of Sir Thomas Roe's travel to Jahangir's court 1.jpg
The Great Mughal Court
A Dutch account of Sir Thomas Roe's travel to Jahangir's court

His Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to the Court of the Great Mogul, 1615-1619, as narrated in his journal and correspondence , several times printed, has been re-edited, with an introduction by William Foster, for the Hakluyt Society (1899). This is a valuable contribution to the history of India in the early 17th century.

Vol. i. was published in 1740, but the work was not continued. Other correspondence, consisting of letters relating to his mission to Gustavus Adolphus, was edited by SR Gardiner for the Camden Society Miscellany (1875), vol. vii., and his correspondence with Lord Carew in 1615 and 1617 by Sir F. Maclean for the same society in 1860.

Several of his manuscripts are in the British Museum collections. Roe published a True and Faithful Relation ... concerning the Death of Sultan Osman ..., 1622; a translation from Paolo Sarpi,

Modern biography

There are two modern biographies, Itinerant Ambassador: the Life of Sir Thomas Roe by Michael J. Brown (University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, 1970) and Sir Thomas Roe 1581–1644. A Life by Michael Strachan (Michael Russell, Salisbury, Wiltshire, 1989).

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  1. 1 2 3 4 W R Williams Parliamentary History of the County of Gloucester
  2. Negotiations, p. 618.
  3. Macray, Annals of the Bodleian, 2nd de., pp. 70, 72.
  4. Wikisource-logo.svg  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1897). "Roe, Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography . 49. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 91.
  5. "JSTOR: The History of American Ornithology before Audubon" . Retrieved 2008-04-09.
  6. Michael Strachan, Sir Thomas Roe 1581-1644. A Life, Michael Russell, Salisbury, Wiltshire, 1989, p. 58
  7. Strachan 1989, pp. 279-80
Parliament of England
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Sir John Ferrers
Member of Parliament for Tamworth
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Robert Strange
Member of Parliament for Cirencester
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