Thomas Wilson (record keeper)

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Sir Thomas Wilson (1560?–1629) was an English official. He is known as a government agent, Member of Parliament, Keeper of the Records, translator and author.



Born probably about 1560, Wilson was educated apparently at Stamford School, and matriculated at St John's College, Cambridge, on 26 November 1575. In 1583 he was elected on Lord Burghley's nomination to a scholarship there. He graduated B.A. in 1583 at St. John's, then migrated to Trinity Hall, where he graduated M.A. in 1587. [1] For fifteen years, according to his own account, he studied civil law at Cambridge. In 1594 he obtained a letter from Burghley recommending his election as Fellow of Trinity Hall. The recommendation was unsuccessful, and Wilson turned to travel. [2]

Stamford School

Stamford School is an English independent school for boys in the market town of Stamford, Lincolnshire. Founded in 1532, it has been a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference since 1920. With the girls-only Stamford High School and the coeducational Stamford Junior School, it is part of the Stamford Endowed Schools (SES).

St Johns College, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge founded by the Tudor matriarch Lady Margaret Beaufort. In constitutional terms, the college is a charitable corporation established by a charter dated 9 April 1511. The aims of the college, as specified by its statutes, are the promotion of education, religion, learning and research. It is one of the larger Oxbridge colleges in terms of student numbers. For 2018, St. John’s was ranked 9th of 29 colleges in the Tompkins Table with over 30% of its students earning First-class honours.

Trinity Hall, Cambridge College of the University of Cambridge

Trinity Hall is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. It is the fifth-oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1350 by William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich.

In 1596, Wilson was in Italy and Germany. He remained faithful to the Cecils, and during the later years of Elizabeth's reign he was employed as a foreign intelligencer. In December 1601 he was at Florence, on negotiations with the Duke of Ferrara, the Venetians, and other Italian states. The main object of his residence in Italy during 1601–2 was to discover Spanish and papal plans against England. He returned to England during the winter, and was at Greenwich on 12 June 1603; and then early in 1604 was sent to reside as consul in Spain. He was at Bayonne in February 1603–4, and remained in Spain until the arrival of the Earl of Nottingham and Sir Charles Cornwallis as ambassadors in 1605. [2]

Florence Capital and most populous city of the Italian region of Tuscany

Florence is a city in central Italy and the capital city of the Tuscany region. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,084 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area.

Greenwich town in south-east London, England

Greenwich is an area of South East London, England, located 5.5 miles (8.9 km) east-southeast of Charing Cross. It is located within the Royal Borough of Greenwich, to which it lends its name.

Bayonne Subprefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Bayonne is a city and commune and one of the two sub-prefectures of the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of south-western France. It is located at the confluence of the Nive and Adour rivers in the northern part of the cultural region of the Basque Country, as well as the southern part of Gascony where the Aquitaine basin joins the beginning of the Pre-Pyrenees.

On his return to England, Wilson entered the service of Sir Robert Cecil, who leased to him a house adjoining his own, "Britain's Burse", in Durham Place, Strand, London. He worked on supervising the building of Salisbury's house in Durham Place and also at Hatfield, near which he received from Cecil, now Lord Salisbury, the manor of Hoddesdon. In 1605 he was returned to parliament for Newtown, Isle of Wight; he took notes of its proceedings on matters including scutages and the "post-nati" for the government. He also kept the minutes of the proceedings of the committee for the Union of England and Scotland, and made a collection of the objections likely to be urged against the union in parliament. [2]

Strand, London major thoroughfare in the City of Westminster, London, England

Strand is a major thoroughfare in the City of Westminster, Central London. It runs just over 34 mile (1,200 m) from Trafalgar Square eastwards to Temple Bar, where the road becomes Fleet Street inside the City of London, and is part of the A4, a main road running west from inner London.

Hatfield, Hertfordshire town and civil parish in Hertfordshire, England

Hatfield is a town and civil parish in Hertfordshire, England, in the borough of Welwyn Hatfield. It had a population of 29,616 in 2001, and 39,201 at the 2011 Census. The settlement is of Saxon origin. Hatfield House, home of the Marquess of Salisbury, forms the nucleus of the old town. From the 1930s when de Havilland opened a factory until the 1990s when British Aerospace closed it, aircraft design and manufacture employed more people there than any other industry. Hatfield was one of the post-war New Towns built around London and has much modernist architecture from the period. The University of Hertfordshire is based there.

Hoddesdon town in Hertfordshire, England

Hoddesdon is a town in the Broxbourne borough of the English county of Hertfordshire, situated in the Lea Valley. It grew up as a coaching stop on the route between Cambridge and London. It is located 3 miles (5 km) West of Harlow 4 miles (6 km) southeast of Hertford, 5 miles (8 km) north of Waltham Cross and 11 miles (18 km) southwest of Bishop's Stortford. At its height during the 18th century, more than 35 coaches a day passed through the town. It saw a boom in the mid 20th century as gravel was extracted from the area, but was exhausted by the 1970s. The lakes and water pits left behind have been used as leisure amenities. Today, Hoddesdon has a little light industry but is mainly a London commuter belt town. The town hosted the eighth Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne in 1951. It is twinned with the Belgian city of Dinant.

About 1606, when Sir Thomas Lake stepped down, Salisbury (as Cecil had become) obtained for Wilson the post of Keeper of the Records at Whitehall Palace. He also obtained the clerkship of imports, but lost it when Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk became treasurer in 1614. As Keeper of the Records, Wilson's main difficulty was with secretaries of state and other officials, who refused to deliver to him public documents to which he considered the state entitled; and with highly placed borrowers who failed to return documents. Among the latter was Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, and in 1615 Wilson protested against Cotton's appointment as Keeper of the Exchequer Records, fearing that records would find their way into Cotton's private collection. When Ralph Starkey acquired the papers of Secretary William Davison, Wilson procured a warrant for their seizure, and on 14 August 1619 secured a sackful, containing forty-five bundles of manuscripts. [2]

Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk English sailor, politician, and courtier

Admiral Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk, was a son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk by his second wife Margaret Audley, Duchess of Norfolk, the daughter and heiress of the 1st Baron Audley of Walden.

William Davison was secretary to Queen Elizabeth I. He played a key and diplomatic role in the 1587 execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and was made the scapegoat for this event in British history. As a Secretary of some influence, he was active in forging alliances with England's Protestant friends in Holland and Scotland to prevent war with France.

Wilson was an original subscriber to the Virginia Company, and followed discoveries in the East Indies. He petitioned for a grant of 2000 acres in Ulster in 1618, and drew up a scheme for the military government of Ireland. He vainly petitioned the king to be made Master of Requests, and attempted unsuccessfully to become Master of a Cambridge college. [2]

Virginia Company joint-stock companies chartered to establish settlements on the North American coast

The Virginia Company refers collectively to two joint-stock companies chartered under James I on 10 April 1606 with the goal of establishing settlements on the coast of America. The two companies are referred to as the "Virginia Company of London" and the "Virginia Company of Plymouth", and they operated with identical charters but with differing territories. The charters established an area of overlapping territory in America as a buffer zone, and the two companies were not permitted to establish colonies within 100 miles of each other. The Plymouth Company never fulfilled its charter, but its territory was claimed by England and became New England.

East Indies region encompassing South (Indian subcontinent) and Southeast Asia

The East Indies or the Indies are the lands of South and Southeast Asia. In a more restricted sense, the Indies can be used to refer to the islands of Southeast Asia, especially the Indonesian Archipelago and the Philippine Archipelago. The name "Indies" is used to connote parts of Asia that came under the Indian cultural sphere.

Ulster province in Ireland

Ulster is a province in the north of the island of Ireland. It is made up of nine counties: six of these constitute Northern Ireland ; the remaining three are in the Republic of Ireland. It is the second largest and second most populous of Ireland's four provinces, with Belfast being its biggest city. Unlike the other provinces, Ulster has a high percentage of Protestants, making up almost half of its population. English is the main language and Ulster English the main dialect. A minority also speak Irish, and there are Gaeltacht in southern Londonderry, the Gaeltacht Quarter of Belfast and in Donegal, where 25% of the total Gaeltacht population of Ireland is located. Lough Neagh, in the east, is the largest lake in the British Isles, while Lough Erne in the west is one of its largest lake networks. The main mountain ranges are the Mournes, Sperrins, Croaghgorms and Derryveagh Mountains.

Wilson was knighted at Whitehall on 20 July 1618, and in September of that was selected to interrogate Walter Ralegh. After Ralegh's death Wilson urged the transference of his manuscripts to the state paper office, took his "mathematical and sea-instruments" for the Navy Board, and drew up a catalogue of his books, which he presented to the king. [2]

Wilson was buried at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields on 17 July 1629. [2]


Wilson translated from the Spanish Jorge de Montemayor's Diana, a romance, while abroad in 1596. The plot of Two Gentlemen of Verona was partly drawn from it, and the translation was dedicated to the Earl of Southampton. [2]

Among reports Wilson wrote for Robert Cecil was one begun on 1 March 1601 "on the state of England A.D. 1600", giving the claims of twelve competitors for the crown, with financial and military information. He compiled a Collection of Divers Matters concerning the Marriages of Princes' Children, which he presented on 4 October 1617 to James I. On 10 August 1616 he sent to Lord Ellesmere a collection of commercial treaties with the Netherlands. Much of his correspondence was preserved. [2]


Wilson married Margaret Meautys of Hertfordshire, aunt of Thomas Meautys the official. [3] His only child, a daughter, married, about 1614, Ambrose Randolph, younger son of Thomas Randolph, who was joint Keeper of the Records with Wilson from 1614. [2]


  1. "Wilson, Thomas (WL581T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Lee, Sidney, ed. (1900). "Wilson, Thomas (1560?-1629)"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 62. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  3. Kelsey, Sean. "Wilson, Sir Thomas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29690.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1900). "Wilson, Thomas (1560?-1629)". Dictionary of National Biography . 62. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

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