IN his 1964 edition of the English works of the diplomat, poet, and Remembrancer to the City of London, Giles Fletcher the Elder (1546–1611), Lloyd Berry identifies eight children of Fletcher and his wife, Joan Sheafe (1562–1614): Phineas (baptised 8 April 1582 at Cranbrook, Kent); Anne (baptised 22 November 1584 at Cranbrook); Giles (born 1585 or 1586); Elizabeth (baptised 19 November 1587 at Cranbrook and buried there on 19 October 1593); Joan (baptised 22 December 1588 at Cranbrook); Sara (baptised 28 June 1590 at St Thomas the Apostle, London, and buried there on 3 July); Judith (baptised 1 August 1591 at St Thomas the Apostle); and Nehemiah (buried 12 June 1596 at St Luke’s, Chelsea).1 Noting that Giles claimed in 1596 or 1597 to have ‘9. poor Children’, Berry states that ‘a search through all the registers of the parishes outside London where Fletcher was known to have lived and of all the extant registers of the parishes of the City of London (76 of 110) has not revealed any more children’ than the eight named above, only five of whom were alive after 12 June 1596.2 Giles’s reference to his children appears in one of a series of petitions to Elizabeth I written on behalf of the children of his brother Richard Fletcher, Bishop of London, who died suddenly on 15 June 1596, leaving a tangled estate and a will drawn up in 1593 after the death of his first wife, Elizabeth.3 Richard and Elizabeth left eight sons and daughters, all of them underage when their father died: Nathaniel, Theophilus, Elizabeth, John, Sara, Priscilla, Phoebe, and Mary. The younger children appear to have gone into the care not of their stepmother, Mary, widow of Sir Richard Baker, but their father’s family. Thus, reading Giles’s later claim in the aftermath of the Essex revolt in 1601, when he was briefly imprisoned, to have ‘a wyfe and 12. poor children’, scholars have often assumed that these children included some of his nieces and nephews alongside the five sons and daughters listed by Berry who were still alive in 1601.4 Philip J. Finkelpearl, for example, argues ‘it is most unlikely’ that Nathaniel Fletcher would have been living under the same roof as Giles because he had recently sued his uncle at Chancery, and suggests therefore that all of his seven siblings would therefore need to be living with Giles in 1601 to make up the ‘12. poor children’.5 These include Richard’s third son, John, the future dramatist; Finkelpearl writes, ‘[a]fter his father’s death in 1596 John apparently lived with his uncle in what could only have been a very crowded London house for some years; he was almost certainly still living there in 1601’.6 The idea that John may have been closely associated with Giles has had a certain amount of traction in accounts of the Fletcher family, and it finds its fullest expression in Lawrence B. Wallis’s speculation that the young man ‘may well have travelled on the continent in the entourage of his uncle … [i]t is also possible that this gentleman found the young man useful to him as a secretary, or else used his influence to place him in a similar position elsewhere’.7 As Gordon McMullan points out, however, ‘it is also possible that he did nothing of the sort’, especially given the legal dispute between Nathaniel and Giles.8 This scepticism may be correct, as fresh evidence from parish registers, wills and lawsuits provides a rather different picture of Giles Fletcher’s family and his relationships with his brother’s children.9 Although Berry claimed to have inspected all of the extant parish registers of the City of London, he appears not to have consulted the enormously rich surviving records of St Botolph, Aldgate, where Giles lived ‘in A garden howse neare Hogg Lane … neare Whyt Chaple Barres’ around 1597–1601.10 Giles features in the records as a vestryman in January 1597, and he and Joan are among the list of parishioners who took communion at Easter that year.11 Four of their children were baptised at St Botolph—Martha (21 August 1597); Edward (24 September 1598); Henry (11 November 1599); and Samuel (1 January 1601)—and the parish clerk’s memorandum books also include records of Joan being churched after the births of her children.12 Martha Fletcher was buried at St Botolph on 4 May 1599; the memoranda set out both the costs of her funeral and the cause of death: ‘of the teethe’.13 Giles is recorded as living in three further London parishes in the mid 1590s: St Michael, Cornhill, on 30 May 1594, when he, Joan, and Phineas entered a bill of complaint against John Hall in Chancery; ‘saint Leonardes nighe bowe bridge in the County of Middlesex’ (now Bromley St Leonard) on 31 January 1595, when he stood as one of Richard’s sureties on his accession to the Bishopric of London; and St Ethelberga, Bishopsgate, on 26 June 1596, when he appeared before the Barons of the Exchequer to answer for Richard’s debts to the crown.14 While the records of St Michael do not include any Fletchers in the early-mid 1590s, those of Bromley St Leonard and St Ethelberga do not survive for this period. Further baptism records in London may therefore have perished. The Fletchers appear to have left London around the time of the Essex revolt, returning to their roots in Kent. Joan Fletcher was born in Cranbrook in the Kentish Weald, where Giles’s father, Richard Fletcher Senior, was vicar from 1561 until his death in 1586, and she and Giles were married there on 16 January 1581.15 As noted above, four of their children were baptised there between 1582 and 1588. It is not surprising, therefore, that they would return to Kent. Although Samuel Fletcher’s baptism is recorded at St Botolph on 1 January 1601, an Exchequer record dated 12 February 1601 states that ‘Mr Gyles ffletcher … doctor of the Cyvell Lawe’ was resident at ‘Sennocke’, or Sevenoaks, in Kent.16 A year later, on 12 February 1602, ‘Samuell sone of Gilberd ffletcher dr’ was buried at Sevenoaks; it seems likely that ‘Gilberd’ is an error, and that this is Giles’s son.17 By 1603, the Fletchers had moved to Brenchley, which is less than ten miles from Cranbrook. Joan’s sister, Mary, had married George Roberts in Brenchley in 1586, and in 1606 Phineas Fletcher wrote an epithalamion celebrating the marriage of Mary’s daughter, Margaret, to Walter Roberts.18 In another poem, Phineas addresses Walter alone, writing, And would my luckie fortune so much grace me, As in low Cranebrook, or high Brenchly’s hill, Or in some cabin neare thy dwelling place me, There would I gladly sport, and sing my fill, And teach my tender Muse to raise her quill[.]19 The baptism of Elizabeth, daughter of ‘Mr Doctor Fletcher’, is recorded in Brenchley on 7 August 1603, and the burial of Francis Fletcher, son of ‘Mr Doctor ffletcher’, on 19 July 1605.20 Here, too, Giles is recorded as a vestryman, in a list drawn up on 29 July 1604, and he was living in Brenchley when he was assessed for tax purposes by the Exchequer on 16 October 1607 and 25 May 1609.21 It is possible that further events have gone unrecorded: a note in the parish register complains that ‘ffrom the xxijth day of May  vnto the feaste of St Michaell 1611 ther may be some lefte out vnregestred throughe the negligence of him that kept the Booke. The names be not in order sett downe by occasion aforesaid till September 1611’.22 The Fletchers then moved again. On 6 November 1610, the Exchequer recorded that Giles was living in Crayford, Kent, where his niece, Phoebe Fletcher, made a nuncupative (or orally delivered) will on 9 October and was buried three days later as ‘Biship Fletchers daughter’.23 Around 1611 Giles and Joan finally returned to London, where Giles was buried in the parish of St Katherine Coleman on 11 March 1611.24 Joan outlived him: she was buried at All Hallows, London Wall, on 16 August 1614.25 Just over a year later, in December 1615, Joan’s uncle, William Sheafe, named in his will nine children of ‘Mr. Doctor Gyles ffletcher deceassed’: Phineas, Giles, Anne (described as Giles’s eldest daughter), Edmond, Henry, Mary, Judith, Priscilla, and Elizabeth.26 Priscilla’s baptism does not appear in any of the records that I have consulted, but she was 27 years old when she died at Maiden Newton, Dorset, on 9 November 1624, at which time she was married to the local curate, John Squier; she was described on her gravestone in the church as ‘daughter to the right worshipfull Mr. Gyles Fletcher, doctor of the cyvel law’.27 Mary, who is listed before Judith, is probably a separate person from Richard’s youngest daughter—whose name is rendered Maria, Mary, and Marie in different sources—as she is not listed among his living children in a pedigree drawn up in 1613.28 Giles’s daughter Joan is not included in William Sheafe’s will, but she may have been living overseas in 1615: she married the Puritan divine William Ames in the Netherlands some time before 1618 and would move to New England in 1637, after her husband’s death.29 A more complete list of the children of Giles and Joan Fletcher, then, can be given as follows: Phineas (1582–1650) Anne (b. 1584; d. after 1615) Giles (1585/6–1623) Elizabeth (1587–93) Joan (1588–1644) Sara (1590) Judith (b. 1590; d. after 1615) Nehemiah (b. c. 1583, 1585–6 or 1591–5; d. 1596) Priscilla (c. 1596–1624) Martha (1597–9) Edward (b. 1598; d. before 1615) Henry (b. 1599; d. after 1615) Samuel (1601–2) Elizabeth (b. 1603; d. after 1615) Francis (b. c. 1583, 1585–6, 1591–5 or 1602; d. 1605) Mary (b. c. 1583, 1585–6, 1591–5 or 1602; d. after 1615) Edmond (b. c. 1583, 1585–6, 1591–5 or 1602; d. after 1615)30 It is thus possible to trace as many as seventeen children, the eldest born when Joan was nineteen and the youngest whose baptism has been located when she was forty. In his complaint against Giles at Chancery in autumn 1599, Nathaniel Fletcher describes his uncle as ‘a verye poor man, havinge about a xj. or xij. children’.31 This statement has been largely overlooked—Berry, who consulted the lawsuit, does not mention it—but it tallies with Giles’s own claim to have twelve children in 1601. Confusingly, a combination of infant mortality and new arrivals means that the eleven or twelve of 1599 were not identical to the twelve of 1601. Depending on when Nathaniel’s complaint was drawn up, up to eleven of the children named above—Phineas, Anne, Giles, Joan, Judith, Priscilla, Edward, Martha or Henry, and possibly Edmond, Francis, and Mary—may have been alive when it was delivered, and twelve—Phineas, Anne, Giles, Joan, Judith, Priscilla, Edward, Henry, Samuel, and possibly Edmond, Francis, and Mary—may have been alive in 1601. It is therefore possible that Giles and Joan made up the 1599 and 1601 totals on their own, without needing any of Richard Fletcher’s children. It seems likely that few of his brother’s children remained in Giles’s household. Many of them had closer relations in the late 1590s with their father’s sister, Priscilla Pownall, and her husband, Nathaniel, who moved to Bristol in the early 1590s, when Richard Fletcher was Bishop of Bristol.32 A will drawn up for Theophilus in Bristol in March 1599, when he was heading to Ireland to fight with the Earl of Essex, sets out legacies to all of his siblings, his ‘Aunte Pownoll of Bristoll’ and ‘my vnckles doctor ffletcher of London, and Mr Pownoll of Bristoll’, leaving ‘my most loveinge and kinde vnckle Mr Pownoll of Bristoll’ an extra 20s ‘for his kinde paines heretofore on all or behalfes … [and] … to be performed’.33 These comments point towards tensions within the family, and the disputes over Richard Fletcher’s will that gave rise to a series of lawsuits later that year.34 Testimony in these suits suggests that three of Richard’s daughters—Elizabeth, Sara, and Priscilla—did not live with Giles for long, but instead moved to Bristol to live with the Pownalls. Elizabeth claimed in 1600 that shortly after her father’s death she was living ‘in London at the house of her vncle Giles Fletcher doctor of the laws’ when Nathaniel Pownall asked her to come and live with him instead, while Pownall claimed in the same suit that he was requested by Giles ‘about fower yeares now last past’ to be the ‘Gardian or Tutor’ to Elizabeth, Sara, and Priscilla.35 This may mean that only the two youngest daughters, Phoebe and Mary, remained with Giles. Although Mary’s fate is unclear, a badly damaged section of Nathaniel Fletcher’s bill of complaint in his Chancery suit suggests that Phoebe was living with Giles in 1599, as Nathaniel appears to urge the court to deliver Phoebe to her sister Elizabeth, herself recently married, or to Nathaniel Pownall.36 It seems probable, however, that Phoebe stayed with Giles. As noted above, she was living in Crayford—where Giles was also living—when she died in 1610, and it seems probable that she was at that time part of Giles’s household; the fact that she left £50 to her ‘two cozens of Cambridge vizt my cozen Phinees and Gyles’ and her bible to ‘my cozen Priscilla’ further suggests her close relations with his family.37 We need not assume, however, that Richard’s younger sons, Theophilus and John, remained with Giles for any length of time, even though their uncle claimed in May 1601 that he had ‘soondry occasions that concern my whole poor estate and my Brothers Orphanes to travail into Kent, Dorset and Hampshire’.38 Writing to Sir Robert Cecil some months after the Essex revolt, in November 1601, Giles Fletcher referred to ‘that great charge which God hath given mee, beeing ritch only in that which maketh a ritch man poor, many Children’.39 The evidence brought together in this note suggests that he was not indulging in hyperbole: not only did he have many children, but many of them survived into their later childhood and adulthood, and the financial pressures that his family placed upon him may have been acute. In his accusations against Giles, Nathaniel Fletcher draws attention specifically to his uncle’s ‘poore estate’. He claims that during Richard’s lifetime Giles ‘manye tymes wanted necessaries for himself & familye to buye them victualls’, often writing letters to his brother to beg for money, but since Richard’s death he has exploited his estate in order to improve his own financial standing, to the detriment of his nieces and nephews.40 Giles dismissed all of Nathaniel’s claims, stating in his replication that his nephew’s complaint was ‘rather in the nature of a Libell, then of a Bill of Complainte’, and he claimed in a letter to Cecil in March 1601 that he was ‘vndoon and woorse then nought by 500li’ as a result of administering Richard’s estate.41 However, the evidence summarized in this essay suggests that Nathaniel’s claims were plausible even if they were untrue. Giles may not have exploited his brother’s children and benefited personally from his administration of Richard’s will, but the drain that his own family placed on his income may have tempted him to do so. Footnotes 1 Lloyd Berry, The English Works of Giles Fletcher the Elder (Madison, WI, 1964), 35–6 (n. 20). For a general account of Giles’s career see also Lucy Munro, ‘Fletcher, Giles, the elder (bap. 1546, d. 1611)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004); online edn, Jan 2008: <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/9726> (accessed 15 March 2017). 2 Berry, English Works, 36 (n. 20), citing The National Archives (TNA), SP 12/259/47. 3 See Berry, English Works, 392–6; Berry, ‘Biographical Notes on Richard Fletcher’, N&Q, n.s. vii (1960), 377–8. On Richard’s career and sudden death, see Brett Usher, ‘Fletcher, Richard (1544/5–1596)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/9739> (accessed 15 March 2017); Usher, Lord Burghley and Episcopacy, 1577–1603 (Farnham, 2016), 12–16. 4 Giles Fletcher to Sir Robert Cecil, 28 February 1601, Hatfield House, Cecil Papers, 77.4; Berry, English Works, 404. 5 Philip J. Finkelpearl, Court and Country Politics in the Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher (Princeton, NJ, 1992), 17, n. 39. Finkelpearl follows Berry, ‘Biographical Notes’, in dating the lawsuit (Nathaniel Fletcher v Giles Fletcher, Court of Chancery, TNA, C 2 Eliz. F6/63) to 1600, but for reasons discussed below Nathaniel is likely to have composed his Bill of Complaint in autumn 1599. 6 Finkelpearl, Court and Country, 17. 7 Lawrence B. Wallis, Fletcher, Beaumont & Company: Entertainers to the Jacobean Gentry (Morningside Heights, NY, 1947), 179. 8 Gordon McMullan, The Politics of Unease in the Plays of John Fletcher (Amherst, 1994), 12. 9 The research for this essay has been facilitated by the databases and digitized material of three family history websites, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk), Familysearch (familysearch.org) and Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk), and by the capacity of Google Books, Early English Books Online, and Eighteenth Century Collections Online to highlight relevant material in unexpected places. 10 St Botolph, Aldgate, Parish Records, London Metropolitan Archive (LMA), P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09234/5, part 2, fol. 79v. 11 LMA, P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09234/6, fols 96v–97r, 228r. 12 For the births see LMA, P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09220, fol. 90v, P69/BOT2/A/003/MS09223, fol. 29v, and P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09234/6, fol. 295v (Martha); P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09220, fol. 94r, P69/BOT2/A/003/MS09223, fol. 37v and P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09234/7, fol. 152r (Edward); LMA, P69/BOT2/A/003/MS09223, fol. 47v, P69/BOT2/A/001/MS09220, fol. 98v and P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09234/5, part 2, fol. 178r (Henry); LMA, P69/BOT2/A/003/MS09223, fol. 52r and P69/BOT2/A/001/MS09220, fol. 102r (Samuel). For Joan’s churching, see P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09234/6, fol. 302v (Martha); P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09234/7, fol. 158v (Edward); P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09234/5, part 2, fol. 188r (Henry). 13 LMA, P69/BOT2/A/019/MS09234/5, fol. 79v. 14 See TNA, C 2 Eliz. F8/43 and E 377/12/76. 15 Cranbrook Parish Register, Kent History and Library Centre, P100/1/15, n.p.; see Berry, English Works, 15. 16 TNA, E 115/148/86. 17 Sevenoaks Parish Register, Kent History and Library Centre, P330/1/1, n.p. 18 Phineas Fletcher, ‘An Hymen at the Marriage of my Most Deare Cousins Mr. W. and M. R.’, in The Purple Island, or, The Isle of Man Together with Piscatorie Eclogs and Other Poeticall Miscellanies (Cambridge, 1633), G4r–H1v. 19 Phineas Fletcher, ‘To My Ever Honoured Cousin W.R. Esquire.’, in The Purple Island, H3r–v (H3v). 20 Brenchley Parish Register, Kent History and Library Centre, P45/1/1, n.p. 21 Brenchley Parish Register (Giles’s signature here matches those of his letters); TNA, E 124/6, fol. 6r and E 115/155/29. 22 Brenchley Parish Register. 23 TNA, E 115/150/31 and PROB 11/117/487; St Paulinus, Crayford, Parish Register, Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre; Bexleyheath, London, PA105/1/A/1, n.p. 24 St Katherine Coleman Parish Register, LMA, P69/KAT1/A/001/MS017832, fol. 95v. 25 All Hallows, London Wall, Parish Register, LMA, P69/ALH5/A/001/MS05083, n.p. 26 TNA, PROB 11/129/22; see Lothrop Withington, ‘English Notes About Early Settlers in New England’, Essex Institute Historical Collections, xliv (1908), 81–2. 27 Maiden Newton Parish Register, Dorset History Centre, PE/MA: RE 1/1, n.p.; John Hutchins, The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset, 2 vols (London, 1774), 1, 519. 28 See Heraldic Visitations of Wales and Part of the Marches Between the Years 1586 and 1613, ed. Samuel Rush Meyrick, 2 vols (Llandovery, 1846), 1, 161. 29 See Keith Sprunger, The Learned Doctor William Ames: Dutch Background of English and American Puritanism (Urbana, IL, 1972), 34, 251. The will of Mary Sheafe Roberts—who had married Ralph Rand after the death of George Roberts—drawn up in June 1636, includes legacies to Phineas Fletcher and ‘my cousin Joane Fletcher, late the wife of Mr Doctor Amyes’. See Withington, ‘English Notes’, 84. 30 As noted above, Mary is listed before Judith in William Sheafe’s will, and Edmond is listed ahead of Henry; this may mean that Mary was born in the 1580s and Edmond in the 1580s or the early-mid 1590s. 31 Fletcher v Fletcher. Both Nathaniel’s bill of complaint and Giles’s demurrer had been composed before 30 January 1600, when the court ordered Dr Carewe, a master of the court, to assess whether the demurrer was sufficient (see two identical notes in the Chancery Orders and Decrees, TNA, C 33/97, f. 276v and C 33/98, f. 300v). Moreover, Nathaniel refers in his bill of complaint to the recent marriage of his sister, Elizabeth, which took place on 29 September 1599 (see Nathaniel Pownall v John and Elizabeth Harries, Court of Chancery, 1600, TNA, C 2 Eliz. P9/52), and the statement that Giles had ‘about a xj. or xij. children’ may reflect genuine uncertainty in the weeks before Henry’s birth in early November 1599. 32 Priscilla was married twice, to William Atkinson on 26 October 1573 and to Nathaniel Pownall on 15 January 1583 (Cranbrook Parish Register). Previous scholars have missed this second marriage and thought that Priscilla Atkinson and the ‘sister Pownoll’ named in Richard Fletcher’s will (TNA PROB 11/87/475) were two different people. See Abram Barnett Langdale, Phineas Fletcher: Man of Letters, Science and Divinity (New York, 1937), 7–8; Berry, English Works, 6. 33 Bristol Record Office. An abstract appears in Tudor Wills Proved in Bristol, 1546–1603, ed. Sheila Lang and Margaret McGregor (Bristol, 1993), 41–2. This will does not appear to have been proved as Theophilus was still alive in 1613 when the Fletcher pedigree cited above was drawn up. 34 See Fletcher v Fletcher; Giles Fletcher v Nathaniel Pownall, Court of Chancery, 1599, TNA, C 2 Eliz. F3/63; Giles Fletcher v Nathaniel Pownall, Court of Requests, c. 1599, TNA, REQ 2 205/19; Pownall v Harries. 35 Pownall v Harries. Nathaniel Fletcher claims in his 1599 suit against Giles that Richard Fletcher had ‘in his lief tyme committed fower of his saide daughters’ to Pownall’s keeping; this may have been a temporary arrangement after the death of Richard’s first wife, Elizabeth, in December 1592. See Fletcher v Fletcher. 36 Fletcher v Fletcher. 37 TNA, PROB 11/117/487. Earlier scholars believed that the ‘Priscilla’ referred to in the will was Richard Fletcher’s daughter and therefore argued that this Phoebe must have been her cousin or possibly her aunt. See Langdale, Phineas Fletcher, 56; Berry, English Works, 6. However, a fresh examination of the evidence reveals that there were three Priscillas in this generation, daughters of Richard Fletcher, Giles Fletcher, and Priscilla Pownall. For the younger Priscilla Pownall, see Nathaniel Pownall’s will (TNA, PROB 11/120/445). The Priscilla who inherited Phoebe’s Bible is probably Giles’s daughter, but she may be the younger Priscilla Pownall. 38 Giles Fletcher to Sir Robert Cecil, 20 May 1601, Hatfield House, Cecil Papers, 86.53; Berry, English Works, 411. 39 Giles Fletcher to Sir Robert Cecil, 21 November 1601, Hatfield House, Cecil Papers, 89.121; Berry, English Works, 412. 40 Fletcher v Fletcher. 41 Fletcher to Sir Robert Cecil, 14 March 1601, Hatfield House, Cecil Papers, 77.60; Berry, English Works, 408. Usher argues that in the petitions addressed to the Queen, Giles ‘flagrantly cooks the books’ in his claims about Richard’s debts (Lord Burghley, 16), though this was not necessarily to the disadvantage of his nieces and nephews. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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