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Journal of History and Classics: Doubting Thomas: Supporting Data: Career

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This is page 4 of a 13 page article. Go to previous page. Go to Introduction.

I. Thomas Doughtie: the Man - Career and Associates Edit

Corbett will make an argument in favor of Doughtie’s later employment as Lord Burghley’s spy in Drake's expedition by saying “the man and his character were well known to him [Burghley.]” (Tudor Navy 220). In “The Tragedy of Mr. Thomas Doughtie” he argues that Burghley chose Doughtie as his agent because he knew Doughtie was a schemer, an intriguer and otherwise untrustworthy. This argument makes Burghley look like an imbecile; in fact, William Cecil was a man of great intelligence and surpassing integrity – one of the few who refused to be bought by plundered gold after the circumnavigation (Kelsey 217). It makes far more sense to assume that Burghley knew Doughtie was innocent of malice and wrongdoing; that, having inside information about the quarrel between Essex and Leicester, having insisted that the dangerous rift be mended, and knowing full well that Thomas Doughtie was going to take the blame on his own head to allow the two querulous nobles to save face, Burghley smoothes the path for him at court, first getting him the position with Hatton, and then offering him a position as his own secretary.

Corbett argues that the claim, made by Thomas Doughtie himself (“Documents” 168) that Burghley offered him employment is a pretext to disguise his sinister activities. If Burghley had made such an offer, Doughtie would not have refused “so brilliant a position” to follow Drake (Corbett 222). This is sheer speculation on Corbett’s part. First is the question of whether a position with Burghley was any more or less “brilliant” than a position with Hatton, about to be knighted and sworn into the Privy Council in November of 1577. One could indulge in speculations to the opposite effect about why Doughtie might refuse such a position with Burghley: 1. Doughtie grew restless, yearning for adventure just as he sought it in Ireland. 2. Doughtie felt some affinity/obligation towards Drake, to whom he had promised his support. 3. The voyage – as history proved – stood a chance of making a lot of money (indeed, Doughtie’s will is so meticulously detailed about how he wants the potential profits from the venture distributed to his beneficiaries that a profit motive is scarcely speculation at all – and lays to rest quite soundly the idea that he ever intended to sabotage the voyage). 4. If John Doughtie’s imprisonment lasted from October of 1576 to September of 1577, perhaps Doughtie wanted to get his brother out of the country for a time to allow his battered reputation to “cool off.”

But possibly there was another reason entirely. In a cancelled section of his will, Doughtie requests that “When shall be surelie knowne that I am departed out of this lief the bodie of my wief shall be removed out of the place where it nowe lithe buried and shalbe placed in some convenient place either in the channcell in Clement Innside or else in the little Chappell out the southside of Saint Clements churche and that a monument to be directed making some menton both of her and me...” Later in the will, he bequeaths “to my sister Margaret Doughtie all my wifes apparell.” We also learn from the will that a man named Homer Beannon is living in “My house in Sainte Clementes' parishe” which is to be sold after his death; this is distinct from a bequest to his brother, John, of “my houses purchased by me in Sainte Sepulchere parishe.” We know from the testimony at his trial that at the time Drake came to London, Doughtie was living at the Inner Temple, which, although it offered convenient rooming to lawyers when arguing a case in the courts, was, in essence, a sophisticated version of a law school dormitory. Finally, the records for St. Clement Dane Church, Westminster, reveal that a Thomas Doughtie married one Dorcace Hern (probably from the same family who owned Hern’s Rents, also in the legal quarter) on 12th February 1576 – really 1577, since England at the time counted the new year as beginning on March 25th.

Thomas Doughtie married on the 12th of February 1577. By the sixth of September, his wife was dead. He still had her clothes; he couldn’t bear to live in his own house. Is it conceivable, from the tiny human perspective, the one that has little to do with intrigues and affairs of state, but rather the plebian anguish of the human heart, that Thomas Doughtie would want to go halfway around the world – anywhere that didn’t remind him of his lost wife?

Unfortunately, we lose track of Thomas Doughtie in the interval between the winter of 1575 and July 24, 1576, when Thomas Doughtie of the Inner Temple sells a group of properties known as “Purse Rents” consisting of eight houses and three gardens for £700 to a “‘Cranighe, doctor of physike’, of the parish of St. Clement Danes” (Donald 313). Doughtie’s father originally purchased this property in 1560 for £140. Figuring that prices rose, on average, 23% between 1550-1580 (Rappaport 154), Doughtie sees a 400% increase on this property - hardly a bad profit! Crainighe is an interesting character, in reality the same Burchard Kraurych, metallurgist, who analyzed Frobisher’s dubious mineral find and claimed to discover gold. The land beneath Purse Rents was known to its previous owners, Lord and Lady Montjoy, for its deposits of alum and copper. Doughtie’s connection with Kraurych is an interesting link to one of Frobisher’s most ardent backers, someone who may have shared a mutual interest in metallurgy and alchemy with both men: John Dee.

One of the most devastating, but to our modern sensibilities ridiculous, accusations made against Thomas Doughtie at his trial was that he was guilty of sorcery. A number of scholars, including Herman (75; 91) and Penrose (9) allege that Doughtie was a disciple of the Elizabethan arch-magus, John Dee. The argument goes something like this: if Doughtie were Dee’s disciple in alchemy and astrology, it would be a reason why ignorant sailors might suppose a man reported by many accounts to be deeply religious to be guilty of witchcraft. And if Doughtie were guilty of conjuration, he probably learned it from Dee. The circular nature of this argument is embarrassingly indisputable.

The evidence for these suppositions is slim. Being at court together, Dee and Doughtie must have known each other, at least by sight. Hatton and Dee were friends, and Hatton was very interested in both Dee’s occult researches and his geographical theories. Dee, a prolific diarist in the 1580’s, leaves almost no record before 1578; Hatton’s transactions and correspondence begin to be saved upon his knighthood at the end of 1577. In short, neither of these worthies leaves any record of Thomas Doughtie – but they hardly leave a record of anyone else, either. Regretfully, concerning Doughtie’s occult practices or the lack thereof, we can conclude exactly nothing.

Doughtie’s employment under Christopher Hatton is also grossly lacking in substantial detail. Doughtie is not mentioned in Hatton’s correspondence, and most of Hatton’s biographers skirt around the issue, barely mentioning Doughtie, if at all. While Doughtie’s part in Hatton’s life was small – he worked for him under two years at most – it seems peculiar that these writers would not even devote a paragraph to a man in Hatton’s employ who had achieved a certain notoriety in the events of the time. The only Hatton biographer to devote any effort to an analysis of the issue is Eric St. John Brooks, a man who has clearly done his research, but derives some questionable conclusions. For example, he perceptively notes that the conflict between Essex and Leicester involved Lettice Devereux, and functioned quite independently of Doughtie (186). However, he does not let this interfere with his reading of Doughtie’s alleged intrigues in Ireland. So quick is he to malign Doughtie that he dismisses Fletcher’s positive account, saying, “We may even suspect that the quick-witted Doughty had rubbed up, if he had not picked up, his Greek and Hebrew in conversation with the credulous chaplain,” (185). Brooks disingenuously ignores the sheer improbability of this statement – if Doughtie had been able to “pick up” two classical languages with complex grammars and unfamiliar alphabets by speaking to Fletcher, he must have been one of most brilliant men in recorded history!

One interesting point Brooks makes is that we have no real record of Doughtie’s service under Hatton. Our records of Hatton’s activities come largely from the Hatton Letter Book, begun around the time of his knighthood, and kept by his new secretary, Samuel Cox (Brooks 188). It would seem that the employment of Cox coincides with the time of Doughtie’s departure with Drake, but as to Doughtie’s actual service, we have only second-hand reports of claims made by Doughtie. In fact, nowhere in the source documentation does it state at all that Doughtie was Hatton’s secretary. Fletcher says that Doughtie was “a suffitient secretary to a noble personage of a great place,” (Fletcher 63, note) and there is a report at Doughtie’s trial, presumably by Ned Bright, of Doughtie’s claim that he “pffered or Captayne to his Mr Master Hatton,” (Documents 171). Fletcher’s report could refer to Essex - indeed, Thomson has Doughtie as Essex’s secretary (96) - but given the little we know about Doughtie’s activities in Ireland (soldiering, traveling to London on Essex’s business, collecting money) it does not seem that Doughtie functioned in this regard. We can therefore deduce that Doughtie must have been Hatton’s secretary – a reasonable assumption, but in almost every version of the story, it is repeated as if undeniable fact.

Brooks takes this logic to an unconscionable extreme. Citing Corbett’s statement that Burghley would not have employed a man of Doughtie’s supposedly tarnished reputation as secretary, Brooks adds, “This reasoning probably applies to Hatton also,” (188). This is wishful thinking; Brooks has decided that Doughtie is a villain unworthy to associate with his subject. While certain parts of Ned Bright’s statement were hearsay, of potentially dubious truth, there were other points of fact that would have been common knowledge amongst the men, or, at the least, easy to verify, for example, that Doughtie was living at the Inner Temple. The statement that Doughtie was working for Hatton is one of these. Presumably, that aspect of his life was conducted in a very public sphere; lying about it would have been pointless. And Brooks’ statement that Doughtie did not associate with Hatton’s known representatives on the voyage, John Thomas and John Brewer (189) is not entirely true. Brewer, along with Ned Bright, is Doughtie’s primary antagonist during the early part of the voyage. As opposed to Bright, whose motives for malice become clear in Cooke’s narrative, Brewer exhibits an acrimony towards Doughtie difficult to explain; the assumption of a prior history between the two men clarifies the matter somewhat.

Another open question is whether Doughtie was actually considering a legal career. He lived at, identified himself as “Gentleman of the Inner Temple, London.” We know that Leonard Vicarye and George Fortescue were students at the Inner Temple with Doughtie; some accounts have John Doughtie, John Cooke and Charles Cauby with legal training also. But despite Drake's infamous attack on the wiles of the “craftye lawyers” during Doughtie’s trial, it is doubtful that any of them were practicing at law. A typical career path for a gentleman at the time would be to finish a university education and then undertake several years of study at one of the Inns of Court. This would serve as preparation to assume the position of Justice of the Peace in a country seat, or to become qualified to work as the secretary of an influential lord. This seems to be exactly what Doughtie did; there is no evidence that he completed the rigorous seven to eight years of training; an additional five years was generally required before being able to argue a case. Nevertheless, he does seem to have taken his legal training seriously: the account of Francis Fletcher mentions that he was “not behind many in the study of the law for his tyme.” It is to be remembered that Fletcher was a chaplain, and not a legal expert. It also seems that most of Doughtie's friends were from the Temple: in his will, he mentions by name the two men he names as executors, Thomas Landry and Thomas Bridges, and also Leonard Vicarye and Thomas Fox, the notary. He also leaves monies for a supper to be made “my good friends of the Inner Temple to be chosen at the discretion of mine executors” and another “to the honor of the companie of notaries whereuppon Five pounds shall be bestowed by Master Fox and Master Ashbird.” Considering the denouement of the Doughtie affair, it would be of interest to know whether these suppers were ever held!

Doughtie mentions his legal friends in his will; it is of interest that another supposed friend is never mentioned at all: Francis Drake. The friendship between Drake and Doughtie is essential to the narrative; Corbett describes it in these overly sentimental terms: “The chief result of his [Drake’s] service [in Ireland] was the formation of a friendship, which serves to show that his surroundings rather emphasized than dulled the gentleness of his instincts. It was the only one, as far as we know that he ever permitted himself, and it was that which ended in one of the most dramatic tragedies in history,” (Tudor Navy 209). One wonders about the claim that a man of such natural gentleness could but permit himself one friend in a lifetime, but even so, the question of where, when and under what capacity Drake and Doughtie met and became “friends” is rather murky. It is possible that they met each other through a mutual acquaintance – Sir William Wynter. At his death, Doughtie especially asks to be commended to William Wynter (Cooke 209), and Wynter’s sexton, Simon Woode, is one of the soldiers accompanying Doughtie on the venture (Will of Thomas Doughtie). John Wynter also seems quite sympathetic towards Doughtie (although that sympathy leads to no productive action) and so it seems that Doughtie was an intimate of that family.

Drake will make a huge issue at Doughtie’s trial of how much (or how little!) of his later fortune he owed to that gentleman. According to the testimony of the unnamed witness, presumed to be Edward Bright, at Doughtie’s trial, Doughtie himself claimed “he was the ffirst yt preffered our Captayne to the earle of Essex, and that the sayd T.D. dyd helpe or captayne to the queens paye in Iarland: when or captayne was glad to come into Iarland ffor feare of my L. Admiral and the rest of the Counsayle, because of his Indyes viages: and when the earle of Essex was dede, that the sayd T. Dowghty pffered or Captayne to his Mr. Master Hatton, and yt the sayd T.D. and or captayne conferred about this viage in Iarland to do it of themselves…” Of all the testimony given at the trial, as will be seen, Ned Bright’s is the most likely to be spurious, is the only testimony challenged by Doughtie, and is the only testimony rejected by the jury in considering the case. So it is to be remembered that this is a report of what Doughtie may have said, which is juxtaposed with other claims, including Doughtie’s sorcery, which seem fantastical.

The other account we have is also second hand, John Cooke’s report of Drake’s own words. This document is probably the most hotly debated one in the Drake-Doughtie corpus, exactly because it is so damning to Drake. Samuel Drake (130) even alleges that there was no one of this name upon the voyage, and implies that the document is probably a forgery to smear Drake – obviously he did not pay careful to attention to the orthography of the trial documents which render Drake’s old companion Thomas Moone as “Thomas Mowne” and John Cooke as “John Cowke” (Documents 169.) The document is in the hand of the historian Stowe, and Quinn explains that the peculiar title “For Francis Drake. Anno Domini 1577” probably did not indicate that Cooke intended to give it to Drake, but rather that Stowe had copied this information with the intent of using it in his chronicle of the year 1577 when he discussed the exploits of Drake. The reason for the original production of the document is unknown: Quinn speculates that it was prepared as a statement for John Doughtie’s lawsuit against Drake (47, n.18), but it might just as well have been Cooke’s attempt to make the whole disturbing affair see the light of day: “One this Iland in porte S. Julyan passed many matters which I thinke God would not have to be concealed, and especially for that they tended to murder…” (Cooke 201). Later, the veracity of Cooke’s account will be considered at length, but for now, his report will be entered as that of a hostile witness. According to Cooke, after Doughtie’s execution, Drake claimed that the circumnavigation was arranged completely without the aid of Doughtie: Essex introduced him to Walsingham, who sought to make use of his nautical skills against the Spaniard. This eventually led to an introduction to the queen. Drake’s account disavows Doughtie’s help either with Essex or with Hatton (205-206; 215-216).

Even though both reports are second hand and clearly partisan, it is possible to find a strain of veracity in both of them. Drake’s story that Doughtie did not prefer him to Essex was told at the trial; he would hardly be likely to acknowledge a debt to a man he wished convicted on the grounds of subverting his authority by destroying his reputation. There is no essential contradiction in the idea that the Earl of Essex sent letters of introduction and that Thomas Doughtie advanced Drake’s cause to Christopher Hatton; why should Drake have not had more than one advocate? For his part, Kelsey concludes that the version Doughtie allegedly told Ned Bright is more believable since Doughtie had daily access to the Privy Council (77).

If we are to believe this version, as recounted by what was most likely his direst enemy, Doughtie and Drake planned the voyage together in Ireland. The chronology here is problematic if Doughtie were indeed in disgrace as of October of 1574, the date of the letter, since it is not until the end of 1574 that we hear of Drake in Ireland. Before that, Drake had vanished for about a year: Corbett speculates that he may have been hiding in a place known to the locals as “Drake’s Pool” before joining Essex (Tudor Navy 198-199). Whatever the truth may be, it does seem indeed likely that Drake was hiding, or that he had gone to Ireland to stay out of the way of current English politics, which had taken a more peaceful turn. It seems probable that Drake believed his prior piracies in the West Indies could be a source of trouble to him in that climate. Of how Drake met Doughtie, and of the actual depth of their friendship, we know nothing.

What we have is a collection of statements made under incredible circumstances. According to Cooke, some men in the fleet were jealous of the favor and friendship which Drake initially shows for Doughtie (192) and Doughtie continually speaks of his friendship to Drake during his adverse treatment on the Atlantic crossing. He also mentions that after Doughtie’s death, Drake threatens the company by reminding them that he has killed a man whom, “I take God to wytnes, as yow all knowe, was to me as my other hand,” (214). Drake’s friendship with Doughtie seemed to grow exponentially the longer Doughtie’s headless body was cold in the ground. Indeed, it could easily be said of both men that their friendship was often professed, little demonstrated during the course of the voyage.

The primary source we have of Drake’s great friendship with Doughtie is the text of The World Encompassed, a narrative written by Drake’s namesake and heir, yet another Sir Francis Drake, first published in 1628. As will be seen, this narrative whitewashes its treatment of the Doughtie affair. It is known that Drake the younger had access to the account of Francis Fletcher the chaplain; he plagiarizes much of his own account from it whole cloth. The only really distinct changes in the first half of the account (and it is noteworthy that the second part of Fletcher's diary was never found) lie in the treatment of the Doughtie affair, which differs radically. Vaux’s edition of The World Encompassed does a great service by replicating the unexpurgated Fletcher version in footnotes to Drake the Younger’s text, so that the parallels and discrepancies stand in relief. It is also quite likely that Sir Francis had a copy of Cooke’s narrative (the title page indicates that it was written for "Francis Drake", perhaps in response to a request for accounts of the circumnavigation to be used in his history), which, for reasons that shall become obvious, the younger Drake actively suppressed although he included in his version of Doughtie’s execution some details not found in Fletcher, but rather found in Cooke, most particularly the description of Doughtie’s last meal.

The second Sir Francis is at great pains to construct a version of his famous predecessor as an unmitigated hero. While many aspects of Drake’s career lend themselves to a revisioning of Drake as an intrepid explorer, swashbuckling privateer and eventually a naval hero, the Doughtie incident is problematical. Besides the question of judicial fairness and the accusation of callousness to be levied against any man who would order the execution of a one-time friend, there were political considerations to think of. Indeed, the subject was so sensitive at the time of Drake’s return that the name of the gentleman executed on the voyage was not mentioned in the earliest account, Stowe’s Annales of 1592, (as we will see, there is evidence that Hakluyt’s version of the circumnavigation did not emerge until later) despite Stowe’s access to the explicit and ugly story contained in Cooke’s narrative. This subterfuge must have created a certain confusion, for in one early version of the Doughtie execution, Camden thinks that the unfortunate victim was John Doughtie – his mistake is made for interesting reasons later to be examined. The World Encompassed seeks to be all things to all people – somehow preserving Drake’s stainless reputation while at the same time not angering Doughtie partisans or threatening the English class system by heaping dishonor upon a gentleman. To achieve this aim, Drake the younger does what any good propagandist would do; he takes the parts of the primary sources he can salvage, elides the embarrassing bits, and makes the rest of it up.

The end result is a striking tale of friendship, betrayal and repentance so lovely that it spawned a legend which persisted in history and fiction for over four hundred years. Drake the Younger begins his tale with the claim that Doughtie was a person Drake “Loued so deerely, and was persuaded of to loue him likewise unfainedly” (Drake 63). According to this account, Drake spoke at Doughtie’s trial of the “great good will and inward affection, more than brotherly, which he had ever since his first acquaintance borne him...” (64). In truth, it is likely that Drake made no such speech; both Fletcher and Cooke report his attitude at the trial as openly hostile. But Drake the Younger’s account, probably a fiction, perhaps embellished with family stories, will catch the hearts of later generations. It is worthy of note that the tale he outlines is basically a romance, and it will spawn, intentionally or no, a plethora of romantic narratives.

Next page - Thomas Doughtie the Martyr - Role in Drake's Expedition

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