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

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This is page 2 of a 13 page article. Return to Doubting Thomas: Introduction

I. Thomas Doughtie: the Man - Early Years Edit

Harry Kelsey’s acclaimed 1998 biography, Sir Francis Drake: the Queen’s Pirate, provides an in-depth examination of the infamous Doughtie incident, the one “blot on Drake’s reputation” in the words of Julian Corbett, one of Drake’s staunchest defenders. Kelsey does a very thorough job in deconstructing the affair, making Drake look far less admirable than prior historical records would paint him. Yet even Kelsey, whose meticulous research is otherwise in evidence, misses the proverbial boat when it comes to an examination of Doughtie’s career in Ireland. He relies upon the work of Corbett, and although he ultimately disagrees with Corbett’s conclusions for eminently logical reasons, he does not challenge Corbett’s initial assumptions. I venture to speculate that this is because, as a biographer of Drake, Doughtie’s life is important only in respect to the primary subject of his endeavors.

An attempt to look at Doughtie as a subject worthy of study in his own right, however, yields much different fruit. For one, Corbett’s interpretation of the incidents in Ireland is questionable, marked by sloppy conclusions which simply serve to reinforce his preconceptions about Drake’s relationship with Doughtie. Unfortunately, Corbett’s conclusions are parroted back as fact by later biographers, for example, in the sinister tale of Thomas Doughtie’s early misdeeds told in Samuel Bawlf’s recent Drake biography. A reexamination of Corbett, and more importantly, of his source documents, reveals quite another picture. Furthermore, a surprising amount about Doughtie’s motivations and the veracity of the claims made against him can be drawn from a simple source document, a document that can be located with a five minute search on the internet, and yet a document that has received only cursory consideration in the Doughtie affair despite the fact that it was put on public exhibition in 1977 (Sir Francis Drake: an Exhibition): The Last Will and Testament of Thomas Doughtie, Gentleman of the Inner Temple, London.

Our first historical awareness of Doughtie finds him in Ireland, serving under the Earl of Essex. There is scant information about him before that period: no records of his birth, for example, have been uncovered. It is well known that he has a brother who figures much in the later narrative; the contemporary account of John Cooke reveals that John Doughtie is younger than Thomas. A number of accounts have John as Thomas’ half-brother (Silverberg 255; Sugden 100, Temple xxv), but there is no substantiation of this. Previously ignored are the other members of Doughtie’s immediate family: two sisters named Margaret and Suzan, an uncle, also named John, who had, improbably, both a son and a daughter named Francis, and a cousin Elizabethe, “wife to William Browne.” All of these are named in Doughtie’s will as beneficiaries.

A bit more sleuthing is required to discover Doughtie’s father, a trail left through a series of real estate transactions. One “Thomas Doughtie” purchases a number of pieces of property in London in 1560 (Donald 313), 1562 and 1563 (Hardy and Page 115; 122). Upon Doughtie’s death in 1568, the Inquisitiones post mortem re Thomas Doughty Snr reveals that this property was passed onto his son, also Thomas Doughtie (High Holborn). That the Thomas Doughtie Jr. mentioned in these documents is indeed our subject is confirmed by later evidence: the property bought in 1562 is sold by “Thomas Doughtie, Gentleman of the Inner Temple” in 1576 (Donald 313; High Holborn). It is only after the death of Doughtie Sr. that we see transactions in the name of “Thomas Doughtie, gentleman”: “Thomas Grauntham and Thomas Doughtie, gentlemen, and Anthony Robertson, esquire, and Alice, his wife, and Augustine Vandernotte, gentleman. Premises in the parish of Christ Church, in the city of London. L. Easter Anno 10” (Feet of Fines). This is likely our Thomas, but it is not until later that we see the distinctive addition “of the Inner Temple,” which would make sense if Doughtie entered the Temple after his father’s death – and as we shall see, this seems to be the case. Doughtie has been accused of a certain pretension, but to the historian, this signature is a godsend, eliminating confusion with a number of other Thomas Doughties (a fishmonger, a leatherworker and a minister are all documented in London in this period.) An interesting question is why Doughtie Sr. did not use the title “gentleman” with his name – were the Doughties nouveau riche? If Doughtie Sr. earned his money through commerce, he would not have been entitled to call himself a gentleman. Or were these London Doughties poor relations of the more landed Doughties in the country? My speculation is the second for two reasons: firstly, no one ever treats Doughtie with anything but class privilege, secondly, the various other Doughties on record for this time were notorious recusants. As will be discussed at length, there is good evidence that our subject was a fervent Anglican. It is possible there was a religious estrangement between Doughtie Sr. and the rest of his family. Hopefully, further documents will come to light clarifying Thomas Doughtie’s origins.

It is often repeated that Thomas Doughtie was a student at Cambridge (for example Gibbs 19, Herman 75), but the records of the university reveal no such alumnus. However, Doughtie would have of necessity studied at university for several years before entering one of the Inns at Court, as we know he did, and there is no record of him at Oxford either. Much later, Doughtie is accused of gossip against Ned Bright’s wife in Cambridge, an accusation that would carry little weight if there was no common knowledge that Doughtie was somehow familiar with the place, either as a resident or a student. Therefore, Doughtie’s enrollment at Cambridge seems a reasonable supposition, but the evidence is tenuous.

The most obvious fact about Doughtie, that he was a law student at the Inner Temple – this fact that figures heavily into the legend is reiterated by Doughtie’s consistent manner of signature, that he makes numerous references to it in his will, and that it is mentioned at his trial he is rooming at the “Inn” – cannot directly be confirmed; unlike Leonard Vicarye and George Fortescue, both companions on the voyage, his name does not appear amongst the records of those enrolled there. There is a tantalizing hint, however, in an entry for May 5th of 1571: an “unknown” man from Surrey rooming at Clifford’s , sponsored by John Cowper and John Sulyard. Although the Inner Temple Library archivist warns that some of the entries are faded and hard to read, this is the only entry from the 16th century which is illegible, and that most curiously according to the archival database: “Unfortunately the admission register has been torn away where the name for this entry would have been.” Of course, it can never be ascertained whether this was Doughtie, but considering that Drake would later become a member of the Inner Temple, an honorary gesture arranged by his friends Sir Christopher Hatton and Julius Caesar, and considering the great patronage to the Inner Temple of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whom, as we will see, most likely had an adversarial relationship with Doughtie, there may have been motivation to suppress his membership.

Whether Doughtie is actually this mysterious elided member, it is unlikely that he was actually called to the bar. His close friend Vicarye entered the Inner Temple in 1568, but is never so called, probably because he had not fulfilled the requisite period of time – five years of waiting after the completion of his studies, which could take up to eight. It is more probable that Doughtie was there to follow what was a very standard career path for ambitious gentlemen at the time: a Cambridge education, a few years of law school, followed by an appointment as a secretary to some great lord. This is exactly what Doughtie did, except, perhaps, that a restless spirit prompted him into adventuring, first in Ireland with Essex, and then with Drake.

Having no record of Doughtie’s birth, we can only speculate as to his age at the time of his voyage with Drake. It would seem that he inherited his property fairly young; if the Inner Temple date is correct, probably while he was still a student at Cambridge. In Elizabeth’s era, young men entered university at age 14, and the average age for entry into the Inns of Court was 17. If we assume the average, this would make Doughtie 23 at the time of Drake’s voyage. Francis Fletcher, on the occasion of Doughtie’s execution, will describe him as being extremely gifted “for a man of his tyme,” which would indicate that Fletcher considered Doughtie to be youthful. This comment must be considered in the light that only 10% of the population in Tudor England reached the age of forty. A man of 35 would be considered quite mature; it is doubtful that Fletcher would have made his comment if Doughtie were older than 30. However, we also know that Drake was around 37 at the time of the circumnavigation. The image of Drake and Doughtie as bosom companions in Ireland seems incongruent if Doughtie were 14 years younger than Drake. It is possible that family obligations delayed Doughtie’s entry into the Inn (he was, after all, the head of the household, perhaps as early as age 14). I would hazard a guess that Doughtie was no older than 30 when he left England for the final time. However, the possibility that Doughtie was quite a young man should be kept in mind; it lends quite a different color to the relationship between Doughtie and Drake.

What sort of a man was Doughtie? Later accounts will paint him as a spy, a schemer, a master manipulator, even a Spanish sympathizer and a Catholic. Modern Drake apologists prefer adjectives such as “complex,” or “complicated” (Wilson 89), by which they may mean that they are at a loss to explain why the contemporary accounts of Thomas Doughtie are almost always positive. The most extensive is found in the record of Drake’s voyage by the ship’s chaplain Francis Fletcher. While it is to be born in mind that Fletcher’s accounts about everything are distorted and effusive – he describes giants in Patagonia when he obviously knew there were none – some interesting details about Doughtie’s abilities surface in his description:

He feared God, he loved his word, and was alwayes desireous to eddify others and confirme himself in the faith of Christ. For his quallityes, in a man of his tyme they were rare, and his gift verry excellent for his age, a sweet orator, a pregnant philosopher, a good gift for the Greeke tongue and a reasonable taste of Hebrew; a suffitient secretary to a noble personage of a great place, and in Ireland an approvd soldier, and not behind many in the study of the law for his tyme; and that which is a suffitient argument to prove a good Christian, and of all other things a most manifest witness of a child of God to men, that he was delighted in the study, hearing and practice of the word of God, daily exercising himself herein by reading, meditating to himselfe, conferring with others, instructing of the ignorant, as if he had been a minister of Christ... (Drake, 63 Fletcher note).

It is likely that Doughtie left Liverpool bound for Ireland with Walter Devereux, first Earl of Essex, on August 16th, 1573; according to a biography of Essex "...many knights and gentlemen, with a large number of followers, accompanied the Earl of Essex as volunteers," (Devereux 33 ). Doughtie may have been introduced to Essex by Richard Broughton, one of the most faithful retainers of both Devereux Earls, and a fellow student lawyer who had been accepted at the Inner Temple one month before Leonard Vicarye. We know exceedingly little of his activities there, but we can be reasonably certain that his brother John accompanied him, considering the later rumors concerning John’s involvement with Essex. The evidence of Doughtie’s activities in Ireland is scant and summarized by Corbett. He cites a document from the Dublin Records office, an account by one George Viege, another of Essex’s servants. Viege mentions the name Doughtie five times in his records; the first, apparently undated, entry reports the receipt of £44, 15s, “by the hands of Yo. L. Servant, Thomas Doughtye.” The next entry mentioning the name is dated August 18, 1574 and reads: “Payed for the chardges of Mr. Broughton, Mr. Doughtie and their servants at Mr. Pultemeys by the space of days uppon their comeinge from Englande &c. VIIIs.” In November 1574, £100 for “his lordship’s use” is given to Thomas Doughtie, and there are two further mentions of him when Essex orders winter livery for his men, presumably for the end of 1574 (Corbett Tudor Navy 211 footnote).

Next page - Thomas Doughtie the Man - Service under Essex

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