Thomas Roe

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Sir Thomas Roe (or Row) (c. 1581 - November 6, 1644) was an English diplomat of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.

The son of Robert Rowe, and of Elinor, daughter of Robert Jermy of Worstead in Norfolk, he was born at Low Leyton near Wanstead in Essex, and at the age of twelve (1593) matriculated at Magdalen College, Oxford. Shortly afterwards he joined one of the Inns of Court, and became esquire of the body to Queen Elizabeth I of England. He was knighted by James I in 1605, and became intimate with Henry, Prince of Wales, and also with his sister Elizabeth, afterwards Queen of Bohemia, with whom he maintained a correspondence and whose cause he championed. In 1610 he was sent by Prince Henry on a mission to the West Indies, during which he visited Guiana and the Amazon River. However, he failed then, and in two subsequent expeditions, to discover the gold he was seeking. In 1614 he was elected Member of Parliament for Tamworth, and in 1621 for Cirencester.

His reputation resulted mainly from the success of his embassy in 1615-18 to the court at Agra of the Great Mogul, Jahangir, the principal object of the mission being to obtain protection for an English factory at Surat. Appointed ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1621 (which he described as "irrevocably sick") he distinguished himself further. He obtained an extension of the privileges of the English merchants, concluded a treaty with Algiers in 1624, by which he secured the liberation of several hundred English captives, and gained the support, by an English subsidy, of the Transylvanian Prince Bethien Gabor for the European Protestant alliance and the cause of the Palatinate.

Through his friendship with the patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Cyril Lucaris, the famous Codex Alexandrinus was presented to James I, and Roe himself collected several valuable manuscripts which he subsequently presented to the Bodleian Library. In 1629 he was successful in another mission undertaken to arrange a peace between Sweden and Poland. Subsequently Roe negotiated treaties with Gdańsk and Denmark, returning home in 1630, when a gold medal was struck in his honour. In January 1637 he 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, and in October was returned to parliament as member for the University of Oxford, where his unrivalled knowledge of foreign affairs, commerce and finance, together with his learning and eloquence, gained for him in another sphere considerable reputation. He married Eleanor, daughter of Sir Thomas Carr of Stamford. Roe was a distinguished diplomat, an accomplished scholar, a patron of learning, and of upright character.

His Journal of the mission to the Mogul Empire, several times printed, has been re-edited, with an introduction by W Foster, for the Hakluyt Society (1899). This is a valuable contribution to the history of India in the early 17th century. Of his correspondence, Negotiations in his Embassy to the Ottoman Porte, 1621-28, 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 Sarpi, Discourse upon the Resolution taken in the Valteline (1628); and in 1613 Dr T Wright published Quatuor Colloquia, consisting of theological disputations between himself and Roe; a poem by Roe is printed in Notes and Queries, iv. Ser. v. 9. The Swedish Intelligencer (1632-33), including an account of the career of Gustavus Adolphus and of the Diet of Ratisbon (Regensburg), is attributed to Roe in the catalogue of the British Museum. Several of his speeches, chiefly on currency and financial questions, were also published. Two other works in manuscripts are mentioned by Wood: Compendious Relation of the Proceedings ... of the Imperial Diet at Ratisbon and Journal of Several Proceedings of the Order of the Garter.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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