Thomas Smith (diplomat)

Thomas Smith (diplomat)

Sir Thomas Smith (23 December 1513 – 12 August 1577) was an English scholar and colonialist diplomat.

He was born at Saffron Walden in Essex. He was educated at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he became a fellow in 1530, and in 1533 was appointed a public reader or professor. He lectured in the schools on natural philosophy, and on Greek in his own rooms. In 1540 Smith went abroad, and, after studying in France and Italy and taking a degree of law at the University of Padua, returned to Cambridge in 1542.

He now took the lead in the reform of the pronunciation of Greek, his views after considerable controversy being universally adopted. He and his friend, Sir John Cheke, were the great classical scholars of the time in England. In January 1543/4 he was appointed first Regius Professor of Civil Law. He was vice-chancellor of the university the same year. In 1547 he became provost of Eton College and dean of Carlisle Cathedral.

He was an early convert to Protestant views, which brought him into prominence when Edward VI came to the throne. During Somerset's protectorate he entered public life and was made a secretary of state, being sent on an important diplomatic mission to Brussels. In 1548 he was knighted. On the accession of Queen Mary I he lost all his offices, but in the reign of her sister, Elizabeth, was prominently employed in public affairs. He became a member of parliament, and was sent in 1562 as ambassador to France, where he remained till 1566; and in 1572 he again went to France in the same capacity for a short time. He remained one of Elizabeth's most trusted Protestant counsellors, being appointed in 1572 chancellor of the Order of the Garter and a secretary of state.

Sir Thomas Smith’s failed colony in Ireland:

"In 1571, Elizabeth, a great believer in colonization, granted her Secretary-of-State Sir Thomas Smith a huge 360,000 acres of East Ulster to plant English settlers in an effort to seize control of the Clandeboye O’Neill territory and control the native Irish. The grant included all of the area we know of today as North Down and the Ards, apart from the southern tip of the Peninsula, which was controlled by the Anglo-Norman Savage family.

Destroying the land

Unfortunately for Smith, the booklet he printed to advertise his new lands was read by the Clandeboye O’Neill chief, Sir Brian MacPhelim, who just a few years earlier had been knighted by Elizabeth. Furious at her duplicity in secretly arranging for the colonization of O’Neill territory, he burned down all the major buildings in the area, making it difficult for the plantation to take hold. Launching a wave of attacks on these early English settlers, the O’Neill’s scorched the land Smith claimed, burning abbeys, monasteries and churches, and leaving Clandeboye, ‘totally waste and void of inhabitants’."

Read more about Thomas Smith (diplomat):  Life's Work

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