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Petre, Sir William

PETRE, SIR WILLIAM (c. 1305-1572), English politician, was a son of John Petre, a Devon man, and was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, afterwards becoming a fellow of All Souls' College. He entered the public service in early life, owing his introduction therein doubtless to the fact that at Oxford he had been tutor to Anne Boleyn's brother, George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, and began his official career by serving the English government abroad. In 1536 he was made deputy, or proctor, for the vicar-general, Thomas Cromwell, and as such he presided over the convocation which met in June of this year. In 1543 Petre was knighted and was appointed a secretary of state; in 1545 he was sent as ambassador to the emperor Charles V. A very politic man, he retained his position under Edward VI. and also under Mary, forsaking the protector Somerset at the right moment and winning Mary's goodwill by favouring her marriage with Philip II. of Spain. He resigned his secretaryship in 1557, but took some part in public business under Elizabeth until his death at his residence, Ingatestone, Essex, on the 13th of January 1572.

His son John Petre (1540-1613) was created Baron Petre of Writtle in 1603. The 2nd baron was his son William (1575- 1637), whose grandson was William, the 4th baron (c. 1626- 1684). Denounced by Titus Gates as a papist, the last named was arrested with other Roman Catholic noblemen in 1678 and remained without trial in the Tower of London until his death. His brother John (1629-1684) was the sth lord, and the latter's nephew, Robert (1689-1713), was the 7th lord. It was Robert's action in cutting a lock of hair from a lady's head which led Pope to write his poem " The Rape of the Lock." The Petres have been consistently attached to the Roman Catholic faith, William Joseph, the 13th baron (1847-1893), being a priest of the Roman church, and the barony is still (1911) in existence. One of the 1st baron's grandsons was William Petre (1602-1677), who translated the Flos sanctorum of Pedro de Ribadeneira as Lives of the Saints (St Omer, 1699; London, 1730).

See Genealogical Collections illustrating the History of Roman Catholic Families of England, vol. i., edited by J. J. Howard and H. F. Burke.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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