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Shirley, Sir Anthony

SHIRLEY, SIR ANTHONY (or SHERLEY, SIR ANTHONY) (1565-c. 1635), English traveller, was the second son of Sir Thomas Shirley (1542-1612), of Wiston, Sussex, who was a member of parliament during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. and who was heavily in debt when he died in October 1612. Shirley's imprisonment in 1603 was an important event as in consequence thereof the House of Commons successfully asserted one of its privileges freedom of its members from arrest. Educated at Oxford Anthony Shirley gained some military experience with the English troops in the Netherlands 'and also during an expedition to Normandy in 1591 under Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, who was related to his wife, Frances Vernon; about this time he was knighted by Henry of Navarre (Henry IV. of France), a proceeding which brought upon him the displeasure of his own sovereign and a short imprisonment. In 1596 he conducted a predatory expedition along the western coast of Africa and then across to Central America, but owing to a mutiny he returned to London with a single ship in 1597. In 1598 he led a few English volunteers to Italy to take part in a dispute over the possession of Ferrara; this, however, had been accommodated when he reached Venice, and he decided to journey to Persia with the twofold object of promoting trade between England and Persia and of stirring up the Persians against the Turks. He obtained money at Constantinople and at Aleppo, and was very well received by the shah, Abbas the Great, who made him a mirza, or prince, and granted certain trading and other rights to all Christian merchants. Then, as the shah's representative, he returned to Europe and visited Moscow, Prague, Rome and other cities, but the English government would not allow him to return to his own country. For some time he was in prison in Venice, and in 1605 he went to Prague and was sent by the emperor Rudolph II. on a mission to Morocco; afterwards he went to Lisbon and to Madrid, where he was welcomed very warmly. The king of Spain appointed him the admiral of a fleet which was to serve in the Levant, but the only result of his extensive preparations was an unsuccessful expedition against the island of Mitylene. After this he was deprived of his command. Shirley, who was a count of the Holy Roman Empire, died at Madrid some time after 1635.

Sir Anthony's elder brother, Sir Thomas Shirley (1564-^ 1620), was knighted while serving in Ireland under Sir William Fitzwilliam in 1 589. In 1601 he was chosen a member of parliament, but his time was mainly passed in seeking to restore the shattered fortunes of his family by piratical expeditions. In January 1603 he was captured by the Turks and he was only released from his captivity at Constantinople in December 1605. One of his sons was Henry Shirley (d. 1627 ) the dramatist, who was murdered in London on the 31st of October 1627, and one of his grandsons was Thomas Shirley (1638-1678), the physician and writer.

Sir Anthony's younger brother, Sir Robert Shirley (c. 1581- 1628), went with his brother to Persia in 1598, remaining in that country when the latter returned to Europe in 1599. Having married a Circassian lady he stayed in Persia until 1608 when the shah sent him on a diplomatic errand to James I. and to other European princes; after visiting Cracow, Prague, Florence, Rome and Madrid, he reached England in 1611 and had an interview with the king. In 1613 he went again to Persia, but in 1615 he returned to Europe and resided for some years in Madrid. His third journey to Persia was undertaken in 1627, but soon after reaching that country he died at Kazvin on the 13th of July 1628.

Sir Anthony Shirley wrote: Sir Anthony Sherley; his Relation of his Travels into Persia (1613), the original manuscript of which is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. There are in existence five or more accounts of Shirley s adventures in Persia, and the account of his expedition in 1596 is published in R. Hakluyt's Voyages and Discoveries (1809-1812). See also The Three Brothers; Travels and Adventures of Sir Anthony, Sir Robert and Sir Thomas Sherley in Persia, Russia, Turkey and Spain (London, 1825) ; E. P. Shirley, The Sherley Brothers (1848), and the same writer's Stemmata Shirleiano (1841, again 1873).

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

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