Englefield, Sir Francis

ENGLEFIELD, SIR FRANCIS (c. 1520-1596), English Roman Catholic politician, born probably about 1520, was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Englefield of Englefield, Berkshire, justice of the common pleas. His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Robert Throckmorton, one of the well-known Catholic family of Coughton, Warwickshire. Francis, who succeeded his father in 1537, was too young to have taken any part in the opposition to the abolition of the Roman jurisdiction and dissolution of the monasteries; and he acquiesced in these measures to the extent of taking the oath of royal supremacy, serving as sheriff of Berkshire and Oxfordshire in 1546-1547, and accepting in 1545 a grant of the manor of Tilehurst, which had belonged to Reading Abbey. He was even knighted at the coronation of Edward VI. in February 1547. But the progress of the Reformation during that reign alienated him, and he attached his fortunes to the cause of the princess Mary, whose service he entered before 1551. In August of that year he was sent to the Tower for permitting Mass to be celebrated in Mary's household. He was released in the following March, and permitted to resume his duties in Mary's service. But in February 1553 he was again summoned before the privy council, and may have been in confinement at the crisis of July; perhaps he was only released on Mary's triumph, for his name does not appear among those who exerted themselves on her behalf before the middle of August. He was then sworn a member of the privy council like many others who owed their promotion to their loyalty rather than to their political abilities. Their numbers swelled the privy council and sadly impaired its efficiency; but Mary resisted the various attempts to get rid of them because she liked staunch friends, and regarded them as a salutary check upon the abler but less scrupulous members who had served Edward VI. as well as herself. Englefield sat as M.P. for Berkshire in all Mary's parliaments except that of April 1554, but received no higher political office than the lucrative mastership of the court of wards.

He was an ardent believer in persecution, was present at Hooper's trial, sought Ascham's ruin, and naturally lost his office and his seat on the privy council at Elizabeth's succession. He retired to the continent before May 1559, and from that time until his death was an active participant in all schemes for the restoration of Roman Catholicism. At first his ideas took such comparatively mild forms as inducing the pope to send a legate to persuade Elizabeth to return to the fold; but gradually they grew more violent and treasonable, until Englefield became the close confidant of Cardinal Allen, Parsons and the "jesuited" Catholics, who advocated forcible intervention by Spain and the succession of the infanta; in 1585 Englefield thought that Mary's succession, peaceful or other, would not be satisfactory unless it were owing to Spanish support and she were dependent on Philip. Englefield lived first at Rome, then in the Low Countries, and finally at Valladolid. He was blind for the last twenty years of his life, and received a pension of six hundred crowns from Philip. He had been outlawed in 1564 and his estates sequestered, but they were not forfeited until 1585, when an act of attainder was passed against Englefield. Even then some legal difficulties stood in the way of their appropriation by the crown, for Englefield, obviously with an eye to this contingency, had conditionally settled them on his nephew Francis. The long arguments on the point are given in Coke's Reports, and a further act was passed in 1592 confirming the forfeiture to the crown. The nephew, however, eventually recovered some of the family estates, and was created a baronet in 1612. His uncle was alive in September 1596, but apparently died at Valladolid about the end of that year. His tomb there used to be shown to visitors as that of an eminent man.

See Dict. of Nat. Biog. xvii. 372-374; but additional light has been thrown on Englefield's career since the date of that article by the publication of the Spanish and Venetian Calendars, the Hatfield MSS., the Acts of the Privy Council, and the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII.

(A. F. P.)

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

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