Thomas Stuckley

Life
?1525-1578 [var. Stuckeley; supposed natural son of Henry VIII]; in service of Duke of Somerset; escaped to France; travelled to English gathering information for planned attack on Calais by Henry II of France; revealed himself to Cecil; betrayed by Henry II, and imprisoned in the Tower; escaped, and served Emperor Charles V and Duke of Savoy; present at victory of St. Quentin, 1557; acted as privateer, one of six ships being given him by Elizabeth II, 1563; arrested by Elizabeth at the behest of monarchs of other realms he robbed; pardoned; went to Ireland with Cecil’s recommendation; took part in the defence of Dundalk when beseiged by Shane O’Neill, May 1566; suspected of treason by Elizabeth; correspondence with Philip II, from whom he received a pension; escaped to Spain, 1570; visited Paris and the papal court; joined expedition against Morocco on behalf of King of Portugal; present at Lepanto, 1571; died at battle of Alcazar. ODNB

A play about Stukeley was performed by the Admiral’s Men in London on 11 dec. 1596 - according to Henslow's diary - and entered in the Stationers' Registers on 11 Aug. 1600:

THE / Famous Historye of / the life and death of Captaine / Thomas Stukeley. / With his marrige to Alderman / Curteis Daugher, and valiant ending / of his life at the Battaile of / ALCAZAR / As it hathe been Acted. / [Device] / Printed from Thomas Panyer, and are to be sold at / this shop at the entrace into the / Exchange, 1605.

An extract from the play dealing with the seige of Dundalk is reprinted in Alan Bliss, Spoken English in Ireland 1600-1740: Twenty-seven Representative Texts Assembled & Analysed by Alan Bliss [Irish Writings from the Age of Swift, No. 9] (Dublin: Cadenus Press 1979], p.77-78. In his introductory remarks, Bliss refers to Edmunde Malone's attribution of the play to George Peele in a manuscript note in the copy held by the Bodleian Library (Oxon.) Of the passage excerpted, he writes ‘By some curious chance this, the seventh scene of the play, has survived in two different versions, printed consecutively in the sole edition of 1605. [...] The relative priority of the two versions, their relationship to each other, and the reason for the inclusion of both versions in the printed text, have been much discussed [citing Adams (1916), Duggan (1937), Bartley (1954)], ... One attractive speculatioin is that the Hiberno-English version of the scene formed part of [32] a different play dealing exclusively with Stukeley's activities in Ireland; that it was used by the author of the surviving play as a basis for his treatment of the seige of Dundalk; and that a manuscript coyp of the scene was accidentally included among the papers sent to the prints. / This is only one of a number of hypothesis which would allow us to assume that the author of the Hiberno-English scene was not the author of the rest of the play. Whoever he was, he writes with some authority: he has a good knowledge of the geography of the neighbourhood of Dundalk, and he uses a large number of Irish phrases with considerable correctitude. [...]’. (Bliss, op. cit., pp.32-33.

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Commentary
Thomas Moore, History of Ireland [Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopaedia, Vol. IV] (London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans … 1846), gives account of Stukely [sic]: ‘[…] In the bull of Pope Pius V (1570), depriving Elizabeth of all right to the English crown, and absolving her subjects from their oaths of allegienace, ther was no mention made of Ireland. Gregory XI, suppled the omission; and retaliating upon England her aid to rebels both in France and in the Netherlands, declared Elizabeth to have forfeited the crown as well of Ireland as that of England. This solemn instrument, which, in addition to its other powers, gave to those employed in executing it the priveliges usually enjoyed by crusaders, was attended, in this [80] instance, with but little success; and among the few who combined to carry it into effect were the ever active and enterprising James Fitz-Maurice, and an English adventurer of strange life and fortunes, Thomas Stukely. / One of the earliest speculations of this scheming personage was an expedition, in which he was joined by a number of enterprisers, for the discovery of “certain lands in the far west, towards Terra Florida”; and after this wild project had failed “for want of money”, he contrived to inspire in the lord-deputy, sir Henry Sydney, so warm an interest in his favour, that this eminent man recommended him strongly to the queen. With a quicker insight, however, into character than was shown by her minister, Elizabeth refused to extend to him her patronage; and after trying, but also without success, to obtain the stewardship of Wexford, he threw off at once all allegiance to the queen, and commenced a course of aspiring adventure far more akin to the freaks of fiction than to any events known in real life.’ [See longer extract, attached.]

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G. C. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (Dublin: Talbot Press 1937), cites The Famous History of Thomas Stukeley with his marriage to Alderman Curteis’ daughter and valient ending of his life at the Battaile of Alcazar (London 1605), by unknown author; concerns Stukeley and Vernon, who loves Stukeley’s newly married and neglected wife, whom he has married for financial reasons; the Irish scenes open in the besieged English garrison at Dundalk, with Shane O’Neill outside the walls. Chars. are O’Neale, O’Hanlon, Neale Makener (McKenna); the conversation includes Hiberno-English usages aplenty, as for instance the reason why no signal is given from within the town: ‘Brian MacPhelemy is with his streepo.’ [54]. ‘And may all Irish that with treason deale,/Come to like end or worse than Shane O’Neill.’ One recognises the author as an actual eye-witness of the Irish wars. Probably written nearer the time when O’Neill and Stukeley were important figures [55] It is very probable that it was staged when the battle of Alcazar, 1578, was a recent memory, and printed or reprinted in the early reign of James I, when Shane’s son Hugh aroused fresh interest in Irish events.

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Roger Crowley, The Empires of the Sea: The Final Bttle for the Mediterranean 1521-1580 (Faber & Faber 2008): ‘A few individual names stand out among the anonymous thousands on the Christian ships [at Lepanto]. Aurelio Scett, Florentine musician, had been twelve years in the galleys for murdering his wife. On the Marquesa, the Spaniard Miguel de Cervantes, twenty-four years old, bookish and desperately porr, was a volunteer; on the morning of the battle he was ill from fever but tottered out of bed to command a detachment of soldiers at the boat station. Another sick man, a sergeant Martin Muñoz, aboard the San Giovanni from Sicily, also lay below with fever. Sir Thomas Stukeley [sic], English pirate and mercenary, possibly the illegitimate sone of Henry VIII, commanded three Spanish ships […] (p.271.)

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