Ancestor Index Ancestor IndexArms  of Sir Thomas Smith - courtesy of George Smith of Canada

Biographical background to Sir Thomas Smythe of Fenchurch Street.
Son of Customer Thomas Smythe of Wiltshire The line of Customer Smythe ...

Site Note: Perhaps the heraldic lion used here by Sir Thomas Smith harkens back to the original single lion insignia of Richard 1st (Lionheart) who knighted Sir Michael Car(r)ington (Standard Bearer) in the Holy Land during the 3rd Crusade. Descendants of Sir Michael later adopted the name of "Smith" temp. Wars of the Roses. See Smyth/e - The Siege of Acre and medieval family researchMedieval Smyth/e - research involving Carrington/Smyth and the Siege of Acre 1191.

If this is the case, then it suggests a kinship link to that "Smith" family - of Cressing Temple in Essex, of Wooten Wawen in Warwickshire (near Stratford) and with family connections in Ireland.

"The Royal Standard of Richard Coeur de Lion was a single passant gold lion. (The familiar English emblem of 3 lions was not adopted until his return to England).  The 'Standard' was used on the crusades.  It was a very long beam - like a ship's mast - placed on solid planks that were on top of 4 wheels.  The apparatus was covered in iron, the king's flag fluttered at the very top and an elite force was assigned to guard it." (Internet Source)

Sir Thomas Smith (Smyth/e) (of Bidborough) of Fenchurch Street, Knight - born: ABT 1558, Weston Hanger, Kent, England - Died: 4 Sep 1625, Sutton-at-Hone, Kent, England - Buried: St John The Baptist Church, Sutton-at-Hone, Kent, England. His father was Sir Thomas "Customer" Smythe and his mother, Alice Judd/e. He was the third but second surviving son of Thomas Smythe of Westenhanger, Kent by Alice, dau. of Sir Andrew Judde; brother of John and Richard. Educ. Merchant Taylors’ 1571. He married first Judith Culverwell, dau. and heiress of Richard Culverwell, s.p.; secondly Joan Hobbs, dau. and heiress of William Hobbs, s.p.; and thirdly Sarah Blount, dau. and heiress of William Blount, by whom he had three sons and one daughter. Sarah remarried Robert Sydney Earl of Leicester. Kntd. 13 May 1603. Freeman, Skinners’ Co. by 1580, Haberdashers’ Co. by 1580, master, Haberdashers’ 1599-1600; customer of London, auditor 1597-8, alderman 1599-1601, sheriff Nov 1600-Feb. 1601; capt. of city trained bands; treasurer, St. Bartholomew's hosp. 1597-1601; trade commr. to negotiate with the Dutch 1596, 1598, 1619, with the Empire 1603; member of Merchant Adventurers; gov. Muscovy Co. by 1600; member of Levant Co., gov. by 1600; gov. E.I. Co. 1600-1, 1603-5, 1607-21; gov. North West Passage Co.; treasurer, Virginia Co. 1609-19; gov. of Somers Is. Co. 1615-d.; ambassador to Russia 1604-5; jt. receiver of duchy of Cornwall Apr 1604; receiver for Dorset and Somerset May 1604; commr. for navy reform 1619. Sir Thomas Smith - East India Company - son of Customer Smythe - Wiltshire Smyth line

The son was therefore the namesake of a very powerful and well connected family. He also must have been quite brilliant. The deeds of both father and son seemed to get combined but the son did have several notable accomplishments which can be attributed to him. In 1588, he lent £31,000 to Queen Elizabeth and raised the necessary funds for her to finance the English fleet which would destroy the Spanish Armada.

In the 30 years ending with the death of James I, Smythe was overseer of virtually all the trade which passed through the port of London. He had two outstanding examples: his maternal grandfather, Sir Andrew Judde, was a leading city merchant and lord mayor in the middle of the sixteenth century, and his father, "Customer" Smythe, whose shrewd judgment and financial acumen brought him a fortune in the city, and a position among the county families of Kent. Still, it is not easy to follow his career in the years before the turn of the century. As well as his father, who died in 1591, there was at least one other London merchant of the same name. It is clear, however, that he was already well established in his own business during his father's lifetime, presumably with the latter's financial backing. By the end of the century he had three strings to his bow. He occupied a prominent position in the city; he took the lead in the new trading and colonizing companies which were becoming such a marked feature of the commercial life of the period; finally, as his list of offices shows, he put his experience to use in the government's service.

In 1597 Smythe had his first experience of the House of Commons when he was returned for Aylesbury, a seat previously occupied by his father and his elder brother, through his family's long-standing friendship with the Pakingtons. He was named to a committee on the poor law, 22 Nov 1597, and could have served on one about the highways near Aylesbury, 11 Jan 1598. Others of his committees included those concerned with maltsters (12 Jan); two alien merchants (13 Jan); the sale of the lands and goods of one John Sharp presumably a merchant to pay his debts (20 Jan); and the reformation of abuses in wine casks (3 Feb).

In 1596, he was knighted for bravery by Lord Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex at Cadiz, and served as sheriff of London from 1600-1601. Smythe also served with Essex in Ireland in 1599, and was an acknowleded friend of his.

In the midst of his many successes, Smythe's career nearly came to an abrupt and fatal halt: he found himself deprived of the shrievalty of London, after being in office for only three months, and in prison under suspicion of being implicated in Essex's abortive coup d'état of Feb 1601. On the 14th of that month the Privy Council informed the lord mayor that Smythe had ‘forgotten his duty to her Majesty’ and that the city would have to elect a new sheriff. On the same day he was placed in the custody of the Archbishop of Canterbury and a fortnight later, on 2 Mar, he was put in the Tower. The principal evidence against him related to Essex's visit to his house in Fenchurch Street on the morning of Sunday, 8 Feb, the day on which the Earl attempted to seize power. When examined, several of Essex's followers claimed that the Earl expected Smythe, using his position as captain of the trained bands, to raise the city in his support. Sir Christopher Blount, later executed for his part in the plot, reported that Essex had received sympathetic messages from the city on the previous evening and that he, Essex, had often mentioned that Smythe could bring him 1,000 loyal men when he needed them. It was claimed by other witnesses that Smythe visited Essex House on the evening of the 7th, that he had also reiterated his loyalty to the Earl through Edward Bromley, and that he knew of the rising by 5 o'clock on the Sunday morning at the latest. A number of people saw Essex's arrival at Smythe's house and observed them talking in the street outside. Some of these claimed that the sheriff urged Essex to go and seize Ludgate and Aldgate, where he would send him arms very shortly. Clearly there was much for Smythe to explain. His defence was a complete denial of the charges against him. He said that he had had no communication with the Earl for nine years until the day in question. He denied the conversation with Bromley and disclaimed prior knowledge of the plot. When pressed about the meeting with Essex at his house an incident witnessed by many he told them that he merely passed on a message from the lord mayor and then left home by the back door. It is surprising that he escaped with a period in prison and a heavy fine.

With the new reign his return to favour was rapid. James I knighted Sir Thomas Smythe at the Tower of London in May 1603, he was shortly afterwards employed as ambassador to Russia. As well as recovering his position as governor of all the important trading companies, he played a leading part in new trading ventures in Virginia, in Bermuda and in search of the North West Passage, and financed several voyages of exploration. He was also a leading adviser to the government on commercial and naval matters. His activities during these years, both in furthering trade and in encouraging the foundation of colonies, has led one historian to allot to him a ‘unique position among the founders of the Empire’. He eventually retired to an estate he had purchased at Sutton-at-Hone, Kent, where he died 4 Sep 1625.

Cutting provided courtesy of George Smith of Canada. The line of Customer Smythe ...Customer (Wiltshire) Smith/e-Smyth/e, was Sir Thomas Smith's father.

Thanks are extended to Jorge H. Castelli in Argentina for the above biographical details. He has assembled a vast array of biographical material from this era.


Smythe family linkages ...
Smyth of IrelandSmyth (Durham and Yorkshire) of Ireland Smyth/e of EssexEssex Smyth/e
Smyth of Bristol and Ashton CourtSmyth of Bristol Smythes of Acton Burnell - family of Maria "Fitzherbert" SmytheShropshire Smythe

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