Sir Thomas Smith, the Master of Requests, was born in Abingdon in Berkshire, about 1556, the son of Thomas Smith Senior, who was Mayor of Abingdon in 1584, and his wife, Joan Jennens, perhaps a sister of John Jennens of Harwell. His grandfather, another Mayor of Abingdon named Richard Smith, had been a Gentleman Usher to Queen Elizabeth I and was foreman of the jury at Amy Robsart's Coroner's Inquest. His father's cousin, Rev. Richard Smith was the father of Richard Smith, the writer and book collector. Thomas Smith of Abingdon must be distinguished from Sir Thomas Smythe (1558-1625), Governor of the East India Company, and from the latter's father, Thomas Smythe (d. 1591), 'Customer' of the Port of London. He was educated at Abingdon Grammar School and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was elected student in 1573, graduated BA in December 1574 and MA in June 1578. He was chosen public orator on 9th April 1582 and proctor on 29th April 1584.
Soon afterwards, Thomas became secretary to Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and, in 1587, was appointed Clerk of the Privy Council. In December 1591, he wrote to Cecil urging Essex's claims to the Chancellorship of Oxford University. He represented Cricklade in the Parliament of 1589, Tamworth in that of 1593 and Aylesbury in that of 1598. On 30th September 1597, he received a grant of the Clerkship of Parliament, in succession to Anthony Wyckes alias Mason, the heir of Sir John Mason. He kept aloof from Essex's intrigues and, on 29th November 1599, was sent by the Lords to summon the Earl before the Privy Council. On the accession of James I, he received further promotion, perhaps owing to his friendship with Carleton, Edmondes, Winwood and Bacon. He was knighted at Greenwich on 20th May 1603 and, in the following month, was granted the Latin Secretaryship for life, and the reversion to the Secretaryship of the Council of the North. On 8th June 1604, he obtained the manor of Wing in Rutland and, in 1608, he was made Master of Requests. On 20th May in the same year, he received a pension of £100. He died on 27th November 1609 at his residence, afterwards Peterborough House in Parson's Green, Fulham, and was buried on 7th December in the chancel of Fulham Church, where a monument, with an inscription to his memory, is extant.
Sir Thomas married Frances (1580-1663), daughter of William Brydges, 4th Baron Chandos, and sister of Grey, the 5th Baron. Their only son, Robert, died at the age of only twenty, but his only daughter, Margaret, survived him and married both Lord Thomas Carey of Sunninghill Park (second son of Robert Carey, 1st Earl of Monmouth) and Sir Edward Herbert, the Attorney-General & Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. Smith's widow married Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, and survived till 1663. By his will, dated 12th September 1609, Smith left £100 to the poor of Abingdon and a similar sum to the Bodleian Library.
Edited from Leslie Stephens & Sidney Lee's "Dictionary of National Biography" (1898).
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