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Thomas Sackville
first Earl of Dorset

Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset (1536 – 19 April 1608) was an English statesman and poet, son of Richard Sackville, a cousin to Anne Boleyn. Thomas Sackville married Cicely Baker in 1555. [1] and had seven children. He was a Member of Parliament and Lord High Treasurer. He died suddenly at the council table, in consequence of a dropsy on the brain [stroke]. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Thomas Sackville was by no means a prolific poet. Only four of his poems have survived and one of those was only very recently discovered.


Thomas Sackville was the author, with Thomas Norton, of the play Gorboduc (1561), the first English drama to be written in blank verse and deals with the consequences of political rivalry. He and also contributed to 1563 edition of Mirror for Magistrates, with the poem Complaint of Henry, Duke of Buckingham. Sackville's first important work was the poem Induction which describes the poet's journey to the infernal regions, where he encounters figures representing forms of suffering and terror. The poem is noted for the power of its allegory and for its sombre stateliness of tone.

Travelling in Italy, and being at Rome in 1566, he was detained there a prisoner fourteen days, but whether on account of pecuniary difficulties, or for other reasons, is not clear. The first important employment which Lord Buckhurst had was in the year 1571, when he was sent on a special mission to king Charles IX of France to congratulate him on his marriage with Elizabeth of Austria, the daughter of the Emperor Maximilian, and also to negotiate the matter of the proposed alliance of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Anjou, brother of the French king.

In the year 1572 he was one of the Peers that sat on the trial of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. In 1586 he was selected to convey to Mary, Queen of Scots, the sentence of death confirmed by the English Parliament. In 1587 he went as ambassador to the United Provinces, upon their complaint against the Earl of Leicester; but, though he performed his trust with integrity, the favourite had sufficient influence to get him recalled; and on his return, he was ordered to confinement in his own house, for nine or ten months.[2] He incurred her displeasure by what she called his shallow judgment in diplomacy.

In the year 1591, he was chosen Chancellor of the University of Oxford. He succeeded William Cecil, Lord Burghley as Lord Treasurer for life in 1599, and was a capable, if uninspired, financial manager. In 1604 Sackville bought Groombridge Place in Kent. His houses, Knole House, at Knole in Kent, and Michelham Priory are celebrated.

He was created Baron Buckhurst, of Buckhurst in the County of Sussex, in 1567, and Earl of Dorset in 1604. Sackville acquired a large fortune through his real estate dealings in many counties, as well as his investments in the iron foundry business. His personal financial dealings earned him, perhaps unflatteringly, the sobriquet of "Sir John Fillsack." As Baron Buckhurst, he was an advocate of stronger enforcement of the Sumptuary Laws, which regulated the types of clothing allowed to be worn by the various social classes. Specifically, he dictated that only soldiers holding the rank of Colonel or above should be permitted to wear silk and velvet, and that Captains and all ranks below should "make do with fustian and spend the remaining money on their arms."[3] This seemingly-petty insistence makes more sense when one considers that Sackville was tasked daily with the duty of allocating funds for the supply of arms, armour and uniforms to England's military, both regular and irregular.

Sackville commissioned for himself a beautiful suit of tournament armor with blued steel and elaborate gilding and etching, from the Royal Armoury of Greenwich.[4] This suit of armor, including a large number of reinforcing pieces for the tilt as well as tournament combat on foot, is one of the most complete surviving set of Greenwich armours.

Queen Elizabeth I acquired Bexhill Manor in 1590 and granted it to Thomas. Thomas was also the last Sackville to be Lord of the Manor of Bergholt Sackville (named after the Sackville family) and Mount Bures in Essex when he sold them in 1578 to Mrs Alice Dister. Both estates had been in the family for 459 years.[5]

He was an ancestor of Vita Sackville-West, who was a friend of Virginia Woolf and the subject of Orlando.


  1. ^ Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset
  2. ^
  3. ^ Gravett, Christopher (2006). Tudor Knight. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-970-3.
  4. ^ Gravett, Christopher (2006). Tudor Knight. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-970-3.
  5. ^ J.Lander: A Thousand Years of Village News, Jon Lander (1999), pg.15
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Lumley
Lord Lieutenant of Sussex
jointly with The Viscount Montagu
The Lord De La Warr

Succeeded by
The Lord Howard of Effingham
Title last held by
Richard Sackville
Custos Rotulorum of Sussex
bef. 1573–1608
Succeeded by
The Earl of Arundel
Preceded by
The Lord Burghley
Lord High Treasurer
Succeeded by
The Earl of Salisbury
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Christopher Hatton
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Succeeded by
Richard Bancroft
Peerage of England
New creation Earl of Dorset
Succeeded by
Robert Sackville
Baron Buckhurst


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, 1st Baron Buckhurst, PC (c. 15361608-04-19) was an English statesman, courtier, poet and playwright. In politics he is most notable as the Lord High Treasurer of England; in literature as the co-author of the first blank verse play in the English language, Gorboduc.



  • For right will alwayes live, and rise at length,
    But wrong can never take deepe roote to last.
    • Gorboduc (1561), Act 5, sc. 2, last lines; cited from Lucy Toulmin Smith (ed.) Gorboduc (Heilbronn: Henninger, 1883) p. 96.
    • Written in collaboration with Thomas Norton, though Acts 4 and 5 were apparently Sackville's work alone.

The Induction

"The Induction", first published in the 1563 edition of William Baldwin et al. A Myrrour for Magistrates, is cited here from Joseph Haslewood (ed.) Mirror for Magistrates (London: Lackington, Allen & Co., 1815), vol. 2, part 1. The page-numbers also refer to this edition.

  • The wrathfull winter proching on apace,
    With blustering blasts had all ybarde the treene,
    And olde Saturnus, with his frosty face
    With chilling cold had pearst the tender greene.
    • Line 1, p. 309.
  • And sorrowing I to see the sommer flowers,
    The lively greene, the lusty lease, forlorne,
    The sturdy trees so shattred with the showers,
    The fieldes so fade, that florisht so beforne:
    It taught mee well, all earthly things be borne
    To dye the death: for nought long time may last:
    The sommer's beauty yeeldes to winter's blast.
    • Line 50, p. 311.
  • His drinke, the running streame, his cup, the bare
    Of his palme cloasde, his bed, the hard cold ground:
    To this poore life was Misery ybound.
    • Line 264, p. 320.
  • Crookebackt hee was, toothshaken, and blere eyed,
    Went on three feete, and somtyme, crept on fowre,
    With olde lame boanes, that ratled by his syde,
    His scalpe all pild, and hee with eld forlore:
    His withred fist still knocking at Death's dore,
    Fumbling, and driveling, as hee drawes his breath,
    For briefe, the shape and messenger of Death.
    • Line 330, p. 322.


  • So in this way of writing without thinking,
    Thou hast a strange alacrity in sinking.
    • Charles Sackville, Earl of Dorset "On Mr Edward Howard, upon his British Princes"; cited from Geoffrey Grigson (ed.) The Oxford Book of Satirical Verse (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980) p. 74.

External links


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