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Sir Thomas (Vaughan) Parry

In the north ambulatory of Westminster Abbey are four shields which is all that now remains of the brass from the grave of Sir Thomas Parry who died in 1560. Sir Thomas was originally buried in St John the Evangelist's chapel but his brass was moved out to the ambulatory at some time and by 1683 the brass plates and verses had been torn away. The four shields are now placed on a pillar nearby for better preservation and show the coats of arms of Vaughan, Reade and Morgan among others. The Latin inscription was recorded in Camden's 1600 guide to the Abbey and can be translated:

Here lies Sir Thomas Parry Kt. [Knight], Treasurer of the Household, Master of the Court of Wards and Liveries in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, died 15 December 1560.
When Thomas Parry departed this life, the Court lost in him all that it is possible to lose by the death of one single man. Outstanding for his intellect, a gracious friend to his friends, he was a generous foster-parent of truly laudable enterprises. He held the honour of the Prince to be of the highest importance, and he placed the wishes of the people above his own profit. And so he was knighted and became Treasurer of the Household. He was himself a greater treasure to that Household. I look for the Resurrection.

The brass is a palimpsest, or re-used brass. When the shields were moved in the early 20th century it was seen that the brass was originally one to Robert Elsmer, a vicar from Hertfordshire, buried in 1512. The re-use of brasses was not uncommon at this period, many being taken from dissolved monasteries.

Thomas was a son of Sir Henry (Harry) Vaughan of Tretower, Brecknock in Wales and his wife Gwenllian (his grandfather was said to be Sir Thomas Vaughan who died in 1483 and is buried in the Abbey). Thomas was known by the Christian name of his father, ap Harry, but took the surname Parry when he went to the court of Edward VI. He served Thomas Cromwell and in about 1540 married Anne Fortescue (nee Reade) whose husband had been executed for treason, and they had two sons and two daughters. By 1548 he was cofferer to Princess Elizabeth. He was later a Member of Parliament for Wallingford and for Hertfordshire and a privy councillor. He died suddenly, some attributing his death to grief because his plan for the Queen to marry Lord Robert Dudley came to nothing.

His son Sir Thomas Parry was born in 1544 and educated at Winchester College. He entered the household of Sir Thomas Gresham and travelled abroad. On returning to England he settled in Berkshire and was sheriff and knight of the shire. He married Dorothy Brooke, one time maid of honour to Elizabeth I but they had no children. Elizabeth knighted him and he was a Member of Parliament, privy councillor and Ambassador to France. In 1610 he was responsible for the custody of Lady Arabella Stuart and was also Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He died in London and was buried on 1st June 1616 in a vault in St John the Baptist's chapel in Westminster Abbey. In the 19th century an inscription was put over his grave:

Sir Thomas Parry, Ambassador to France 1616

Further reading for Sir Thomas and his son

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

History of Parliament online

Died

15th December 1560

Field

Statesman; diplomat

Location

North Ambulatory; St John the Evangelist

Memorial Type

Grave

Material Type

Brass

Sir Thomas (Vaughan) Parry
Sir Thomas (Vaughan) Parry memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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