1607, William Freeman Robert Brooke and company merchants against the Duke of Medina

William Freeman, Robert Brooke and company merchants. SP 14/26 f. 132 (1607)

To the right honourable the Earle of Salisbury.

The humble petition of William Freeman Robert Brooke and companie marchantes.

In most humble manner sheweth, that in the mounth of October anno 1605 the Duke of Medina came aboard of divers English shipps, riding at anchor before the cittie of Saint Lucar, laden with corne; and there [bargained?] and bought for the use of the King of Spaine, the whole lading of sixe of the greatest shipps, to bee by the same English shipps, caried and delivered unto sundry portes on Africa-side, within the straights of Gibraltar: and faithfully promised, that presently after the retorne of those shipps, with certificate of the deliverie of the corne; hee would pay all the monie, to the factors of your supplyants, according to their bargaine and contract. But so it is, that notwithstanding the said shipps did verie orderlie deliver, to the great contentment of the receivers, the said corne, and brought backe to St Lucar certificate thereof, to which no cavill or exception could bee taken: yet cannot the factours of your supplyantes (in this long time sithence) recover their monie, according to their bargaine neither from the Duke of Medina, neither by the sollicitation of the embassador, to the King of Spaine; but that still there resteth unpaid, the sum of 89873 ryalls which with forbearaunce, and charges of suing for the recoverie thereof, amounteth to above 3000 pounds starling mony. But from the Alcaldo or Treasurer, have received answeare that hee hath neither mony nor meanes to pay the same as by a testimoniall at large under notaries hands, dated in Sivill the 12th of March last past, appeareth.

In tender consideration wherof, they humbly desire your honours aide and furtheraunce, for the recovering of their right, in a cause of so great equitie; either by procuring of the Kings majesties letteres in their behalfe, to the King of Spaine, or by anie other good meanes as to your honour shall be thought fit. And they shall be bound to pray for your honours long prosperitie

Report by David Moffatt

William Freeman and Robert Brooke are mentioned in The East India Company Patents being due adventure costs and charges for honouring the Realm and increasing navigation. In 1600, Elizabeth granted them patents.

Sir Robert Brooke (c. 1572 – 1646)

If this is the correct Robert Brooke, he was the son of a father of the same name who was alderman of London. He studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1588. He was admitted at Gray’s Inn in February 1593. In 1614 he was Sheriff of Suffolk. In 1597 he bought Cockfield Hall.He was knighted in 1615 and elected Member of Parliament for Dunwich in the Happy Parliament and was re-elected in 1625 for the Useless Parliament. He was elected MP for Dunwich again in 1628 and sat until 1629 when King Charles decided to rule without parliament for eleven years. Brooke died at the age of 74 and was buried at Yoxford.

William Freeman

Again, it is difficult to identify which William Freeman this refers to. However, there was a William Freeman from Suffolk who emigrated to St Kitts in the West Indies in 1624. He developed a significant sugar business and owned the largest homes on the island. His son, who was born in 1645, became a famous London trader and wrote of his exploits. He had seven further children. The estates in the islands were making profits of £800 a year which would be around £200,000 today.

The Earl of Salisbury

The title Earl of Salisbury was first created in 1145 but change several times as the title was awarded to several families after it was lost by the previous dynasties. The fifth creation was to the Cecil family in 1605. Sir Robert Cecil served under both Elizabeth I and James I as Secretary of State, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Lord Privy Seal and Lord High Treasurer. In 1603 he was Baron Cecil of Essendon in Rutland. In 1604 he was created Viscount Cranbourne and in 1605 Earl of Salisbury.

Alonso Pérez de Guzmán y de Zúñiga-Sotomayor, 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia (1550 – 1615)

When only 15 the Duke was betrothed to Ana de Silva y Mendoza who was only four. When she was ten the Pope permitted their marriage. In 1581 he was created a knight of the Golden Fleece, and was named Captain General of Lombardy. When the Marquis of Santa Cruz died, on 9 February 1588, Philip King of Spain gave him command of the Armada a decision apparently based on the Duke’s social rank, administrative skill, tactfulness, and a good Roman Catholic. Alonso’s response was to claim a lack of military experience on land and sea, no knowledge of the English or the pre planning for the invasion of England. Additionally, he was of poor health and prone to seasickness. Despite this he seems to have won praise for his work on better preparing the ships for battle. He was also blamed when an English fleet attacked Cádiz in 1596. It was claimed he didn’t respond fast enough giving the English enough time to sack the city. In 1606 the obstinacy and folly of the duke caused the loss of a squadron which was destroyed near Gibraltar by the Dutch.


Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus or, Purchas his Pilgrimes (1905), II, p. 367

Charter Granted by Queen Elizabeth to the East India Company (1600)

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Brooke_(MP_for_Dunwich)

Miscellanea Genealogica Et Heraldica (1900)

William Freeman, ‘Introduction’, in The Letters of William Freeman, London Merchant, 1678-1685, ed. David Hancock (London, 2002), pp. vii-xlix. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-record-soc/vol36/vii-xlix.


Post-script: David Hughes contacted us by email to suggest an alternative identification for Robert Brooke

Robert Brooke has come up in research I am doing. As part of this I came across a Wikitree page on Robert Brooke of Whitchurch, Hampshire. I have checked two of the sources used for this page, Pedigree from the Visitation of Hampshire and the VCH for Hampshire, which provide evidence for this being the Robert Brooke in the petition. The VCH entry quotes a poem that sets out Brooke’s career including being a Merchant Venturer and part of the East India Company. Entries referring to Robert Brookes and his family can be found in Bannerman’s transcription of the parish registers of St Pancras, London. This Robert Brooke died in 1612/13.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, 1600-1625’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.