1674, Sir William Boreman asks the king to convince Thomas Peirce to complete and help publish the scholarly work of his father-in-law Hugh Robinson

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1670s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Sir William Boreman. SP 29/360 f. 360 (1674).

To the Kings most excellent majestie

The humble peticion of Sir William Boreman your majesties servant

Humbly sheweth that your peticioner marryed the daughter of Doctor Robinson Arch=Deacon of Glocester and chaplain to your royall father of blessed memory, whoe for his loyalty was sequestred, plunderd and destroyed, and was forcet to that retirement which gave him leisure to write the catholick annalls in Lattin, but hee dyed before his booke was quite finished, and upon his death-bedd complayned to your petitioner that his 14 yeares labour would be utterly lost, unless your petitioner would see it printed, which hee promest to doe but hath not performed because hee cannot prevayle with any man to take soe hard and soe great a task upon him as to make it fitt for the presse

And forasmuch as your peticioner is informed by learned men that noe man is more able and fitted to compleat the worke then Doctor Thomas Peirse one of your majesties chaplaynes, by reason of his great learning and reading in antiquities,

Hee humbly prayes your majestie to recommend the compleating of the deceased doctors great worke to the said Doctor Peirse and if upon peruseall hee shall thinke it fitt for the presse, your majesty will please to give your petitioner the priviledge of printing it and that hee may allsoe assist your petitioner in makeing order for the government of your majesties free school in East Greenewich which your peticioner hath built and endowed for the mayntenance and breeding of 20 seamens sons, in the art of navigation

And (as in duety bound) hee shall pray etc:

[Paratext:] Sir William Boremans [petition?]

Report by Nicola Baker

The Petition

Doctor Robinson, Archdeacon of Gloucester and Chaplain to Charles I, wrote over 14 years the ‘Catholic Annals’ in Latin, but died before they could be published. His son-in-law Sir William Boreman promised to arrange publication but is struggling to find someone to undertake the task. Doctor Thomas Peirce, one of the King’s Chaplains, is widely regarded as the best person to finish and edit the draft. Boreman is petitioning the King for his support in completing the project. Additionally, he is seeking support for the sons of 20 seamen to be trained in the art of navigation at a free school in East Greenwich.

The Outcome

The petition was successful and Gloucester Cathedral Library contains the following record:

Robinson, Hugh, archdeacon of Gloucester. Annalium mundi universaliurn, origines rerum, (& progressus,) sacras juxta ac seculares, ab orbe condito tradentiurn, tomus unicus … edidit Thomas Pierce. Londini: typis Eliz. Flesher, prostat apud Ric. Davis, 1677. [23], 754, 16 pp. 32 cm. Wing R. 1680. William Boreman. L.3.5.[1]

People involved in this petition

Dr Hugh Robinson (1585?–1655)

Hugh Robinson was ‘a learned divine and schoolmaster’. Born in Anglesey and educated at Winchester school, he became a probationary fellow at New College, Oxford in 1603 and a perpetual fellow in 1605. He completed his master’s degree in 1611 and graduated Doctor of Divinity (DD) in June 1627, much later.

He was chief master of Winchester School from 1613 to 1627. He was later Archdeacon of Winchester and canon of Wells and became Archdeacon of Gloucester on 5 June 1634. He was also the rector of Dursley in Gloucestershire from 1625 to 1647.

During the civil war Robinson lost his canonry and archdeaconry, was seized at his living at Dursley and ill-treated; but he took the covenant, wrote in defence of it, and accepted the living of Hinton near Winchester from the Parliament.

He died on 30 March 1655 and was buried in Giles’s-in-the-Field, London.  Wood gave him the character of an excellent linguist, an able divine, and very conversant in ancient history. [2]

He wrote ‘Annalium Mundi universalium, &c, Tomus Unicus, lib. 14, absolutus’ &c, Lond 1677, fol. Improved by Dr Thomas Peirse, dean of Salisbury, by the king’s command’.[3]

Thomas Pierce/Peirse (1622–1691)

Pierce was a royalist churchman and controversialist, and also President of Magdalen College, Oxford, and Dean of Salisbury. He went to Magdalen College, Oxford and graduated MA on 21 June 1644 when he was ‘esteemed a good poet and well skill’d in the theory and practice of music’.He worked as tutor to the Robert Spencer, son of Dorothy, Countess of Sutherland, who was afterwards Secretary of State to James II. The Countess arranged for Pierce to take on the rectorship of Brington, Northamptonshire, which he held until 1676.

Originally a Calvinist, Pierce changed his views in 1644 and attacked his abandoned opinions with the zeal of a neo-convert. In 1655, his tract, ‘A correct Copy of some Notes concerning God’s Decrees, especially of Reprobation’, was published, with reprints in 1657 and 1671. Pierce further defined his position in ‘The Sinner impleaded in his own Court, wherein are represented the great Discouragements from Sinning which the Sinner receiveth from Sin itselfe’ (1656). Controversy raged over these works until 1660, with attacks from various churchmen.

At the Restoration, Pierce was reinstated in his fellowship, proceeding also D.D. on 7 August 1660, and he was appointed chaplain-in-ordinary to Charles II in the same year. Despite opposition from the college fellows, he was elected president of Magdalen College, Oxford, on 9 November 1661. The result was a long-lasting conflict. Anthony Wood deemed him more qualified for preaching than for the administration of a college, and considered him ‘high, proud, and sometimes little better than mad’. Eventually, after ten years of constant contentions with the fellows, he was induced to resign on 4 March 1671/2. On 4 May 1675, Pierce was admitted and installed as dean of Salisbury. He engaged in several controversies with his colleagues, including the bishop. Pierce was an executor to Bishop Warner of Rochester, who left him a legacy of 200l., and the Latin verses on the bishop’s tomb at Rochester were probably by him. He himself gave books and money to the library of Magdalen College, and 70l. for rebuilding St. Paul’s Cathedral. He encouraged William Walker the grammarian, Dr Thomas Smith, and John Rogers the musician by his patronage. The learning and controversial abilities of Pierce are undoubted, and he was a stout champion of the doctrines of his church; but his fierce temper provoked the rancour of his opponents. A portrait of him by Mary Beale, circa 1672, was at Melbury, Dorset, the seat of the Earl of Ilchester.

Pierce corrected, amended, and completed ‘Annales Mundi’ for the press in 1655. The dean had purchased an estate in the parish of North Tidworth, a few miles north of Amesbury in Wiltshire. He died there on 28 March 1691 and was buried in the churchyard.

Sir William Boreman (c. 1612–1686)

Sir William Boreman was a Clerk Comptroller of the Green Cloth in the court of King Charles II from 1661 to 1664 and Clerk of the Green Cloth from 1671 to 1686. He married three times: Dulcibella Boreman (d. 1675), Sarah Boreman, and Margaret Boreman (d. 1700). He was brother of John Boreman and Robert Boreman (d. 1675).[4]

Board of Green Cloth 

The Board of Green Cloth was a board of officials belonging to the Royal Household of England and Great Britain. It took its name from the tablecloth of green baize that covered the table at which its members sat.

It audited the accounts of the Royal Household and made arrangements for royal travel. It also sat as a court upon offences committed within the verge of the palace.

From the Restoration, there were four clerks (two clerks and two clerks comptrollers).[5]

Sir William Boreman’s Foundation

In 1676, Charles II awarded Sir William Boreman a 99 years’ lease on Old Court Manor. In 1672 Boreman endowed a school for 20 poor boys born in Greenwich, the sons of seamen, watermen and fishermen and it was called the ‘Green Coat School’.

In his will dated 1684, Sir William bequeathed the school to the Drapers’ Company, together with adjacent land and property, and other property interests in trust for the endowment of the school. The original school no longer exists and the endowment is now governed as a registered charity, namely Sir William Boreman’s Foundation.

The charity aims to promote the education of young people under the age of 25 living in Greenwich or Lewisham, by the award of grants to institutions and individuals, particularly those from low income or otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds.[6]


[1] Information kindly provided by Rebecca Phillips, Cathedral Archivist, Gloucester Cathedral Library, 12 College Green, Gloucester, GL1 2LX.

[2] ‘Anthony Wood’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Wood_(antiquary); O’Day, R. “Robinson, Hugh (1583/4–1655), Church of England clergyman and schoolmaster.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004 https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-23845.

[3] Parkin, J.  (2008, January 03). Pierce [Peirse], Thomas (1621/2–1691), dean of Salisbury and religious controversialist. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 8 Jan. 2021, from https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-22226.

[4] ‘Sir William Boreman’: https://www.geni.com/people/Sir-William-Boreman-Clerk-of-the-Green-Cloth/6000000060889220838.

‘Minute Book: September 1669’, in Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 3, 1669-1672, ed. William A Shaw (London, 1908), pp. 138-140. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-books/vol3/pp138-140.

[5]  ‘The household below stairs: Clerks of the Green Cloth 1660-1782’, in Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 11 (Revised), Court Officers, 1660-1837, ed. R O Bucholz (London, 2006), pp. 403-407. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/office-holders/vol11/pp403-407.

[6] For more information: https://www.thedrapers.co.uk/Charities/Grant-making-trusts/Sir-William-Boremans-Foundation.aspx.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles II, 1660-1685’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.