Francis Tregian the Elder
Francis Tregian the Elder (1548–1608) was the son of John Tregian of Wolvenden of Probus, Cornwall and Catherine Arundell. A staunch Catholic, he inherited substantial estates on the death of his father, including the manors of Bedock, Landegy, Lanner and Carvolghe, and the family home, 'Golden', in the parish of Probus, near Truro. He was the father of Francis Tregian the Younger, notable for his musical interests.
In 1576 Tregian harboured a Catholic seminary priest, Cuthbert Mayne, who passed as his steward. On 8 June 1577, the Sheriff of Cornwall, Sir Richard Grenville surrounded the house with some hundred men and arrested both Tregian and Mayne, who was executed later that year. Tregian was also condemned to death, but this sentence was remitted to imprisonment. He was incarcerated at Windsor and then in various London prisons for twenty-eight years, until he was released by King James I.
The execution of Cuthbert Mayne marked the beginning of the Elizabethan’s regime’s violent onslaught against Catholic dissent, a violence whose most famous victim would be Edmund Campion, executed in 1581. Tregian was in the Fleet Prison at the time of Campion's execution, but his close friend the Jesuit lay brother Thomas Pounde was in the Tower of London with Campion. The sufferings of Tregian and Campion make up part of the story of Catholic persecution told in the first part of Pounde's long poem of that year, "A Challenge unto Foxe the Martyrmonger...with a comfort unto all afflicted Catholics," confiscated in 1581 and surviving in a unique manuscript in The National Archives. The poem was probably dedicated to Tregian. It is preceded by a cover letter that begins, “To the ryght worshipfull my loving brother Mr F health & welthe in our Savyor.” For nineteenth-century Catholic scholars like Richard Simpson and Henry Foley, "Mr F" was Francis Tregian. There is an element of conjecture in the identification," but it is certain that Pounde and Tregian were together for nine months in the loose confinement of the Marshalsea, Pounde from March 1576 to Sept. 1580 and Tregian from Sept 1577 until at least June 1578, and that given their shared literary interests they would have known each other there. The Tower and the Fleet were separated by little more than the width of the Thames, and Tregian had the privilege of receiving visitors. Clandestine manuscripts and books circulated among all the London prisons, so that there is nothing surprising in Pounde’s manuscript being conveyed from the Tower to the Fleet.
After his pardon by King James, Tregian retired to Madrid, where he enjoyed a pension from King Philip III of Spain. He died at the Jesuit hospice at St Roque, Lisbon, where he was buried upright under the west pulpit, symbolic of his stand against Queen Elizabeth.
- P. A. Boyan and G. R. Lamb, Francis Tregian, Cornish Recusant (London and New York, 1955)
- Raymond Francis Trudgian, Francis Tregian, 1548-1608: Elizabethan recusant, a truly Catholic Cornishman (Brighton and Portland, 1998)
- Francis Plunkett, Life of Francis Tregian. Written in the seventeenth century by Francis Plunkett, Cistercian monk. In: Catholic Record Society (Great Britain) vol. 32 (1932) p. 1-44. Each section of Latin text followed by English translation.