WILLIAM THOMAS (d. 1554), English soldier and writer, was probably a native of Radnorshire and was educated at Oxford. In 1544 he went to Italy, where he spent the greater part of the next five years, and in April 1550, soon after his return to England, he was made one of the clerks of the privy council; he also taught the science of politics to the young king Edward VI., for whose instruction he wrote some treatises and some "commonplaces of state." Being a strong Protestant he took part in the rising against Queen Mary led by Sir Thomas Wyat in 1554, being captured and thrown into the Tower of London. Having whilst in prison tried to commit suicide and been tortured on the rack in the hope of incriminating the princess Elizabeth, he was found guilty and was hanged at Tyburn on the 18th of May 1554.
During his residence at Bologna Thomas, who was a very learned man, wrote Il Pellegrino inglese, published in 1552. This is a valuable and interesting defence of Henry VIII. by a contemporary and it originated in a discussion between the author and some Italian gentlemen. He also prepared an English version of this work, but this was not published during his lifetime. As The Pilgrim: a dialogue of the life and actions of King Henry VIII., it was edited with notes by J. A. Froude and appeared in 1861. It had previously been edited by A. D'Aubant, who had added to it the six treatises written for Edward VI. and had called the whole The Works of William Thomas (1774). Of his other writings perhaps the most important is The Historie of Italie (1549), and his Principal Rules of the Italian Grammar with a Dictionarie for the better understanding of Boccace, Petrarcha and Dante (1550, 1560, 1562 and 1567) may also be mentioned. This was the first work of its kind in English. Thomas made an English translation of Josafat Barbaro's account of his voyages, Barbaro being a Venetian traveller who died in 1494. With an introduction by Lord Stanley of Alderley this was published by the Hakluyt Society in a volume of Travels to Tana and Persia (London, 1873). See John Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials (Oxford, 1822).
Thomas has a namesake, William Thomas (1613-1689), bishop of St David's from 1677 to 1683 and bishop of Worcester from 1683 to 1689. He was one of the bishops who refused to take the oaths of allegiance to William and Mary in 1689 and was suspended, but in the midst of the dispute he died on the 25th of June 1689 (see Nonjurors). The bishop's grandson was William Thomas (1670-1738), the Worcestershire antiquary.
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