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Sir Anthony Shirley

Born: 1565
Died: c. 1635
Location of death: Madrid, Spain
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Military, Diplomat

Nationality: England
Executive summary: English traveler, man of adventure

English traveller, the second son of Sir Thomas Shirley of Wiston, Sussex, who was a member of parliament during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I and who was heavily in debt when he died in October 1612. Shirley's imprisonment in 1603 was an important event as in consequence thereof the House of Commons successfully asserted one of its privileges -- freedom of its members from arrest. Educated at Oxford, Anthony Shirley gained some military experience with the English troops in the Netherlands and also during an expedition to Normandy in 1591 under Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, who was related to his wife, Frances Vernon; about this time he was knighted by Henry of Navarre (Henri IV of France), a proceeding which brought upon him the displeasure of his own sovereign and a short imprisonment. In 1596 he conducted a predatory expedition along the western coast of Africa and then across to Central America, but owing to a mutiny he returned to London with a single ship in 1597. In 1598 he led a few English volunteers to Italy to take part in a dispute over the possession of Ferrara; this, however, had been accommodated when he reached Venice, and he decided to journey to Persia with the twofold object of promoting trade between England and Persia and of stirring up the Persians against the Turks. He obtained money at Constantinople and at Aleppo, and was very well received by the shah, Abbas the Great, who made him a mirza, or prince, and granted certain trading and other rights to all Christian merchants. Then, as the shah's representative, he returned to Europe and visited Moscow, Prague, Rome and other cities, but the English government would not allow him to return to his own country. For some time he was in prison in Venice, and in 1605 he went to Prague and was sent by the emperor Rudolph II on a mission to Morocco; afterwards he went to Lisbon and to Madrid, where he was welcomed very warmly. The king of Spain appointed him the admiral of a fleet which was to serve in the Levant, but the only result of his extensive preparations was an unsuccessful expedition against the island of Mitylene. After this he was deprived of his command. Shirley, who was a count of the Holy Roman Empire, died at Madrid some time after 1635. Sir Anthony Shirley wrote Sir Anthony Sherley: his Relation of his Travels into Persia (1613), the original manuscript of which is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. There are in existence five or more accounts of Shirley's adventures in Persia, and the account of his expedition in 1596 is published in Richard Hakluyt's Voyages and Discoveries (1809-12).

Father: Sir Thomas Shirley (b. 1542, d. 1612)
Brother: Sir Thomas Shirley (Member of Parliament, b. 1564, d. circa 1620)
Brother: Sir Robert Shirley (b. circa 1581, d. 1628)
Wife: Frances Vernon (m. 1595)

    University: Oxford University

    Held Prisoner Fleet Prison (1593-94)
    Held Prisoner Venice, two months (1603)


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