Thomas Foulis (fl. 1580–1628) was a Scottish goldsmith, mine entrepreneur, and royal financier.
Thomas Foulis was an Edinburgh goldsmith and financier, and was involved in the mint and coinage, gold and lead mining, and from May 1591 the receipt of money given to James VI by Queen Elizabeth, known as the English annuity or subsidy.
He was a son of Henry Foulis of Colinton and Margaret Haldane. As a financier to the mint and crown his business partner was Robert Joussie, or Jowsie (d. 1626), an Edinburgh cloth merchant who later became Groom of the Chamber.
Foulis was made a master of the Edinburgh Incorporation of Goldsmiths and a burgess on 18 June 1581 after submitting an essay of silverwork. His master had been Michael Gilbert. A son David followed him into the craft. In February 1581/2 he made new dies for minting coins, following the designs of Lord Seton's painter. Working for the royal mint brought Foulis privileges and exemptions from taxes which brought resentment in Edinburgh, and the town's authorities refused to 'book' one of his apprentices in February 1591.
In March 1588 Foulis complained to the Privy Council about James Acheson, a son of John Acheson in Edinburgh's Canongate, who had a licence to make counters or jetons. Acheson's activities interfered with Foulis' monopoly as "sinker" or die maker. The Council declared that Acheson's making of latten (pewter) counters was not prejudicial to Foulis' rights.
In 1590 he made a silver-gilt and engraved basin and ewer for Queen Elizabeth's christening gift to Elizabeth Stewart, the daughter of Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell and Margaret Douglas, and he advanced the English ambassador Robert Bowes £20 sterling to reward the servants and musicians at the baptism, which was held in Edinburgh.
Royal costume and jewelryEdit
Michael Gilbert and his former apprentice Foulis provided rings and other jewels for James VI to give to courtiers as New Year's day gifts. In January 1588 their bill was £5,100. In June 1589 Foulis provided the king with two gold chains and rings worth £953 Scots to give to the captains of an English fleet commanded by George Beeston. Beeston was also given a gold locket set with diamonds, costing £373, and 100 crowns worth £266 were given to his sailors. This generosity was connected with the aftermath of a fatal struggle between Beeston's sailors and Armada veterans on the streets of Edinburgh.
James VI sent Foulis and Robert Jousie to London in July 1589 to buy clothes and ornaments in preparation for his marriage to Anne of Denmark. In pledge of payment for these purchases and for jewels and silver plate made in his workshop, James gave him two cut rubies and three cabochon rubies set in gold "chatons" or buttons, enamelled with red, white and black. Foulis returned these royal jewels to the depute-treasurer Robert Melville in October 1589, when James VI sailed to Norway. At Leith, Foulis also returned a large table cut diamond which he had held in pledge since January 1586 for the jewelry supplied to the king for New Year's day gifts. When James returned to Scotland in May 1590, Foulis provided gold chains for gifts to the Danish Admiral Peder Munk and his companions.
Foulis supplied jewels to James VI and Anne, while Jousie supplied clothes and fabrics, paid for in part by a subsidy or annuity provided by Queen Elizabeth. In August 1594 Foulis bought eight ruffs in London for queen. Foulis also had a stock of fabric at his death.
In January 1597 Foulis was paid for a diamond and ruby ring, a ring with a great table cut diamond, a ring set with seven diamonds, a ring with eleven diamonds, a tablet or locket with an emerald and ten diamonds, and a "carcan" necklace with diamonds rubies and pearls. The total value was 790 crowns or £2,765 Scots. James VI had given some of these rings and jewels as New Year's day gifts to his courtiers.
Miner and refinerEdit
In March 1592 Foulis was involved in a project to refine old silver Scottish coins with Sir William Bowes in London. Foulis also operated a copper mine near Edinburgh for the king and was permitted to use wood from the forest of Torwood to make charcoal for refining. In April 1594 he received a grant to prospect and mine for gold, silver, lead, tin and other metals, in Lanarkshire. The grant mentioned mines previously worked by George Douglas of Parkhead. He became known as Thomas Foulis of Leadhills.
In March 1594 one of his mining experts Bernard Fechtenburg was tempted away by Lord Menmuir, Master of Metals, to work for Sir David Lindsay of Edzell Castle. Fechtenburg said that Edzell's samples of ores were more promising than an assay made by Foulis' other experts.
The English gold prospector George Bowes complained in a letter to Lord Essendon that Foulis had disrupted his workings in 1604 by detaining his English timber man. He hoped that Lord Balmerino, Secretary for Scotland would help him. Bowes was staying at Codrus Cottage, above Wanlock Water.
In 1608 Thomas Foulis and George Foulis, also a goldsmith, assayed ore from a silvermine at Hilderston near Linlithgow. In 1613 Foulis obtained the contract for the mine with William Alexender of Menstrie and Paulo Pinto from Portugal. The mine at Hilderston had previously been developed by Bevis Bulmer, the "knight governor of the works of his majesty's mines under ground" with George Bruce of Carnock acting as treasurer.
Foulis was involved in accounting royal money for the Chancellor, John Maitland of Thirlestane and his wife Jean Fleming, the "Lady Chancellor", in the years 1588 to 1590. The money came from the English subsidy. The accounts include a "cupboard" of silver plate for Maitland to which Foulis himself contributed ten silver trencher plates. This may be the cupboard of silver plate which James VI took to Norway, in Maitland's keeping, from which he gave gifts to Steen Brahe and Axel Gyldenstierne on 15 December 1589.
In September 1594 the king owed Foulis £14,598 Scots and gave him two gold cups which he could coin into gold £5 pieces if he was not repaid. These cups had been presented by the Dutch ambassador Walraven III van Brederode at the baptism of Prince Henry. At the same time, another creditor, John Arnot, was given a gold cup with the option to have it coined.
Foulis made an account for the years 1594 to 1596 of money received by James VI from the English subsidy and the duty on the gold mines of Crawford Mure and Robert Mure. Some of this money went to Foulis and Robert Jousie for clothes already delivered to the king and queen. Most of the rest was spent on jewellery given to Anne of Denmark, and to the ambassadors at the baptism of Prince Henry, or given as New Year's day gifts. The Master of Work William Schaw was given a hat badge in the form of a gold salamander set with diamonds. Some of the original orders signed by James VI survive, In May 1594 he wrote he to Foulis, who was in London, to buy lead to repair the roof of Linlithgow Palace and an alabaster stone for the new Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle. Gold chains for gifts to ambassadors in 1594 were made by George Foulis. On 16 August 1595 James ordered Foulis to repair and enlarge two silver chandeliers for Prince Henry. He gave the pen to the infant prince to mark the mark the paper, and wrote "I will testifie this is the prince's awin mark."
An English diplomatic resident James Hudson wrote in May 1598 that Foulis had been involved in pawning a gold lion set with a ruby worth £400 in London, which he suggested belonged to James VI.
Foulis became involved in the administration of the Scottish exchequer by the group knowns as the Octavians. In October 1597 one of the group, the king's advocate Thomas Hamilton, married Foulis' sister Margaret. They gave him a role on 29 December 1597 overseeing royal expenditure. However, Foulis was bankrupted by the scheme on 17 January 1598. Roger Aston wrote that Foulis was treasurer in all but name and after twenty days "fell by his wits" and lay "in great extremity". David Calderwood called his distress a frenzy, "phrenesie". Aston wrote that he had hoped Foulis and Joussie would lend him money to buy land, but they had received no English subsidy for two years.
The English correspondent George Nicolson provided an alternative explanation for Foulis' distress, that James VI had taken back a jewel pawned to Foulis, the Great 'H' of Scotland. James had given the jewel to Anne of Denmark who, Nicolson says, had offered it to her friend Elizabeth Douglas, Countess of Erroll as recompense for the demolition of Slains Castle. Foulis had received the "H" in pledge for a loan of £12,000 Scots made to the king in September 1594, and the Privy Council asked his brother, James Foulis of Colinton to return it in January 1598.
The immediate cause of Foulis' financial disaster was a legal move by one of the Octavians, John Lindsay of Menmuir, Master of Metals, to suspend payments by the comptroller, George Home of Wedderburn. It remains unclear if Lindsay and other Octavians and the king planned this to bankrupt Foulis and if so, fully understood the consequences.
Foulis recovered from his illness and on 2 August 1598 Foulis and Joussie obtained a contract (a tack) to operate the mint for six years in recompense of their losses. The Parliament of Scotland observed that Foulis and Joussie had incurred debts for the royal clothing, jewels, ready money, and other outlays. Walter Stewart, 1st Lord Blantyre was asked to give them rights over the mint to recoup their funds, and the comptroller George Home of Wedderburn promised to supply the royal households (for James, Anna, Prince Henry, and Princess Elizabeth), and repay Foulis and Jousie and their creditors in installments.
Foulis and Jousie gave a statement of their debts to Parliament which included £145,700 and interest on that sum to £33,000 Scots. They listed the names of creditors, who had loaned them money with which they financed the royal household. It includes the Edinburgh Company of Tailors, the merchant and poet John Burell, the English courtier Roger Aston, the Countess of Cassilis, and Bartholomew Kello, the husband of the calligrapher Esther Inglis. Kello's loan of £4,000 was one of the larger contributions, and the merchant Jacob Baron had invested £14,822 Scots.
A report of Scottish royal finances sent to England in February 1600 noted that Foulis and Joussie and their partners were 'wrecked and undone'. In November 1601 the Privy Council was asked to convene with Foulis and report the values of royal jewels which Foulis had sold in England.
He died in Edinburgh in 1628.
Foulis married firstly Jean Francis, who died in 1623, then Rachel Porteous. Jean had sons, Thomas and David Foulis of Glendorch, and three daughters, Margaret, Jean, and another who married James McMath. After his death a cousin, Anne Foulis, who was married to James Hope of Hopetoun, eventually inherited the mining wealth.
- Julian Goodare, (2004, September 23). 'Foulis, Thomas (c. 1560–1628), goldsmith, financier, and mining entrepreneur', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 29 Sep. 2018, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/73674, subscription or library login required.
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