Croft, (J.) Pauline

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CROFT, (J.) Pauline


Married Geoff New (a physicist and professor); children: Alexander. Education: Oxford University, M.A. and D.Phil.


Office—Department of History, Royal Holloway College, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 OEX, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Educator and historian. Department of History, Royal Holloway College, London, Egham, England, reader, then professor of history.


The Spanish Company London Record Society (London, England), Volume 9: "London Record Society" series, 1973.

(Editor) Patronage, Culture, and Power: The Early Cecils (Volume 8, "Studies in British Art" series), Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2002.

King James, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2003.

History of Parliament Trust, member of editorial board; Parliamentary History, member of editorial committee.


A professor of history at Royal Holloway College, London, Pauline Croft's primary research interests include British Parliamentary history, sixteenth-and seventeenth-century trading and commercial history, and sixteenth-and seventeenth-century Anglo-Spanish diplomatic and commercial history. She has taught subjects in these areas at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Croft's research has resulted in several volumes, among them The Spanish Company, a study of the English trading company based in Spain in the port of San Lucar. Although references to the English and Spanish maritime history of the Elizabethan period usually bring to mind an image of pirates scouring the Caribbean in search of richly laden merchant ships, peaceful trading did take place. With the outbreak of war in 1585, the Spanish Company's activities were halted, but were briefly revived during the reign of England's King James I in 1604. Although most of the company's early records have been lost, in researching The Spanish Company Croft was fortunate to have access to a volume recording activity during the years from 1604 to 1606, along with several other contemporary documents. English Historical Review contributor A. L. Rowse called Croft's volume "a useful aid to filling out the picture of London trade and the merchant class from the 1570s into James I's reign."

Croft served as editor of Patronage, Culture, and Power: The Early Cecils. The work follows the impact on Elizabethan culture of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, as well as of his sons, Thomas, Robert, and, most particularly, youngest son Robert Cecil, who became earl of Salisbury in 1605. After William Cecil earned the patronage of Queen Eilzabeth I, the Cecils became the most powerful political family in England, their power extending from the mid-1550s to 1612. William's second wife, Lady Mildred Cecil, was a scholar who spoke Greek and read Latin and French. In addition to keeping a substantial library, the versatile Mildred shot the long bow and enjoyed hawking and traveling by horseback. Five years after her death in 1589, seventy-four-year-old William Cecil asked the queen for permission to retire. Elizabeth found him to be so valuable, that she put him off, and he continued to serve nearly until his death in 1598.

Robert Cecil was responsible for Hatfield House, which included apartments for the royal family, as well as for maintaining large collections of religious and secular paintings. The windows of Hatfield House chapel, with their brilliantly colored renditions of the both the Old and New Testaments, together with Robert Cecil's accumulations of paintings and statuary, greatly influenced the church art of the time. Cecil also employed musicians and collected instruments; upon his death, for instance, he owned four organs. As Margaret Aston wrote in the Times Literary Supplement Patronage, Culture, and Power "certainly succeeds in demonstrating the impressive range and impact of the Cecils' cultural activities."

Croft's more recent works include a study of King James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England following the death of Elizabeth. Jenny Wormald, who reviewed King James in the Times Literary Supplement, noted that the number of books written about James is small in comparison to those that cover the lives of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, and his aunt, Elizabeth I. According to the reviewer, "unlike them, James apparently had so little to offer. Sex, rape, adultery, and murder which enlivened his mother's life were far more appealing than the homosexuality which so profoundly shocked that great nationalist novelist Sir Walter Scott in The Fortunes of Nigel; and how could an undignified and backward King from the violent and backward Kingdom of Scotland hope to compete with the last independent monarch of the Kingdom of England, the victor of the Armada, Gloriana of infinitely blessed memory?"

Referencing a vicious pamphlet written by Anthony Weldon, a terminated household official, that described the king as a slovenly and conceited coward, Wormald added that Croft puts forth "an objective view of the monarch" and in King James sets her subject free "from the Weldon shackles." Although Croft does acknowledge James's faults, and notes that his relationship with the duke of Buckingham was most probably a physical one, she also emphasizes such attributes as his love of peace, his efforts to diminish the power of Puritanism, his religious inclusiveness, and his efforts to oversee multiple kingdoms, including Scotland and Ireland. Michael B. Young commented in the English Historical Review that although Croft "adheres to the party line 'that the later English caricature of James has no foundation in his early years,'" she also includes in her book descriptions of "habits and events that provided abundant basis for that caricature, including … James's dangerously indiscreet affection for favorites, financial profligacy, and heavy drinking." While Croft weighs the pros and cons of this picture of James, Young concluded that, rather than accepting the popular image, she used "balanced judgement.… Indeed, her judgements seem to grow in confidence as she proceeds."

Also reviewing King James, History Today reviewer P. R. Seddon felt that Croft "perhaps underplays the effect of the king's policies which were to weaken his achievement of eventually bringing peace and stability to all his three kingdoms." As one example, Seddon cited the king's opposition to the Five Articles of Perth, which called for mandatory kneeling at communion and which strengthened the alliance of radical presbyterians in Scotland. Other initiatives that diminished James's popularity include his support for an alliance with Spain and his support of English anti-Calvinists. Despite taking issue with this aspect of Croft's approach, Seddon noted that the historian's "analysis of James as the ruler of a composite monarchy produces many new and important insights," and concluded by saying that in King James she "has achieved her aim: to explore the impact of modern research on our understanding of the reign. She has written a stimulating, lucid book which can be recommended to general reader and specialist alike."



American Historical Review, December, 1973, Charles H. Carter, review of The Spanish Company, pp. 1483-1484.

Antiques, June, 2002, Alfred Mayor, review of Patronage, Culture, and Power: The Early Cecils, p. 62.

English Historical Review, October, 1974, A. L. Rowse, review of The Spanish Company, p. 892; November, 2003, Michael B. Young, review of King James, p. 1381.

History Today, May, 2003, P. R. Seddon, review of King James, p. 73.

Times Literary Supplement, May 4, 1973, review of The Spanish Company, p. 509; April 12, 2002, Margaret Aston, review of Patronage, Culture, and Power, p. 20; September 24, 2004, Jenny Wormald, review of King James.*

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