Sir Thomas Gresham died on November 21, 1579. Gresham was a merchant and financier whose career included stints with King Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I. His father, Sir Richard Gresham had been knighted by King Henry VIII, for his efforts in securing foreign loans for Henry.
Sir Thomas also made his mark in financial dealings, being called in by Edward VI to restore the value of the Pound, which had fallen due to financial mismanagement. Though initially out of favor, when Mary succeeded Edward, he was soon reinstated. Elizabeth I gained the crown in 1558, continuing to rely on Gresham for financial matters. In 1559, Elizabeth asked Gresham to serve as ambassador at the court of the Duchess of Parma, and he was knighted soon before he departed on his mission.
In 1565, Gresham proposed a plan for an exchange, based on the Antwerp Bourse. This plan was adopted, and became the Royal Exchange.
Sir Walter Scott was familiar with Gresham, and among the inclusions in Scott's work is a reference in the Waverley Novels to Gresham college. The college itself was comprised largely of Gresham's own property in London. Lectures commenced in June 1597, one year after the death of Thomas' widow Anne.