Born in Worcestershire, Sandys was the second son of Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York, and his wife Cecily Wilford. He received his education at Merchant Taylors' School, which he entered in 1571, and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, (from 1577). He graduated B.A. in 1579 and B.C.L. in 1589. In 1582 his father gave him the prebend of Witwang in York Minster, but he never took orders. He was entered in the Middle Temple in 1589. At Oxford his tutor had been Hooker, author of the Ecclesiastical Polity, whose life-long friend and executor Sandys became. Sandys is said to have had a large share in securing the Mastership of the Temple Church in London for Hooker.
From 1593 to 1599 Sandys travelled abroad. When in Venice he became closely connected with Fra Paolo Sarpi, who helped him in the composition of the treatise on the religious state of Europe, known as the Europae speculum. In 1605 this treatise was printed from a stolen copy under the title A Relation of the State of Religion in Europe. Sandys procured the suppression of this edition, but the book was reprinted at the Hague in 1629.
In 1599 Sandys resigned his prebend and entered active politics. He had already been Member of Parliament for Andover in 1586 and for Plympton in 1589. After 1599, in view of the approaching death of Queen Elizabeth I, he paid his court to King James VI of Scotland, and on James's accession to the throne of England in 1603 Sandys received a knighthood. He sat in James's first parliament as member for Stockbridge, and distinguished himself as one of the assailants of the great monopolies. He endeavoured to secure to all prisoners the right of employing counsel, a proposal which was resisted by some lawyers as subversive of the administration of the law.
Sandys had been connected with the East India Company before 1614, and took an active part in its affairs until 1629. His most memorable services were, however, rendered to the Virginia Company of London, to which he became treasurer in 1619. He promoted and supported the policy which enabled the colony to survive the disasters of its early days, and, he continued to be a leading influence in the Company till his death.
Sir Edwin Sandys sat in the later parliaments of James I as member for Sandwich in 1621, and for Kent in 1624. His tendencies were towards opposition, and he was suspected of hostility to the court; but he disarmed the anger of the king by professions of obedience. He was member for Penrhyn in the first parliament of Charles I in 1625.
See Alex. Brown's Genesis of the United States (London, 1890).
Original text from 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica