HARVEY, Nicholas (by 1491-1532), of Ickworth, Suff.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1491, 3rd s. of William Harvey of Ickworth by Joan, da. of John Cokett of Ampton. m. (1) by 1512, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam of Aldwark, Yorks., wid. of Sir Thomas Mauleverer, at least 1s. Thomas; (2) Bridget, da. and h. of Sir John Wiltshire of Stone Castle, Kent, wid. of Sir Richard Wingfield (d.1525) of Kimbolton, Hunts., 3s. inc. George 2da. Kntd. 4 Feb. 1531/16 Feb. 1532.2

Offices Held

In King’s household by 1521; j.p. Hunts. 1528-d.; commr. gaol delivery 1530; ambassador to Charles V 1530-1.3


The Harveys of Ickworth were a younger branch of the Bedfordshire family of that name who had lived at Thurleigh since the 12th or 13th century. It was Nicholas Harvey’s grandfather who first established the Suffolk branch, acquiring for his heirs the two manors of Ickworth and Wordwell, near Bury St. Edmunds.4

Harvey’s father settled Ickworth on his eldest son in 1511 and retained Wordwell for his own use until his death in 1538. With little or no patrimony, Nicholas Harvey had to make his own way and it took him to court. Introduced into the King’s service by a Bedfordshire uncle or great-uncle Sir George Harvey, he served with this kinsman at the siege of Tournai and there proved himself both a ‘diligent and faithful’ servant to the King and ‘a true lover and an honest man’. By December 1518 he was receiving occasional payments in the King’s service and within three years regular wages in the Household. His activity during these years was focused on tournaments and warfare. He and his uncle accompanied the King to the Field of Cloth of Gold, where he rode in the lists, and at Greenwich in 1527 he jousted to entertain the French ambassadors; he was then described by the chronicler Edward Hall I as ‘the valiant esquire’ who rode alongside three knights. It was Scotland which gave him further experience of real fighting: by the summer of 1522 he had joined the garrison at Berwick and in June 1523 he served first in the rearguard and then in the van of a foray into Scotland. His services had already been recognized by a grant in May 1522 of the manor of Backenho, Bedfordshire.5

Harvey was about the same age as Henry VIII and stood high in his favour. His election in 1529 as first knight of the shire for Huntingdonshire was a measure of this as well as of the standing which his marriage to Bridget Wingfield had brought him in the county. Of his role in Parliament nothing is known, but he was without doubt an ardent supporter of royal policy, which he was soon to be called upon to defend elsewhere. It was the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, his former commander on the Scottish borders, who in 1530 recommended Harvey as resident ambassador to Charles V: he was fluent in Flemish and French but, as the imperial ambassador Chapuys pointed out, his chief recommendation was doubtless that he was ‘a strong partisan’ of Anne Boleyn. Harvey left England at the end of June 1530 and reached the Emperor at Augsburg on 8 July in the midst of the Diet called to deal with the Lutherans. To reason with Charles V on the matter of the divorce was a forlorn hope, but Harvey did manage to convince one great Spanish nobleman by his vigorous exposition of the King’s conduct, of the royal scruples and of the judgment of the universities in the case. The chronicler Hall, ‘informed by them that were present’, reports his arguments at length: Hall’s informant may well have been Harvey himself, with whom he sat in the Commons.6

Harvey was still abroad with the Emperor, then at Brussels, when the second session of Parliament opened on 16 Jan. 1531, but 11 days later he was recalled and replaced by Sir John Hackett. On 13 Feb. Harvey handed over his duties, ‘very glad’ according to Hackett, ‘to be discharged of his commission’. It appears that he was back in England by March, when he received his final payment, and he doubtless resumed his attendance in the Commons before the close of the session on 31 Mar. It is indeed tempting to connect his recall with his Membership: his grasp of the King’s ‘Great Matter’ and his ability to expound it would have made him a stalwart in the House, from which he was, however, soon to be removed by death.7

Harvey died on 5 Aug. 1532, in all probability a victim of the current epidemic, and was buried at Ampthill, Bedfordshire. There are few traces of his last 18 months but he seems to have remained active to the end. The fact that he died at Ampthill may provide a clue to his final service, for this was the royal residence where Queen Catherine was lodged in 1532 and the King himself paid a visit there at the end of July. Harvey may have arrived with the King, been taken ill and died, or have been one of the emissaries through whom the King kept badgering the Queen about the divorce. The vacancy in the Commons created by his death may have been filled by Richard Sapcote, after Thomas Hall II had made an unsuccessful bid for it.8

Harvey’s will has not been found, although it is mentioned in that made by his brother-in-law Sir William Fitzwilliam. Bridget Harvey evidently retained Backenho, for two years later it passed to her third husband, Robert Tyrwhitt. At Ickworth there is a portrait of Harvey and in the church at Ampthill a brass.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. M. Hofmann


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from marriage; J. Gage, Thingoe Hundred, 287-97; Vis. Suff. ed. Howard, ii. 133-9; Procs. Suff. Inst. Arch. ii. 365-9; iii. 315.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, iii-v; CSP Span. 1529-30, p. 586.
  • 4. VCH Beds. iii. 106-107; Gage, 283-7, 294n, 313; Suff. Green Bks. x. 341.
  • 5. Vis. Suff. ii. 171; LP Hen. VIII, i-iv, add.; Stow, Annales (1631), 508; Hall, Chron. 722; VCH Beds. iii. 106.
  • 6. SP1/38, f. 206; 232, f. 148; Cott. Vesp. F13(147), f. 198; C142/44/105; Wards 9/197; Index 10217(1); LP Hen. VIII, iv, viii; CSP Span. 1529-30, p. 586; SP Hen. VIII, vii. 245-8; Hall, 782-3.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, v; SP Hen. VIII, vii. 285-6.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, v.
  • 9. Test. Vet. ed. Nicolas, ii. 708; VCH Beds. iii. 106; Procs. Suff. Inst. Arch. iii. 315 and plate; T. Fisher, Mon. Remains, Beds. plate 2; Gage, 308.