CLINTON, Sir Henry (d.1616), of Tattershall, Lincs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

1st s. of Edward, 1st Earl of Lincoln, by his 2nd w. Ursula, da. of William Stourton, 7th Baron Stourton; bro. of Thomas Clinton alias Fiennes . m. (1) Catherine, da. of Francis Hastings, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon, 2s. inc. Thomas, Lord Clinton; (2) Elizabeth, da. of Sir Richard Morison of Cassiobury, Herts., wid. of William Norris, 2s. 1da. KB Sept. 1553. styled Lord Clinton 1573-85; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Lincoln 1585.1

Offices Held

J.p.q. Lincs. (all three divisions), v.-adm. Lincs. by 1574; commr. at trials of Mary Stuart 1586, William Davison 1587, Philip, Earl of Arundel 1589; ambassador to Landgrave of Hesse 1596; one of peers to try Robert, Earl of Essex 1601.2


Characterized by ‘wickedness, misery, craft, repugnance to all humanity and perfidious mind’, Clinton, despite two fortunate marriages (the first when he can have been only about 15 or 16), and despite considerable natural ability, wealth and social influence, failed to become lord lieutenant of his county when a vacancy arose on the death of the Earl of Rutland in 1587. His temper, ostentation and miserliness made him universally detested, and the Privy Council received so many complaints about his oppressive ill-treatment of tenants and the poor in general that they addressed a series of reprimands to him, one of which stated, more diplomatically than sincerely, that ‘in regard of your lordship’s condition and quality ... we do wholly forbear to give credit’ to the latest accusations. In his will his father had felt it necessary to safeguard his widow’s rights by stringent provisions. Considerable lands were left to her for life, and if her stepson molested her in any way the overseers, Burghley and the Earl of Leicester, were to see that he forfeited all right to this property after the Countess’s death. When Clinton succeeded as 2nd Earl of Lincoln, he contested the will, claiming that his stepmother had exerted undue influence and had refused him access to his dying father, but the prerogative court of Canterbury confirmed it by sentence. Nor did his character mellow as he grew older. In 1604 he quarrelled with Cecil himself, whose draft letter was so strong that parts of it were struck out before it was sent. Finally he antagonised the amateur astrologer King James, who divined that Lincoln ‘lives by the influence of Dis that domines over him and is therefore not under the climate of Phoebus nor subject to any heavenly influence’.3

Against a background of debts, private quarrels, many Star Chamber cases and at least two periods in the Fleet prison, he carried on an active public life, assisting his father as vice-admiral of Lincolnshire, serving as a justice of the peace and piracy commissioner, and being one of the Lincolnshire assessors of the subsidy. In 1571 he shared the Lincolnshire county representation with Thomas Heneage. Apart from a question of privilege arising from the arrest of one of his servants during the Parliament, the journals of the House make no reference to him by name. Near to the date of this Parliament he went with the army to Scotland under the Earl of Sussex, and in 1572 he attended his father on an embassy to France. At Christmas 1573 his players were paid for acting before the Queen.4

By July 1576 he had begun the quarrels for which he became notorious. Burghley wrote to the lord admiral and to various Lincolnshire gentlemen asking them to try to effect a reconciliation between Clinton and Thomas Cecil, hinting that his son was not the chief offender, as he was ready to ‘stoop in all reasonable matters to his lordship to obtain his goodwill’. In 1580 Clinton and his wife were at loggerheads over the future of their son: in the course of one dispute, Clinton threw a dagger at a bystander who provoked him. Three years later the Council asked the Earl of Rutland, among others, to look into disturbances resulting from a conflict between Clinton and a Leicestershire gentleman, Henry Ayscough, over hunting in the lord admiral’s grounds. The two antagonists continued to quarrel on various pretexts for more than 12 years, citing each other in the Star Chamber and giving the Privy Council endless trouble. These lawsuits became entangled with the more famous ones between Clinton and his relative by marriage, Sir Edward Dymoke. By 1596 Clinton, now 2nd Earl of Lincoln, was declaring that Dymoke, Ayscough and other gentlemen in Lincolnshire were ‘all compact together to work villainies’ against him. Dymoke overplayed his hand and failed to obtain redress against Lincoln, but the Star Chamber awarded Ayscough over £750 damages against the Earl who, refusing to pay, was arrested and put in the Fleet in June 1600. He had already served a term there in 1592, and on this second occasion he remained a prisoner for three months.5

However much Elizabeth and her Council disapproved of Lincoln’s character, he was, as a prominent nobleman, bound to be used on various official missions. When Mary Stuart’s body was removed from Fotheringay in August 1587, he and the Earl of Rutland supported the chief mourner, the Countess of Bedford. In July 1588 he was ordered to London to help defend the Queen’s person, and in the following year he was Elizabeth’s first choice to represent her at the marriage of James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark, though in the event the princess’s arrival was delayed and Lincoln was recalled. His last embassy was to the Landgrave of Hesse in 1596, as proxy for the Queen at the christening of the prince’s daughter. He made considerable difficulties about going in the first place, and the ‘dishonours, clamours, and curses for his base miserliness and insupportable fancies or rather furies’ that he left behind him on his return to England can only have lowered him in the eyes of Elizabeth, who had a more personal reason for disapproval in April 1601, when by a misunderstanding she and the Scottish ambassador were shut out of Lincoln’s house at Chelsea when he was at Tattershall hiding, as it seems, from his creditors. Next, in July 1602, he made indiscreet speeches about the Queen and engaged in clandestine correspondence with King James, who, however, after succeeding rejected his claims to participate in the coronation, and gave him no official engagements.6

By this time he had antagonised most of his family. He sued his brother Thomas and quarrelled violently with his son and heir Lord Clinton, while Sir Arthur Gorges claimed that his wife, Lincoln’s daughter, ‘the most obedient child of the world’ had died as a result of her father’s odious behaviour to her. The second Countess of Lincoln, according to her son Francis Norris, was treated ‘like a prisoner’ by her husband, and guarded by an Italian murderer. By modern standards Lincoln would be adjudged insane, at least during the last years of his life. Earlier there are indications of humanity. He showed kindness to a relation and attended to the ‘pitiful cries’ of the poor of Lincolnshire. But by the time of his death, 29 Sept. 1616 at Sempringham, he had no friends. He was buried at Tattershall, leaving a will, no longer extant, which was nullified by the prerogative court of Canterbury.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. C142/209/34(1); 397/66; CP, xii. (1), 304; HMC Hastings, i. 316; Collins, Peerage, ed. Brydges, ii. 207; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 54.
  • 2. CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, p. 452; 1580-1625, p. 275; CSP Scot. 1586-8, pp. 44, 308, 346, 353; HMC Hatfield, v. 250; vi. 254, 289, 425; APC, xxxi. 151, 170. His name is omitted from several lists of commissions of the peace in and after 1577, but the same applies to other great Lincs, magnates, and probably means no more than that these lists were used for working purposes only.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 412; Wright, Queen Eliz. and her Times, ii. 338; HMC Hatfield, ii. 136; x. 332; xvi. 70-1; xvii. 457; APC, xxvii. 214, 348; xxviii. 506; xxx. 135; PCC 26 Brudenell; DNB (Clinton, Edward).
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 332; Add. 1566-79, p. 452; Lansd. 146, f. 19; HMC Ancaster, 9; HMC Foljambe, 8; APC, viii. 178; xi. 252-3; CJ, i. 87; Collins, Peerage, ii. 206.
  • 5. HMC Hatfield, ii. 136, 319-20; v. 108; vi. 255-6; HMC Rutland, i. 144; APC, xv. xvi. xxv. passim; xxx. 402, 430-1, 468-676 passim; St. Ch. 5/A6/22; Lansd. 71, f. 30.
  • 6. CSP Scot. 1586-8, pp. 459-62; 1589-93, pp. 157-77 passim; APC, xvi. 170; HMC Hatfield, v. 250; xi. 184-5; Birch, Mems. ii. 178; CSP Dom. 1601-3, pp. 224, 230-1; 1603-10, pp. 24, 45.
  • 7. Hatfield 250, f. 89; HMC Hatfield, vii. 375; x. 146-7, 332; xii. 98; C142/397/66; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 315; C21/G 20/7; PCC 95 Cope; SP14/82/44.