NORTH, Henry (1556-1620), of Wickhambrook and Mildenhall, Suff.

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

b. 28 Dec. 1556, 3rd s. of Sir Roger North, 2nd Lord North, by Winifred, da. of Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich, wid. of Sir Henry Dudley; bro. of John. educ. ?Jesus, Camb. 1569-74;1 L. Inn 1575. m. 1574, Mary, da. and coh. of Richard Knyvet of Norf., 3s. 3da. Kntd. 1586.2

Offices Held

Capt. in Ireland 1579; with Leicester in the Netherlands 1586; j.p. Suff. from c.1591, Isle of Ely from c.1592; dep. lt. Cambs. 1598; commr. musters, Suff. by 1596, sheriff 1619-20.3


North was born at his father’s London home, the Charterhouse, and ‘was christened by the Earl of Arundel, the Lord Lumley being his deputy, and by the Lord Darcy of Essex, the Countess of Worcester being his godmother’. The son of a peer who remained high in the Queen’s favour for the whole of his life, North does not seem to have been attracted to the life of a courtier, and, after a comparatively short period of travel and military service, was content to retire to the Suffolk estates his father had given him and live the life of a country gentleman.4

Unfortunately several contemporary sources speak of a Captain North without being more specific. As well as Henry, these could refer to his brother John, heir to the barony, his uncle Thomas (the translator of Plutarch), and his nephew Edward, all of whom are known to have been active soldiers in the last 20 years of the century. It is clear, however, that it was Henry who served in Ireland in 1579 under Sir Humphrey Gilbert. At his departure his father gave him £27 ‘besides all furniture’, and £1 each for his two servants. It has also been suggested that Henry accompanied Gilbert on his first abortive attempt to reach the New World. In March 1583 ‘Mr. North’ returned from an expedition to Poland: he had seen service under Alaski, the Palatine of Poland, and according to Dr. Dee’s Diary reported his experiences to the Queen. The most important period of North’s military career was, however, in the service of the Earl of Leicester in the Low Countries. He distinguished himself with the cavalry at Zutphen, where George Whetstone, an eye-witness, reported, in a poem on the encounter, ‘the younger North did forward courage show’. His reward was a knighthood at Leicester’s hands. He next appears in action in the Armada campaign—at least, the North who was in Poland does. He was aboard one of the ships opposed to the Spanish fleet. He may have been the Captain North in the Earl of Essex’s expedition to Brittany in 1591, and may also have been in Portugal in 1598—the man concerned had served in Ireland—but this is only conjecture: his active career could have ended much earlier.5

Although North was to move to Suffolk, his family’s country seat was at Kirtling in Cambridgeshire, a county where Lord North enjoyed great authority. North himself was first returned to Parliament by the town of Cambridge, of which his father was high steward. According to the borough’s bye-laws, Henry, as a ‘foreigner’, was not eligible for the seat, but such was Lord North’s influence that two of his sons were returned in succession. Henry made no mark on the surviving records of the 1584 Parliament. After a long interval, he acquired the county seat in Parliament, even though he was almost certainly not resident in Cambridgeshire at the time: he was presumably the ‘Sir Henry Worth’ appointed to receive information about illegal marriages on 14 Nov. 1597, and he was named to a committee on maltsters, 12 Jan. 1598. As knight for Cambridgeshire he was also appointed to committees concerning enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), the penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.), the subsidy (15 Nov