NORTH, John (c.1551-97), of Cambridgeshire.

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. c.1551, 1st s. of Sir Roger North, 2nd Lord North, and bro. of Henry. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1562, Trinity Coll. 1567, MA 1572; G. Inn 1572; travelled (Italy) 1576-8. m. Dorothy, da. and h. of Dr. Valentine Dale, 4s. 2da. Kntd. 1596.2

Offices Held

Free burgess and alderman, Cambridge 1572; commander in Netherlands 1582, in Ireland c.1596; j.p. Suff. from c.1591.3

Biography

As a boy, North was put under John Whitgift at Cambridge for instruction in ‘good learning and christian manners’, and moved to Trinity College when Whitgift became master there—a strange upbringing for the heir of a puritan like Lord North. About the time of his 21st birthday he was created an MA of his university (perhaps the degree was honorary), and made an honorary alderman of Cambridge. After a period on the continent he went to the Netherlands, serving under Sir John Norris. In May 1582 he was in England, with a commission from the Duke of Anjou to raise eight companies of 150 men for the defence of the Netherlands. His regiment fought at Ghent in September the same year. North was a brave and efficient soldier, but his relations with Sir John Norris were bad. His movements during the period 1579 to 1588 are not easy to trace. Presumably he spent time in England between campaigns in the Low Countries. In 1581 he was returned to Parliament at a by-election for Cambridge, where his father was high steward, leaving no trace upon the records of that session. In the following Parliament he took his seat for the first time as knight of the shire for Cambridgeshire, and was named to committees for revising statutes (23, 24, Feb. 1585), considering ropes (23, 24, Feb.), the subsidy (24 Feb.), and draining the fens (22 Mar.). His name is again absent from the journals of the 1586 Parliament, but as senior knight for Cambridgeshire in both 1586 and 1589 he was entitled to attend the subsidy committees appointed on 22 Feb. 1587 and 11 Feb. 1589. On 26 Feb. 1589 he served on a committee for the bill concerning captains and soldiers, and spoke on the first reading. He was appointed to a second committee on the subject on 19 Mar. North was a member of the committee for the final conference with the Lords at the end of this Parliament (29 Mar.) urging a declaration of war with Spain. For one reason or another—perhaps because of his frequent absences abroad—he was not elected for the county in 1593, but it is surprising that he should have had to go outside Cambridgeshire. Lord North had written to Cambridge corporation asking for a nomination before the 1593 election, but the town returned two local men, and John North found a seat at Orford—perhaps again through his father’s influence, although a local patron (probably one of the Wingfields) may have been directly responsible for his return. He does not appear to have contributed to the proceedings of the House in this Parliament.4

His military career had taken on a new phase after Lord North’s appointment as governor of Flushing in 1586. He had his own troop of 150 men in the town by September 1587, but before the end of the year he was writing to the Earl of Essex from a civil prison at Dordrecht explaining that he had been imprisoned for taking the Earl’s part in a dispute against one Webbe, a follower of the Earl of Sussex, who had cast aspersions on Essex’s reputation. After his release he may have come back to England, but the ‘Mr. North’ referred to in Dr. Dee’s diary as having visited Poland, and returned home in time for the Armada fighting, was probably his younger brother Henry. By 1596 John North was in Ireland, where on Easter day he was knighted at Christ Church, Dublin. In the May he returned to England, and in July was claiming the patronage of a benefice in Wales. He died in London 5 June 1597, and was buried the following day at St. Gregory’s by St. Paul’s. His widow, described by Dudley Carleton as ‘like a star among the fairest ladies’, remarried in 1604.