LESTRANGE (STRANGE), Sir Nicholas (1511/13-80), of Hunstanton, Norf.

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. 1511/13, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Lestrange of Hunstanton by Anne, da. of Sir Nicholas Vaux, 1st Baron Vaux, of Great Harrowden, Northants.; bro. of Richard. m. (1) Ellen, da. of Sir William Fitzwilliam of Milton, Northants., 3s. 2da.; (2) lic. 7 Mar. 1547, Catherine da. of John Hyde of Hyde, Dorset, wid. of Nicholas Mynn of Great Fransham, Norf. suc. fa. 16 Jan. 1545. Kntd. 28 Sept. 1547.1

Offices Held

?Servant of Thomas, 3rd Duke of Norfolk by 1538; member, household of Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk by 1555, chamberlain by 1559-72; j.p. Norf. 1538-47, 1558/59-71, 1579-d.; steward, manors of Mary, Duchess of Richmond 1547; sheriff, Norf. and Suff. 1548-9; commr. relief Norf. 1550; muster marshal, army in Scotland 1559-60.2


Nicholas Lestrange came of an old Norfolk family. The little that is known of his early life comes from scattered references in the Lestrange household accounts, from which it appears that after being confirmed in 1530 he was mainly in London—whether in study or at court is not clear—whence he occasionally sent presents to his parents. The fact that he was almost certainly in his twenties, and landless, when he was put on the commission of the peace for Norfolk suggests that he had had legal training and that he may have already entered the service of the Duke of Norfolk. It seems that on the fall of Norfolk he gave his allegiance to the Duke of Somerset, as did John Brende and Richard Fulmerston, although in January 1547 he was made steward for life of the lands of Norfolk’s daughter the Duchess of Richmond. In the course of that year he accompanied Somerset on the expedition to Scotland, where he was knighted at Roxburgh.3

It is possible that the accusations of sympathy with Ket’s rebellion which were made against Lestrange in 1549, when he was sheriff, arose in part from his attempt to carry out Somerset’s agrarian policy. When in September 1549 he wrote to William Cecil to thank him for a letter obtained from Somerset ‘for the execution of my office’, he added ‘yet it notwithstanding [Sir William Willoughby, Baron Willoughby of Parham] commanded me from the office, clearly both against the law and also against the letter ... whereby I am very much defaced in my country’. He went on to accuse Sir Edmund Bedingfield and Sir Roger Townshend of conspiring with others to ‘make me the beginner of the commotion in Norfolk’, to defend his conduct and to ask Cecil to intercede for him with the Protector. It is not clear what was behind all this except his undoubted failure as sheriff to act vigorously against the rebels. The episode seems not to have damaged his career: it was not until after the final fall of Somerset that he ceased to appear on commissions. He was, however, removed from the bench under Mary and although restored in the following reign and in 1564 called one of ‘the metest men in ... Norfolk’ to advise on the reliability of his fellow justices, he was again removed for a while after the fall of the 4th Duke of Norfolk.4

It was the changing fortunes of the Howard dynasty that largely set the pattern of Lestrange’s Membership of Parliament. When he was first elected in 1547 those fortunes were at a nadir, with the 3rd Duke in the Tower and the Earl of Surrey in his traitor’s grave. Both Lestrange and his fellow-knight Sir Edmund Knyvet had forsworn the earl by their part in his trial and in doing so may have earned the favour of the Protector Somerset: in any case they were substantial landowners whose estates lay in different parts of the county. Yet although Lestrange, unlike Knyvet, was to outlive this Parliament he never again achieved the knighthood of the shire, even after his resumption of Howard service qualified him for the 4th Duke’s support: perhaps he was dogged by the memory of 1549. What Norfolk’s patronage did make possible was Lestrange’s Membership from 1558: whether the duke also had a hand in his first election under Mary is less clear. It was at Lynn where in 1555 the mayor and assembly chose ‘Thomas Waters to be one of the burgesses of the Parliament and Sir Nicholas Lestrange for the other burgess if he will receive it’. The wording smacks of an offer by the borough rather than its acceptance of a nominee, and Lestrange could well have looked a good proposition. A local landowner with property in the town, he could be expected to promote its interests, as indeed he did, remaining in London with Waters after the Parliament was over to negotiate for a new market: only later was he to become involved in a long dispute with the town and even that was to end amicably with his being made a freeman in 1566. More surprising is his inclusion among those Members who followed the lead of Sir Anthony Kingston in opposing one of the government’s bills: as a client of the noble family which owed its restoration to the Queen he might have been expected to follow the official line.5

At the next election his patronage of Lestrange was to cost Norfolk a rebuff. In December 1557 he asked the borough of Cambridge, of which he was high steward, to choose as one of its Members ‘his servant’ Lestrange, only to be told that this would contravene its statutes. Lestrange was therefore elected with Sir John Radcliffe for Castle Rising, a borough belonging to the duke’s mother. This was the first occasion on which Castle Rising returned Members, and its enfranchisement was clearly Norfolk’s doing, perhaps after the rejection at Cambridge threatened to leave Lestrange without a seat. On the list of Members of the second session of this Parliament his name is marked with a circle. The new borough was to provide Lestrange with a seat in the next three Parliaments and but for the duke’s fall in 1572 would probably have done so in a fourth before his death on 19 Feb. 1580. A portrait of Lestrange by the monogramist HE survives.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Aged 39 in the year 1551, R. C. Strong, Hans Eworth, 21. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 272; Blomefield, Norf. x. 318; DNB (Lestrange, Sir Thomas); LP Hen. VIII, xx; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 9; G. A. Carthew, Hundred of Launditch, ii. 481.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xvii; CPR, 1547-8, p. 87; 1553, p. 356; Lansd. 4, f. 216.
  • 3. Archaeologia, xxv. 433, 462, 480, 491, 498, 502, 525, 533; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xx; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, 219.
  • 4. F. W. Russell, Kett’s Rebellion, 209; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, i. 491; Bath mss Thynne pprs. 2, ff. 113-113v; CPR, 1549-51, p. 334; 1550-3, pp. 65, 141; NRA 6734, pp. 22-25; NRA 11943 (E. Suff. RO, HD102/H/1/8); Cam. Misc. ix(3), 58; N. Williams, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, 60, 81, 116, 119, 223; A. H. Smith, County and Ct. 208, 226, 355, 359.
  • 5. Lynn congregation bk. 5, ff. 231, 239, 381v, 417, 424 seq. 461; Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2.
  • 6. C. H. Cooper, Cambridge Annals, ii. 140; Wm. Salt Lib. SMS 264; C142/223/53; Strong, 21.