NORRIS, Henry (c.1525-1601), of Bray, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. c.1525, 1st s. of Henry Norris of Bray by Mary, da. of Thomas Fiennes, 8th Lord Dacre of the South. m. by 1544, Margery, da. and event. coh. of Sir John Williams, Lord Williams of Thame, 6s. inc. Edward†, Sir Henry†, Sir John† and William†, 1da. suc. fa. 17 May 1536. Kntd. 6 Sept. 1566; cr. Lord Norris 1572.1
Official of royal stables by 1546; gent. privy chamber by 1547; butler, port of Poole 1553; j.p. Berks. 1558/59, Oxon. 1561-91; sheriff, Oxon, and Berks. 1562-3; ambassador to France 1566-70; 1566-70; keeper of the armoury and porter of the outer gate, Windsor castle 1578; high steward, Abingdon c.1580, Wallingford 1588; jt. ld. lt. Oxon. and Berks. c.1585-99; capt. of light horse, the Queen’s bodyguard July 1588.2
The Norris family owed its eminence to Sir John Norris, keeper of the great wardrobe to Henry VI. He acquired the manor of Yattendon through his wife and bought many neighbouring estates. These lands descended through his son Sir William to his various grandchildren, of whom three died comparatively young, so that much of the inheritance was reunited under Sir John Norris, Sir William’s eldest son by his second marriage. John had already received Yattendon, where he lived, while his younger brother Henry, father of the Member, was making his way at court. After attracting the King’s favour, the elder Henry Norris rose rapidly, only to be arrested on 1 May 1536, on a charge of adultery with Anne Boleyn, and beheaded on the 17th. He left one son and one daughter by a wife who had died five years earlier.3
The early years of this son, the younger Henry, are obscure. His patrimony was restored to him by an Act of 1539 (31 Hen. VIII, c.22), and in December 1542 his uncle Sir John Norris of Yattendon, who was childless, was licensed to settle his estates in reversion on Henry, who was his ward, and on Margery, the younger daughter of Sir John Williams, and their heirs. The couple must therefore have been betrothed by this date, and by 26 Aug. 1544 they were married. Norris was then described as a royal ‘servant’, and since Margery was to become the coheir of her wealthy father, who in the same year became treasurer of the court of augmentations, his prospects were bright. The couple received several properties, all but one formerly monastic, and as Williams was continuing to acquire land in Berkshire, as well as Rycote in Oxfordshire, the deaths of his uncle and father-in-law would greatly increase Henry Norris’s already considerable wealth.4
These advantages notwithstanding, Norris’s youth and inexperience made him an unusual choice as knight of the shire for Berkshire in 1547. He is not known to have been a partisan of the Duke of Somerset, although his cousin Sir William Wroughton was described by the duke as a kinsman and had been a ward of Sir John Seymour, and he seems to have taken no part in local administration under Edward VI and to have received no land or office. He is not known to have sat in the Parliament of March 1553, for which the names of many Members are lost, but on 21 June he was among the King’s gentlemen who witnessed the device settling the crown upon Lady Jane Grey. After the succession crisis Mary did not hold this act against him as she approved his appointment as butler of Poole in the autumn, but he was to take little part in public affairs during her reign save for an interlude in 1554 when he is said to have helped to guard the Princess Elizabeth at Woodstock.5
Norris was to prosper under Elizabeth, who took the view that his father had died for his loyalty to Queen Anne and who bestowed her friendship on him and his wife. On the death of Lord Williams in 1559 he received much Oxfordshire property, and settled at Rycote, where he died on 27 June 1601.
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: T. F.T. Baker
- 1. Date of birth given in CP. DNB.
- 2. LP He. VIII, xix, xxi; CPR, 1553-4, p. 276; Bull, IHR, v. 20-21; APC, xv. 118; xvi. 196; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 296.
- 3. C. Kerry, Bray , 113, 128; VCH Berks. iv. 4, 80, 127.
- 4. Camden, Elizabeth (1688), p. 636; LP Hen. VIII , xvii, xix.
- 5. Chron. Q. Jane and Q. Mary (Cam. Soc. xlviii), 100; CPR , 1553-4, p. 276.