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.) and draining the fens (3 Dec.). In 1598 a commission was issued appointing him a deputy lieutenant to his father, with special supervision of the Isle of Ely.6

When Lord North died in 1600 Sir Henry North must have taken on some of the duties of head of the family, for the new Lord North was still a minor. By this date he had been living for some time in Suffolk, firstly at Wickhambrook and then at Mildenhall, where he built a fine mansion. His duties in the county followed a similar pattern to those in Cambridgeshire, but in 1598 he was censured by the Privy Council for his tardiness in sending Suffolk’s £300 contribution towards the maintenance of troops in Ireland. Little is heard of him in James’s reign. He died 20 Nov. 1620. A handsome monument marks his burial place in Mildenhall church. Apart from small bequests to the poor of Mildenhall and Wickhambrook, he left all his property to his immediate family. His three daughters, two of whom were married, were left substantial sums of money. The single daughter, Dorothy, was to have £1,500 at her marriage, ‘provided that she do not marry herself to her notorious and manifest disparagement’. The widow received the lease of the parsonage of Moulton, Suffolk, with the bulk of the household goods and farm stock and equipment; she was also to have the best coach, with two horses. The second son, Henry, received an annuity of £50 and a small estate in Cambridgeshire, while the heir, Roger, was to have the principal estates and be executor. Roger sat in seven Stuart Parliaments, and the branch of the family which Sir Henry had established in Suffolk was to play a major part in the county’s affairs for well over 100 years.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: M.R.P.


  • 1. The surname only appears in the university records, but the admission date is suitable, and several other members of the family were educated at Cambridge.
  • 2. EHR, xxxvii. 566; Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 83; W. A. Copinger, Suff. Manors, iv. 178; DNB (Roger, 2nd Baron North); CP; Lansd. 94, f. 94.
  • 3. CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, p. 419; APC, xxvi. 388; xxviii. 630; Hatfield ms 278.
  • 4. EHR, xxxvii. 566.
  • 5. Nichols, Progresses Eliz. ii. 246, 247; Lady Frances Bushby, Three Men of the Tudor Time, 107; Diary of John Dee (Cam. Soc. xix), 19; E. M. Tenison, Eliz. England, vi. 191; CSP For. 1586-7, p. 214; P. J. Blok, Corresp. inédite de Robert Dudley, comte de Leycester, et de François et Jean Hotman, 100 n; Laughton, Defeat of Spanish Armada (Navy Recs. Soc. i and ii), ii. 144; HMC Hatfield, iv. 169; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 75.
  • 6. Neale, Commons, 166; D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561, 567, 578; APC, xxviii. 630.
  • 7. PCC 6 Woodhall, printed Coll. Top et Gen. vi. 99; Copinger, iv. 177-8, 183; v. 302; vii. 363; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 247; APC, xxix. 343; Add. 32484; PCC 99 Soame; C142/387/111.