NORTH, Edward (c.1504-64), of Kirtling, Cambs., the Charterhouse, Mdx. and London.
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Family and Education
b. c.1504, s. of Roger North of London by Christian, da. of Richard Warcup of Sinnington, Yorks. educ. St. Paul’s; ?Peterhouse, Camb, L. Inn, adm. 1 July 1522. m. (1) c.1528, Alice (bur. 22 Aug. 1560), da. of Oliver Squire of Southby, Hants, wid. of John Brigandine of Southampton, Hants, and Edward Murfyn of London, 2s. inc. Roger 2da.; (2) Margaret (d. 2 June 1575), da. of Richard Butler of London wid. of Andrew Francis and Robert Chertsey, both of London, and David Broke of Horton, Glos. and London. suc. fa. Nov. 1509. Kntd. ? 16 Jan. 1542; cr. Lord North of Kirtling 1554.1
Steward, L. Inn 1528-30.
?Clerk of the council of the city of London in late 1520s; clerk of the Parliaments Feb. 1531-Sept. 1540 King’s serjeant-at-law in 1536; j.p. Cambs. 1536-d., Hunts. 1554-d., I. o. Ely 1564, Mdx. and Suff. 1562-d.; sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 1542-3; treasurer, ct. augmentations Mar. 1540-Apr. 1544; jt. (with Sir Richard Rich) chancellor Apr.-July 1544, sole July 1544-Aug. 1548; commr. benevolence, Cambs. and Hunts. 1544/45. relief, Cambs., Hunts. and London 1550, for heresies 1557; other commissions 1535-d.; auditor, Queen Catherine Parr’s accts. 1546; PC 12 Mar. 1547-July 1553; ld. lt. Cambs. and I. o. Ely 1557-d.; trier of petitions in the Lords, Parlts. of 1558, 1559 and 1563.2
Although Edward North’s father Roger, a younger son, was settled in London at the time of his death, he had been born in Nottinghamshire where the less enterprising members of his family remained. Roger North made no mention of his three young children in the will which he made on 19 Nov. 1509 and which was proved 11 days later. Apart from two small bequests to the church of St. Michael in Quern, he left all his possessions to his wife Christian whom he appointed executrix. His only son Edward was sent to the newly founded St. Paul’s school, where his contemporaries and friends included Anthony Denny, William Paget, Thomas Wriothesley and John Leland, who later addressed to North a 38-line Latin poem recalling their school-days together.3
Edward North may have continued his studies for a short time at Cambridge before being admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1522; the suggestion that he attended Peterhouse lacks confirmation despite his later benefactions to that college. Until 1530 his name appears regularly in the records of his inn. It was probably at the instance of his brother-in-law, Alderman William Wilkinson, that he obtained employment in a legal capacity with the corporation of London. He may have been the Edward North described as of London, who in 1525 received a pardon from the King for some unknown offenses, and was certainly the gentleman of that name who two years later was admitted to the Mercers’ Company by redemption.4
While still at Lincoln’s Inn North appears to have caught the attention of Sir Brian Tuke, treasurer of the chamber, a man of considerable learning and ability, who was the patron of many promising young men. It may have been such works as a poem he wrote about 1525 on the decay of the realm that first brought him to Tuke’s notice. The poem, composed of stanzas of seven and written in English in the manner of Lydgate, condemned both the nobility and the clergy for a moral decline which only the grace of God and the nobility of the King and his Queen could arrest. North’s appointment to the clerkship of the Parliaments was in survivorship with Tuke who had previously held the office undivided from 17 Apr. 1523. North was the junior partner on whom there should have fallen the work involved while Tuke busied himself with other duties. In a letter of 1 June 1539 to Cromwell, Tuke reported an outbreak of measles where he was staying and so excused himself from attendance at Parliament as he had ‘no business but what Mr. North can do’. The 9th Lord la Warr asked Cromwell on 11 Jan. 1532 to send his leave of absence from Parliament straight to North; in the following year Sir Thomas Audley sent to North to obtain the Act of Annates so that he could make the ratification desired by the King; in 1534 copies of the protest against the bill of farms were supplied by him on demand; and in 1536 Cromwell obtained from him copies of the Acts concerning Wimbledon, Carnaby’s lands and uses. Such recurrent applications to North, far from demonstrating his mastery of the business, may well point in a different direction. It appears that during North’s clerkship (and beyond) no Acts of Parliament were enrolled in Chancery, a circumstance which, while it may be linked with changes in procedure, is also suggestive of neglect of duty.5
North’s marriage to the widow of two merchants not only gave him financial security but permitted him the opportunity to speculate on the land market. On 1 Jan. 1533 he bought the manor of Kirtling, Cambridgeshire, which was to become his principal seat and the nucleus of his estates in East Anglia and the Fenlands. The title to Kirtling proved doubtful and North temporarily lost possession as the result of a lawsuit in 1534. Receiving the manor back from the King, North made certain of his ownership by an Act (28 Hen. VIII, c.40) passed during the Parliament of 1536 and shortly afterwards he began a splendid reconstruction of the house. About the same time the King acquired the manor of Edmonton, Middlesex, from North and William Browne, and it was probably in connexion with this sale that North agreed to forbear payment by the King till later. Grants in recognition of his services helped to consolidate North’s gradually increasing properties.6
His work as clerk of the Parliaments brought North into close contact with Cromwell, for whom he was making confidential reports by 1535. This relationship was probably decisive in North’s appointment to the court of augmentations in 1540. It was to be over three years before North was required to render an account as treasurer of that department: although this showed a balance due from him of almost £25,000, after his elevation to the joint chancellorship he paid over little more than £22,000 to his successor. When the King was informed of this discrepancy, he summoned North from his bed in the Charterhouse early one morning to defend his conduct; this North was able to do although at the price of an arrangement settling the matter by an exchange of lands favourable to the King. Although North had used his position to line his pocket and continued to do so throughout his connexion with the court, his financial reputation was unimpaired and he was frequently commissioned to audit accounts under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary. Secure in Henry VIII’s esteem, North was confirmed in his office as chancellor on the eve of the King’s death, was appointed an executor of his will, and was bequeathed £300.7
The beginning of the new reign saw North made a Privy Councillor and reappointed to the chancellorship, but he was soon to be antagonized by the Protector Somerset who in August 1548 connived at his being eased out of his office in favour of Richard Sackville II. This act was to cost the Protector dear, for in the coup d’état against him a year later North was one of the first to join the dissident Councillors in London and to sign the letter listing the Protector’s offences.8
North had been returned as one of the knights of the shire for Cambridgeshire to the Parliament of 1542, at the opening of which he was probably knighted along with a number of other royal officials; he may have sat in the Parliament of 1545 for which the return does not survive, and he did so in that of 1547. His name appears in the Act of 1543 (34 and 35 Hen. VIII, 24) settling the payment of Cambridgeshire knights of the shire. Nothing further is known of his activities in the House until the second session of the Parliament of 1547, when on 12 Feb. 1549 he was one of those appointed to hear and determine, if they could, the bill against Nicholas Hare. During the third session, the Acts for a general pardon, for a churchyard in West Drayton, for the restitution of William Hussey II, and for the fine and ransom of the Duke of Somerset, were signed by North among others, and in the fourth, the original bill fixing the time for the sale of wool was committed to him and Sir Martin Bowes after its third reading on 18 Mar. 1552.9
As a partisan of the Duke of Northumberland North was recommended by the Privy Council to the sheriff and freeholders of Cambridgeshire for election to the Parliament of March 1553, and he was duly returned with the Council’s other nominee, James Dyer. North witnessed the device to alter the succession, Edward VI’s will, and the letter of 9 July 1553 in support of Queen Jane. There may, however, have been a measure of disagreement between North and Northumberland as the Charterhouse, which North had held since 1545 and which was apparently still his at the beginning of 1553, escheated to the crown on the duke’s attainder later that year.10
As soon as it became clear that there was no support for Queen Jane, North joined the exodus from London of Privy Councillors to submit to Mary, who was a little distrustful of a man who had been so sympathetic towards Northumberland. His appointment as a Privy Councillor was not renewed, although he was raised to the baronage, the Charterhouse was restored to him, and he continued to serve on important commissions, including the one for heresy in 1557 and those connected with monetary reform. In 1554 he was one of the escort for Philip of Spain from Southampton to Winchester for his marriage in July, and he bore the sword before Philip at the reception of Cardinal Pole at Westminster in November. Foxe records the story, without giving it credence, of a woman living near Aldersgate in 1555 who claimed to have been approached by North to surrender her recently delivered baby to him at the time when the termination of the Queen’s (false) pregnancy was expected.11
Immediately after Elizabeth’s accession, she visited North at the Charterhouse between 23 and 29 Nov. 1558. This stay did not betoken the new Queen’s confidence in him nor did it lead to North’s taking a more important role in the country’s affairs. Pardoned for general offences, he was employed to hear claims to do service at the coronation and to discover the extent of alienation of crown lands during the previous reigns. His opposition to several government-backed measures, including the Act of Uniformity, in the Parliament of 1559 must have destroyed any chance that he had of appointment. Elizabeth paid a second visit to the Charterhouse between 10 and 13 July 1561. Later in 1564 the bishop of Ely reported that in religion North was ‘quite comformable’.12
North made his will on 20 Mar. 1563 asking to be buried at Kirtling beside the body of his first wife. He left his second wife Margaret jewels, £500 and leases in Chertsey, London and Southwark, and provided for his children and grandchildren. His executors were to be (Sir) William Cordell and Sir James Dyer and his supervisors the 4th Duke of Norfolk, Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and (Sir) William Petre. A third of his property in Cambridge and Huntingdonshire, Middlesex and Suffolk he bequeathed to the Queen; of the remainder nearly all was left to his son Sir Roger. By a codicil of 30 Dec. 1564 he ordered the Charterhouse to be sold to pay for his funeral expenses and Roger’s debts. He died the following day at the Charterhouse and was buried at Kirtling early in the new year.13
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard
- 1. Aged 47 ‘or thereabouts’ in 1551, Foxe, Acts and Mons. vi. 157-8; A. Collins, Peerage, iv. 454; Leland, Coll. ed. Hearne, v. 154-5; DNB; CP.
- 2. D. North, Edward Lord North (1658), 7; LP Hen. VIII, v, viii, x, xiii, xvi, xvii, xx; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 97, 297; 1553, pp. 351, 354, 361; 1553-4, p. 28; 1560-3, pp. 439, 442; 1563-6, pp. 29, 41, 274; W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 330; E101/424/12, pt. i. f. 49; LJ, i. 514, 542, 581.
- 3. PCC 23 Bennett; Leland, v. 154-5.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, iv; List of mercers, (T/S Me