HENRY NORRIS NORRIS or Norreys, Baron (c. 1525-1601), belonged to an old Berkshire family, many members of which had held positions at the English court. His father, Henry Norris, was a grandson of Sir William Norris, who commanded the royal troops against Lambert Simnel at the battle of Stoke in 1487. Like his brother John (d. 1564), the elder Henry Norris obtained a post at the court of Henry VIII.; he gained the king's favour and was rewarded with many lucrative offices. He belonged to the party which favoured the elevation of Anne Boleyn; but in May 1536 he was arrested on the charge of intriguing with her, and though he was probably innocent of any serious offence he was beheaded on the 17th of May 1536.
His son Henry regained some of his father's lands and entered upon court life, being a member of parliament under Edward VI. During Mary's reign he was one of those who were entrusted with the custody of the princess Elizabeth, and when the princess became queen she amply repaid the kindness which Norris had shown to her when he was her guardian at Woodstock. In 1566 he was knighted and was sent as ambassador to France, where he remained until 1570, and in 1572 he was created Baron Norris of Rycote. He died in June 1601. By his wife Margaret (d. 1599), daughter of John, Lord Williams of Thame, Norris had six sons, all. of whom distinguished themselves in the field. The Norris monument, with figures of Lord and Lady Norris and their six sons, is in St Andrew's Chapel in Westminster Abbey.
The eldest son, Sir William Norris, died in Ireland in December 1579, leaving a son Francis (1579-1623), who succeeded to his grandfather's barony and also to the estates of his uncle Sir Edward Norris. In 1621 Francis was created earl of Berkshire. He left no sons and the earldom became extinct, but the barony descended to his daughter Elizabeth (d. 1645), the wife of Edward Wray (d. 1658). Their daughter Bridget (1627-1657) married as his second wife Montagu Bertie, 2nd earl of Lindsey, and their son James Bertie (1654-1699) became Baron Norris (or Norreys) in 1657, and was created earl of Abingdon in 1682. His descendants the Berties, earls of Abingdon, still hold this barony, and are the present representatives of the family of Norris.
Sir Edward Norris (d. 1603), the 1st Lord Norris's third son, served with the English troops in the Netherlands from 1585 to 1588. He is chiefly remembered owing to his fierce quarrel with Philip, count of Hohenlohe (1550-1606), called Hollock by the English, in August 1586 at Gertruydenberg (see J. L. Motley, The United Netherlands, vol. ii.). In 1589 he sailed with his brother Sir John and Sir Francis Drake on the expedition to Spain and Portugal, and from 1590 to 1599 he was governor of Ostend.
Sir Thomas Norris (1556-1599), another son of the first lord, went as a soldier to Ireland in 1579 and acted for a few months as president of Connaught. He fought against the Fitzgeralds and also in Ulster; in 1585 he became vice-president of Munster, and in 1597 he succeeded his brother, Sir John Norris, as president. The three remaining brothers were: Sir Henry Norris (1554-1599), who fought in the Netherlands and then in Ireland, where he was killed in 1599; Maximilian Norris, who was killed in Brittany in 1593, and Sir John Norris (q.v.).
Two other members of another branch of this family remain to be mentioned, namely, Sir William Norris and his brother Sir John.
Sir William Norris (c. 1657-1702), having been created a baronet, was sent in 1699 to the Mogul emperor in India to secure trading privileges for the new company which had been just formed to compete with the old East India Company. 1 He reached India in September 1699, and after overcoming many difficulties he arrived at the emperor's residence in April 1701. The embassy, however, was a total failure; Norris was unable to make terms, and he died on the voyage to England.
Sir John Norris (c. 1660-1749) entered the navy and saw a good deal of service during the war with France under William III. and Anne. Under George I. he was sent several times with a fleet into the Baltic Sea to forward the policy of this king by giving the northern nations some idea of the strength of England. In 1734 he became an admiral and commander-in-chief. Norris, who was known as "foul-weather Jack," was a member of parliament from 1708 until his death.
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