COMPTON, Henry I (1544-89), of Compton Wyniates, Warws. and Tottenham, Mdx.

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. 14 July 1544, posth. s. and h. of Peter Compton of Compton Wyniates by Anne, da. of George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury. educ. G. Inn 1563. m. (1) Frances (d.1574), da. of Francis Hastings, and Earl of Huntingdon, by Katherine, da. and coh. of Henry Pole, Lord Montagu, 1s.; (2) Anne, da. of Sir John Spencer of Althorp, Northants. by Katherine, da. of Sir Thomas Kitson of Hengrave, Suff., wid. of William Stanley, 3rd Lord Monteagle, 2s. inc. Henry Compton II. suc. fa. 1544. Kntd. 1567. summ. to Lords as Lord Compton 1572.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Warws. 1571-2; commr. trial of Mary Queen of Scots 1586.


Compton’s grandfather, Sir William, died in 1528 leaving an infant son Peter who, still a minor, died in January 1544. Compton himself, Peter’s son, was born some five months later. His extensive estates made the wardship valuable, and Compton was fortunate in having as guardian his mother’s next husband, William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke. Thus, although the estate had to bear two successive minorities, it did not suffer significantly. It was Pembroke who was responsible for Compton’s only return to the House of Commons, where he is not known to have contributed to its proceedings. He was, in fact, a courtier rather than a House of Commons man, knighted by the Earl of Leicester at Arundel House in 1567, listed among several ‘noble men’ who received a grant of wine free of impost, and soon raised to the peerage. He accompanied the Queen to Warwick in 1572, and, some six years later was visited by her at Tottenham. During the Armada crisis, he was required to report at court bringing lances and light horse. ‘A person of florid wit and solid judgment’, he died in 1589. In his will, made 17 May and proved 22 Nov. of that year, he appointed his son and heir William (Earl of Northampton 1618) executor, and Hatton, Burghley and Walsingham overseers. His widow married Robert Sackville, 2nd Earl of Dorset, in 1592 and separated from him in 1608.1

In some ways Compton remains an enigma. In a reign during which so few peerages were created it is difficult to see why Compton was singled out, even allowing for his excellent family connexions. His religious affiliations, too, are puzzling. His second wife had Catholic connexions. Compton himself was classified as a Catholic in 1574 in a list connected with Mary Stuart, and by the Jesuit Persons in his autobiography as ‘reconciled’ (to Catholicism) in the summer of 1580 (i.e. within two years of the Queen’s visit to him) and later that year as a backslider in being willing to conform. Another list (of August 1581) has him a papist. Two of Compton’s servants appear among the names of Catholics in a list of about 1586. However, his loyalty was not in question, and, as with a number of other well-connected men, the authorities seem to have turned a blind eye.2

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: Alan Davidson / P. W. Hasler


  • 1. CP; VCH Warws. iv. 139; v. 65, 66, 136; vi. 243; C2 Eliz. E5/45, W5/55; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 112, 227; 1555-7, p. 454; 1558-60, pp. 5, 60; 1560-3, p. 510; HMC Hatfield, ii. 17; Lansd 9, f. 32; La Mothe Fénélon, Correspondence, ed. Teulet, v. 14; Nichols, Progresses Eliz. i. 317; ii. 93; APC, xv. 153; xvi. 170; Camden, Eliz. 439; PCC 88 Leicester.
  • 2. Cath. Rec. Soc. ii. 27, 179-81; xiii. 90; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 376; Lansd. 33, f. 145v.