NORTH, Sir Roger (1531-1600), of Kirtling, Cambs. 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. 27 Feb. 1531, 1st s. of Edward North, 1st Lord North, by his 1st w. Alice, da. of Oliver Squire of Southby, Hants, wid. of Edward Murfyn of London and of John Brigandine of Southampton. educ. ?Peterhouse, Camb. m. c.1547, Winifred, da. of Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich, wid. of Sir Henry Dudley, 3s. inc. Henry and John 1da. KB Jan. 1559; suc. fa. as 2nd Lord North 1564. Kt. banneret at Zutphen 1586.2

Offices Held

J.p. Cambs. from c.1559, Suff. and Isle of Ely from c.1579, Mdx. 1591; ld. lt. Cambs. 1569, custos rot. c.1573; alderman, Cambridge 1568, high steward 1572; steward, duchy of Lancaster lands in Cambs., Norf., Suff. 1572; ambassador to Vienna 1568, France 1574; gov. Flushing June 1586, Utrecht and Harlingen July 1586; PC and treasurer of the Household Aug. 1596.3


North succeeded to large estates in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, with property in Harrow, Pinner and other parts of Middlesex, and a London mansion built on the site of the Charterhouse. At about the time he received livery of his estates in June 1565, he sold a house and chapel at Clerkenwell to the Duke of Norfolk and lands in Huntingdonshire to (Sir) Henry Cromwell alias Williams. Later he increased his Suffolk property by buying an estate at Mildenhall, and in 1597 he was granted the reversion to the keepership of Eltham and Horne parks in Kent. By the accession of Elizabeth he was spending much time at court. In May 1559 he received a licence for the export of 2,000 woollen cloths and kerseys, and in July 1559 he was one of the challengers at the grand tournament held in Greenwich park. The first household subsidy of the reign assessed him at £30. In religion North was a radical. He had voted against a government bill in the 1555 Parliament, and the bishops’ letters of 1564 reported favourably on his attitude to Elizabeth’s church settlement. In Suffolk he showed himself a supporter of the group of puritan justices of the peace who quarrelled with successive bishops of Norwich, and he was accused of leading his friend the Earl of Leicester into the radical protestant camp.4

The only reference found to his activities in the 1563 session of Parliament is the committal to him of a bill concerning the fens, 5 Feb. On the first day of the second session he took his seat in the Lords, where he served as a trier of petitions in the Parliaments of 1571. 1572, 1584 and 1597. Between his two foreign embassies he was one of the peers who condemned the Duke of Norfolk at his trial for treason in January 1572.5

North was an energetic local official, organizing county musters, supervising schemes for draining the fens, and inquiring into the activities of the religious sect known as the Family of Love. Cambridge found in him an ally in disputes with the university. In May 1569 he had his first clash with the university authorities, over the liability of students’ servants to be called to the musters. That December he forced a student who had used ‘evil and foul words’ to the mayor to apologise on his knees and to stand for three hours in the pillory. In 1591 he complained to the Privy Council that a group of undergraduates had attacked the inn where he was eating after holding sessions at the castle, and released a prisoner, whom they took to the vice-chancellor’s house. The corporation frequently gave him presents, varying from plate to oxen and foodstuffs.6

In September 1578 North entertained the Queen for two days at Kirtling, an honour which according to his household books cost him £762, including a gift of jewellery worth £120. During this progress he had a ‘sudden and passionate’ quarrel with the Earl of Sussex—a dispute which Elizabeth personally intervened to settle. He had already had a dispute with Lord Zouche, for which the two were called before the Privy Council, and with the bishop of Ely, who was refusing to grant a lease at Somersham, a matter in which North had the Queen’s support.7

North accompanied Leicester to the Netherlands in 1585, and at once began writing the usual complaints to Burghley about his ‘intolerable charge’. In the following February it was reported to Leicester that ‘the Lord North seemeth to be a malcontent, and hath so written to her Majesty’, and information was sent to Walsingham that at Utrecht he had supported a seditious preacher. Still, he fought with gallantry at Zutphen, where he was wounded, and proved an energetic administrator at Flushing and Utrecht. Leicester was unstinting in his praise. At the end of 1586 North returned to England, but was again in the Netherlands from June to September 1587, when he came home ‘scant well-pleased ... having stood in hope either of (the post of) general of the horse or governor of Flushing’. During the Armada attack he commanded part of the Queen’s bodyguard at Tilbury, and later in the year failed to persuade Burghley to secure for him the governorship of Berwick.8

Promotion came to North during the last few years of his life. On the death of Sir Francis Knollys in 1596, he was made a Privy Councillor and treasurer of the Household—according to his own claim achieving great economies in the latter office. He was one of the signatories to the treaty with the Netherlands in August 1598. By this time he was suffering from deafness, and the Queen wrote out a homely remedy for him. He died at the Charterhouse 3 Dec. 1600, leaving as heir his grandson Dudley North, aged about 18, whom he had tried unsuccessfully to marry to a relative of Burghley’s. The funeral service was on 22 Dec. at St. Paul’s, and he was buried at Kirtling on 12 Feb. following. His will, made on 22 Oct. 1600, was proved 23 Jan. 1601. It made detailed arrangements for financial provision based on rent charges from lands for his elder surviving son Sir Henry, and for annuities and bequests totalling £1,300 to a number of grandchildren. North left £100 to the Queen, ‘from whom I have received advancements to honour and many and continual favours’; plate went to his overseer (Sir) John Popham; ‘my fairest cup’ and £20 to the Countess of Warwick, ‘whose house I have always loved and honoured’; and £10 and a gilt cup to Sir Robert Cecil.9

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. EHR, xxxvii. 566; CP , ix. 652-3; DNB; The generally accepted date for his marriage, 1557, is an error based on the wrong identification of Sir Henry Dudley, his wife’s former husband.
  • 3. CP ; Somerville, Duchy, i. 595; SP12/59/190, SP12/93; Cambridge Charters, 103; CSP For. 1572-4, pp. 560-2; CSP Ven. 1558-80, pp. 520-1.
  • 4. C142/265/75; Wards 7/10/126; CPR, 1558-60, p. 110; 1563-6, pp. 274, 306-8; DNB; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 450; Add. 1580-1625, p. 404; Lansd. 3, ff. 193 seq.; Guildford Mus., Loseley 1331/2; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 24; P. Collinson, ‘Puritan Classical Movement in the Reign of Eliz. I’ (London Univ. PhD thesis 1957), 657, 870, 886, 898-9, 905, 916-17, 934 n. 1, 949.
  • 5. CJ, i. 64; D’Ewes, 84; LJ, i. 667, 703; ii. 62, 191; CSP For. 1572-4, pp. 560-4, 569; CSP Ven. 1558-60, pp. 520-2; Howell, State Trials, i. col. 957.
  • 6. APC, xii. 233; xvii. 112; A. Gray, Town of Cambridge, 103-5.
  • 7. Archaeologia, xix. 287-90; DNB; APC, ix. 86; HMC Hatfield, ii. 121; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 507.
  • 8. CSP For. 1585-6, p. 328; Apr.-Dec. 1587, p. 268 et passim; Leycester Corresp. (Cam. Soc. xxvii), 114, 192, 411, 417; Lansd. 57, f. 112; HMC Foljambe, 40, 56.
  • 9. APC, xxvi. 135; CP; Lady Frances Bushby, Three Men of the Tudor Time, 162; Rymer, Foedera, xvi. 343; HMC Hatfield, ii. 523; vi. 510; ix. 90; C142/265/75; Lansd. 84, f. 129; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 501; PCC 6 Woodhall, abstracted in Coll. Top. et Gen. vi. 99-101.