BEDINGFIELD, Sir Henry (1586-1657), of Oxburgh Hall, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 21 May 1586,1 1st s. of Thomas Bedingfield of Oxburgh, and Frances, da. and coh. of John Jernegan of Somerleyton, Suff.2 m. (1) c.1604, Mary (d. bef. July 1609), da. of Lord William Howard of Naworth, Cumb., ?1s.; (2) 11 July 1609, Elizabeth (d. 11 Apr. 1662), da. and coh. of Peter Houghton of Hoghton Tower, Lancs. and London, sheriff and alderman, 4s. 5da. ?2 other ch.3 suc. fa. 1590; kntd. aft. 21 July 1604.4 d. 22 Nov. 1657.

Offices Held

J.p. Norf. by 1610-26, dep. lt. by 1610-26;5 commr. sewers, Lincs., Northants., Hunts., Norf., Suff. 1617,6 R. Gleane, Lincs. 1629,7 impressment of mariners, Norf. 1620, destruction of game 1620-1;8 sheriff, Norf. 1620-1;9 commr. subsidy, Norf. 1621-2, 1624,10capt. horse 1624,11 commr. Privy Seal loans 1625-6.12


The Bedingfields had been established in East Anglia since the Conquest, when the family’s founder, Ogerus de Pugeys, was granted the manor of Bedingfield and assumed its name. The family’s ancient seat of Oxburgh was acquired in the mid-fifteenth century through marriage, and in 1482 Edmund Bedingfield got permission to build a new house with a moat and large Gothic hall.13 Bedingfield succeeded as head of the family in 1590 at the age of three. His property was managed during his minority by his step-father, Sir Henry Jernegan, who was also his first cousin once removed and the head of another staunchly Catholic East Anglian family.14 In November 1607 Bedingfield was granted a licence to travel for three years with his brother-in-law Francis Howard, but he apparently returned sometime before July 1609, when he remarried.15 Although convicted of recusancy in London in 1606,16 and noted in the Norwich diocesan records as being a Catholic,17 Bedingfield’s close connection with the Howards, among them Norfolk’s lord lieutenant the earl of Northampton, meant that by 1610 he had become both a deputy lieutenant and magistrate.18

Despite his Catholicism, Bedingfield was elected knight of the shire for Norfolk in 1614. His reasons for standing are unknown, but together with Sir Hamon L’Estrange*, who like him was connected to the earls of Northampton and Arundel, he arranged at short notice for the election to be held at Swaffham rather than at Norwich. This prevented a contest, since another candidate, Sir Henry Rich*, was waiting in Norwich with an organized group of freeholders and the support of Thomas Howard, 1st earl of Suffolk.19 Bedingfield may have found it uncomfortable to be pitted against Suffolk, who was not merely a Howard but also the uncle of his first wife. In Parliament, Bedingfield seems never to have spoken, and was named only to one bill committee, to repeal an Elizabethan Act concerning the packing of fish (24 May).20 On 28 May he was fined 12d. (along with Sir Robert Wynde, Sir William Cooke and Sir Hamon L’Estrange) for attempting to leave the House before the Speaker at the end of the day’s proceedings.21

Following the Parliament, Bedingfield continued to play an active role in local government, and indeed served as sheriff in 1620-1. However, amid increasing anti-Catholic hostility in the 1620s, he was named in a petition complaining of ‘popish recusants’ who occupied key local offices which was presented to James I during the 1624 Parliament.22 Nevertheless, he was not dropped from the bench and lieutenancy until 1626, when he was granted leave to travel to France for a year on the advice of two doctors.23 There he probably had some contact with the queen mother, Marie de Medici, who wrote to Charles I asking for him to be exempted from the recusancy laws.24 Marie was anxious to put pressure on Charles to obey the articles of Henrietta Maria’s marriage treaty, which promised English Catholics dispensation from the penal laws.25 Whether Bedingfield obtained the desired exemption is not known, but after sustained pressure from France he received a general warrant signed by Charles in 1634 which afforded him ‘our favour’ when he and members of his family ‘shall stand in need thereof’. This warrant expressly acknowledged the role played by the queen mother, who had ‘often and earnestly’ intervened on his behalf.26

How long Bedingfield was shielded by this warrant is unknown, but he never regained his local offices and in 1641 his subsidy assessment was that of a recusant, as he was forced to pay £12, double the normal sum expected from a man rated at £30 in lands.27 Nevertheless, the protection afforded to Bedingfield was criticized by the puritan writer William Prynne†, who, in both his Popish Royal Favourite (1643) and Hidden Works of Darkness (1645), laid pointed to the apparent toleration enjoyed by Bedingfield and his family as evidence that the leaders of the Caroline Church and government were taking England back to Rome.28 Prynne’s claims must have seemed all the more credible given that Bedingfield led East Anglia’s Catholic royalists during the First Civil War. Bedingfield’s eldest son, Thomas, also fought for the king, and after being wounded and captured at Lincoln served two years in a common gaol before being sent into foreign exile, while Bedingfield’s son-in-law, Col. Robert Apreece, was killed in cold blood shortly after the parliamentarians captured Lincoln in 1643.29 Two other sons, Henry and William, both fought as royalists and eventually fled overseas, joining an already large contingent of Bedingfields abroad; another son, Edmund, was a canon at Lierre in Belgium while 11 of Bedingfield’s close cousins had entered various nunneries spread throughout Western Europe.30 Bedingfield himself escaped to Holland shortly after Henrietta Maria left England in early 1642. His departure was undoubtedly hastened by a recommendation made by the parliamentarian Sir Philip Stapleton† to Oliver Cromwell*, that Bedingfield should be captured to pre-empt the raising of a royalist army in Norfolk.31 Shortly afterwards, the Commons ordered his apprehension.32 Information gathered by John Cory and conveyed to Sir John Potts† suggested that Bedingfield planned to return to England, and would arrive from Flanders in March 1643.33 In June he was formally accused in the Commons of ‘residing at Rotterdam’ and of ‘doing ill offices to the Parliament’, and was ordered home on pain of sequestration of his estates.34

Bedingfield managed to keep most of his property out of Parliament’s hands until the mid-1640s by means of a trust in the names of the sons of his second offspring, Henry.35 In 1646 he returned to England, probably with Arthur, Lord Capel† and John, Lord Culpepper† after their visit to Henrietta Maria at St. Germains.36 He was possibly involved with a number of other prominent royalists in attempting to create an alliance with France and assisting the escape of three Jesuits.37 These activities were halted by his capture at Oxburgh after parliamentary forces had attempted to take the Hall, in the process setting it partly alight, and the sequestration of his estates on 30 Oct. 1646.38 Bedingfield was imprisoned in the Tower between 1647-9, where he wrote a book on ‘the Passion of our Saviour’, dedicated to his wife.39 Exempted from the parliamentary pardon issued during this period, he was eventually released at about the beginning of November 1649.40 In 1652 his Norfolk estates, valued in excess of £2,000 p.a., were sold by Parliament;41 his Suffolk properties were later purchased by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England.42 Bedingfield died on 22 Nov. 1657 ‘having been ill of a quartan ague and the dropsy 10 weeks’,43 and was buried in the family’s chantry in Oxburgh church.44 His portrait is in the east wing of Oxburgh Hall.45 No will or letters of administration have been found. After the Restoration his son, Sir Henry Bedingfield†, petitioned Charles II for relief, calculating the family’s losses at over £47,000, and in recompense was created a baronet in 1661.46 He sat for Dunwich in the Convention Parliament and for Aldeburgh in 1685-6.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


  • 1. C142/225/90.
  • 2. W.A. Copinger, Suff. Manors, iii. 260.
  • 3. Copinger, iv. 17-18; K. Bedingfield, Bedingfields of Oxburgh, 55-6; G.A. Carthew, Hundred of Launditch, ii. 171; Richmond Par. Reg. (Surr. Par. Reg. Soc. i), 143.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 134.
  • 5. Norf. RO, WLS XVII/2, ff. 5, 41, 46, 50.
  • 6. C181/2, f. 282.
  • 7. C181/4, f. 20.
  • 8. APC, 1619-21, pp. 247-8, 263; 1621-3, p. 30.
  • 9. Norf. Official Lists ed. H. L’Estrange, 21.
  • 10. C212/22/20-3.
  • 11. LJ, iii. 395.
  • 12. E401/2586, p. 138.
  • 13. Bedingfield, 3-9, 15-16, 21-6; F. Blomefield, Hist. Norf. vi. 168-77.
  • 14. WARD9/158, ff. 26v-7; Bedingfield, 52.
  • 15. SO3/3, unfol.
  • 16. London Sess. Recs. ed. H. Bowler (Cath. Rec. Soc. xxxiv), 19.
  • 17. Norf. RO, MC354/1 (transcript of DIS/9).
  • 18. Ibid. WLS XVII/2, f. 5.
  • 19. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 518.
  • 20. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 332.
  • 21. Ibid. 376.
  • 22. LJ, iii. 395.
  • 23. APC, 1625-6, p. 319.
  • 24. SP14/214, f. 253.
  • 25. M. Houssaye, ‘L’Ambassade de M. Blainville a la Cour de Charles Ier’, Revue des Questions Historiques, xxiii. 176-204.
  • 26. W. Prynne, Popish Royal Favourite, sig. A3.
  • 27. Norf. RO, WLS XVII/2, ff. 76, 122v.
  • 28. Prynne, Popish Favourite, sig. A3; Prynne, Hidden Workes, 192.
  • 29. R.W. Ketton-Cremer, Norf. in the Civil War, 303; P.R. Newman, Roy. Officers in Eng. and Wales, 21; CJ, v. 160a-b.
  • 30. Ketton-Cremer, 303; Bedingfield, 38-42.
  • 31. Letters from Stapleton to Cromwell ed. D. Turner (Norf. Arch. ii), 46.
  • 32. CJ, ii. 948a.
  • 33. Ketton-Cremer, 182.
  • 34. CJ, iii. 129b.
  • 35. CCC, 115.
  • 36. R. Ashton, Counter-Rev. 275; S.R. Gardiner, Hist. Civil War, iii. 118-19.
  • 37. Corresp. de Montereul ed. J.G. Fotheringham (Scottish Hist. Soc. xxix), i. 252.
  • 38. Add. 31116, p. 575; CJ, iv. 710; Ketton-Cremer, 304.
  • 39. Bedingfield Pprs. ed. J.H. Pollen (Cath. Rec. Soc. vii), 5-13.
  • 40. LJ, x. 548.
  • 41. CCC, 115; iv. 2622-4; Bedingfield, 59; CSP Dom. 1650, p. 93.
  • 42. Ketton-Cremer, 304.
  • 43. Bedingfield, 59.
  • 44. Dom Bede Camm, Forgotten Shrines, 329.
  • 45. Bedingfield Pprs. facing p. 5.
  • 46. J. Gillow, Biog. Dict. of Eng. Cath. i. 168.