Sir Henry Norreys / Norris (c.1482 - 1536)

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Birthplace: Wytham,,Berkshire,England
Death: Died in London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Cause of death: Beheaded (accused of adultery with Ann Boleyn)
Occupation: Sir Knight
Managed by: Katherine M Douglas
Last Updated:

About Sir Henry Norreys / Norris

Sir Henry Norreys/Norris (the former version now being preferred where an Earl of Lindsey and Abingdon's eldest son and heir is concerned); Usher Black Rod 1527, Esquire of the Body and Gentleman of the Privy Council; married Mary, daughter of 8th Lord Dacre, and was beheaded 17 May 1536 after being accused of adultery with Anne Boleyn (being also posthumously attainted). [Burke's Peerage]

Sir Henry Norris (c. 1482 – May 17, 1536) was a groom of the stool in the privy chamber of King Henry VIII. While a close servant of the King he also supported the faction in court led by Queen Anne Boleyn, and when Anne fell out of favour he was among those accused of adultery with her. He was found guilty of treason and executed. Most historical authorities argue that the accusations were untrue and part of a plot to get rid of Anne.

Many references say that Henry was the second son of Sir Edward Norris of Yattendon Castle in Berkshire, by his wife Frideswide, daughter of John Lovel, 8th Lord Lovel. Some of these also say that Edward Norris died in 1487. So the birth date of 1482 for Henry would be consistent with this. However, Eric Ives (2004), says that Henry was younger, born in the 1490s, and says that he was apparently the second son of Richard Norris[1]. Richard was Edward's younger brother, but according to the Heralds' Visitations of Berkshire (1664/6), he was the father of only a single daughter, Anne. This is consistent with the descent of his manor of Great Shefford which she inherited around 1522, prior to Henry’s execution in 1536. Had he been Richard’s son and not Sir Edward’s, he would have inherited the manor. Therefore it is likely, in this instance, that Ives is incorrect. Whichever version is correct, all sources agree that Henry's grandfather, Sir William Norris, had taken part in the Battle of Stoke in 1487 at the conclusion of the Wars of the Roses. Henry married Mary Fiennes, daughter of Thomas Fiennes, 8th Lord Dacre and Anne Bourchier. Their eldest son was Henry Norris, 1st Baron Norreys of Rycote. Other children were: Edward (1524 - July 16, 1529) and Mary(1526–1570) who married, firstly, Sir George Carew who died in the sinking of the Mary Rose in 1545. Secondly, Mary married Sir Arthur Champernowne. It has been said Sir Henry Norris was the father of The Lady Elizabeth, Anne's daughter. However, due to the lack of any real evidence of Anne ever committing adultery, along with the remarkable resemblance Elizabeth bore to King Henry VIII, this is most unlikely. The notion that the child was not the daughter of the king was invented to blacken the name of her mother as well as deprive her of her legal rights as heir.

At TudorPlace it is noted The name Norreys has at least 2 potential derivations: one who came from the north or who lived in the north (there was a word "noreis" or "norreis" meaning a northerner), or from one who cared for others (the word "norrice" for nurse). There are also references to Noreis back in the 12th. century and to a Robert le Noris in the 1297 Yorkshire Subsidy Roll.

Henry Norris had come to Court during his youth, and became a close friend of King Henry VIII who appointed him a Gentleman of the Bedchamber. He was granted many offices by the King, the first in 1515 being keeper of Foliejon Park in Winkfield. He was serving in the King's Privy Chamber by 1517. In 1518 he became weigher at the common beam at Southampton, then the great mart of the Italian merchants. On 28 January 1518/19 he was appointed bailiff of Ewelme. In 1519 he was awarded an annuity of 50 marks (about £33). He was at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. In 1523 he received the keepership of Langley New Park, Buckinghamshire, and was made bailiff of Watlington. He worked his way up and in 1526 took over the post of Groom of the Stool and was in charge of the gentlemen of the King's Privy Chamber. According to Ives (2004) in this position he was not only the King's confidant but also perhaps the closest friend the King had. Norris risked the wrath of Anne Boleyn's faction when, just before the fall of Thomas Wolsey, he offered the Cardinal his own rooms when the Cardinal had deliberately been left without accommodation. He was present when Wolsey resigned the Great Seal. On 24 October 1529 he was the King's only attendant, when Henry went with Anne and her mother to inspect Wolsey's property. He was the bearer of Henry's kind message to Wolsey at Putney about the same time, and it seems he was affected by Wolsey's fallen condition. Also in 1529 he received a grant of £100 a year from the revenues of the see of Winchester. In 1531 he was made chamberlain of North Wales. In 1534 he was appointed constable of Beaumaris Castle. In 1535 he received various manors which Sir Thomas More had held. He was present at the execution of the Charterhouse monks on 4 May 1535, and Henry granted him the important constableship of Wallingford Castle (29 November. 1535). Norris had helped Anne Boleyn while she was gaining her position at Court and became one of her close friends and a leader of the faction that supported her attempts to wield political power. This brought him into conflict with Thomas Cromwell, a leader in the Dissolution of the Monasteries. At the time of his death his gross annual income from royal appointments was about £1000 per annum.

In the background to the case against Norris were the negotiations which were being carried out with the French ambassador at Greenwich on April 18, 1536. It was clear to Thomas Cromwell, that Anne Boleyn stood in the way of what he sought to achieve. With the King's approval he started to investigate and to secure evidence for charges of treason to be laid against Anne, Norris, and four other courtiers. Norris was accused of being solicited by Anne at Westminster on October 6, 1533, and of adultery on October 12 and again at Greenwich in November. The prosecution's choice of these dates appears now particularly improbable and therefore careless. At that time Anne was in Greenwich not Westminster and recovering from the birth of Elizabeth on September 7 and was thus probably still in purda. As well as specific charges, there was a catch all charge of committing adultery at diverse times and places. Most historians think that all the charges were fabrications. A grand jury was assembled at Westminster Hall on May 9 and decided there was a case to answer for the offences which had occurred at Whitehall. John Baldwin, a chief justice, presided with six of his judicial colleagues. On May 10, Baldwin with 3 assistants went to Deptford, where a Kent jury decided there was a case to answer on the events that had taken place at Greenwich. With the committals in hand, Cromwell proceeded to arrange the trial for the four who were not members of the higher nobility as Norris, Sir William Brereton, Sir Francis Weston were Aristocracy and Landed Gentry while Mark Smeaton was a commoner, which was held in Westminster hall on May 12. The jury was packed with people who had reason to be hostile to Anne Boleyn's cause or had a personal enmity with one of the accused, but also with Anne's own father Thomas Boleyn, her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk and the man she had wished to marry thirteen years before, Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland. Sir William Paulet, controller of the King's household, was one of the judges. All four pleaded not guilty to all the charges with the exception of Smeaton, who plead guilty to one charge of adultery. The accused had to improvise their defences on the spot, with no help from defence counsels and no advance warning of the evidence. The hostile prosecutors duly secured a guilty verdict. All four were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Because all were in service of the court, this sentence was commuted to the less terrifying one of beheading by the executioner's axe. The execution was duly carried out on May 17 on Tower Hill. Unlike the other accused, who with carefully chosen words indicated their innocence, Norris did not risk reimposition of the harsher method of execution and so said little on the scaffold. However, an indication of his wife's continued trust in her husband is provided by her bequest to her son nine years later: "one bracelet of gold, the which was the last token his father sent me."

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Henry Norreys, of Wytham, Sir's Timeline

1482
1482
Wytham,,Berkshire,England
1524
1524
Age 42
1524
Age 42
Hurstmonceaux,,Sussex,England
1525
1525
Age 43
Wytham, Berkshire, England
1526
1526
Age 44
Bray, Berkshire , England
1536
May 17, 1536
Age 54
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom