Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor of England

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About Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor of England Sir Christopher Hatton (1540 – 20 November 1591) was an English politician, lord chancellor of England and a favourite of Elizabeth I of England. Sir Christopher Hatton's early education is said to have been supervised by his maternal uncle, William Saunders (died c. 1583), but otherwise nothing is known of his life until he entered St. Mary's Hall, Oxford as a gentleman commoner at 15 or 16 years of age.[ also fathered at least four illegitimate children. Elizabeth, who married Hugh Butler of Johnston, was the granddaughter of Sir Christopher Hatton, a favourite of Elizabeth I and enemy of Sir John (the source of their hostility being Sir John's relationship with Sir Christopher's unmarried illegitimate daughter, also named Elizabeth).[14] Early days

His father was William Hatton (d. 1546) of Holdenby, Northamptonshire and his mother was Alice Saunders. He was educated at St Mary Hall, Oxford. Known as a handsome and accomplished man, especially distinguished for his elegant dancing, he soon attracted the notice of Queen Elizabeth and became one of her gentlemen pensioners in 1564, and the captain of her bodyguard in 1572. He received valuable estates and offices from the Queen, and this prompted rumours that he was her lover, a charge which was definitely made in 1584 by Mary, Queen of Scots. Hatton had been made vice-chamberlain of the royal household and a member of the Privy Council in 1578, and had been a member of parliament since 1571, first representing the borough of Higham Ferrers and afterwards the county of Northamptonshire. In 1578 he was knighted, and became the Queen's spokesman in the House of Commons. He was an active agent in the prosecutions of John Stubbs and William Parry, disputing John Jovey's suggestion to execute the "seditious pair." He was also one of those appointed to arrange a marriage between Elizabeth and Francois, Duke of Alençon, in 1581.

As a lawyer, he was a member of the court which tried Anthony Babington in 1586; and was one of the commissioners who found Mary, Queen of Scots, guilty of treason. He urged Elizabeth not to marry the French prince; but, according to one account, repeatedly assured Mary that he would fetch her to London if the English queen died. Whether true or not, Hatton's loyalty was unquestioned; and he brought about a memorable incident seen in the House of Commons in December 1584, when four hundred kneeling members repeated after him a prayer for Elizabeth's safety.

Having been the constant recipient of substantial marks of the queen's favour, he vigorously denounced Mary Stuart in parliament, and advised William Davison to forward the warrant for her execution to Fotheringhay. In the same year (1587) Hatton was made Lord Chancellor; he was the last MP to hold this position (barring the strange case of Charles Yorke) until Jack Straw, some four hundred and twenty years later. Although he had no great knowledge of the law, he appears to have acted with sound sense and good judgment in his new position. He is said to have been a Roman Catholic in all but name, yet he treated religious questions in a moderate and tolerant way. He died in London, and was buried in St Paul's Cathedral.

Although mention has been made of a secret marriage, Hatton appears to have remained single, and his large and valuable estates descended to his nephew, Sir William Newport, who took the name of Hatton. Sir Christopher was a Knight of the Garter and chancellor of the University of Oxford. Elizabeth frequently gave her friend generous gifts. She called him her "mouton", and forced the bishop of Ely to give him the freehold of Ely Place, Holborn, which became his residence, his name being perpetuated in the neighbouring Hatton Garden. Hatton is reported to have been a very mean man, but he patronized men of letters, and among his friends was Edmund Spenser. He wrote the fourth act of a tragedy, Tancred and Gismund, and his death occasioned several panegyrics in both prose and verse.

When Hatton's nephew, Sir William Hatton, died without sons in 1597, his estates passed to a kinsman, another Sir Christopher Hatton (d. 1619), whose son and successor, Christopher, was created Baron Hatton of Kirby.


Hatton became very wealthy as a result of his progressing career and the Queen's fondness of him. So much so that in 1583, Hatton, deciding to further his social status, embarked on the construction of a magnificent house. The house was called Holdenby House, in Holdenby, Northamptonshire. It was, at the time, the largest privately owned Elizabethan house in England. It contained 123 huge glass windows, in the days when glass was very expensive (indeed, a good show of wealth was how many windows you could afford in your house). It had 2 great courts and was as large as the palace of Hampton Court. It was 3 storeys high and had 2 large state rooms (one for himself and another for the queen should she ever come and stay) - she never did! William Cecil, one of Elizabeth's chief ministers visited the house in his old age and commented that he was immensely impressed with the grand staircase leading from the hall to the staterooms and proclaimed the house was so faultless that he forgot the 'infirmity of his legs' whilst he walked around. No expense was spared and Hatton even paid to move an entire small village because it spoiled his view from one of the windows. The cost of the house drained his purse to such an extent that Hatton was permanently short of money for the rest of his life. To maintain his dwindling wealth, Hatton began investing in some of the voyages of Francis Drake. He helped fund Drake's circumnavigation of the globe and when Drake reached the straits of Magellan he renamed his ship 'The Golden Hind' in Honour of Hatton's coat of Arms - which contained a golden hind. Hatton made a profit of £2300 from this particular expedition.


Despite his successes, he died penniless and childless, only a few years after his house at Holdenby was finally completed. All that remains of the original house of Holdenby are old drawings and plans, one room which was later incorporated into a new restoration in the 1870s, part of the pillared doorway and 2 arches with the date 1583 inscribed upon them, which now stand alone in the gardens [1].

His health went into serious decline in 1591 and the Queen visited him on 11 November. He died at Ely Palace with a State Funeral taking place at the Old St Paul's Cathedral on 16 December[2]. A magnificent monument to him stood at the high alter of Old St Paul's: 'towering above it - an outrage to the susceptibilities of the devout but an object of marvel to London sightseers - until the Great Fire of 1666 dethroned and destroyed it' [2].

A school, Sir Christopher Hatton School, known sometimes as 'Hatton School' was opened in 1983 in his memory in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

Further reading

Nicholas Harris Nicolas, Life and Times of Sir Christopher Hatton (London, 1847)

Correspondence of the Family of Hatton, being chiefly Letters addressed to Christopher, first Viscount Hutton, 1601-1704, edited with introduction by EM Thompson (London, 1878).

The Courtier & The Queen: Sir Christopher Hatton and Elizabeth I, Malcolm Deacon, ISBN 978-0-9523188-4-2 - see references.


1.^ Holdenby Palace website

2.^ a b Deacon, Malcolm (2008). The Courtier and the Queen. Welstead Farm, Milton Malsor, Northampton NN7 3AT: Park Lane Publishing. pp. 213.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Sir Christopher Hatton". Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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