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Henry Bedingfeld

Knight (1509-1583)

Bedingfeld, SIR HENRY, Knight, b. 1509; d. 1583. He was the grandson of Sir Edmund Bedingfeld who had served in the Wars of the Roses, and to whom were granted by Edward IV for his faithful service letters patent authorizing him “to build towers, walls, and such other fortifications as he pleased in his manors of Oxburgh, together with a market there weekly and a court of pye-powder” Sir Henry was mainly instrumental, together with Sir Henry Jerningham, in placing Mary Tudor on the throne. He proclaimed her at Norwich, and for his loyalty received an annual pension of £100 out of the forfeited estates of Sir Thomas Wyatt. Ultimately he became Lieu-tenant of the Tower of London and Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. As “jailer” of the Princess Elizabeth, who was suspected of complicity in Wyatt’s rebellion, he has been persistently misrepresented by Foxe and others, but the whole history of his custodianship of Elizabeth is contained in a series of letters addressed to the Queen and the Privy Council, and in their replies. This correspondence, which has been published by the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society, completely exonerates Sir Henry from either cruelty or want of courtesy in his treatment of the royal captive. On Elizabeth’s accession he retired to Oxburgh and was called upon in a letter, in which the Queen addressed him as “trusty and well-beloved”, to furnish a horse and man armed, as his contribution to the defense of the country against an expected invasion of the French.

When, however, the penal laws against Catholics were enforced with extreme severity, Sir Henry Bedingfeld was not spared. He was required to pay heavy monthly fines for non-attendance at the parish church, while his house was searched for priests and church-furniture, and his servants dismissed for refusing to conform to the new state religion. Together with his fellow-Catholics, he was a prisoner within five miles of his own house and might pass that boundary only by a written authorization of the Privy Council. He was buried in the Bedingfeld chantry at Oxburgh. He married Katharine, daughter of Sir Roger Townshend, ancestor of the present Marquess Townshend, by whom he had numerous issue.

J. M. STONE


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