Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Norris, Edward (d.1603)
NORRIS, Sir EDWARD (d. 1603), governor of Ostend, third son of Henry Norris, baron Norris of Rycote [q. v.], seems from an early age to have engaged, like his more distinguished brother John (1547?–1597) [q. v.], in military service abroad. About 1578, with his brothers John and Henry, he joined the English volunteers in the Low Countries. In 1584 he was in Ireland (cf. Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 1574–85, pp. 521–522; Carew MSS. 1575–88, p. 377). He was elected M.P. for Abingdon in 1585. In the autumn of that year he returned to Holland to take command of an English company, and was soon made lieutenant to Sir Philip Sidney, who had been appointed governor of Flushing, one of the towns temporarily handed over to Queen Elizabeth as surety by the States-General. Sidney did not arrive till the end of the year, and Norris claimed to exercise his military prerogatives in his absence. Both Sir Roger Williams and the English envoy, William Davison, sent to Lord Burghley bitter complaints of his overbearing temper and of his want of judgment in the bestowal of patronage (11 Nov. 1585) (Motley, United Netherlands, i. 353–4). But on Sidney's arrival in November he proved compliant. In the following April Leicester knighted him at Utrecht. In May he took a prominent part in erecting on the island where the Rhine and Waal divide at the foot of the hills of Cleves the strong earthen fort which is still standing, and bears its original name of Schenken Schanz (Markham, Fighting Veres, p. 88).
On 6 Aug. 1586 Sidney and Norris arrived in Gertruydenberg to discuss the military situation with the governor, Count Hohenlohe, and Sir William Pelham, the marshal of the English army. In the evening the officers supped together in Hohenlohe's quarters. Norris fancied that a remark made by Pelham was intended to reflect on the character of his brother John. He expressed his resentment with irritating volubility, and was ordered by Count Hohenlohe to keep silence. Norris refused to obey, whereupon the count, who was barely sober, ‘hurled a cover of a cup at his face, and cut him along the forehead.’ Norris next morning challenged his assailant to a duel, and induced Sir Philip Sidney to bear the cartel. Leicester was informed of the circumstance, and began an investigation. He wrote home that Norris was always quarrelling with his brother officers, and was jeopardising by his insolent demeanour those good relations between the Dutch and English troops which were essential to the success of the campaign. The count declared that no inferior officer was justified in challenging his superior in command. For the time the quarrel was patched up, but the ill-feeling generated by the dispute between the allies was not easily dissipated. Just before Leicester finally returned to England in November 1587, Norris renewed the challenge to Hohenlohe; but the count was ill at Delft, and no meeting was arranged (Leycester Correspondence, Camd. Soc. pp. 301, 391–4, 473). Hohenlohe unreasonably blamed Leicester for Norris's persistence in continuing the dispute, and reviewed his own part in the affair in a published tract, entitled ‘Verantwoordinge … teghens zekere Vertooch ende Remonstrancie by zijne Excie den Grave van Leycester’ (Leyden, 1587; cf. Grimeston, Netherlands, 1627, p. 818).
Leicester left Norris at Ostend, another town which had been surrendered to the English by the Dutch in 1586 by way of surety. The English governor, Sir John Conway [q. v.], was absent through 1588, and Norris acted as his deputy. On 10 June 1588 he wrote to Leicester that the town was in a desperate plight, and could hardly stand a siege (Wright, Queen Elizabeth, ii. 371–2). In 1589 he accompanied his brother John and Sir Francis Drake on the great expedition to Portugal, and was badly wounded in the assault on Burgos. His life was only saved by the gallantry of his brother (Birch, Memoirs, p. 58; Speed, History, p. 864; Motley, ii. 855). Next year—in July 1590—he was regularly constituted governor of Ostend (Murdin, State Papers, p. 794). In December he received reinforcements and ammunitions from England, in anticipation of a siege by the Spaniards (Hatfield MSS. iv. 77). In February 1591 he captured Blankenbergh (Grimeston, p. 926). But in the April following he embroiled himself with the States-General by levying contributions on the villages of the neighbourhood. Sir Thomas Bodley, the English envoy, declared his conduct unjustifiable, and Lord Burghley condemned it. Accordingly he was summoned to London to receive a reprimand from the council, and was ordered to keep his house (Sydney Papers, i. 322–31; Grimeston, p. 931). His presence was, however, soon needed at Ostend, and he energetically supervised the building of new fortifications. In 1593, when the town was believed to be seriously menaced, Elizabeth sent him an encouraging letter in her own hand, addressing him as ‘Ned’ (Motley, iii. 267–8). But the danger passed away, and he was at court again in December 1593. The visit was repeated four years later, when he and Sir Francis Vere were ‘gallantly followed by such as profess arms’ (cf. Birch, i. 146; Sydney Papers, ii. 66, 78). In September 1599 the queen recalled him to comfort his parents for the recent loss of three of their sons, and he does not seem to have resumed his post abroad (ib. ii. 120).
On settling again in England Norris was granted by his mother some small property at Englefield, Berkshire, with the manor of Shinfield and much neighbouring land. Norris resided at Englefield in a house which must be distinguished from the chief mansion there, which was in the occupation of the Paulet family. He married on 17 July 1600, and in October 1600 he presented himself to the queen after his marriage. Dudley Carleton [q. v.], who had been in his service as private secretary at Ostend, remained for a time a member of his household, and many references to his domestic affairs appear in the letters of Carleton's gossiping correspondent, John Chamberlain [q. v.] On 27 May 1601 Chamberlain wrote that Norris was dangerously sick. He was noted ‘of late,’ he added, ‘to make money by all means possible, as though he had some great enterprise or purchase in his head’ (Chamberlain, Letters, p. 109). In September 1601 Norris entertained the queen at dinner at Englefield, and Elizabeth was well pleased with the entertainment (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1601–3, p. 113).
The Christmas of 1602 Norris kept in great state in London, and was ‘much visited by cavaliers’ (ib. p. 285). He died in October 1603, and was buried on the 15th at Englefield. A statue of him adorns the Norris monument in Westminster Abbey. His nephew Francis [q. v.] succeeded to his estates. His wife Elizabeth, by whom he had no issue, was the rich widow of one Webb of Salisbury. She was a distant cousin of his own, being daughter of Sir John Norris of Fyfield, Berkshire [see under Norris, Henry, Baron Norris of Rycote, ad fin.]. Lady Norris, after Sir Edward's death, married in 1604 Thomas Erskine, first viscount Fenton and earl of Kellie [q. v.], and, dying on 28 April 1621, was buried at Englefield.
[Kerry's Hist. of Bray, 1861, p. 120 sq.; Lee's Hist. of Thame; O'Byrne's Representative Hist. of Great Britain, pt. ii., Berkshire, 1848; Dugdale's Baronage; Lysons's Berkshire in Magna Britannia, vol. i. pt. ii. p. 275; Motley's Hist. of the Dutch Republic, and of the United Netherlands; Churchyard's Discourse of the Netherlands, 1602; cf. Winwood's Memorials, iii. 45; authorities cited.]