Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/North, Roger (1530-1600)
NORTH, ROGER, second Lord North (1530–1600), was born in 1530, probably at Kirtling in Cambridgeshire, then the home of his father Edward, first baron North [q. v.]; Sir Thomas North [q. v.] was his youngest brother. He is supposed to have completed his education at Peterhouse, Cambridge. He was early introduced by his father to the court, and appears to have entered eagerly into its amusements, especially that of tilting, in which he excelled. While still a youth, the Princess Elizabeth tied round his arm at a tournament a scarf of red silk. This he is represented as wearing in the fine portrait now the property of Lord North at Wroxton.
In 1555 he was elected knight of the shire for the county of Cambridge, and was re-elected to sit in the parliaments of 1558 and 1563 for the same county, which he continued to represent until, on the death of his father in 1564, he took his seat in the House of Lords. He was among the knights of the Bath created at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and in July of the same year was, with the Earl of Ormonde and Sir John Perrot [q. v.], one of the challengers at the grand tournament in Greenwich Park. In February 1559 Sir William Cecil wrote to Archbishop Parker, begging that the bearer of the letter, Sir Roger North, might have a dispensation from fasting in Lent, ‘in consideration of his evil estate of health, and the danger that might follow if he should be restrained to eating of fish.’ In 1564, on his succession to his father's title, he set himself diligently to the management of his estates and domestic affairs. In 1568 he was elected alderman and free burgess of the town of Cambridge.
After North had spent two years in Walsingham's house, in some official capacity (Lloyd), he was sent, in 1568, with the Earl of Sussex, on an embassy to Vienna, to invest the Emperor Maximilian with the order of the Garter. The Archduke Charles was then paying court to Elizabeth, and it is said that North, in the interest of Leicester, sought to discourage the suit by putting forward an opinion that the queen would never marry. But on his return he was commissioned to present her with the archduke's portrait.
In May 1569 North, as a commissioner of musters for the county of Cambridge, threatened to enrol the servants of scholars of the university. On an appeal to the lords of the council, it was decided that the scholars' servants were privileged to exemption. On 20 Nov. in the same year he was appointed lord-lieutenant and custos rotulorum of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. In January 1572 he was one of the six-and-twenty peers who, with the Earl of Shrewsbury as president, were summoned to Westminster Hall at two days' notice to sit as judges on the trial of Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk [q. v.] The duke was condemned to death. Fresh duties were soon thrown upon North by his appointment to the high stewardship of the town of Cambridge; and in the exercise of his authority he often came into collision with the university. The latter made a remonstrance as to the countenance North—who was a great patron of players—gave to certain strollers who had performed at Chesterton in defiance of the vice-chancellor's prohibition.
It has been stated that North was on one occasion employed on a special mission to the court of Charles IX of France, but dates and details are wanting. A better known embassy was that of 1574, when, on the death of Charles IX, he was sent as ambassador extraordinary with letters of congratulation to Henry III on his accession, and of condolence to the queen-mother. North was also charged with the more delicate task of demanding a larger measure of toleration for the Huguenots, and of negotiating for a renewal of the treaty of Blois (first concluded in 1572), which provided that the sovereigns of England and France should assist each other when assailed, on every occasion and for every cause, not excepting that of religion.
North found an able and loyal supporter in Dr. (afterwards Sir) Valentine Dale [q. v.], master of requests, then resident ambassador at the court of France. But Henry and his mother were difficult to deal with. On some public occasion, moreover, the gentlemen of the English embassy were treated with rudeness by the Duc de Guise, and it was reported to North that two female dwarfs had been incited to mimic Queen Elizabeth for the amusement of Catherine de' Medici and her ladies. To crown all, a buffoon dressed in imitation of Henry VIII was introduced before the court in the presence of North and his suite. In spite of such annoyances, North's tact won him golden opinions; while his perfect mastery of the Italian tongue stood him in good stead with Catherine de' Medici and the king, who found pleasure in conversing with him in it. In November 1574 he set sail for England. He received 1,161l. for his expenses. Notwithstanding much discouragement, his mission was not in the end unfruitful. On 30 April 1575 the king of France solemnly renewed the treaty of Blois.
Soon after his return to England, North was directed by the queen to negotiate with Bishop Cox of Ely, in her behalf, for a lease of the bishop's manor and park of Somersham. The bishop had previously evaded the queen's request for the estate, and a bitter quarrel followed between him and North. Somersham was not then surrendered either to the queen or to North; but on the death of the bishop in 1581 it came into Elizabeth's possession, and she retained it for her own purposes, together with the whole of his episcopal estates, for fourteen years. North himself bore no malice to Bishop Cox. In 1580 he made a present to the bishop's son Roger, to whom he had previously stood sponsor, and whom he always treated as a friend.
In May 1577 he purchased the house and estate of Mildenhall in Suffolk, with the lease of some lands adjoining. North frequently led a country life at Kirtling; but a running footman at these seasons was always kept to bring him the news from London. He visited the Earl of Leicester at Kenilworth, and enjoyed very confidential relations with the earl. In September 1578 he attended Leicester's private marriage to the Countess of Essex.
In July 1578 he paid a visit to Buxton, and in September the queen paid a memorable visit to Kirtling while on her progress from Norfolk. She arrived before supper on 1 Sept., leaving after dinner on the 3rd. North had been long busy with preparations for her coming. The banqueting-house was improved, new kitchens built, and there was a great ‘trymming upp of chambers and other rowmes.’ The ceremonies of reception over, an oration was pronounced by a gentleman of Cambridge, and ‘a stately and fayre cuppe’ presented from the university in the presence of the assembled guests. Lord North's minstrels played her in to supper; Leicester's minstrels, too, were there to swell the band, together with his cooks. The amount of provisions consumed during the visit was enormous. A cartload and two horseloads of oysters, with endless variety of sea and river fish, and birds without number; while the cellars at Kirtling supplied seventy-four hogsheads of beer, two tuns of ale, six hogsheads of claret, one hogshead of white wine, twenty gallons of sack, and six gallons of hippocras.
On the day after her arrival the queen was entertained with a joust in the park, and within doors her host played cards with her, losing in courtier-like fashion. After dinner, on 3 Sept., she passed to Sir Giles Alington's, North presenting her before she left with a jewel worth 120l., and following the court to the end of the progress. He returned to Kirtling on 26 Sept. During the progress he quarrelled with the Earl of Sussex, lord chamberlain, in presence of the queen. Leicester wrote to Burghley that the strife was ‘sudden and passionatt.’ Elizabeth took upon herself the office of mediator. On 14 Sept. 1583 North was among the mourners at the funeral of his friend Francis, second Earl of Bedford, which took place with great pomp at Chenies. In February 1584 he complained to the lord-treasurer of the conduct of the two chief justices, especially of Anderson, whom he calls ‘the hottest man that ever sat in judgment,’ for their discourtesy in crediting himself and other magistrates of the county, in open court, with a miscarriage of justice in consequence of their ignorance of the law. In May the same year he was appointed to act, with Sir Francis Hinde, John Hutton, and Fitz-Rafe Chamberlaine, as her majesty's deputy commissioner to inquire into and settle all disputes on the subject of keeping horses and brood mares in the county of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely.
In October 1585, on Leicester's appointment as captain-general of the English forces sent to assist the Dutch in their struggle for independence, North volunteered for service, together with his son Henry, and followed Leicester to Holland. He distinguished himself greatly in the campaign. Leicester applied, unsuccessfully, for the governorship of the Brill for North, ‘who hath bine very painfull and forward in all these services from the beginning, and his yeres mete for it.’ Leicester also wrote to Walsingham and to Burghley in North's interest, requesting that he might either be placed on the commission for the states, or have leave to return to England. But his health improved, and, after his release from attendance at the Hague, he chose to remain in the Netherlands. ‘I desire that her Majesty may know,’ he said, ‘that I live but to serve her. A better barony than I have could not hire the Lord North to live on meaner terms.’ ‘I will leave no labour nor danger,’ he wrote to Burghley, ‘but serve as a private soldier; and have thrust myself for service on foot under Captain Reade.’
At the battle of Zutphen (2 Oct. 1586) North behaved with splendid courage. He had been wounded in the leg by a musket-shot in a skirmish the day before, and was ‘bedde-red;’ but hearing that the enemy was engaged, he hurriedly rose, and, ‘with one boot on and one boot off,’ had himself lifted on horseback, ‘and went to the matter very lustily.’ North was given by Leicester the title of knight-banneret. He was in England on 16 Feb. 1587, when he rode in the procession at Sir Philip Sidney's funeral at St. Paul's. But he returned to the Netherlands during the campaign of 1587, and, after Leicester's recall, remained there for some months under Lord Willoughby, who formed so high an opinion of his courage and ability that, in view of his own retirement in November 1587, he named North as one of the four best fitted to succeed him as captain-general of the forces.
In April 1588 North was summoned in haste from the wars to look to the military condition of Cambridgeshire in preparation for the Spanish invasion. In May 1588 he reported to the lords of the council that Cambridgeshire ‘is very badly furnished with armour and munition, and many of the trained bands dead or removed,’ but that he would see all defects supplied. North had much ado with the justices of the county, whose patriotism was not all that might have been desired. He set them a good example, supplying at his own charges, ‘of his voluntary offer,’ sixty shot, fifty horses, sixty horsemen, thirty furnished with demi-lances and thirty with petronels, and sixty foot-soldiers, forty with muskets and twenty with calivers, ‘to attend her majesty's person.’
On 4 Sept. 1588 Leicester died, and left a basin and ewer of silver, of the value of 40l., to North, who on 9 Sept. addressed a letter to Burghley, in which he highly praised Leicester, and referred feelingly to his death. He explained to Burghley that his own health was not good, and that the doctors of Cambridge were sending him for a month to Bath, ‘in hope the drinking the waters and bathing may do me good.’ On 18 April 1589 North was among the peers who sat on the trial for high treason of Philip, earl of Arundell. On 28 July 1589 he expressed a desire to Lord Burghley to attend ‘the marriage of Mr. Robert Cecill and Mistress Brooke,’ daughter of Lord Cobham, ‘if you will have so ill a guest;’ but indisposition prevented his going.
When, in 1596, an alarm was raised of a second Spanish invasion, the lord high admiral (Essex) propounded to North many questions respecting the probable method of the enemy's attack, and the measures proper to be taken for the defence of the coast. North urged that ‘such port towns as are unwalled must be reinforced with men … the forces of the sea-coast must upon every sudden be ready to impeach [the enemy's] landing. … The places of most danger to the realm and to do him good are the Isle of Wight and Southampton.’ In the same year the queen gave him the office of treasurer of her household; thus falsifying the prediction of Rowland White, who said of him and Sir Henry Lee that ‘they play at cards with the Queen, and it is like to be all the honor that will fall to them this year.’ In October 1596 he was sworn a member of the privy council. In 1597 the queen appointed him keeper of the royal parks of Eltham and Horne, purveyor of the manor, and surveyor of the woods of the latter estate. He neglected none of the duties of a courtier, year by year punctually presenting the queen with a new year's gift of 10l. in gold in a silken purse, and receiving, as the custom was, a piece of plate in return, usually from twenty to twenty-one ounces in weight.
Early in 1599 North's health again began to fail. The queen learnt that he ‘was taken stone deaf,’ and sent him the following receipt: ‘Bake a little loafe of Beane flowr, and being whot, rive it into halves, and to ech half pour in 3 or 4 sponefulls of bitter almonds; then clapp both ye halves to both your eares at going to bed, kepe them close, and kepe your head warme.’ We are told that he was completely healed by this remedy, and soon recovered from more serious illness. In the autumn he was one of the four lords of the council summoned in haste on Michaelmas-eve to hear Essex's explanation of his unauthorised return from Ireland; and on 29 Nov. he was present at a meeting of the council in the Star-chamber. But when a discussion took place concerning the affairs of Ireland, he spoke either ‘too softly to be heard,’ or briefly concurred with those that went before. At Christmas he joined in the court festivities, and played at primero with the queen. In March 1599–1600 Carleton wrote to Chamberlain: ‘The Lord North droops every day more and more, and is going down to the bath.’ North returned to Bath in August, and Sir William Knollys (afterwards his successor in office) was sent for to fulfil temporarily his duties as treasurer of the household. On 15 Oct. Chamberlain wrote: ‘They say the Lord North is once more shaking hands with the world.’ But he retired to his home in Charterhouse-yard, and there, on 3 Dec. 1600, ‘passed quietly to his heavenly country.’ Camden adds that he was ‘a man of a lively spirit, fit for action and counsaile.’ Lloyd wrote: ‘There was none better to represent our state than my Lord North, who had been two years in Walsingham's house, four in Leicester's service, had seen six courts, twenty battles, nine treaties, and four solemn jousts—whereof he was no mean part—a reserved man, a valiant souldier, and a courtly person.’
A funeral service at St. Paul's on 22 Dec. preceded the removal of North's body from London. In February following he was buried by the heralds at Kirtling. ‘Durum pati,’ words which appear in his epitaph, was a maxim or motto he had adopted for himself, and it seems to have been his custom to write it in his books. It is found on the title-page of a copy of Dean Nowell's ‘Reproof’ once belonging to him, together with what Churton calls ‘his elegant, but very peculiar, signature.’ A fine portrait by Mark Gerards, in the possession of the Earl of Guilford at Waldershare, shows him dressed in a black court suit, with well-starched ruff—or piccadilly, as it was then called—holding a wand of office. Two other portraits are at Wroxton.
About 1555 North married Winifred, daughter of Richard, lord Rich [q. v.], lord chancellor, and widow of Sir Henry Dudley, son of John, earl of Warwick (afterwards duke of Northumberland). She died in 1578, after bearing him two sons, Sir John and Henry, and one daughter, Mary, who died unmarried. His elder son, Sir John [q. v.], died before him. To his younger son, Henry, he gave the Mildenhall property, and Henry's descendants held it until 1740, when, on the death of Sir Thomas Hanmer, speaker of the House of Commons, who had inherited it from his mother, Mrs. Hanmer (Peregrina North), it passed to Sir Thomas's nephew, Sir William Bunbury, in whose family it still remains. Henry North was fighting in Ireland in 1579 under Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and was with his father in Holland in 1586, being knighted by Leicester after the battle of Zutphen. North seems to have married again in later life. In October 1582 he was a suitor to Burghley for the hand of the second of three coheiresses of Sir Thomas Rivett, a country neighbour; of the two youngest daughters Burghley was shortly to become guardian. Whether or no this young lady became North's second wife does not appear. ‘My Lady North,’ wrote Carleton in March 1600, apparently in reference to North's second wife, ‘is growen a great courtier, and shines like a blazing starr amongst the fairest of the Ladies.’
By his will, dated 20 Oct. 1600, he left the family estates, all his armour, and ‘the pied nagge’ to ‘my loving nephew’ (i.e. grandson), ‘Dudley Northe, myne heir apparent, eldest sonne of my eldest sonne’ [see North, Dudley, third Lord North]. He gave handsome bequests to all his grandchildren, as well as to his only surviving son Henry, and his brother Sir Thomas, both of whom he had already treated very generously; and in a codicil he directs that ‘a Hundred poundes in golde’ shall be offered to the queen, ‘from whom I have receaved advancement to honor, and many contynuall favours. To my honorable assured ffrend Sir Robert Cecill’ he gave ‘a fayre gilte cuppe,’ and 10l. Four of the servants are to have ‘eache of them a nagge.’ North's book of household charges is still preserved, and the many entries of gifts and rewards display a wide liberality to his family and retainers.
[A Briefe View of the State of the Church of England, by Sir John Harington; Ayscough's Cat. of MSS. in the British Museum; Bertie's Five Generations of a Loyal House, pt. i. p. 143; Booke of Howshold Charges of Roger, lord North; Calendar of Hatfield MSS. pts. i. ii. iii.; Cal. of State Papers (Foreign), Eliz.; Camden's Annals, ed. 1633; Churton's Life of Nowell, dean of St. Paul's, p. 121; Collier's Hist. of Dramatic Poetry, i. 291, 292; Collins's Peerage, iv. 460, 461, 462; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabrigienses, ii. 290; Dépêches de La Mothe Fénelon, vi. 296, 330, 331, 332, 335; De Sismondi's Histoire des Français, xii. 21; Foss's Judges of England, v. 332; Heywood and Wright's Cambridge University Transactions, ii. 9, 294, 296; Leicester Correspondence, pp. 75, 114, 192, 379, 411, 417; Lingard's Hist. of England, iii. 36; Lloyd's State Worthies, vol. ii.; Motley's Rise of the Dutch Republic, pp. 592, 595, edit. 1878; Motley's United Netherlands, i. 345, 365, ii. 14, 18, 27, 28, 48, edit. 1875; Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, i. 73, ii. 220, 221, 491; Peck's Desiderata Curiosa, p. 77; Record of the House of Gournay (supplement), pp. 882, 883; Some Notes concerning the Life of Edward, first Lord North, by Dudley, fourth Lord North; State Papers (Domestic), Eliz. Record Office; State Papers (Miscellaneous), Record Office; State Trials, i. 957; Strype's Annals of the Reformation, vol. ii. 2nd edit.; Sydney State Papers, ii. 6, 128, 146, 173; The Devereux Earls of Essex, ii. 79; Thomas's Historical Notes, i. 449; Wiffen's Memoirs of the House of Russell, i. 516; Will of Roger, lord North; Willis's Notitia Parliamentaria, vol. i ii., and Survey of Cathedrals, iii. 357; Wright's Queen Elizabeth and her Times, vol. ii.; and see art. Dudley, Robert, Earl of Leicester. A search made into the municipal records of the town of Cambridge is due to the courtesy of J. E. L. Whitehead, esq., town clerk.]