Lord Dacre died in May 1569 from the fall of a wooden horse on which he was practising vaulting, and his death confirmed Norfolk in the project of dividing the Dacre lands amongst his sons by marrying them to the three coheiresses. Their title, however, was called in question by their father's brother, Leonard Dacre [q.v.], who claimed as heir male. The cause would naturally have come for trial in the marshal's court, but as Norfolk held that office, commissioners were appointed for the trial. Great promptitude was shown, for on 19 July, scarcely a month after the young lord's death, it was decided that 'the barony cannot nor ought not to descend into the said Leonard Dacre so long as the said coheirs or any issue from their bodies shall continue.' (For an account of this interesting trial, see Sir Charles Young, Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vi.322.)
The good fortune which had hitherto attended Norfolk's matrimonial enterprises may to some extent explain the blind belief in himself which he showed in his scheme of marrying Mary Queen of Scots. In 1568, when Mary fled to England, Norfolk was again a widower, the richest man in England, popular and courted, but chafing under the sense that he had little influence over affairs. He had vainly striven against Cecil, who watched him cautiously, and he was just the man to be ensnared by his own vanity. Elizabeth was embarrassed how to deal with Mary. Her first step was to appoint a commission representing all parties to sit at York in October, and inquire into the cause of the variance between Mary and her subjects. Elizabeth's commissioners were the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Sussex, and Sir Ralph Sadler. Norfolk was doubtless appointed through his high position, as the only duke in England, and as the representative of the nobility, who urged that, if Elizabeth would not marry, the recognition of Mary's claim to the succession was inevitable; he was further likely to be acceptable to Mary herself. On 11 Oct. Murray communicated privately to the English commissioners the Casket letters, and Norfolk at first wrote as one convinced of Mary's guilt (Anderson, Collections relating to Mary, iv. 76, &c.) But Maitland of Lethington in a private talk suggested to him, as a solution of all the difficulties which beset the two kingdoms, that he should marry Mary, who might then with safety to Elizabeth be restored to the Scottish throne, and recognised as Elizabeth's successor.
We cannot say with certainty whether or no this scheme had been already present to Norfolk's mind, but he left York with a settled determination to carry it out. For a time he acted cautiously, and when the investigation was transferred to Westminster before the great council of peers, he still seemed to believe in Mary's guilt. But he had a secret interview with Murray, who professed his agreement with the plan, and encouraged a hope that after his return to Scotland Maitland should be sent to Elizabeth as envoy of the estates of Scotland, with a proposal for Mary's marriage with Norfolk. On this understanding Norfolk sent a message to the northern lords, begging them to lay aside a project which they had formed for taking Murray prisoner on his return from London. The opening months of 1569 seemed to be disastrous for Elizabeth in foreign affairs, and Cecil's forward policy awakened increasing alarm among the English nobles. Leicester tried to oust Cecil from the queen's confidence; when he failed he joined with Arundel and Pembroke in striving to promote Mary's marriage with Norfolk. They communicated with Mary at Tutbury in June, and received her consent. Norfolk was reconciled to Cecil, and hoped to gain his help in urging on Elizabeth the advantages to be derived from such a settlement. He still waited for Murray's promised message from Scotland, and wrote to him on 1 July that 'he had proceeded so far in the marriage that with conscience he could neither revoke what he had done, or with honour proceed further till such time as he should remove all stumbling-blocks to more apparent proceedings' (Burghley Papers, i. 520). Norfolk's plan was still founded on loyalty to Elizabeth and maintenance of protestantism; but the protestant nobles looked on with suspicion, and doubted that Norfolk would become a tool in the hands of Spain, and the catholic lords of the north grew impatient of waiting; many of them were connected with Leonard Dacre, and were indignant at the issue of Norfolk's lawsuit; they formed a plan of their own for carrying off Mary from her prison.
Norfolk still trusted to the effects of pressure upon Elizabeth, but he had not the courage to apply it. He left others to plead his cause with the queen, and on 27 Aug. the council voted for the settlement of the succession by the marriage of Mary to some English nobleman. Still Norfolk was afraid to speak out, though one day the queen 'gave him a nip bidding him take heed to his pillow.' At last he grew alarmed, and on 15 Sept. hastily left the court. Still he trusted to persuasion rather than force, and wrote to Northumberland telling him that Mary was too securely guarded to be rescued, and bidding him defer a rising. Then on 24 Sept. he wrote to Elizabeth from Kenninghall that he 'never in-