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Henry, Lord Norris

In the chapel of St Andrew, off the north transept of Westminster Abbey, is a very large monument, about 24 feet high, to the memory of Henry (Norris or Norreys) 1st Baron Norris of Rycote (?1525-1601) and his wife Margaret, daughter of John (Williams), 1st Baron Williams of Thame. His mother was Mary (Fiennes) and his father Henry was executed by Henry VIII in 1536 for allegedly being a lover of Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth I showed Henry and Margaret particular favour, appointing him ambassador to France and creating him Baron Norris in 1572.

The monument of alabaster and marbles, by sculptor Isaac James (original surname Haastregt), has no inscription and Henry and Margaret are both buried at Rycote chapel in Oxfordshire, in the grounds of their house. The date of erection of the monument is not clear but it was after 1606.

Either side of their recumbent effigies kneel their six sons in armour. Only their third son Sir Edward Norris, M.P. and Governor of Ostend, survived his father. He married Elizabeth Webb (heir of Sir John Norris of Fifield). They had no children and he died in 1603  and was buried at Englefield in Berkshire. He is shown kneeling and looking upwards (not visible in the picture), whereas the other sons have bowed heads and praying hands to indicate they were deceased.

These were William (d.1579), Marshal of Berwick; Sir John (?1547-1597), a celebrated military commander known as 'Black Jack' who died unmarried at Norris Castle, Mallow, co.Cork in Ireland, the home of Sir Thomas; Henry (1554-1599); Maximilian who died in 1591 and was buried in St Helier town church, Jersey; and Sir Thomas (1556-1599) who married Bridget Kingsmill. They had a daughter Elizabeth who married Sir John Jephson. Sir Thomas died at his home in Ireland and was returned to Rycote for burial.

The carved shield on the top section of the monument includes the coat of arms of Norris of Rycote, supported by two monkeys. The square pedestal depicts military scenes on all sides and is surmounted by a small statue of Fame. The carved scene on the south is of cavalry in the field and can be seen from the chapel. The northern scene depicts infantry. A painted scene with military emblems can be glimpsed on the west side from the north transept. These reliefs could be by de Floris, a notable sculptor from the Low Countries.

The family estates passed to Francis, son of William Norris and his wife Elizabeth. He was created 1st Earl of Berkshire and married Lady Bridget de Vere, daughter of Edward, 17th Earl of Oxford. Their daughter Elizabeth, Baroness Norris was buried in St Nicholas' chapel in the Abbey in 1645 as was her daughter Bridget in 1657. Elizabeth's husband was Edward Wray, whom she married at St Mary Aldermanbury, London in 1622. He was a son of Sir William Wray, groom of the bedchamber to Charles I.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004 (for Sir Edward, Sir John and Francis)

"A Westminster Abbey puzzle: Norris monument traced to Isaac James" by Katherine Esdaile in Country Life Feb 17 1950

"Precursors of Nelson. British Admirals of the 18th century" for Sir John Norris, by P. Le Fevre & R.Harding, 2000

"Sir John Norreys and the Elizabethan military world" by J.S.Nolan, 1997

Rycote chapel is in the care of English Heritage

History of Parliament online

Occupation

Soldier; statesman

Location

Chapel of St Andrew

Material Type

Marble

Henry, Lord Norris
Henry, Lord Norris monument

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Henry, Lord Norris
Maximilian and Thomas Norris figures

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Henry, Lord Norris
Carving of cavalry on Norris monument

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Henry, Lord Norris
Norris monument detail of military emblems

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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