Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Henry Radcliffe, 2nd Earl of Sussex

Earls of Sussex

Henry Radcliffe, second earl of Sussex (c.1507–1557), was aged about thirty-five when his father died. He combined service to the crown with a regional interest in East Anglia and a close affinity to the Howard family. He accompanied Henry VIII to Calais and Boulogne to meet the French king Fran├žois I in 1532 and was made a knight of the Bath at the coronation of Anne Boleyn. In 1539 he was one of the commissioners given responsibility for the defence of the Norfolk coast and in the 1544 invasion of France commanded 100 footmen in the vanguard under Norfolk. He survived the disgrace of the Howards in 1547 and exercised his hereditary office of lord sewer at the coronation of Edward VI. In April 1551 he was made joint lord lieutenant of Norfolk, and was reappointed in May 1552 and May 1553.

Ratcliffe, Henry, 2nd Earl of Sussex

Sussex gave important support to the coup which brought Princess Mary to the throne. At the time of Edward VI's death he was at Atleburgh in Suffolk. According to Robert Wingfield, the earl (who was conservative in religion) was immediately inclined to support the princess's claims, but was deterred by Lord Robert Dudley's telling him that Edward was still alive. He was persuaded to throw in his lot with Mary when his son Henry was captured by Sir John Huddleston with letters from his father to the council at Westminster. To protect his son Sussex now joined the princess at Kenninghall and raised a substantial body of men on her behalf. Presumably on the strength of his military experience he was made her commander-in-chief, ‘the queen's lieutenant and, as the proverb goes, her mouth and chin’ (MacCulloch, 261). On 17 May he was made a privy councillor, and in November he served as a commissioner at the trial of Lady Jane Grey. His rewards included the wardenship of the royal forests south of Trent and annuities worth about £300. In 1554 he was elected a knight of the Garter, and in 1556 lord lieutenant of Norfolk and Suffolk. But although Sussex was active in pursuing heretics in Norfolk, he did not always support royal policy. He opposed Mary's marriage to Philip (but later accepted a Habsburg pension) and upheld the position of Princess Elizabeth as the queen's heir presumptive. One of the councillors who escorted Elizabeth to the Tower in 1554, he is reported to have wept and warned his colleagues, ‘What will ye doe, my Lordes … She was a kinges daughter and is the queenes syster, and ye have no sufficient commyssyon so to do’ (Loach, 92).

Sussex married twice. His first wife, married before 21 May 1524, was Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Howard, second duke of Norfolk. They had three sons, Thomas Radcliffe and Henry Radcliffe, successively third and fourth earls, and Robert who predeceased his father. One of Anne Boleyn's attendants when Henry VIII met Fran├žois I at Calais in 1532, Elizabeth died on 18 September 1534, and by 21 November 1538 her husband had remarried. Anne Radcliffe, countess of Sussex (d. 1579x82), was the daughter of Sir Philip Calthorp, a Norfolk landowner, and his second wife, Jane Blennerhassett. She and Sussex had three children: Egremont Radcliffe; Maud, who died young; and Frances, who married Sir Thomas Mildmay. But the relationship proved stormy, at least partly because of religious differences. Sussex's conservatism was not shared by his wife, who had a position in Queen Katherine Parr's household and shared the latter's evangelicalism—she was one of the queen's ladies whom Anne Askew was pressed to incriminate in 1546. But there seem to have been other differences. In 1552 the countess was in the Tower, charged with sorcery, and when she fled abroad after Mary's accession her husband divorced her; in November 1553 a bill was introduced into parliament ‘against the adulterous living of the late countess of Sussex’ (Loach, 71). The bill did not pass, nor did another in 1555 which would have deprived her of her jointure unless she came back to England and underwent purgation before a bishop. But she may have returned, for in the following year she acted as intermediary between the French ambassador and Princess Elizabeth, when the latter was contemplating flight abroad. In April 1557 she was in the Fleet prison, but the bill which finally passed in 1558 was somewhat more generous over her jointure than the abortive previous ones had been.

By then Sussex was dead, having described Anne in his will as ‘my unnaturall and unkynde devorsyd wiff’ (GEC, Peerage, 12/1.521 n. k). He died at Cannon Row, Westminster, on 17 February 1557 and was buried nine days later at St Laurence Pountney; but his remains, like those of his father, were later removed to Boreham. By 23 June 1559 his second countess had married Andrew Wyse, formerly vice-treasurer of Ireland, who was then in prison following his dismissal for maladministration in 1554. Her plea for his release may have been heeded, since Wyse returned to Ireland in 1564 as secretary to a commission of inquiry, and they had several children. He had died by 26 January 1568; his widow died between 22 August 1579 and 28 March 1582.

4 comments:

  1. This is so interesting. Thank you for the information. I am researching my family tree, and Henry Radcliffe (1507-1557) was my 12th great-grandfather. I am a descendant of Henry and his wife Elizabeth Howard though, so I'm not part of all this drama. lol!

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  2. My Pleasure! Henry was my 13th x half gg uncle rather than a direct ancestor of mine. The tomb is amazing.

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  3. Thank you for this amazing post. My daughter and I are descended from both the Radcliffes of Clitheroe and the Earls of Sussex, among other noble families of England. My daughter is portraying Lady Frances Radcliffe as her character in the queens court of our Renaissance Faire. We welcome any additional information for both our family tree and backstory for Lady Frances. Love the info about Lady Frances mother in the tower for sorcery, etc. Fantastic!!!

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  4. Thank you for this amazing post. My daughter and I are descended from both the Radcliffes of Clitheroe and the Earls of Sussex, among other noble families of England. My daughter is portraying Lady Frances Radcliffe as her character in the queens court of our Renaissance Faire. We welcome any additional information for both our family tree and backstory for Lady Frances. Love the info about Lady Frances mother in the tower for sorcery, etc. Fantastic!!!

    ReplyDelete