Bacon's step-brothers: Nathaniel

The second brother was Nathaniel (c.1546 – 1622). Trinity College, Cambridge, Gray’s Inn, Member of Parliament, Justice of the Peace. Knighted in 1604. Same old, same old. Except Nathaniel’s letters were preserved, so we know more about him. Or someone does; I haven’t read them yet. Tom will become a Justice of the Peace somewhere down the line. I’ll dip into Nat’s papers then.

stiffkey_norfolk nathaniel_bacons_papers

with his astute financial advice and skill in persuading foreign merchants to lend England large sums of money. He founded the Royal Exchange. He had only one legitimate child, a son who predeceased him. He named his bastard daughter Anne after his wife, Anne Fernley, and reared her in his own household. How delightful for the Missus. Anne Fernley was the sister of Jane, Sir Nicholas Bacon’s first wife and mother of Nathaniel. If little Anne had been legit, she would have been Nathaniel’s first cousin and therefore out of bounds for marriage. How convenient that Sir Thomas was unable to resist the lures of his housekeeper! Anne must have had a handsome dowry to persuade someone as stiffly correct as a Bacon to marry her. But if Nathaniel had hoped for a bigger windfall after her father died, he was disappointed. He failed to get a son on his wife, so Gresham left all his wealth and lands to found Gresham College in London.

Here’s the part that would have chapped my lips, had I been Anne: after the wedding, Nathaniel sent her to live with his step-mother, Lady Bacon, for training in comportment and devotion. One couldn’t expect the natural daughter of a household servant to have the manners required for the master of Stiffkey (locally pronounced ‘Stewkey’) Manor and son of the Lord Keeper. Lady Bacon was socially several cuts above Nathaniel’s own mother, a lesson he must have learned from the age of 7, when she married his father and moved into Redgrave. I imagine her Ladyship made that distinction clear in a hundred little ways. She had been a lady in waiting to Queen Mary and had spent time at King Edward VI’s court with her father as well. She was profoundly intellectual, by inclination and education, which apparently the sons of Jane, an ordinary country gentlewoman, were not. Nathaniel grew up to share Lady Bacon’s religious zealotry. And thus poor Anne had to move from London merchant society into rural Gorhambury House, to be schooled day in and day out by a rigorous Calvinist with a penchant for breaking into Latin and Greek when moved. No wonder she remembered Anthony and Francis with fondness! Those brilliant imps would surely have figured out how to get around their termagant mother at an early age. Still, Anne the younger had little to do with them in later years.


Stiffkey Salt Marsh

Nathaniel’s eldest daughter — another Anne — grew up and married Sir John Townsend of Raynham, with whom she inherited Stiffkey Manor. Stiffkey is on the north coast of Norfolk, just inside a band of nature reserves. A stark yet beautiful landscape; perfect for contemplating predestination and God’s intentions for you. One of their modern descendents is Charles George Townshend, 8th Marquess Townshend, b. 1945. The family seat moved to Raynham Hall, which was built in the seventeenth century and still stands today. Looks like a short ride on a horse or a bike between the two halls (not that they had bikes back in the day.) The current Marquess could cycle if he chose and someday I might toodle by, contemplating other people contemplating stark philosophies.

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