Bacon's step-brothers: Nicholas


An Elizabethan Parliament

Francis had three step-brothers, sons of his father’s first wife Jane. They had as little role in his life as his step-sisters, whom we met last week. Eldest of the clan was Nicholas (ca. 1540 – 22 November 1624), named after their father. He was 21 years older than Francis, so they probably never lived together. Nicholas may have been born in Westminster or London. The family seat at Redgrave, which he inherited, wasn’t built until 1549. Like his father and his famous step-brother, he attended Cambridge and became a member of Gray’s Inn. He represented Suffolk in Parliament from 1572 to 1583. So he was there in the hall for Francis’s parliamentarian debut in 1581. Did he pause on the way out to congratulate his youngest brother? Did he treat him to a cup of wine afterwards to celebrate? I rather doubt it.

Nicholas married Ann, daughter of Sir Edmund & Ann Buttes, in 1561, the year in which Francis was born. Sir Edmund was a powerful man in Suffolk and Ann was the heiress of two uncles. Nicholas was knighted in 1578, doubtless as a courtesy to the queen’s faithful servant, Sir Nicholas the Lord Keeper. Elizabeth was parsimonious with her knightings, as she was in all things.

Sir Nicholas junior was England’s first baronet as well, created by James as 1st baronet of Redgrave. James revived the medieval notion of baronetcy as a clever way to fill the royal coffers. Wikipedia says he offered the new honor to 200 worthy gentlemen in 1611 for a sum equivalent to three years’ pay for 30 soldiers at 8d per day per man. That’s 240 pennies a day at a time when there were 240 pennies in a pound. So, a pound a day for 365*3 days = 1095 pounds. A heck of hefty sum! Francis never paid for any of his honors, although he had to wait a long time for them.

Nicholas had at least one surviving daughter and seven sons. The oldest, Edmund, succeeded to the baronetcy. The 14th baronet of Redgrave, Sir Nicholas Bacon, was born in 1953, a little more than 400 years after the 1st. The Lord Keeper certainly planted this seed firmly in the Suffolk soil. Another son, Nathaniel, became a well-regarded painter. This self portrait shows him as the quintessential seventeenth century gentleman. nathaniel_bacon_painter


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