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.



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.

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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