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Sir Henry Bedingfeld (1509–1583), of Oxburgh Hall, King's Lynn, Norfolk, was the eldest son of Edmund Bedingfeld (1479/80-1553) and his wife, Grace (d. in or after 1553), the daughter of Henry Marney, 1st Baron Marney.
In 1528, he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn.
Bedingfeld held various posts, including, privy councillor to King Edward VI and Queen Mary I; knight of the shire for Norfolk; Constable of the Tower of London; 1555 Lieutenant of the Tower of London and captain of the guard; 1557 vice-chamberlain of the household of Mary I.
After the death of King Edward VI, in 1553, Sir Henry Bedingfeld, and Sir Henry Jerningham (grandfather of the 1st Baronet Jerningham) were the two most instrumental supporters with placing Mary Tudor on the throne; arriving at her aid with 140 well-armed men.
After this event, "Bedingfeld proclaimed the queen at Norwich, he was afterwards rewarded for his loyalty with an annual pension of 100 pounds out of the forfeited estates of Sir Thomas Wyatt; made a Privy Councillor by Mary I and Knight Marshal of her army, and, subsequently Lieutenant of the Tower of London."
While he held the post of Constable of the tower of London, he was employed in the same capacity as his father had been with Catherine of Aragon, and was entrusted with the care of Queen Elizabeth I, at Woodstock Palace. Bedingfeld's care of Elizabeth I during this period, has been the subject of controversy. After Elizabeth's accession to the throne in 1559, she would address Sir Henry Bedingfeld at court as "Her Gaoler", however, the following sheds a flood of light, on the truth of this matter, that suggests that this term was in all probability, applied loosely, and in good spirit. Further to this, The contemporaneous evidence that has been published by the Norfolk and Norwich Archæological Society suggests that conduct of Elizabeth's 'Jaioler' was more in alignment with that of a true gentleman.
Moreover: "Following Wyatts rebellion, Mary I appointed Sir Henry Bedingfeld custodian of Elizabeth, when that princess was confined in the Tower and at Woodstock, on suspicion of being concerned in Wyatt's rebellion; and so little did Elizabeth resent his severity during the time of her imprisonment, that after her accession, she addressed him as her "trusty and well-beloved," employed him in her service, and granted to him the manor of Caldecot in Norfolk, which still forms part of the Oxburgh estate at the present day. "
"He was undoubtedly one of the foremost Englishmen of his day, respected by two sovereigns, and occupying prominent and honourable positions, his loyalty being unimpeachable; yet Foxe, the martyrologist, with his wonted dishonesty, has without the slightest foundation, and so effectually, blackened his fame, that almost every subsequent writer on this period has reproduced the calumnies set forth with malice prepense in the Acts and Monuments. John Strype was the first unquestioning copyist of Foxe; Burnet was the second; and Sir Reginald Hennell is the most recent."
It will be clear from the above, that Sir Henry Bedingfeld's reputation has suffered from the proliferation of misconceptions, concerning his care of Queen Elizabeth I.
Bedingfeld's dear friend and fellow Privy Councillor was Sir Henry Jerningham, and together they shared a mutual friendship with another fellow privy counsellor and secretary of State during the reign of Mary I, Sir John Bourne.
- William Joseph Sheils, ‘Bedingfield family (per. 1476-1760)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [accessed 5 June 2005: http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/76392]
- Ann Weikel, ‘Bedingfeld , Sir Henry (1509x11-1583)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- J. M., Stone Studies From Court and Cloister, Essays Historical and Literary, pb. 1908 London and Edinburgh sands and company St Louis, MO.
Sir Henry Jerningham
| Vice-Chamberlain of the Household
Sir Edward Rogers