EAST HADDON HISTORY SOCIETY Northamptonshire, England


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On 24th May 2012 The meeting was addressed by Malcolm Deacon of Milton Malsor on the subject of ‘Christopher Hatton and Holdenby House’.   

Hatton was born in the old manor house at Holdenby – which no longer exists – in1540, and became lord of the manor at the age of 16.  But this was only the start; he was educated at St. Mary’s College, Oxford, and then at the London Inns of Court to complete his education.  Whilst dancing for amusement there he caught the eye of Queen Elizabeth.  She took him to her court and appointed him Vice-Chancellor.  He became known as the ‘Dancing Chancellor’ and became a close friend of the queen

In 1571 he became an MP for Higham Ferrers, and later for the county of Northamptonshire, and was appointed Speaker of the House: he was the Queen’s representative in the House.   He was awarded lots of land by the Queen – in particular in Wellingborough, Rockingham Forest, Corfe Castle in Wales, Ely Palace in London (the name ‘Hatton Garden’ comes from its location close by), and Kirby Hall in north Northamptonshire.  In around 1575, he started to build Holdenby House, close to the old manor house where he was born – an extremely large and elegant house, encompassing the latest in modern architecture: an inventory exists, dated 1580, listing the expensive contents.

[Holdenby House was effectively destroyed after the Civil War in the mid-1600s, and the current house is only a seventh or an eighth of Hatton’s original.  Parts of the original were preserved and can still be seen on buildings in Northampton.]

During the time when the Count of Anjou from France appeared to be presenting himself as a possible marriage to Queen Elizabeth, Hatton joined forces with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and Walter Raleigh to put a stop to this.  He also joined forces with Dudley in sponsoring Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe– so influential was he in this that halfway round the world, Drake’s ship changed its name from ‘Pelikan’ to ‘The Golden Hind’, Christopher Hatton’s crest.   

In 1587, Queen Elizabeth appointed him Lord Chancellor of Great Britain (he was already Chancellor of Oxford University), and also Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire.  He was involved in the trial and execution of Mary Queen of Scots and other plots against the queen.   In 1588, when the Spanish Armada sailed up the Channel, he moved troops from Northamptonshire to defend London – thankfully they were not needed.   In 1590 he became seriously ill and died the following year.   He had a state funeral in London.  He had no children (like his queen, he never married) and his property was inherited by his nephew.

Malcolm showed lots of paintings in his talk from various locations around the country and even a photograph of himself with a remaining descendant of the Hatton line from the USA.  Malcolm Deacon has put all of this information, and much more, in a book entitled ‘The Courtier and the Queen’. (Park Lane Publishing: ISBN 9780952318842)