A note on Sir Christopher Heydon and the Great Conjunction
Not much is left of one of my very favourite no-longer-extant neighbours, Sir Christopher Heydon of Baconsthorpe and Saxlingham in the county of Norfolk, who was born in 1561 and died at the start of 1623.
Heydon was the son and grandson of Norfolk landowners — the culmination of intermarried lines of ambitious lawyers and local political figures, in that sense not unlike the Townshends of Raynham or the Cokes of Holkham, except that in Sir Christopher’s case, the upward trajectory was due to receive a correction in the very near future.
Heydon studied first at Gresham’s School in Holt, and then at Peterhouse, Cambridge. As someone who lives in the Old Rectory, Blakeney, it’s quite striking to me that while Heydon matriculated at Peterhouse at Easter 1576, both James Calthorpe — another north Norfolk landowner and patron of the living at Blakeney — and James Poynter, soon to serve as the controversial incumbent at Blakeney and Wiveton 1584-1621 — matriculated at Cambridge (Trinity Hall and Corpus Christi, respectively) the year before, in Easter 1575. Cambridge wasn’t a big place then, so it’s hard to imagine these young men with their north Norfolk connections wouldn’t have known each other.
Heydon’s university education was presumably intended to equip him further to advance his family’s status in local and national politics, but for some reason, after he took his degree in 1578/9 at the age of 18, it’s reported that he ‘travelled widely on the continent’. Once he returned, he attempted a parliamentary career. It was not an immediate success. In 1586, he stood for the Norfolk county seat against another local gentleman and lost. His father Sir William Heydon, who must have been pretty influential at this point, somehow convinced the privy council to call a fresh poll, in which Heydon was duly elected. Unfortunately the House of Commons then embarked on a dispute with the privy council about its right to overturn electoral results, quashing the second poll result. In 1588, when there was another election, Heydon managed to win properly on the first try — but made little impact on the national scene, remaining more interested in travelling across continental Europe, where restless Englishmen could play out the era’s great doctrinal tensions in actual battlefield engagements. This seems to have suited Heydon, whose zeal for reformed religion was consistent throughout his life.Read the rest of this entry »