Sir Leonard DACRE

Died: 12 Aug 1573, Flanders, Belgium

Buried: St Nicholas', Church, Brussels, Belgium

Father: William DACRE (3º B. Gillesland/ 2º B. Greystoke)

Mother: Elizabeth TALBOT (B. Gillesland)

One of the promoters of the Rebellion of the North in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, was the second son of William, lord Dacre of Gillesland, and brother of Thomas, lord Dacre. He became deeply implicated in the project for the liberation of Mary, Queen of Scots, to whom he wrote friendly letters in 1566, and who distinguished him as 'Dacres with the croked bake' (Haynes, State Papers, p. 446). On 17 May 1569 his nephew, George, 5th lord Dacre, was accidentally killed, in his minority, by the fall of a wooden vaulting-horse at Thetford, Norfolk. The nephew was then in ward to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and his three sisters, coheiresses to his vast estates, were married to the three sons of their guardian, the Duke of Norfolk. Leonard Dacre 'was very angry that so large a patrimony should by law descend unto his nieces' (Camden, Annales, ed. 1625-9, i. 222).

On the breaking out of the rebellion of 1569 Dacre repaired to court, and Queen Elizabeth, although she had heard that he had been secretly associated with Thomas Percy, 7º Earl of Northumberland and Charles Neville, 6º Earl of Westmorland, admitted him to her presence at Windsor. He professed himself to be a faithful subject, and returned to the north avowedly as an adherent of Elizabeth, but really with the intention of joining the rebel earls.

Their disorderly flight from Hexham convinced him that their cause was desperate. He thereupon seized the castle of Greystock and other houses belonging to the Dacre family, fortified the castle of Naworth as his own inheritance, and, under pretence of protecting his own and resisting the rebels, gathered together three thousand of the rank-riders of the borders, and some others which were most devoted to the name of the Dacres, which, in that tract, was a name of great reputation.

Among his neighbours he obtained praise for his distinguished loyalty, and on 24 Dec 1569 he was actually commended by the Earl of Sussex, lieutenant-general of the army of the north, for his honourable service against the rebels (Sharp, Memorials of the Rebellion of 1569, p. 117). The council of the north was better acquainted with his real character, and Lord Scrope on 20 Jan 1569-70 wrote to Sir William Cecil that he had received the Lord-Lieutenant's orders 'for the getting of Leo. Dacres into safe custodie', which he declared 'would be very hard to come to, lying continually at Naward'. Accordingly, Scrope endeavoured to induce him to go to Carlisle, on the plea of holding a consultation on the state of the country. Dacre was too wary to leave his stronghold on such a pretence, and replied that he was confined to his bed by an 'otragyus agewe', but added that if Scrope and his colleagues would take dinner at Naworth they should have his company and the best advice that his simple head could devise. On 15 Feb Lord Hunsdon, who was at Berwick, received the Queen's orders to apprehend Dacre. The battle which decided Dacre's fortune took place on the 20th. At dawn Lord Hunsdon and Sir John Forster came before Naworth Castle, but found it so strongly defended that they determined to march to Carlisle, in order to join the force under Lord Scrope. Dacre followed them for four miles, to the banks of the Chelt, where 'hys footmen', says Lord Hunsdon, 'gave the prowdest charge upon my shott that ever I saw'. Thereupon Hunsdon charged Dacre's infantry with his cavalry, slew between three and four hundred of the rebels, and took between two and three hundred prisoners. In a graphic account of the engagement, written the same night, Lord Hunsdon says: 'Leonard Dacres, beyng with hys horsmen, was the first man that flew, like a tall gentleman; and, as I thinke, never looked behind him tyll he was yn Lyddesdale; and yet one of my company had hym by the arm, and yf he had nott been reskewed by serten Skots (wherof he has many) he had been taken'. The rebel force was computed at above three thousand men, including one thousand cavalry, while Hunsdon's force consisted of fewer than fifteen hundred men 'of all sorts'.

Dacre fled to Scotland, and is said to have sat in a convention at Leith with the Scottish nobles in Apr 1570. Soon afterwards he retired to Flanders; and in a letter from Francis Norton, 18 Sep 1571, he is stated to have applied to the Duke of Alva for arms. In June 1572 he was at Mechlin. In the same year he wrote to Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria, to urge King Felipe II to take more energetic means relative to England, as the refugees were without hope. He was then receiving a pension from Felipe II of one hundred florins per month.

A Latin epitaph upon a monumental stone formerly visible in the church of St. Nicholas at Brussels records that he died in that city on 12 Aug 1573. In this epitaph he is styled Baron Dacre of Gilsland (Le Grand Théâtre sacré de Brabant, ed. 1734, i. 240; Records of the English Catholics, i. 298).


Sharp's Memorials, pp. 166, 179, 214, 263;

Lodge's Illustr. of British History (1838), i. 441;

Sadler's State Papers, ii. 31, 101, 114, 140;

Burke's Extinct Peerages, 3rd edit. p. 154;

Thomas's Hist. Notes, p. 410;

Talbot Papers, C 226, D 36, 234, 236, 240, P 145;

Lingard's Hist, of England (1849), vi. 218-20;

Gillow's Bibl. Dict.

to Bios Page

to Family Page

to Peerage Page to Home Page