Sir Nicholas HARVEY of Ickworth, Knight

Born: BEF 1491, Ickworth, Suffolk, England

Died: 25 Aug 1532 

Father: William HARVEY

Mother: Joan CROCKETT

Married 1: Elizabeth FITZWILLIAM


1. Anne HARVEY (m. Sir George Carew)

2. Thomas HARVEY (b. BEF 1512 - AFT 1577)

Married 2: Bridget WILTSHIRE (dau. and heiress of Sir John Wiltshire of Stone Castle and Isabella Clothall) (w. of Sir Richard Wingfield of Kimbolton - m.3 Sir Robert Tyrwhitt of Leighton)


3. Henry HARVEY (b. 1526)

4. George HARVEY (b. 1527 - d. 1599)

5. George HARVEY(b. 1532 - d. 1605)

6. Mabel HARVEY

7. Dau. HARVEY

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Born by 1491, third son of William Harvey of Ickworth by Joan, dau. of John Crokett of Ampton. Married first, by 1512, Elizabeth, dau. of Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam of Aldwark, widow of Sir Thomas Mauleverer; and second Bridget, dau. and heiress of Sir John Wiltshire of Stone Castle, Kent, widow of Sir Richard Wingfield of Kimbolton. Kntd. 4 Feb 1531/16 Feb. 1532. In King's household by 1521; j.p. Hunts. 1528-d.; commr. gaol delivery 1530; Ambassador to Carlos V 1530-1.

The Harveys of Ickworth were a younger branch of the Bedfordshire family of that name who had lived at Thurleigh since the 12th or 13th century. It was Nicholas Harvey's grandfather who first established the Suffolk branch, acquiring for his heirs the two manors of Ickworth and Wordwell, near Bury St. Edmunds.

Harvey's father settled Ickworth on his eldest son in 1511 and retained Wordwell for his own use until his death in 1538. With little or no patrimony, Nicholas Harvey had to make his own way and it took him to court. Introduced into the King's service by a Bedfordshire uncle or great-uncle Sir George Harvey, he served with this kinsman at the siege of Tournai and there proved himself both a ‘diligent and faithful’ servant to the King and ‘a true lover and an honest man’. By Dec 1518 he was receiving occasional payments in the King's service and within three years regular wages in the Household. His activity during these years was focused on tournaments and warfare. He and his uncle accompanied the King to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, where he rode in the lists, and at Greenwich in 1527 he jousted to entertain the French Ambassadors; he was then described by the chronicler Edward Hall as ‘the valiant esquire’ who rode alongside three knights. It was Scotland which gave him further experience of real fighting: by the summer of 1522 he had joined the garrison at Berwick and in Jun 1523 he served first in the rearguard and then in the van of a foray into Scotland. His services had already been recognized by a grant in May 1522 of the manor of Backenho, Bedfordshire.

Harvey was about the same age as Henry VIII and stood high in his favour. His election in 1529 as first knight of the shire for Huntingdonshire was a measure of this as well as of the standing which his marriage to Bridget Wingfield had brought him in the county. Of his role in Parliament nothing is known, but he was without doubt an ardent supporter of royal policy, which he was soon to be called upon to defend elsewhere. It was Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, his former commander on the Scottish borders, who in 1530 recommended Harvey as resident Ambassador to Carlos V: he was fluent in Flemish and French but, as the Imperial Ambassador Chapuys pointed out, his chief recommendation was doubtless that he was ‘a strong partisan’ of Anne Boleyn. Harvey left England at the end of Jun 1530 and reached the Emperor at Augsburg on 8 Jul in the midst of the Diet called to deal with the Lutherans. To reason with Carlos V on the matter of the divorce was a forlorn hope, but Harvey did manage to convince one great Spanish nobleman by his vigorous exposition of the King's conduct, of the royal scruples and of the judgment of the universities in the case. The chronicler Hall, ‘informed by them that were present’, reports his arguments at length: Hall's informant may well have been Harvey himself, with whom he sat in the Commons.

Harvey was still abroad with the Emperor, then at Brussels, when the second session of Parliament opened on 16 Jan 1531, but 11 days later he was recalled and replaced by Sir John Hackett. On 13 Feb Harvey handed over his duties, ‘very glad’ according to Hackett, ‘to be discharged of his commission’. It appears that he was back in England by Mar, when he received his final payment, and he doubtless resumed his attendance in the Commons before the close of the session on 31 Mar. It is indeed tempting to connect his recall with his Membership: his grasp of the King's ‘Great Matter’ and his ability to expound it would have made him a stalwart in the House, from which he was, however, soon to be removed by death.

Harvey died on 5 Aug 1532, in all probability a victim of the current epidemic, and was buried at Ampthill, Bedfordshire. There are few traces of his last 18 months but he seems to have remained active to the end. The fact that he died at Ampthill may provide a clue to his final service, for this was the royal residence where Queen Catalina was lodged in 1532 and the King himself paid a visit there at the end of Jul. Harvey may have arrived with the King, been taken ill and died, or have been one of the emissaries through whom the King kept badgering the Queen about the divorce. The vacancy in the Commons created by his death may have been filled by Richard Sapcote, after Thomas Hall had made an unsuccessful bid for it.

Harvey's will has not been found, although it is mentioned in that made by his brother-in-law Sir William Fitzwilliam. Bridget Harvey evidently retained Backenho, for two years later it passed to her third husband, Robert Tyrwhitt. At Ickworth there is a portrait of Harvey and in the church at Ampthill a brass.

His son, Thomas, was born by 1512. Sewer extraordinary by 1533; gent. pens. by 1547-53 or later; knight marshal Mar-Dec 1558.

Thomas Harvey's fluency in classical and modern languages surpassed his father's and was praised by his one-time tutor Nicolas Bourbon in Nugarum libri octo published in 1538. His father died in 1532 but ten years later when his kinsman Sir William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton, died, Harvey had not received plate worth 100 marks left to him by his father. His early advancement at court was almost certainly due to Southampton as treasurer of the Household and much of his progress after Southampton's death to his kinship with Anthony Browne, later Viscount Montague. Browne was the sheriff who in Feb 1553 returned him for New Shoreham and as lord of Midhurst twice procured his election under Mary. His return for Orford in Sep 1553 may also have been under Browne's sponsorship, but his own connexions in Suffolk were probably sufficient in themselves to account for it: his name and that of his fellow-Member George Jerningham are both inserted in a different hand on the indenture. Of his part in the House all that is known is that Harvey did not oppose the initial measures to restore Catholicism in 1553 nor did he quit Parliament prematurely without leave a year later.

Harvey supported the plan for Queen Mary to marry Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon; and after the Earl's departure for the Continent in 1555 he delivered many of the Earl's letters to friends. He himself despaired of the ‘many fair promises with numbers of feigned words’ which he and others at court had to suffer and longed to join the earl abroad, but he was dissuaded from this, perhaps by Montague. In 1557 he served as muster master under Montague in the St. Quentin campaign, and during the invasion scare a year later he was busy as knight marshal in making the south coast ready against a French landing. Shortly before Mary's death he acted as a courier between the Council and the commissioners negotiating peace with the French. When Elizabeth did not renew his appointment as knight marshal Harvey went into exile. In Aug 1559 he was at Louvain and in Apr 1560 at Amboise where he told Sir Nicholas Throckmorton that he had left England for conscience' sake. In 1561 he assured Elizabeth and Cecil of his loyalty while asking for a licence to stay abroad, but neither felt him trustworthy. Their caution seems to have been justified as for the next 16 years he was employed in various capacities by Felipe II, Don Juan of Austria and the Duke and Duchess of Feria, and during his travels he openly consorted with English malcontents. In the autumn of 1577 Thomas Wilson reported his arrest at the order of the States General on entering the Netherlands. Elizabeth was asked by friends to intercede for his release but she is not known to have responded. Harvey may have died in captivity as no further trace of him after Sep 1577 has been found.

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