Denny, Anthony (DNB00)

DENNY, Sir ANTHONY (1501–1549), favourite of Henry VIII, was second son of Sir Edmund Denny, chief baron of the exchequer, by his second wife, Mary, daughter and heiress of Robert Troutbeck of Bridge Trafford, Plemonstall, Cheshire (Foss, Judges of England, v. 157). He was born on 16 Jan. 1500–1, probably at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, and educated first in St. Paul's School, under the famous William Lily, and afterwards in St. John's College, Cambridge, where he became an excellent scholar. His merits having been made known to Henry VIII, he was summoned to court and obtained the offices of king's remembrancer and groom of the stole. He was also sworn of the privy council. Being in great favour with the king, he succeeded in raising a considerable estate upon the ruins of the dissolved monasteries. In 1537 he received from the king a grant of the priory of Hertford, together with divers other lands and manors, and on 15 Dec. 1539 the office of steward of the manor of Bedwell and Little Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire. He also obtained the manor of Butterwick in the parish of St. Peter in St. Albans, the manors of the rectory and of the nunnery in the parish of Cheshunt, and of Great Amwell, all in Hertfordshire. Moreover, in 1541 a grant was made to him by act of parliament of several lands which had belonged to the recently dissolved abbey of St. Albans. Not content with this, he found means to procure a thirty-one years' lease of the many large and rich demesnes that had been possessed by Waltham Abbey, Essex, and his lady afterwards purchased the reversion of this property. In 1544 the king gave him the advantageous wardship of Margaret, the only daughter and heiress of Thomas, lord Audley, deceased. He was knighted by the king at Boulogne-sur-mer on 30 Sept. 1544 (Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 80). Denny, William Clerc, and John Gate were on 31 Aug. 1546 empowered to affix the royal sign-manual, by means of a stamp, to all warrants issued in the king's name (Rymer, Fœdera, ed. 1713, xv. 101).

Denny was a zealous promoter of the Reformation. In Henry VIII's reign he rendered a great service to the school of Sedbergh, Yorkshire, which belonged to St. John's College, Cambridge. The building having fallen into decay, and the lands which constituted its endowment having been sold and embezzled, he caused the school to be repaired, recovered the estate, and settled it so firmly as to prevent all future alienations (Baker, Hist. of St. John's College, ed. Mayor, i. 371, ii. 1148). When Henry VIII was on his deathbed, Denny had the honesty and courage to put him in mind of his approaching end, and desired him to raise his thoughts to heaven, to think of his past life, and to call on God for mercy (Burnet, Hist. of the Reformation, ed. Pocock, i. 550). The king appointed him one of the executors of his will, and one of the counsellors to his son and successor, Edward VI, and bequeathed him a legacy of 300l.

He represented Hertfordshire in Edward VI's first parliament, which assembled on 8 Nov. 1547 (Willis, Notitia Parliamentaria, iii. pt. ii. 12; Members of Parliament, Official Return, i. 375); and he was one of those sent with William Parr, marquis of Northampton, to quell Kett's rebellion in Norfolk in 1549 (Fuller, Church Hist. ed. Brewer, iv. 45; Russell, Kett's Rebellion in Norfolk, p. 87). It has been stated that he died on 10 Sept. 1550, and other accounts give 1551 as the date of his death; but there can be little doubt that that event really occurred in 1549, for he had a grant for life from Henry VIII of certain houses in Westminster, including those called Paradise, Hell, and Purgatory, and on 28 Oct. 1549 Edward VI granted the same premises to Sir Andrew Dudley, with the profits from the death of Sir Anthony Denny. It appears that he was buried at Cheshunt (Cooper, Athenæ Cantab. i. 99, 539; Topographer and Genealogist, iii. 208, 210).

Roger Ascham says that Denny's whole time and cares were occupied with religion, learning, and affairs of state. He is also highly commended by Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, and Sir John Cheke. He married Joan, daughter of Sir Philip Champernon of Modbury, Devonshire. She was a lady of great beauty and accomplishments, and a favourer of the reformed religion even in the most dangerous times; for she sent 8s. by her man to Anne Askew when the latter was imprisoned in the Tower (Fuller, Waltham Abbey, p. 13; Bale, Select Works, ed. Christmas, p. 222). The issue of the marriage were six children. Denny's portrait, by Holbein, has been engraved by W. Richardson and E. Harding, jun.

Edward Denny, Earl of Norwich (1565?–1630), son of Sir Anthony's eldest son, Henry, was M.P. for Liskeard 1585–6, for Tregony 1597–8, and for Essex in 1604. He was knighted in 1587, and welcomed James I to England while high sheriff of Hertfordshire in 1603. On 27 Oct. 1604 he was created Baron Denny of Waltham, and Earl of Norwich 17 Oct. 1626. He married Mary, daughter of the first Earl of Exeter, and died without male issue 27 Sept. 1630.

[Aschami Epistolæ, 101; Biog. Brit. (Kippis); Burnet's Hist. of the Reformation (Pocock), vii. 84; Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire, ii. 106, 107; Gardiner's Registers of St. Paul's School, 18; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 5th edit. i. 137; Nicolas's Testamenta Vetusta, 42, 559, 628; Rymer's Fœdera, xv. 20, 22, 110, 114, 117, 233, 234, xviii. 777; Smith's Autographs; State Papers of Henry VIII; Strype's Works (general index); Willis's Not. Parl. iii. (2) 12.]

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