Christopher Heydon

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Christopher Heydon
Member of the England Parliament
for Norfolk
In office
Personal details
Born14 August 1561
Surrey, England
Died1 January 1623(1623-01-01) (aged 61)
Alma mater Peterhouse, Cambridge

Sir Christopher Heydon (14 August 1561 – 1 January 1623) was an English soldier, Member of Parliament, and writer on astrology.

Astrology Pseudoscience to use astronomical events and stellar constellations in relation to earthly conditions

Astrology is a pseudoscience that claims to divine information about human affairs and terrestrial events by studying the movements and relative positions of celestial objects. Astrology has been dated to at least the 2nd millennium BCE, and has its roots in calendrical systems used to predict seasonal shifts and to interpret celestial cycles as signs of divine communications. Many cultures have attached importance to astronomical events, and some—such as the Hindus, Chinese, and the Maya—developed elaborate systems for predicting terrestrial events from celestial observations. Western astrology, one of the oldest astrological systems still in use, can trace its roots to 19th–17th century BCE Mesopotamia, from which it spread to Ancient Greece, Rome, the Arab world and eventually Central and Western Europe. Contemporary Western astrology is often associated with systems of horoscopes that purport to explain aspects of a person's personality and predict significant events in their lives based on the positions of celestial objects; the majority of professional astrologers rely on such systems.



The Heydon family owned Baconsthorpe Castle in Norfolk. Baconsthorpe Castle 1.jpg
The Heydon family owned Baconsthorpe Castle in Norfolk.

Born in Surrey, Heydon was the eldest son of Sir William Heydon (1540–1594) of Baconsthorpe, Norfolk, and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir William Woodhouse of Hickling, Norfolk. The family was powerful in Norfolk affairs, owning many manors and living at Baconsthorpe Castle, a large country house in North Norfolk. [1]

Surrey County of England

Surrey is a subdivision of the English region of South East England in the United Kingdom. A historic and ceremonial county, Surrey is also one of the home counties. The county borders Kent to the east, East and West Sussex to the south, Hampshire to the west, Berkshire to the northwest, and Greater London to the northeast.

Baconsthorpe village in the United Kingdom

Baconsthorpe is a village and civil parish in the English county of Norfolk. It is 4 miles (6 km) south-east of Holt, 5 miles (8 km) south of Sheringham and 20 miles (32 km) north of Norwich.

Hickling, Norfolk village in the United Kingdom

Hickling is a village and a civil parish in the English county of Norfolk. The village is 22 miles south-east of Cromer, 20.3 miles north-east of Norwich and 137 miles north-east of London. The village lies 3 miles east of the Broadlands town of Stalham. The nearest railway station is at Worstead for the Bittern Line which runs between Sheringham, Cromer and Norwich.


Heydon was educated at Gresham's School, Holt [1] [2] and Peterhouse, Cambridge, [3] where he knew the young Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and after graduating BA in 1579 travelled widely on the continent. [1]

Greshams School school

Gresham’s School is an independent coeducational boarding school in Holt in Norfolk, England. Gresham's School is one of the top 30 International Baccalaureate schools in England.

Holt, Norfolk town in Norfolk, UK

Holt is a market town, civil parish and electoral ward in the English county of Norfolk. The town is 22.8 miles (36.7 km) north of the city of Norwich, 9.5 miles (15.3 km) west of Cromer and 35 miles (56 km) east of King's Lynn. The town is on the route of the A148 King's Lynn to Cromer road. The nearest railway station is in the town of Sheringham where access to the national rail network can be made via the Bittern Line to Norwich. Holt also has a railway station on the preserved North Norfolk Railway, the 'Poppy Line', of which it is the south-western terminus. The nearest airport is Norwich. The town has a population of 3,550, rising and including the ward to 3,810 at the 2011 census. Holt is within the area covered by North Norfolk District Council.

Peterhouse, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

Peterhouse is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. It is the oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1284 by Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely, and granted its charter by King Edward I. Today, Peterhouse has 254 undergraduates, 116 full-time graduate students and 54 fellows. The official name of Peterhouse does not include "college", although "Peterhouse College" is often seen in public.

Dispute with his father

Deep in debt, Heydon's father Sir William had mortgaged Baconsthorpe, and needed the Queen's protection from his creditors. In 1590 he tried to sell much of his land, but his son challenged him, as the estates were entailed to him. Sir William then threatened to demolish Baconsthorpe Castle, but his son got an Order from the Privy Council, which condemned the plan as unnatural. The dispute dragged on for years, and when Sir William died in 1594, he left his estate to his widow, but Heydon then went to law against her. Lady Heydon appealed to Queen Elizabeth, and the dispute was settled on her orders by the Lord Keeper. Heydon was left with inherited debts of £11,000, as well as his own of over £3,000 – huge sums in the 16th century. [1]

Elizabeth I of England Queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until 1603

Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.


In 1586, while he was still a young man, Heydon stood for the Norfolk county constituency of the Parliament of England. Although defeated, the Privy Council of England ordered a fresh poll, which Heydon won. The House of Commons challenged the Council's constitutional right to interfere in elections, and the second election was quashed. Heydon stood again for parliament in 1588, again successfully. [1]

Norfolk was a County constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of England then of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1832. It was represented by two Members of Parliament. In 1832 the county was divided for parliamentary purposes into two new two member divisions – East Norfolk and West Norfolk.

Parliament of England historic legislature of the Kingdom of England

The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England, existing from the early 13th century until 1707, when it merged with the Parliament of Scotland to become the Parliament of Great Britain after the political union of England and Scotland created the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Privy Council of England Body of advisers to the sovereign of the Kingdom of England

The Privy Council of England, also known as HisMajesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, was a body of advisers to the sovereign of the Kingdom of England. Its members were often senior members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, together with leading churchmen, judges, diplomats and military leaders.

He served as a Justice of the Peace from 1586 and was a commissioner for musters in the 1590s. [1]

He joined the Earl of Essex and took part in his capture of Cádiz in 1596, where he was knighted. [1]

In October 1600 Heydon challenged Sir John Townshend to a duel, but it was forbidden by the Privy Council. [1]

After his father's death, Heydon mortgaged Baconsthorpe, and with his brother John he took part in the Essex revolt of 1601, leading rebel troops through Ludgate, which marked the end of his public life. Heydon went into hiding and wrote to Sir Robert Cecil, offering to pay a fine. Cecil worked to get him a pardon. Heydon was held in the Fleet Prison, but was pardoned for £2,000. His finances were very low, and in 1614 he was forced to mortgage the rest of his estates. [1]

Writer on astrology

Heydon was famous as a champion of astrology. His best-known work was A Defence of Judiciall Astrologie (1603), the most substantial English defence of astrology of its day, rebutting John Chamber's A Treatise Against Judiciall Astrologie (1601), which had called for parliament to outlaw astrology. Heydon argued that it was a valid science, compatible with Christianity. He drew upon Tycho Brahe and others. [1]

In writing A Defence of Judiciall Astrologie, Heydon had the help of the Reverend William Bredon, who was both a clergyman and an astrologer and was at the time Heydon's chaplain. William Lilly says whimsically of him: "William Bredon... had a hand in composing Sir Christopher Heydon's Defence of Judicial Astrology, being that time his chaplain he was so given over to tobacco and drink, that when he had no tobacco, he would cut the bell-ropes and smoke them." [4]

Heydon also wrote but did not publish An Astrological Discourse with Mathematical Demonstrations (c. 1608), a further defence of astrology drawing on Kepler, with a short account of the 1603 conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. The manuscript passed to the astrologer Nicholas Fiske, whose attempts to publish it failed, but it appeared in an edited form in 1650, subsidised by Elias Ashmole, with a preface by William Lilly. [1]

Heydon's work was given weight by his social standing and the lack of challenges to it. No reply by Chamber appeared, and George Carleton's The Madnesse of Astrologers (1624) was published only twenty years later. [1]

Heydon also made elaborate predictions for 1608 and 1609, which remained unpublished. [1]



Heydon's predictions on European politics were strongly Protestant. He foresaw that Spain would lose the Indies and predicted that the Austrian Habsburgs would fall in 1623 and Rome in 1646: this would lead to the ruin of the Ottomans and the rise of Christ's kingdom, "the fifth Monarchie of the World", in about 1682. [1]

He remained a champion of militant Protestantism to the end.


He had many astronomical interests and was a close friend of the mathematician Henry Briggs and the astronomer John Bainbridge, lending them instruments, sending them astronomical papers, and inviting them to stay at Baconsthorpe. [5] He wrote a treatise on the comet of 1618 and described his own astronomical observations with instruments made by his friend Edward Wright. [1]


Heydon married, first, Mirabel, daughter of the London alderman Sir Thomas Rivet, but she died at the age of twenty-two. Heydon built her a large and ornate tomb at Saxlingham, covered with hieroglyphs which he explained in a treatise now lost. The second son of this marriage was Sir John Heydon, a royalist ordnance officer. He married secondly Anne, daughter of John Dodge and widow of John Potts of Mannington, Norfolk, in or before 1599. She died in 1642. [1]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Capp, Bernard, Heydon, Sir Christopher (1561–1623), soldier and writer on astrology in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  2. I Will Plant Me a Tree: an Illustrated History of Gresham's School by S. G. G. Benson and Martin Crossley Evans (James & James, London, 2002) ISBN   0-907383-92-0
  3. "Heydon, Christopher (HDN576C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. Lilly, William, History of My Life and Times (1715, reprinted by Charles Baldwin, 1822), p. 75
  5. Christopher Heydon correspondence, Bodl. Oxf., MSS Ashmole 242, 1729