Knighted 1577, Of Counsel King's Lynn 1560, Recorder from 1561, Bencher Middle Temple 1565, Autumn Reader 1565, Lent Reader 1571, HoP Of Counsel Great Yarmouth from 11 February 1562-3,DNB Justice of the Peace of the Quorum, Norfolk from 1564, Commissioner of Grain 1576, Musters by 1576, 22 January 1577-Serjeant-at-Law, 24 January 1577-Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer. 1
1. Mary Chester daughter of [Sir] Anthony Chester 1, 11
In 1566, Robert Bell was lampooned by Thomas Norton as "Bell the Orator" together with others who served on the succession committee. Most of the individuals featured in this publication were Puritans, for example, Sir Christopher Yelverton who is styled "Yelverton the Poet". 1, HoP
Moreover, scholars have surmised that Robert Bell may have attended Cambridge (Protestant leanings 16th century.), 1, 11 which can be supported by his political alignments during the 1566, parliamentary session, in particular, "Mr. Bell's complices"... (Richard Kingsmill and Robert Monson) 1, HoP with whom the Queen referred, during the debate that touched the issues concerning the succession question.
However, Bell's marriage to the co-heiress Dorothie Beaupre in 1559, unfolds the possibility that he may have also possessed conservative temperaments, which may indicate that he attended Oxford (Catholic leanings 16th century). 25 This point is further supported by the 1567, will of Edmonde Beaupre, where it can be found within the text, that Robert Bell shares the company of a number of well documented conservatives, including Sir William Cordell, Speaker (1558) and Sir Henry Bedingfeld of Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk, 16 who had been entrusted with the custody of Princess Elizabeth by Queen Mary I; and whose father, Sir Edmund Bedingfeld, had been employed in the same capacity with the care of Catherine of Aragon.
He clearly gained admittance to the Middle Temple, where he apparently excelled, having been qualified to sit as a Bencher, and subsequently elevated to the honour of both Lent and Autumn Reader. During the period that he attended the Middle Temple, the religious denomination of the pupils and Masters of the bench was primarily Catholic, with emerging factions of Protestants, balancing the Elizabethan membership. The register that would have recorded where he had been formerly educated or where he attended church, and who his parents were, and so on, has long been lost.
Of course, notwithstanding the above, Bell may have been one of a number of individuals that were significantly impacted, as a result of the Church Reformations that had been carried out by Henry VIII and his successors Edward VI and Mary I. Naturally, the tempering of one's soul as a consequence of living through this period, would have helped with moulding character, that had the potential to desire a latitudinarian posture with respect to the many religious issues, that at the present time, were, proving quite controversial, and, dangerous. 25
This reformed outlook when combined with a 'erastian position, that is, supporting the right of the monarch to decide the religion of the realm,' 4 would have provided the catalyst that promoted Bell's ability to unite the House collectively, on a solid foundation. Furthermore, he seems to have been successful with resolving differences between fellow Members of Parliament during the various committees that he was active, while furthering the Protestant cause; including the Prayer Book. 1
A taste of Robert Bell's sentiments, can be clearly derived, by examining his contrasting description of the infamous reign of Mary I, and that of Elizabeth's, ("Mr Bell's second 'Oration' 8 May, 1572"):
His prevenient foresight and infallible support of the Crown, helped forge and unify the realm under Elizabeth's rule, and, following the 1576, session he was honorably rewarded and nominated for membership of a high powered committee for a special visitation of Oxford, that included Sir Christopher Wray, Edwin Sandys then bishop of London and John Piers then bishop of Rochester and four others. (State Papers, Domestic, Elizabeth, p. 543)
Bell, seems to have achieved notable success at the beginning of his career, specifically (6 March 1559), upon accomplishing favorable results for the patentees of the lands of John White, bishop of Winchester; of which he was of counsel together with Alexander Nowell. 5, 25
Careful review of his' clients (some, members of the privy chamber of King Henry VIII and of his son Edward VI) ODNB shed light on the associations that he enjoyed and speak highly of his abilities: Henry Clifford of Wiltshire, William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, Sir William Fitzwilliam, Sir Philip Hoby, Sir John Mason, Sir Henry Seymour, Sir Henry Neville, Sir Richard Sackville, Sir Richard Kingsmill, John Owersall, Edmund Gascoygne, and William Karvell. 5
His career was further secured and launched with his fortunate marriage (15 October 1559), to the baroness Dorothie Beaupre. This afforded him a large estate in Outwell, Norfolk, along with the local offices and status that came with it; including the office of MP, for King's Lynn. During the 1563, 1566, and 1571 parliaments, Bell made a 'thorough' nuisance of himself to the government, and was considered a radical; noted by William Cecil as one of the two leading trouble makers during the 1566, session. 1, 11
Additionally, it would appear that on at least one occasion, Elizabeth I, witnessed this 'maverick' style of behavior, particularly during the parliamentary session that she called to raise taxes, as 'on 19 October 1566, '[Bell] did argue very boldly' to pursue the succession question; "in the face of the Queen's command to leave it alone". "In her own words 'Mr Bell with his complices... must needs prefer their speeches to the upper house to have you, my lords, consent with them, whereby you were seduced, and of simplicity did assent unto it'. 1 Of course, it should be clarified that he was merely conveying the concern of the House, following Elizabeth's near death illness, and for the realm which may have collapsed into civil war upon her death.
Five years later during the next parliament (5 April, 1571) he refocused his attention, and [boldly'] launched an attack on the Queen's purveyors, who took 'under pretence of her Majesty's service what they would at what price they themselves liked...' 'Later in 1576, this speech was recalled by Peter Wentworth during his motion for liberty of speech: 'The last Parliament he that is now Speaker uttered a very good speech for the calling in of certain licences granted to four courtiers to the utter undoing of 6,000 or 8,000 of the Queen Majesty's subjects. This speech was so disliked by some of the [Privy] council, that he was sent for and so hardly dealt with that he came into the House with such an amazed countenance that it daunted all the House,...' to the extent that for several day's no matter of great importance was raised or considered. 1, DNB
Nevertheless, on 19 April, 1571, he was an advocate for the residents of less fortunate boroughs, " 'and in a loving discourse showed that it was necessary that all places should be provided for equally'." "but because some boroughs had not 'wealth to provide fit men' outsiders could sometimes be returned and no harm done". He further, proposed that all boroughs who sought to nominate a nobleman, should suffer a fairly substantial financial penalty [40£], "mindfull, no doubt of the power of the Duke of Norfolk in his county." 1
From 1570-72, he served as crown counsel, 11 with the prosecution of individuals in connexion with certain conspiracies, and, perhaps, it was Bell's outspokenness, hitherto, that revealed his niche, as shortly following these events, he was recommended by William Cecil for Speaker 9 (Prolocutor), elected by the House, and approved by Elizabeth I, 8 May, 1572. 'The Queen on her part', he was told, had 'sufficiently heard of your truth and fidelity towards her and... understandith your ability to accomplish the same.' 1
Bell's second disabling speech of that day was full of luminous detail and "was a model of circumspection:, a lawyer's piece larded with legal precedent; in his careful transmission of royal messages and his preference that attempts to persuade a reluctant queen should be by written arguments rather than by his spoken word;" 11 'some of it is worth quoting'... 'as an early example of the taste for precedents that became common place in the history of the House during the seventeenth century.' 1
He concluded his speech by requesting the *ordinary petitions consisting in three points,...
1. Liberty of speech
2. Access to the Queen
3. "That if by my imperfection, I shall mistake and so misreport any message, either from the House to your Majesty or from your Majesty to them, that I may be received to repair anew for the declaration of the same." 1
While Speaker, he presided over some of the more dynamic issues of the Elizabethan Parliaments, notably, the security of the realm, and a session concerning the question of Mary Queen of Scots; where he was advised to shorten the discussion upon receiving a royal message that was whispered in his ear by Sir Christopher Hatton. 14
In 1575, Bell revisited the succession question, and on this occasion, he 'humbly' and respectfully, petitioned Elizabeth "to make the kingdom further happy in her marriage, so that her people might hope for a continual succession of benefits in her posterity." Although he exhibited great courtesy during the course of his plea, Elizabeth still refused. 13
Bell's support of Robert Snagge and his abhorrence of 'tale tellers', for example, have to be admired. 1
His managerial skill's were revolutionary, in that he was a guardian of liberty and champion of freedom of speech, while at the same time, he managed to appease the Queen and [[Privy Council|[Privy] Council]]; "without compromising too many of his principals." 1
He also made a 'thorough' effort, in demonstrating the potential with following a timeless leadership style; an archetype that resonated with the integrity of common virtues and a patient resolve that reflected the importance of carefully weighing and balancing each detail in order to accurately derive the truth, whereof, he observed, if found worthy of merit, it should be supported by the necessary foundation of heart, mind, and conscious.
Despite the somewhat candid display of behavior that seems to have defined the majority of his youth, at the end of the day, however, Bell comes over as a Renaissance Man, who earnestly contributed a signal service, by bearing the necessary burdens as a patron for the Brittani, and by diligently laboring to embrace his duty as a steward of the public trust.
He clearly was, an ambassador of faiths who, faithfully believed in, and, sacredly honoured, the way, and the truth, and the Life; as he drew his strength from the center of the core, and wielded, certain, eternal loyalties, that have, endured, and that have gracefully transcended the dawn and brilliance of the Golden Age.
In 1577, during the New Year's promotions, Queen Elizabeth I, expressed her gratitude to Sir Robert Bell for his signal service and conferred a knighthood to him, made him her Serjeant-at-Law, and appointed him Lord Chief Baron of her Exchequer; 1 a post that he retained during the period that Sir Francis Drake wrote the government, claiming his bounty to build his ships in Aldeburgh, together with the clandestine arrangements he secured from his investors, for his 1577, voyage to 'circumnavigate' the globe. 25, 8
Bells' contemporaries respected his contributions to society; notably, Sir James Dyer, Edmund Plowden and the historian, William Camden who considered him a 'lawyer of great renowne,' a "Sage and grave man, and famous for his knowledge in the law." 1, 11
Modern scholars, such as Peter Hasler have observed that Bell was a "poacher turned gamekeeper" 1 when he changed the manner that he conducted himself, thereby affording himself an opportunity to sow the seeds of inner growth, that he later would reap and perpetuate for the glory of the common good.
Unfortunately, he was not afforded the opportunity of enjoying his success, for very long. While presiding as judge at the Oxford assizes, (afterward deemed the Black Assizes), a tragic event would end his life from contributing further to the annals of history; when he became exposed to prisoners of foul condition during the trial of a book seller who had slandered the Queen. This stench is thought to have caused a pestilent vapor and Bell (along with an estimated 300 others) caught gaol fever. 11, (Camden, Annals, bk. 2.376)
On 27 July 1577, his last hours were spent drafting a codicil to his will, where he named his 'Loving wife Dorothie sole executor' and directed the selling of certain property for payment of debts, and future provisions for his eight children: (most were very young)
Preceding this calamity, Bell had devoted his time and attention with expanding his family home, and had commissioned The Guild of Glaziers? with the production of heraldic glass panels, representing the various marital alliances that were shared by the Beaupre's and the Bell's. The panels were originally displayed and incorporated around the entry way of Beaupre Hall, Norfolk, and were later cut down and relocated to windows in the rear of the Hall, perhaps after 1730 when the antiquary, Beaupre Bell, succeeded to the property.
After his death in 1741, Mr. Greaves succeeded, who had married Beaupre Bell's sister (of whom we owe for saving the glass relics). Their daughter Jane brought it by marriage to the Townley family, who held Beaupre Hall until it passed into the hands of Mr. Edward Fordham Newling (and his brother), 12 who anticipated the Hall's ruin, and wished that the stained glass panels would be placed in the care and possession of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, where they are currently on display.
One may find that two panels of similar design were commissioned after his death in 1577:
Sir William Sidney's son, Sir Henry Sidney lord deputy of Ireland, was a neighbor of John Peyton and Dorothy daughter of Sir John Tyndale. The Peytons' second son, Sir John Peyton "served in Ireland under their friend and neighbour Sir Henry Sidney of Penshurst, and in 1568, he was again in Ireland with Sidney, then lord deputy and had become a member of Sidney's household." 15
After Bell's untimely death in 1577, Sir John Peyton married Bell's widow Dorothy, where from her estate, Peyton gained position and status in the county of Norfolk. Sir John Peyton would later become lieutenant of the Tower of London.
It will be clear from the examination of the commemorative panels, that the Harington's and the Bell's were closely allied. 25
During the rising sun of the English colonization of America, Bells' children married into the curia regis of the Tudors and other landed gentry. 25 "...Amongst the many great families with whom the Bells were connected by their various marriages, we may mention.... Beaupre, [Montfort] , John De Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford, [Foderinghey], [Hastings], Bedingfeld, Knyvett, [Fortescue], Oldfield, [Coggeshall], [Fitzwilliam], [Parry], [Harske], [Meeres], Osbourne, [Drury], Wiseman, Deering, Chester, Oxburgh, Le Strange, Dorewood, Oldfield, Peyton, [Wynter], [Walsingham] and Hobart, all persons of great eminence and distinction." 13
1. His first son, Sir Edmond Bell (de Beaupre) b. 7 April 1562, d. 1606/7, MP for King's Lynn, & Aldeburgh 'invested heavily in privateering' 1 (one may find a John Smith & Sir Ralph Hare, named as executors within his will). 19 He married 1. Anne the daughter of Peter Osbourne 1 and Anne Hays 2. ?Elizabeth 3. Merriell Knyvett the daughter of Sir Thomas Knyvett, 4th Baron Berners (c. 1539-1618) and Merriell Parry, the daughter of Sir Thomas Parry and Anne Reade.
2. His second son Sir Robert Bell (de Beaupre) b. (c. 1563, d. 1539), was a 'Captain of a company in the low countries' MP, built ships for the navy, [and was a founding member, contributor and share holder of the (London Company) Virginia Company of London and The Honourable British East India Company] Robert Bell (c. 1600) married Elizabeth Inkpen.
3. His third son, Synulpholus Bell, Esq., b. March 1564, d. 1628, of Thorpe Manor, issue 8 sons, 3 dau., of Norfolk, married Jane (Anne) daughter of Christopher Calthrop and Jane Rookwood (daughter of Roger Rookwood).
5. His fifth son, Phillip Bell b. 14 June 1574, d. after 1630, Fellow of Queens College, Cambridge (1593-7), [Captain, Governor of Bermuda (1626-1629) Nassau 1630, & Barbados (1640-1646) married the daughter of Captain Daniel Elfrith].Robert Bell 21, a, b
6. His daughter, Margaret Bell b. before 1561, d. 14 September 1591, married Sir Nicholas Le Strange of Norfolk; the son of Sir Hamon Le Strange (c.1534-1580) and Elizabeth Hastings; daughter of Sir Hugh Hastings of Elsing, 14th Lord Hastings (d. c.1540) and Catherine Le Strange (d. 2 February 1558).
7. His daughter, Dorothy b. 19 October 1572, d. 30 April 1640, married Sir Henry Hobart, 10 Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; who labored together with Sir Francis Bacon, to draft and procure the charters for the London and Plymouth Company.
8. His daughter, Frances b. (posthumous) 2 December 1577, d. 09 November 1657, married Sir Anthony Dering of Kent (1558–1636), JP, of Surrenden Dering in Pluckley, Kent; the parents of Sir Edward Dering, 1st baronet (1598-1644), who married Elizabeth (1602–1622), daughter of Sir Nicholas Tufton, 1st earl of Thanet. 23
Following the Elizabethan era, a number of Sir Robert Bell's grandchildren envisioned the opportunity of living new lives beyond the horizon, and, endeavored to be bold, Adventurers; and Planters, who set sail for America and arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, before, and, after, the Mayflower landed on Plymouth Rock. 25