Sir William Norreys was the eldest son of Sir John Norreys of Ockwells Manor in Bray and Yattendon Castle by his first wife Alice, the daughter of Sir Richard Merbrooke. Since his father was a high ranking Lancastrian, William was an active soldier in the Royal Army during the War of the Roses. He was knighted by King Henry VI at the Battle of Northampton, on 10th July 1460, and was also present at the Battle of Towton shortly after Edward IV had proclaimed himself King in March 1461. However, like his father, he bent like a willow and quickly reconciled himself to the new monarchy. By the August, he had been appointed steward of both the Royal manors of Cookham and Bray, adjoining the family's Ockwells estate (the steward of Foliejon (Winkfield) appointed in 1474 may have been his cousin). Sir William became JP for Berkshire in 1467 (to 1483) and was Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire in 1468, 82 & 86. Around the time of his father's death, in 1466, Sir William allied himself with another great Lancastrian family by marrying Jane, the sister of John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. The two lived at his castle in Yattendon - with their four sons and two daughters - for Sir William did not take possession of Ockwells until the death of his step-mother in 1494. He was on good terms with her and she remarried his wife's cousin, Lord Howard. The two eventually became Duke and Duchess of Norfolk. Sir William acted as the Duke's shipping agent in London.
In 1469, Sir William had been made Esquire of the Body to King Edward IV and it may have been this exalted position which persuaded him not to follow the 'Kingmaker' Earl of Warwick in the rebellion which briefly re-instated Henry VI as king. For, upon Edward IV's final victory, he remained in office and, a year after the Battle of Barnet (on 25th April 1472), the, by now widowed Norreys, was in a strong enough position to even marry the widow of Warwick's disgraced brother, the Marquis of Montague. The Marchioness, Elizabeth, was the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Edmund Ingoldisthorpe of Borough Green (Cambridgeshire) and his wife, Joan, sister and eventual heiress of John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester. Her dead husband's estates had, naturally, all been confiscated, so she had to revert to her own inheritance to support her two sons and five daughters, including the fourteen-year-old Duke of Bedford (whose inheritance Sir William kept for his lifetime when he died in 1483). We can only speculate as to how she met Sir William but perhaps, as a local Berkshire man, he played some role in the burial of the Marquis at Bisham Abbey. The couple had a son and two daughters who all apparently died in infancy, though they outlived their mother who died after only four years of marriage. Sir William probably married his third wife soon afterward. Joan, the daughter of Alderman Robert Horne of London, was the half-sister of the wealthy Fettiplace brothers, Richard, Anthony, Sir Thomas and William. They had one son and four daughters together.
Sir William enjoyed less favour under King Richard III and, in 1483, reverted to his Lancastrian sympathies by joining - with his younger brother, John, and relative & neighbour, Sir Thomas de la Mare - the Duke of Buckingham's Rebellion in a failed attempt to overthrow the King. While the Duke assembled his forces at Brecon, on 18th October, Sir William, along with Sir William Berkeley of Beaverstone and Sir Richard Woodville (Edward IV's brother-in-law), gathered further rebels at Newbury and declared the Earl of Richmond - the last Lancastrian heir - as King. Unfortunately, support for the rising quickly fell away and Buckingham was captured and executed. A reward was offered for Sir William's capture and he fled to the West Country. He was tracked down in Devon and arrested, along with the Marquis of Dorset and others. Fortunately however, despite his attainder, he managed to escape to Brittany, where he fell in with Richmond's forces. He was later joined by his brother-in-law, the Earl of Oxford. The two returned to England with the Royal claimant, and Sir William commanded a troop of his men at the Battle of Bosworth when Richmond took the Crown as King Henry VII. He was richly rewarded for his loyalty and, continuing in his role in the King's army, on 16th June 1487, he commanded the Royal Forces - including his son, Edward - at the Battle of Stoke against the Royal impersonator, Lambert Simnel. The following year, Sir William was acting as Bailiff for the Queen and - along with his brother-in-law, John Horne, half-brother-in-law, Anthony Fettiplace and his friend, Sir William Stonor - was commissioned "to summons all Earls, Barons, Knights and other Nobles in the County of Oxfordshire, to examine how many archers each is bound to find for the King's army, and to take the numbers of those archers preparatory to the expedition for the relief of Brittany, and to make return of the premises to the King in person." In 1487, Sir William had also been awarded an annuity of twenty marks by the Duke of Suffolk for his legal advice and, seven years later, he was reinstated as JP for his home county. Similar advice given to the King in 1502, brought him the reward pf appointment as custodian of the manor of Langley and steward of the manors of Burford, Shipton, Spellesbury and the Hundred of Chadlington, all in Oxfordshire; as well as the property of his second wife's grand-nephew, the infant Prince Edward, Earl of Warwick. In 1504, Sir William added the stewardships of Newbury and Stratfield Mortimer to his offices and, at the latter, he was Master of the Game in the popular Royal park. He became steward to the Chancellor of Oxford University, but died, two years later, on 4th January 1507 and was succeeded in his estates by his grandson, John.
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