SMYTHE, Richard (1565-1628), of Leeds Castle, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. 1563, 5th but 4th surv. s. of Thomas Smythe I of Westenhanger by Alice, da. and h. of Sir Andrew Judd of London; bro. of John I and Thomas II. educ. ?Barnard’s Inn c.1585; M. Temple 1585. m. (1) Sept. 1589, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Scott of Scot’s Hall and Nettlestead, wid. of John Knatchbull, 2s. 2da.; (2) aft. 1597, Jane (d. 13 Oct. 1607), da. and h. of Sir John White of London, wid. of Samuel Thornhill of Bromley, 1da.; (3) Mary, da. of Roger Boyle of Preston by Faversham, wid., 1da. Kntd. 23 July 1603.1

Offices Held

Jt. (with bro. Thomas II) receiver gen. of duchy of Cornw. 1604-26, (with s. Thomas) 1626-d.; commr. revenues assigned to Prince Charles; j.p. Kent.2


The identification of this Member with the younger son of ‘Customer’ Thomas Smythe is placed beyond reasonable doubt by the knowledge that this Richard Smythe was a connexion by marriage of the Thynnes of Longleat. When his sister Katherine married Sir Rowland Hayward, twice lord mayor of London, she gained three stepdaughters, one of whom, Joan, was already the wife of John Thynne (d.1604). Thynne had himself filled the first seat at Heytesbury in every Parliament save one (that of 1589, when he was knight of the shire) since 1584, while the second went to his relatives and friends; his fellow-Member in 1601 could thus be no other than his wife’s step-uncle, and other men bearing these names, including the MP for Cricklade in 1584, can be dismissed from consideration.

With his brothers John, Thomas, Henry, Robert and Simon, Richard Smythe had grown up into the world of business mingled with politics. He did not go to either university (the Richard Smith who matriculated at Magdalen 8 Dec. 1578 was a different man), but he was admitted in his early twenties to the Middle Temple, although presumably not for serious professional study. It was in the same year that his father, a native of Wiltshire, where he had built Corsham House, confirmed his adoption of Kent as his new shire by purchasing Westenhanger from the Crown. Of the sons, only Henry was to establish himself in Wiltshire; the others all made their homes in Kent. On their father’s death in 1591, John, the heir, succeeded to Westenhanger, Thomas acquired Bitborough and Sutton-at-Hone, and Robert, who was to die prematurely, settled at Longport. (The youngest, Simon, also died young, being killed on the Cadiz expedition of 1596). Richard, who received Newchurch under his father’s will, soon added to it, by purchase from Sir Warham St. Leger, the manor and castle of Leeds, and it was Leeds which he made his residence for the rest of his life.3

Richard Smythe had a number of contemporary namesakes from whom he is not always readily distinguished. Thus the summons to ‘Richard Smith, of the Middle Temple, gent.’ to appear before the Privy Council in January 1586 may have concerned the Middle Templar who became a barrister and served on the council of Wales; a similar doubt arises over the ‘R. Smith, gentleman’ who was sent on the Queen’s service to Brittany in January 1593, and who was perhaps the Exchequer official. More easily distinguished is Dr. Richard Smith of Christ Church, Oxford, who in 1592 was listed as a recusant and who in December 1598 was in Paris and in January 1604 in Rheims. The slightness of Richard Smythe’s connexion with Wiltshire makes it unlikely that he was any of the men to whom references in that county are found. His position in Kent does, however, find illustration: in 1600 he was one of those whose horses supplied for the Irish war were found defective, and his name occurs in a list relating to that country, probably of 1603.4

In 1601 Smythe’s brother Sir Thomas, then sheriff of London, was seriously compromised in the Essex rebellion, which cost him his office. That Richard was not deeply implicated is likely in view of his return to the Parliament of that year; but he may have wanted a seat as a vantage point in case his brother was attacked there. There is, however, no evidence that he played any part in the business of the House. His career under James I, as official of the duchy of Cornwall, patentee, landed gentleman, and MP for Hythe in 1614 lies outside the scope of this biography. He died in 1628, having made an elaborate will, and has a monument in Ashford church which includes figures of his three wives and five children and testifies to his public and private virtues.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Muriel Booth


  • 1. Arch. Cant. xx. 76-81; xxi. 126 seq.; xxiii. 113-14; Lansd. 47, f. 118.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 93; 1625-6, p. 559.
  • 3. Al. Ox. 1500-1714, p. 1378; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 147; Hasted, Kent, v. 485-6; viii. 340.
  • 4. APC, xiv. 295; xxiv. 5; HMC Hatfield, iv. 267; xiv. 149; xv. 215; xvi. 33; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 138.
  • 5. Arch. Cant. xx. 82-3; xxviii. p. lxxxvi.; PCC 79 Barrington.