LEIGH, Sir Francis, 1st Bt. (1598-1653), of King's Newnham, Warws. and Apps Court, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 28 Apr. 1598,1 1st s. of Sir Francis Leigh I* of King’s Newnham and Apps Court, and Mary, da. of Sir Thomas Egerton†, 1st Visct. Brackley, ld. chan. 1603-17.2 educ. ‘subscribed’ Oxf. 1613; L. Inn 1615.3 m. settlement 20 Jan. 1618, Audrey (d. 16 Sept. 1652), da. of John Boteler, 1st Lord Boteler and wid. of Sir Francis Anderson (d. 22 Dec. 1616) of Stratton, Beds., 1s. d.v.p. 3da. (1 d.v.p.).4 kntd. 12 Dec. 1618;5 cr. bt. 24 Dec. 1618;6 suc. fa. 1625, grandfa. by May 1628;7 cr. Bar. Dunsmore 31 July 1628, earl of Chichester 3 June 1644.8 d. 21 Dec. 1653.9
J.p. Surr. 1623-at least 1642,10 Warws. from 1628, custos rot. 1643,11 commr. subsidy, Surr. 1624,12 Forced Loan 1626, Warws. 1627,13 oyer and terminer, Midland circ. 1629-42, Home circ. 1631-42,14 array, Surr. and Warws. 1642.15
Member, Fishery Soc. 1632-at least 1637.23
The grandson of lord chancellor Ellesmere, Leigh was born in Westminster and apparently grew up on the fringes of the Court. In early 1618 he married Audrey Boteler, niece of the royal favourite, George, marquess (later duke) of Buckingham, who presumably procured his knighthood and baronetcy later that year. Although a London resident in the period immediately after his marriage, he subsequently settled in Surrey, probably at his father’s secondary seat of Apps Court, and in 1623 became a local magistrate.24 However, his paternal grandfather’s estates lay principally in Warwickshire, where Leigh numbered among his friends Sir Fulke Greville*, 1st Lord Brooke, who provided him with a seat at Warwick in 1625. Although Leigh took his place in the Commons, the validity of his return was challenged on 21 June, on the grounds of a restrictive franchise. The issue had still not been resolved when the Parliament was dissolved, which helps to explain why he left no mark on the records of this assembly.25
The year 1625 proved momentous for Leigh, not simply on account of his election to Parliament. In May he was appointed a trade commissioner, doubtless through Buckingham’s influence. The death of his father in August brought him the legal title to his patrimony, although his grandfather apparently retained a life interest in the Warwickshire lands. In the autumn he served as a captain in Buckingham’s regiment during the disastrous Cadiz expedition.26 Leigh again sat for Warwick in 1626, but as in 1625, the validity of his election was questioned, and the dispute was once more left unresolved. On 15 Mar. he was granted privilege in a Warwickshire court case, and on 5 Apr. missed a call of the House through sickness, on which grounds he was spared punishment. He was summoned before the Lords on 17 May for having himself breached parliamentary privilege by serving a subpoena on the 2nd earl of Salisbury (William Cecil, Viscount Cranborne*), but the peers had perhaps overlooked the fact that he was a Member of the Commons, and the matter was dropped.27
In February 1628 Leigh was appointed a trustee of Lord Brooke’s lands, and a few months later obtained full control of his own patrimony when his grandfather died. In July he bolstered his standing in eastern Warwickshire by obtaining a grant of the Crown’s profits in Knightlowe hundred, and in the following month he was added to the local commission of the peace.28 Nevertheless, considering his kinship with both Buckingham and another lesser favourite, Endymion Porter†, he received comparatively few marks of royal favour during these years. It is possible that his character hampered his personal advancement. Clarendon (Sir Edward Hyde†) described him as ‘a man of a rough and tempestuous nature, violent in pursuing what he wished, without judgment or temper to know the way of bringing it to pass’. He finally obtained a peerage, as Baron Dunsmore, in July 1628. It is unclear whether this was another favour from Buckingham, who urgently needed fresh allies in the Upper House, or whether money changed hands. Leigh had certainly helped to prepare the ground a few months earlier when he loaned the Crown £2,000 towards the costs of the fleet then being prepared for the relief of La Rochelle.29
By 1640 Leigh was openly critical of the government. During the Short Parliament he opposed the king’s demand for an urgent grant of supply, a stance which influenced his selection as a commissioner to treat with the Scots in the following autumn. During the elections for the Long Parliament he campaigned in Warwickshire alongside the radical 2nd Lord Brooke (Robert Greville*).30 Nevertheless, when forced to choose between king and Parliament, Leigh returned to the royal fold. Admitted to the Privy Council in August 1641, he was an active Warwickshire commissioner of array in the opening months of the Civil War.31 In 1643 he joined Charles in Oxford as captain of the gentleman pensioners, and contributed generously to the king’s war-chest. His reward in the following year was the earldom of Chichester. A commissioner at the abortive Treaty of Uxbridge in 1645, he was still in Oxford when the city surrendered in June 1646. Briefly imprisoned by the House of Lords, he began the process of compounding in the following September. Although he was able to get the sequestration of his estates suspended in January 1647, his efforts at securing a reduction in his composition fine were largely fruitless.32 Leigh made his will on 2 Sept. 1652, requesting burial at King’s Newnham. A codicil, apparently added shortly before his death in December 1653, optimistically bequeathed £11,000 to assorted relatives, but the will was proved six months later by the earl’s principal creditor. Leigh died without male heir, whereupon his barony of Dunsmore became extinct. However, by special remainder, his earldom was inherited by his son-in-law, the 4th earl of Southampton.33
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paul Hunneyball
- 1. St. Martin-in-the-Fields (Harl. Soc. Regs. xxv), 27.
- 2. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. lxii), 10-11.
- 3. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.
- 4. Vis. Warws. 11; WARD 7/85/130; C142/362/188; C2/Jas.I/L12/46; PROB 11/240, f. 401; CP, iii. 194.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 170.
- 6. C66/2183/12.
- 7. WARD 7/85/130; PROB 6/13, f. 24v.
- 8. C66/2494/22; 66/2905/12.
- 9. Vis. Warws. 11.
- 10. C231/4, f. 152v; ASSI 35/84/6.
- 11. C231/4, f. 255; 231/5, p. 549.
- 12. C212/22/23.
- 13. C193/12/2, f. 57; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 145.
- 14. C181/4, ff. 10v, 98; 181/5, 220, 221v.
- 15. Northants. RO, FH133.
- 16. Rymer, viii. pt. 1, p. 59.
- 17. HMC Var. vii. 425.
- 18. PC2/53, p. 5; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 662.
- 19. Northants. RO, FH3775.
- 20. HMC 7th Rep. 453.
- 21. Harl. 3638, f. 124v.
- 22. P.R. Newman, Roy. Officers in Eng. and Wales, 229.
- 23. SP16/221/1; CSP Dom. 1637, p. 248.
- 24. St. Martin-in-the Fields, 27; R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 4-5, 68-9; C2/Jas.I/L12/46.
- 25. WARD 7/85/130; Procs. 1625, pp. 206, 703.
- 26. C2/Jas.I/L14/2; WARD 7/85/130.
- 27. Procs. 1626, i. 495, 498; ii. 16, 288, 431; iii. 190, 377.
- 28. PROB 11/154, ff. 286-90; C66/2466/1.
- 29. Lockyer, 69; Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, ii. 533; CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 536; HMC Laing, i. 185-6.
- 30. CSP Dom. 1640, p. 66; A. Hughes, Pols. Soc. and Civil War in Warws. 122, 125-6.
- 31. HMC 2nd Rep. 36; 5th Rep. 183; HMC Montagu, 157.
- 32. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 358-9, 406; LJ, viii. 450a; CCC, 1498-9.
- 33. PROB 11/240, f. 401r-v; CP, iii. 194.