LEVESON, Richard (1570-1605), of Lilleshall, Salop and Trentham, Staffs.
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Family and Education
J.p.q. Salop and Staffs. by 1594; custos rot. Salop 1596.
V.-adm. N. Wales 1593-1601; adm. of the narrow seas 1600, v.-adm. of England 1604.3
Leveson was married at the age of 17 to a daughter of the lord admiral, under whom he served as a volunteer on the Ark Royal against the Armada. At first he did little to distinguish himself, during the 1590s committing several blunders, any one of which might have ended the career of a man with less influential connexions. But in the end Leveson justified his father-in-law’s patronage and the Queen’s opinion that he was a man of ‘resolution and discretion’. In less than a year, from his attack on Kinsale harbour in December 1601 to June 1602, when, under the guns of Cézimbra fort, he captured a caravel valued at a million ducats, he brilliantly retrieved his reputation. The gibes of John Chamberlain changed to admiration for the admiral who ‘played the man when all men’s hearts failed’, and Sir William Monson, who served under him, wrote of the ‘renowned courage’ of his commander, who attacked the Spanish fleet at odds of six to one, yet avoided a repetition of the Revenge tragedy. The letters written to Cecil, to Nottingham and to his cousin John, reveal Leveson’s grasp of naval administration, and particularly of the defects in the system of pressing and victualling. They also reveal a man who could give credit to his subordinates.4
Leveson was naturally exasperated by his father’s desperate financial situation. Asking Cecil for leave of absence in December 1601:
the miserable wrecks of my father’s torn estate are well-known. His want of care, and my want of credit with him to take up loose ends before they ravelled into extremities, are the cause that my lands ... are now by forfeitures brought into the hands of strangers.
His father accused Leveson of procuring his imprisonment in the Fleet prison in 1600, and indeed he had written to his cousin, John Leveson, suggesting that if the Lords proposed ‘to enlarge’ his father, it might be deferred until his return. There seems to have been some sort of reconciliation between them, but Sir Walter died in prison, leaving his affairs in such confusion that his son lamented to Cecil, ‘What land soever I may discover in the Queen’s service upon a foreign coast, I am never likely to see any profit of my own lands at home’.5
Leveson made little mark in Parliament, the journals for the 1589 Parliament mentioning his name only once, 3 Mar., when he was granted leave of absence. He died in London in July 1605, aged 35, and was buried at Wolverhampton. His will dated 17 Mar. that year was made, ‘calling to mind the uncertainty of all earthly things, and that we hold and enjoy ourselves together with all our temporal blessings but as tenants at will to our good God that gave them’. The inscription on his tomb reads:
Here lieth the body of Perfection’s glory, Fame’s own world wonder, and the ocean’s story.6
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 2. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4), xi. 154; DNB; Genealogist, i. 385; J. S. Corbett, Successors of Drake, 257; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 259.
- 3. PRO Index 4208, f. 38; EHR, xxiii. 756; Clowes, Royal Navy, i. 512, n. 3; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 92.
- 4. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 137; Clowes, i. 534-5, 589; Corbett, 257, 367; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 134; 1601-3, pp. 79, 132, 134, 161, 208-9; CSP Ire. 1601-3, p. 238; HMC 5th Rep. 136-7.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, pp. 400-2, 411-12; 1601-3, pp. 133-4, 259; HMC 5th Rep. 136-7.
- 6. Townshend, Hist. Colls. 23; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4), xi. 154; PCC 59 Hayes.