LEVESON, Richard (1598-1661), of Whorne's Place, Cuxton, Kent; Lilleshall Lodge, Salop and Trentham, Staffs.; later of Boswell Court, nr. St. Clement's Well, London.
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Family and Education
b. 25 May 1598, 4th but 1st surv. s. of Sir John Leveson* of Cuxton and his 2nd w. Christian, da. of Sir Walter Mildmay† of Apethorpe, Northants., chan. exch. 1559-89; half-bro. of Sir Edward Barrett*. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1617-18; Padua 1621; travelled abroad (Italy) 1618-21. m. 23 July 1629, Katherine (d. 25 Mar. 1674), da. of Sir Robert Dudley, grand chamberlain to the duchess of Tuscany and styled duke of Northumberland, s.p. suc. cousin Sir Richard Leveson* 1605, fa. 1615; cr. KB 1 Feb. 1626. d. 2 June 1661.2 sig. R[ichard] Leveson.
Bridge warden, Rochester, Kent 1622-36;3 commr. subsidy, Kent 1624, Salop and Staffs. 1641;4 j.p. Salop 1627-at least 1640, Staffs. by 1629-at least 1640;5 commr. charitable uses, Salop 1631-2, Staffs. 1637-at least 1639;6 steward, Newcastle-under-Lyme manor 1631-at least 1640, 1660-?d.;7 member, Council in Marches of Wales 1633;8 commr. oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1635-at least 1642;9 freeman, Newcastle-under-Lyme 1640;10 commr. array, Salop and Staffs. 1642;11 dep. lt. Staffs. and Lichfield 1642, 1660-?d., Salop, Ludlow and Shrewsbury, 1660-?d., capt. vol. horse, Staffs. 1660-d.12
?Member, Virg. Co. by 1623.13
Col. of horse (roy.) 1643-5.14
Leveson was named after his godfather and distant cousin,15 the childless admiral Sir Richard Leveson, who appointed him as his heir.16 The admiral owned an extensive estate in Staffordshire and Shropshire, but title to this property was contested following the admiral’s death in 1605 by the heir general, Lady Curzon, and her daughter. As Leveson was under-age, his interests were protected by his father, who sold off large parts of the estate to finance the ensuing lawsuits. By 1609 Leveson’s title to the remaining property was assured, but half of the estate was retained by the admiral’s widow until 1642 as her jointure.17
Leveson’s prospects might have remained bleak had it not been for the death of his elder brother in 1613, when he became the heir to his father’s Kent estates. On entering into this inheritance in November 1615, six months before his eighteenth birthday,18 he was still too young to manage his affairs, and therefore it fell to his mother, Lady Christian, to pay off the family’s debts. By the terms of his father’s will, Leveson was granted an annual allowance of just £100. On attaining his majority, this sum rose to £300,19 as Leveson was apparently not expected to take up the management of his estates immediately, but instead was sent to tour the Continent like his half-brother Sir Edward Barrett before him. Consequently, after studying at his father’s old college at Oxford, where he and his younger brother boarded with one Mr. Drury, Leveson spent three years abroad. The cost was considerable: in the year ending 25 Mar. 1621, for instance, Lady Christian spent £382 10s. 4d. on Leveson, nearly one fifth of her annual receipts, though this sum may have included the annual allowance. Her son’s expenditure, is rarely specified, but did include £3 6s. for tobacco.20
Leveson returned home in September 1621, but his mother did not relinquish control for a further two years.21 By November 1622 he was embroiled in an important legal suit, for by an agreement made in March 1605 he or his younger brother were required to offer to marry Sir Richard Leveson’s illegitimate daughter Anne Fitton before she turned 20, or to pay her £4,000 in compensation. Leveson was accused of attempting to evade his responsibilities, and was ordered by Chancery either to marry Anne within six months or to make payment.22 The death of Francis a few months later fixed all responsibility squarely on Leveson’s shoulders,23 and by the end of January 1626 he had paid Anne in full.24
In February 1622 Leveson was ordered to appear before the Privy Council, probably for failing to contribute towards the Palatine Benevolence.25 In March 1623 he was dispatched on unknown royal business to Shrewsbury and Holyhead.26 He was returned to Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme in January 1624, although not made a freeman until 1640, and played no recorded part in its proceedings. His election, and that of his fellow Member Sir Edward Vere, was referred to the privileges committee in April after John Keeling* complained that it had been rigged. Vere was unseated, but Leveson’s return was upheld as it was discovered that none of the electors had voted against him.27 Created a knight of the Bath at the coronation of Charles I, Leveson’s wealth caught the eye of the impoverished Caroline regime, which considered demanding a Privy Seal loan of £520 from him.28 He was again returned to Parliament in 1626, this time for Shropshire, perhaps on the interest of his brother-in-law Sir Richard Newport, who represented the seat himself on four other occasions. Named to the committee to consider the contempt of the sheriff of Leicestershire (26 Apr.), he otherwise received no mention in the Parliament’s records.29
As Leveson’s principal residence was in Kent it was not surprising that he failed to attend the Staffordshire musters of October 1625, for which he was reported.30 Following his mother’s death early in 1627,31 however, he sold off his Kentish estate32 and moved to Trentham, Staffordshire, and Lilleshall Lodge, Shropshire. In 1629, apparently against the advice of his friends, he married a daughter of Sir Robert Dudley, who had been created ‘duke of Northumberland’ by the Holy Roman Emperor. His friends were concerned that the Sidneys of Penshurst were disputing the title to her principal Warwickshire estate of Balsall, worth an estimated £20,000 p.a.33 In the event the marriage proved profitable, for in 1633 he and his wife’s family sold off a large amount of Warwickshire property for £8,250.34 Leveson’s share of the proceeds undoubtedly enabled him to spend more than £6,165 in developing Trentham manor house and its out-buildings between 1630 and 1639.35 As well as this windfall, Leveson may have supplemented his income from mining coal and digging for lime on his Lilleshall estate, which had certainly begun by 1645.36 His finances during the 1630s nevertheless remained precarious, for in 1637 his Shropshire manor of Hardwick was extended for debt.37 However, the threat by the 4th earl of Dorset (Sir Edward Sackville*) to revive the claim of his wife, Mary Curzon, to the Leveson estate failed to materialize.38
Leveson was neutral at the outbreak of the First Civil War, when he again represented Newcastle-under-Lyme, but was driven into the arms of the royalists by Parliament,39 serving as a cavalry colonel and a Member of the Oxford Parliament. Captured at Shrewsbury in February 1645,40 he paid a heavy price for his royalism. His health had long been poor - Mary Sackville claimed before the outbreak of war that he was unlikely to live long ‘by reason of an infirm and weak body’41 - but the strain of nine months’ imprisonment at Nantwich caused it to break down entirely. Moreover, the war cost him his entire personal estate, which he claimed amounted to £24,000, and four-fifths of the proceeds from his coal and lime works were diverted to Parliament’s coffers. The most crippling financial blow, however, was the fine demanded by way of composition, which was set at a staggering £9,846 and which he complained was ‘greater than many earls and noblemen’. It was eventually reduced to £3,846 in return for the surrender of six rectories. In the meantime, the 4th earl of Dorset’s son, Lord Buckhurst (Richard Sackville†) took advantage of Leveson’s difficulties to revive the Curzon claim to the Leveson estates.42
Leveson drew up his will on 3 Nov. 1660. Encumbered by large debts and childless, he ordered his estate to be conveyed to trustees acting for his wife for 21 years after his death. Thereafter his lands were to descend to his niece, Margaret Fowler, and her husband Francis.43 He died at Lilleshall on 2 June 1661, and was buried, in accordance with his wishes, in the parish church of St. Michael and All Angels three days later.44 A monument was erected against the north wall of the chancel. In 1673 his widow bequeathed a picture of him ‘set with diamonds’ to the countess of Dorset ‘if she please’, perhaps as a final peace offering.45
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Andrew Thrush
- 1. Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, v. 573.
- 2. Staffs. RO, D593/Addnl./8/27, pp.147-8; Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. J.C. Wedgwood (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1920), ii. 32; Al. Ox.; Staffs. RO, D593/P/6/7C-F, unfol.; D593/P/9/1; DNB sub Sir Robert Dudley; Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 162.
- 3. Traffic and Pols. ed. N. Yates and J.M. Gibson, 294.
- 4. C212/22/23; SR, v. 88.
- 5. C231/4, f. 228; C66/2527; 66/2858.
- 6. C192/1, unfol.; C93/13/25.
- 7. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 168; HMC 5th Rep. 141.
- 8. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 4, p. 7.
- 9. C181/4, f. 194v; 181/5, pp. 12, 321, 381, 437.
- 10. T. Pape, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 304.
- 11. Northants. RO, FH133.
- 12. Staffs. RO, D593/S/5/1, 3-5.
- 13. Virg. Co. Recs. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iv. 157.
- 14. P.R. Newman, Roy. Officers in Eng. and Wales, 231.
- 15. Staffs. RO, D593/Addnl./8/27, p. 167; J.C. Tildesley, Hist. Penkridge, 59.
- 16. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 347.
- 17. Staffs. RO, D593/P/9/9; 593/P/8/1/35.
- 18. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 491; HMC 5th Rep. 140. The lands were entailed on him and his heir males in March 1614: C142/349/174.
- 19. PROB 11/126, f. 249.
- 20. Staffs. RO, D593/P/6/7B-F, unfol.
- 21. Ibid. P/6/7F-H, unfol.
- 22. C78/250/11.
- 23. PROB 11/141, f. 3r-v.
- 24. Staffs. RO, D593/C/13.
- 25. SP14/127/82.
- 26. HMC 5th Rep. 140.
- 27. ‘Pym 1624’, i. f. 55; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 110v; CJ, i. 759a.
- 28. E401/2586, pp. 89, 462.
- 29. CJ, i. 849b.
- 30. E115/239/103; 115/254/79; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 143.
- 31. PROB 11/151, f. 91.
- 32. E. Hasted, Kent, iii. 375, 383, 393; iv. 502; E134/13Chas.I/East.30; C54/2702/19.
- 33. Staffs. RO, D868/2/2, f. 4; DNB sub Sir Robert Dudley.
- 34. C54/2995/21.
- 35. Staffs. RO, D593/H/14/3/1; D593/R/1/2.
- 36. Staffs. RO, D593/P/8/1/10.
- 37. E401/2454.
- 38. Staffs. RO, D868/2/2, ff. 11-12.
- 39. R. Hutton, Roy. War Effort, 40.
- 40. H.T. Weyman, Members of Parl. for Shropshire, 127-8.
- 41. Cent. Kent. Stud. U269/C11. I am grateful to Dr. David Smith for this ref.
- 42. CCC, 990; Newman, 231; Staffs. RO, D593/P/8/1/10, 11, 35.
- 43. PROB 11/315, ff. 12-15v.
- 44. VCH Salop, xi. 169-70; Wedgwood, 32.
- 45. PROB 11/344, f. 108v.