LEIGH, Francis (c.1579-c.1625), of Newnham Regis, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. c.1579, 1st s. of Sir William Leigh of Newnham Regis by Frances, da. of (Sir) James Harington I of Exton, Rutland. educ. M. Temple 1597. m. by 1601, Mary, da. of (Sir) Thomas Egerton I, 2s. 3da. KB 1603.2
Member, Antiq. Soc. c.1600; gent. of privy chamber to James I; master of requests 1614; sheriff, Warws. 1618-19, j.p.q. by 1621.3
Leigh’s mother, in addition to being sister to John Harington II, later Baron Harington of Exton, was a cousin of Mary Sidney, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke’s third wife. It is this relationship, as well as Pembroke’s antiquarian interests, which suggests that the ‘Francis Ley, esquire’, whom Pembroke nominated at Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in October 1597 was the young (in fact under age) Warwickshire gentleman whose particulars appear above. Leigh acquired a powerful patron when he married the lord keeper’s favourite daughter. In 1601 and 1604 Egerton was high steward of Oxford and brought Leigh into Parliament for the city. The burgesses for Oxford were appointed to the committee concerning the parsonage at Rothenstone on 2 Dec. 1601.4
In 1597 it was agreed that, as well as those specifically nominated to discuss the question of the subsidy, other Members interested should be allowed to attend the meetings. Leigh availed himself of this opportunity and was present at the meeting on 15 Nov. This interest in business makes it at least possible that it was he who sat on the committee of the poor bill, 22 and 24 Nov. and on a legal committee, 1 Feb. 1598. In the 1601 Parliament he was paid a notable tribute for such a young man, for he was included among a select body of Members chosen to hear the Queen’s ‘Golden Speech’. In the event, Elizabeth yielded to the desire of the House that all Members who were able should attend. No doubt it was as much Leigh’s position as the lord keeper’s son-in-law as his ability and personality that marked him out from the common run of young burgesses. Thus it was probably he who was the Mr. Leigh who, on 3 Nov. that year
stood up and moved Mr. Speaker that some of the House were desirous to know what the lord keeper’s speech was in the upper house of Parliament, when the burgesses were kept out: and also he complained of a gentleman usher that said through the door of the upper house, that they were not quiet they should be set in the stocks.5
Before his death Leigh saw his eldest son a baronet and set on the course which eventually brought him to the earldom of Chichester. Leigh made his will 7 Feb. 1625 and it was proved by his eldest son Francis on 6 Jan. 1626. In it he provided for his wife and children, and left a bequest of £10 to his father, now an old man. Among other bequests was one of £4 to the churchwardens of Church Lawford for a gilt chalice for the ‘more decent and reverent administration of the holy communion’.