SALUSBURY, Sir John (c.1565-1612), of Lleweni, Denb.
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Family and Education
b. c.1565, 2nd s. of John Salusbury of Lleweni by Catherine, da. and h. of Tudor ap Robert of Berain, Denb. educ. Jesus, Oxf. 1581. m. Ursula, illegit. da. of Henry, 4th Earl of Derby by Jane Halsall, 7s. 3da. suc. bro. 1586. Kntd. 1601.1
Esquire of body to Queen Elizabeth 1595.
J.p.q. Denb., commr. musters by 1592; dep. lt. c.1602, collector of royal loan 1605.2
Sir John Salusbury was from an English family which had acquired escheated lands in the lordship of Denbigh after the English conquest and had subsequently risen to pre-eminence in local affairs through military prowess and fortunate marriages. When the county of Denbigh was formed in 1536, the family provided its first officials and some of its earliest MPs. However, in Elizabeth’s reign, the family suffered a series of misfortunes and disgraces, which precluded a Salusbury from representing the shire until 1601. Salusbury’s grandfather and namesake, Sir John Salusbury†, was in trouble at the beginning of this period over his accounts as Exchequer receiver in north Wales. His heir, John Salusbury, predeceased him, after acquiring the Berain lands in Denbighshire through a fortunate marriage, and left an infant son, Thomas, who was placed by his grandfather in the care of the Earl of Leicester. This public alliance between the Salusburys and Leicester antagonized many of the minor Gwynedd gentry, struggling against Leicester’s encroachments as lord of Denbigh and forester of Snowdon. In their eyes Lleweni was thereby transformed into the centre of court opinion and protestantism in the county. Resentment of Leicester’s interference in Denbighshire combined with conservative leanings in religion bred an anti-Lleweni faction in the shire which remained active for the rest of the century.
Any hopes that Thomas Salusbury might represent the shire were dashed by his complicity in the Babington plot. His execution in 1586 plunged the family into serious disgrace. John Salusbury, his younger brother and the subject of this biography, succeeded to the estates, but with greatly diminished prestige and fortune in the county. Much of the Lleweni property was in crown leases, and it took seven years for the new head of the family to obtain a renewal of them, at the cost of ruinous fines—in one case, over £1,200. Meanwhile his enemies were able to keep the family out of public office. At the parliamentary election following his brother’s execution, and again in some county appointments the next year, John Salusbury was passed over in favour of his junior kinsman, Robert Salesbury, whose main seat was at Rûg in Merioneth. Another rebuff followed in 1588, when Salusbury failed to secure the county seat for his ally, William Almer, of Pant Iocyn. Three years later Salusbury was cited in a Star Chamber suit by a servant of the Earl of Warwick, Leicester’s brother and successor in the lordship of Denbigh, in a dispute over the municipal privileges of the borough of Denbigh. The renewal of the borough charter in 1597 provoked yet another feud, this time with Thomas Myddelton, the new purchaser of the crown lordship of Chirk. A document among the Chirk castle papers, drawn up by or for Myddelton, accuses Salusbury of having taken money to protect several Denbighshire murderers from the law between 1591 and 1599. About this time he was engaged in an Exchequer suit with the prebendary of Llannefydd over the prebendal tithes.
By now, however, he was on the way towards rehabilitation, helped by the strenuous efforts of his relatives by marriage, the earls of Derby. In 1593 he had fought and won a duel in Chester with a relative, Captain Owen Salesbury of Holt, who was under suspicion at court for his recent activities as a mercenary in the Low Countries. The 5th Earl of Derby congratulated his brother-in-law on his triumph over ‘that bad fellow of your name’ and saw in the event an ‘advancement of your credit’. In this he was proved right, for two years later Salusbury was in London with a position at court and honorary admission to the Middle Temple. He won further credit, and a knighthood, for his part in suppressing the Essex revolt of 1601.
With these marks of favour, Salusbury returned to Denbighshire, where his enemies were in disarray, many of them having burnt their fingers in the service of their patron, the Earl of Essex. For the first time during Elizabeth’s reign, the Salusburys had the upper hand in the county and were in a good position to stand for election as knight of the shire. However, the anti-Lleweni faction, which had monopolized the local government of the shire for the past five years, mustered a candidate themselves, Sir Richard Trevor of Trevalun. Trevor was a deputy lieutenant and a member of the council in the marches of Wales, whereas Salusbury still had no local office other than that of j.p. A levy for Ireland, coinciding with the election, gave Trevor, as deputy lieutenant, the opportunity to arm his supporters. The sheriff, according to Salusbury, also loaded the dice against him by delaying the election until the county day was at Wrexham, where Trevor’s support was strong, rather than at Denbigh in Salusbury’s territory. It was the sheriff also who postponed the election to avert bloodshed, as he declared, though Salusbury alleged that this was merely another trick to prevent his election. Eventually, after much delay, three days before the end of that Parliament, Salusbury was elected knight for Denbighshire, a somewhat hollow victory. Immediately after the dissolution of Parliament, the Star Chamber suits began between the two factions, although they appear to have been inconclusive. After much effort, Salusbury was finally included in the commission of lieutenancy and obtained Trevor’s exclusion from that office and even from the shrievalty. But the malice of his enemies was not exhausted. He sent repeated complaints to Cecil and to the council in the marches about his failure to obtain justice against them, especially in respect of the alleged murder of a servant and kinsman with the connivance of Fulk Lloyd of Foxhall, Denbigh, a former sheriff denounced by Salusbury as a ‘notorious recusant’.
His triumph was indeed shortlived, and his pleas for preferment on the accession of James I (whom he had the honour of proclaiming at Denbigh) fell on deaf ears. He was never pricked as sheriff, nor elected again to Parliament, and increasing financial embarrassment forced him to borrow heavily on his lands from his former opponent (Sir) Thomas Myddelton. He complained to Cecil of the continued immunity of Fulk Lloyd and his accomplices, and instituted Star Chamber proceedings against them, which were countered by charges of violent interference on Salusbury’s part with the course of justice in the interests of a tenant, and of misappropriation of funds entrusted to him as collector of the royal loan. The latter charge was echoed in two suits brought against him in the Exchequer in 1610-11. On the more constructive side of local government he was much exercised in 1605 by an outbreak of plague in the neighbourhood of Denbigh, and the consequent need for tax remissions to the infected area. Soon after this he made up his differences and settled his financial obligations with (Sir) Thomas Myddelton by arranging a marriage between his heir, Henry Salusbury, and Myddelton’s daughter.
Salusbury died in 1612. Two sentences affecting his will are on record, but the will itself has not been traced. A patron of bards and an object of their eulogies, Salusbury himself wrote some indifferent English verse and enjoyed the acquaintance of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, both of whom contributed verses to the volume published in 1601 by his chaplain, Robert Chester, in honour of Sir John and his lady.3
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Y Cymmrodor, xl. 5; EHR, xlvi. 213 n; Salusbury Corresp. ed. Smith (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xiv), table 1; NLW, Jnl. v. 247-8, 261.
- 2. Star Chamber, ed. Edwards (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law. ser. i), 55; EHR, xlvi. 222; Arch. Camb. (ser. 6), xv. 120; HMC Hatfield, xii. 391; APC, xxxii. 342; Exchequer, ed. E. G. Jones (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law. ser. iv), 162, 167.