LEEDES, Sir John (c.1591-1658), of Wappingthorne, nr. Steyning, Suss. and Whitehall

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1621 - 10 Feb. 1621
1640 (Apr.)

Family and Education

b. c.1591, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Leedes of Wappingthorne and Mary, da. and h. of Thomas Leedes of North Milford, Yorks. m. (lic. 30 May 1610, aged 19, with £3,000), Bridget, da. of Sir Thomas Monson* of South Carlton, Lincs., 1s. 1da. d.v.p. kntd. 8 Jan. 1611; suc. fa. ?1631.1 d. by 22 Nov. 1658.2

Offices Held

Gent. usher of the privy chamber by 1617-at least 1621.3

Freeman, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire 1617;4 commr. sewers, Suss. 1617-at least 1637;5 j.p. Suss. 1630-at least 1642;6 commr. charitable uses, Suss. 1632, 1639,7 piracy 1637,8 array 1642.9


Leedes’s first known ancestor held Wappingthorne, in west Sussex, in the early fifteenth century and sat for Sussex in 1432. Leedes’s grandfather was a Catholic and spent much of his life in exile or under confinement.10 However, Leedes’s father, Thomas, conformed to the Church of England and reclaimed the family estates. Created a knight of the Bath at the coronation of James I, Thomas was a deputy lieutenant of Sussex by 1611.11 According to a subsequent Catholic account he was ‘a great courtier’, who ‘followed the world’ for several years, ‘hunting the company of noblemen’. However, the same source states that Leedes’ mother was always a staunch Catholic and eventually brought Sir Thomas back to his father’s faith. In 1613, either as a result of his conversion or rising debt, Leedes’ parents decided to go into voluntary exile together.12 They went to the Spanish Netherlands, ostensibly to take the waters at the Spa, but in reality to settle at Louvain.13

As the eldest son, Leedes was left to take over the family estate, consisting of property in Sussex and Yorkshire, out of which he provided for the upkeep of the exiles. He showed no trace of Catholic sympathies, and by this date seems to have been in attendance on the king, possibly acting as deputy for his father-in-law, Sir Thomas Monson, a gentleman usher of the privy chamber, a post that Leedes himself would hold.14

Leedes first entered Parliament in 1614, when he served for the nearby borough of Bramber. He owned property there, but he probably also enjoyed the support of the Howards, who owned the borough and were Monson’s patrons. He left no mark on the records of the Addled Parliament. In the following spring he played some part in Court intrigue against the rising George Villiers, for his father, still in close touch with English affairs, wrote to William Trumbull in April 1615 stating that he wished him ‘a less meddler in factious business’.15 The following November he became entangled in the Overbury scandal and was called to account ‘for unreverent speeches of the king, and speaking too much of this poisoning business’. His more outspoken wife, whose father was under suspicion of complicity in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, was sent to the Fleet, but Leedes himself escaped with confinement to his lodgings.16

Leedes seems to have been restored to favour by 1617, when he attended the king in Scotland, and two years later he helped to support the canopy at the funeral of Anne of Denmark.17 Although his Sussex estates alone were said to be worth £950 per annum, his affairs were becoming increasingly embarrassed and at about this time he put them into the hands of trustees, among whom were (Sir) Edward Fraunceys*, the 9th earl of Northumberland’s man of business, who later took up residence at Wappingthorne.18

Leedes was returned for New Shoreham to the third Jacobean Parliament together with Sir John Morley, the brother of another of his trustees, Edward Morley*. However, he omitted to take the oaths of supremacy and allegiance at the start of the session, a requirement of membership, even though he sat for a quarter of an hour in the chamber in the morning on 7 February. Two days later Sir Thomas Roe, fearing some had evaded the requirement to take the necessary oaths in the confusion of the start of the session, moved for an investigation to establish who had been sworn. Consequently, the following day the House was called and each Member was required to ‘protest concerning his taking the oaths’. Leedes, realizing that he could not honestly make the protestation, went to Sir George More, who had been one of the commissioners deputed by the lord steward to administer the oaths. He offered to take the oaths, but admitted to More that he had already sat in the chamber, whereupon More refused to swear him. More reported the case to the Commons, which ordered that Leedes should be disabled. Sir Edward Sackville, another of his trustees, was prepared to excuse him; but the House debated at some length the question of further punishment. It was urged that his father was ‘a fugitive’ and that as a former Member he could hardly plead ignorance. But he was able to show not only that he had taken the oaths as the king’s servant but also ‘that he had twice received the communion within the compass of that year’, and he was allowed to depart unscathed.19

In July 1621 Leedes was one of those arrested along with the 18th earl of Oxford for discussing the Spanish Match. He was probably soon released, but may have lost his position at Court.20 For the next few years he was dependent on Northumberland’s hospitality at Petworth.21 In 1626 it was reported that Fraunceys attempted to have him returned as his partner at Steyning, but the voters rejected him ‘because he had been put out of the House’.22

Leedes received permission to travel abroad in 1631, possibly in order to attend the funeral of his father, who had obtained permission to be buried in a Jesuit church, although the date of his father’s death is unknown.23 He had returned home by 1638, by which date he had set up house again at Wappingthorne.24 He sat for Steyning in the Short Parliament; but it was his son who was elected in the autumn, and who subsequently joined the royalist army and was killed in action in 1645.25 Leedes himself took no part in the Civil War. In his will, dated 18 Feb. 1655, he asked for ‘a decent and private funeral ... knowing my personal estate will not ... admit of any great solemnity’, and bequeathed his property, including a debt of £4,000 acknowledged by Sir Thomas Shirley I*, to a Yorkshire cousin. The last of the Sussex family, his exact date of death is unknown. He was mentioned in investigations into Sussex royalism in 1658, but had died by 22 Nov., when his will was proved.26

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. Bp. of London Mar. Lics. 1520-1610 ed. G.J. Armytage (Harl. Soc. xxv), 321; E. Lloyd, ‘Leedes of Wappingthorne’ Suss. Arch. Colls. liv. 49, 54; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 150.
  • 2. PROB 11/277, f. 245v.
  • 3. SP14/90/148; CD 1621, v. 252.
  • 4. J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, iii. 330.
  • 5. C181/2, f. 292v; 181/3, f. 133v; 181/4, f. 53v; 181/5, f. 69v.
  • 6. C231/5, p.27; ASSI 35/84/8.
  • 7. C192/1, unfol.
  • 8. C181/5, f. 68v.
  • 9. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 10. Lloyd, 41, 44-49.
  • 11. M.C. Questier, Catholicism and Community in Early Modern Eng. 57; Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 155; Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 17; Harl. 703, f. 145v.
  • 12. Chron. of the Eng. Augustinian Canonesses Regular of the Lateran, at St. Monica’s in Louvain ed. A. Hamilton, ii. 63; Questier, 56-7.
  • 13. APC, 1613-14, p. 234.
  • 14. Suss. Mansors and Advowsons ed. H.W. Dunkin (Suss. Rec. Soc. xx), 463; HMC Downshire, iv. 247.
  • 15. HMC Downshire, v. 283.
  • 16. Carew Letters ed. J. Maclean (Cam. Soc. lxxvi), 19; Letters of Jas. VI and I ed. G.P.V. Akrigg, 348; APC, 1615-16, p. 323.
  • 17. Nichols, iii. 330, 539.
  • 18. Lloyd, 50; Add. Ch. 18932; Add. 28241, ff. 81-130.
  • 19. CJ, i. 514b, 516b; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 30-1; CD 1621, ii. 54; iv. 34-5, 39; vi. 343.
  • 20. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 388; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 275.
  • 21. Household Pprs. of Henry Percy, Ninth Earl of Northumberland ed. G.R. Batho (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. xciii), 120.
  • 22. Arundel, Autograph letters 1617-32, Peers to Spiller, 16 Jan. 1626.
  • 23. APC, 1630-1, p. 397; Questier, 58
  • 24. CSP Dom. 1637-8, p. 278.
  • 25. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 248.
  • 26. PROB 11/277, ff. 246v-7; Coll. of State Pprs. of John Thurloe ed. T. Birch, vii. 110, 165.