LEY, James (1550-1629), of Westbury, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. 1550, 6th s. of Henry Ley (d.1574) of Bere Ferrers, Devon and Teffont Evias, Wilts. by Dionysia, da. and coh. of Walter Seymour; bro. of Matthew. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1571; Brasenose, Oxf. BA 3 Feb. 1574; L. Inn 1577, called 1584, bencher 1600, Lent reader 1602, governor 1609-22. m. (1) 2 June 1590, Mary, 1st da. of John Pettie of Stoke Talmage, Oxon. by Elizabeth, da. and h. of Thomas Snape of Fawler, Oxon., 3s. 7 or 8da.; (2) lic. London 13 Feb. 1618, Mary (bur. 5 Oct. 1618), da. and coh. of Thomas Preison of Westminster, wid. of (Sir) William Bowyer III of Denham, Bucks.; (3) 4 July 1621, Jane, 3rd da. of John, 1st Baron Boteler of Brantfield by Elizabeth, da. of Sir George Villiers. Kntd. 8 Oct. 1603; cr. Bt. 20 July 1619, Baron Ley of Ley 31 Dec. 1624; Earl of Marlborough 5 Feb. 1626.

Offices Held

Serjeant-at-law, Nov. 1603; 2nd justice of Carm. Pemb. and Card. June 1603-4; c.j. King’s bench [I] 1604-8; commr. of great seal [I] Apr.-Nov. 1605; commr. for Ulster plantation, 1608; attorney of court of wards Nov. 1608; c.j. King’s bench 29 Jan. 1622-20 Dec. 1624; Speaker, House of Lords and jt. commr. of great seal May-July 1621; PC 20 Dec. 1624; ld. high treasurer Dec. 1624-July 1628; high steward, Yarmouth 1625-d.; jt. commr. for coronation claims Jan. 1626; ld. pres. of council July-Dec. 1628; chief commr. to treat with ambassadors from States-General Feb. 1628.3

J.p.q. Wilts. from 1601.


Ley was probably born and brought up at Teffont Evias, which his father had acquired in 1545, and where he died, and was buried, in June 1574, shortly after James had graduated at Oxford. This may explain the delay of two-and-a-half years before his entry to Lincoln’s Inn. In 1569 a ‘James Ley’ had been instituted to the rectory of Teffont Evias, from which he resigned in 1576. If this was our man the income was presumably used to pay for his university career, and the episode might explain his delay in proceeding to the study of the law.4

The family’s connexion with Westbury appears to date from 1578, when it acquired the manor of Brembridge, to the west of that borough, from James, 6th Lord Mountjoy. James Ley must himself have had a house in the town by 1592, when he was a churchwarden there; he certainly had in 1599. In that year he acquired, and shortly afterwards disposed of, rights in the hundred of Westbury. His elder brother Matthew was already sufficiently established there to present the borough with a new seal in 1597, the year in which the two brothers were returned for Westbury.5

Ley’s career until the end of Elizabeth’s reign showed little promise of its brilliant future under James I. He was rising at his inn, and took some part in county affairs; but he did not sit in Parliament again until 1604, when he was already on the threshold of his judicial advancement.

He died 14 Mar. 1629.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. T. Bindoff


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. DNB; Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 113-15; CP.
  • 4. C142/167/119; Aubrey, Wilts. Coll. 405; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxv. 88-9.
  • 5. Hoare, Wilts. Westbury, 6, 28, 36; Wilts. RO, 228; C54/1621; Wilts. N. and Q. iii. 246-8.