LEIGH (LEE), Sir John (c.1575-1612), of Coldrey, Froyle, Hants.

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



Family and Education

b. c.1575, o.s. of John Leigh of Coldrey and Margaret, da. of Thomas Saunders of Uxbridge, Mdx. and wid. of Robert Wolman (admon. 2 Feb. 1571) of London, Mercer.1 educ. vol. Cadiz 1596.2 m. 19 Feb. 1601,3 Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas West† of Testwood, Hants, 1s.4 suc. fa. 1576;5 kntd. ?22 June 1596.6 d. 6 Jan. 1612.7

Offices Held

Capt. of horse [I] 1599.8

Carver of Chamber 1603-at least 1608.9


The early Jacobean period boasted no less than six knights of this name. Among those from whom this Member must be distinguished was Sir John Leigh of Shorwell, Isle of Wight, who for many years was a Hampshire j.p. and deputy lieutenant, and Sir John Leigh of Mitcham, Surrey, who rose from being an official in the royal stables to membership of the board of Green Cloth.10 Leigh himself was descended from a junior branch of a Cheshire gentry family. His forebears had migrated to Surrey in the mid-fifteenth century, and acquired the Hampshire manor of Coldrey in 1557.11 Leigh succeeded his father when barely a year old, inheriting an estate of more than 10,000 acres, mostly in Somerset and Hampshire. His mother remarried within a few years. Her new husband was Sir William Killigrew I*, who introduced Leigh at Court and provided him with parliamentary seats in Cornish boroughs at three successive elections.12

Leigh was knighted by the 2nd earl of Essex during the 1596 Cadiz expedition. He again served with Essex in Ireland three years later, but avoided being directly implicated in the earl’s rebellion in 1601.13 At the start of the new reign Leigh became one of James I’s carvers. Thereafter he was in demand at Court as a fencer and dancer, taking part in the masque held to celebrate the marriage of Sir Philip Herbert* in January 1604. Four years later he risked the king’s displeasure by assisting Herbert’s brother, the 3rd earl of Pembroke, during an attempted duel.14

Leigh entered the Commons for the third time in 1604 as Member for Helston, but left no trace on the first session’s proceedings. In around early 1606 he and Sir John Brooke* were promised the reversion of the office of custos brevium in King’s Bench, but the grant did not immediately pass the Great Seal because of objections by the then incumbent, William Davison†. During the second parliamentary session, Davison promoted a bill to secure the reversion for his own son. On 5 Apr. 1606, during the bill’s third reading, Leigh’s kinsman by marriage, Sir Maurice Berkeley*, moved for counsel to be heard on Leigh’s behalf. Despite objections from Sir Francis Hastings, who asserted that ‘Sir John Leigh ... hath no right, nor title, nor is allowed by the lord chief justice’, a hearing was scheduled for 8 April. On that day, however, Berkeley announced that both parties in the dispute were now awaiting the king’s pleasure, whereupon the Commons agreed to let the matter rest.15 By the time of the 1606-7 session, Leigh was a sufficiently familiar figure to feature in the scurrilous poem, the Parliament Fart, but he received only a single nomination, being added on 9 May to the committee for the fen drainage bill.16 Meanwhile, he had persisted in his quest for office in King’s Bench. In June 1607 James I confirmed that he and Brooke should have the desired reversion, provided that they first compounded with Davison. However, the two sides clearly failed to agree terms, for Davison was himself granted the reversion a month later. Leigh presumably attended the Parliament’s two final sessions, but made no mark on the records of either.17

By 1612 Leigh was badly afflicted with the stone. He made his will on 1 Jan., having already arranged for the payment of his debts by conveying part of his estate to his stepfather, his stepbrother Sir Robert Killigrew*, and their associate Walter Hickman*. With his only son Thomas still an infant, he bequeathed his wife a life interest in his remaining property, and died five days later. Thomas, whose wardship was acquired by his mother, sold Coldrey to Sir Humphrey May* in 1629. No subsequent member of this family is known to have entered Parliament.18

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 158; C142/175/82; PROB 11/53, ff. 57-8.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 93.
  • 3. Hants Par. Regs.: Marriages ed. W.P.W. Phillimore and S. Andrews, vii. 14.
  • 4. Vis. Hants, 158.
  • 5. C142/175/82.
  • 6. Shaw, ii. 93.
  • 7. C142/331/138.
  • 8. HMC Hatfield, ix. 145.
  • 9. LS13/168, f. 49v; E179/70/122.
  • 10. Shaw, ii. 104, 116, 138, 140; Royalist’s Notebk. ed. F. Bamford, 156-8; VCH Surr. iv. 195; LC2/4/4; C2/Jas.I/D12/77.
  • 11. Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. xviii), 152-4; J. Tanswell, Hist. and Antiqs. of Lambeth, 39-40; VCH Hants, ii. 503.
  • 12. C142/175/82; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 268.
  • 13. Shaw, ii. 93; HMC Hatfield, ix. 145, 331; ix. 103.
  • 14. Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 43; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 594; Illustrations of Brit. Hist. ed. E. Lodge, iii. 243-4.
  • 15. HMC Hatfield, xix. 165; CJ, i. 294b-5a; Bowyer Diary, 56, 103, 108; Vivian, 268, 270.
  • 16. J. Mennes, Musarum Deliciae, 68; Add. 34218, f. 21v; CJ, i. 371b.
  • 17. HMC Hatfield, xix. 165; Oxford DNB, xv. 496.
  • 18. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 328; PROB 11/119, ff. 367v-8v; WARD 9/162, f. 141v; VCH Hants, ii. 503.