LEY, Henry (1595-1638), of Heywood House, Heywood, Wilts. and Lincoln's Inn, London; later of Teffont Evias, Wilts.

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



1626 - 2 Mar. 1626

Family and Education

bap. 3 Dec. 1595,1 1st s. of Sir James Ley*, 1st earl of Marlborough, of Westbury, Wilts. and his 1st w. Mary, da. of John Petty of Stoke Talmage, Oxon.2 educ. L. Inn. 1610, called 1616.3 m. 5 Nov. 1616, Mary (d.1670), da. of Sir Arthur Capell* of Little Hadham, Herts. and Rayne, Essex, 1s. 1da.4 kntd. 24 Aug. 1617;5 cr. bt. 2 Mar. 1626;6 summ. to Lords as Lord Ley 2 Mar. 1626; suc. fa. as 2nd earl of Marlborough 1629.7 d. 1 Apr. 1638. sig. Henry Ley.

Offices Held

J.p. Som. 1618-d. (custos rot. 1625-d.), Wilts. 1622-d.;8 freeman, Devizes, Wilts. 1620, member of the Twelve 1626-d.;9 commr. subsidy, Wilts. 1621, Oxon. 1624.10

Assoc. bencher, L. Inn 1620.11


Born in 1595 in Westbury shortly after his father settled there, Ley was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn when only 14, and was called to the bar aged just 21. His principal residence out of term was at Heywood, a manor house near Westbury built by his father, to whom he owed his election at Westbury in 1614 and 1624.12 In 1621 he made way for his father and Sir Miles Fleetwood, but on this occasion he secured a seat at Devizes on the strength of his family’s extensive estates near the town; he was made a freeman on the day of his election.13 He apparently had little trouble in gaining a county seat in 1625, when, perhaps with his father’s support, he was nominated by the 1st earl of Montgomery (Sir Philip Herbert*) and William Seymour*, Lord Beauchamp.14 Re-elected for Devizes on 6 Jan. 1626, he was called to the Upper House in his father’s barony as Lord Ley on 2 Mar. following.15 His contribution to the work of the Commons was negligible; he made no recorded speeches, and was appointed to only one bill committee, concerning a measure for the sale of the lands of Sir Thomas Redferne, to which several other Wiltshire Members were also named (17 Mar. 1624).16

Overshadowed by his father, Ley made little impression on contemporary records. He gave £100 for the recovery of the Palatinate in 1622, and on 29 Sept. 1627 was licensed to travel abroad for three years with six servants. His destination is unknown, and it is unclear whether he even left England, but if he did he had presumably returned by March 1629 to settle his family’s affairs following his father’s death; he was certainly back at Heywood by October of that year when he complained of a ‘long sickness’.17 In the following month he was assigned his father’s chambers at Lincoln’s Inn, but he was ordered to vacate them in June 1630 owing to his ‘discontinuance out of commons’.18

Ley’s patrimony included at least 12 Wiltshire manors and other miscellaneous properties.19 He subsequently inherited Teffont Evias manor from his uncle Matthew Ley* in 1632, and had taken up residence there by 1635 after having been put ‘to great charges’ in improving the fabric of the house.20 The move from Heywood, where his wife continued to reside, may have been necessitated by domestic difficulties, for at the time there was gossip of ‘a separation between him and his wife, and a special vow on both sides to affect that most which may tend least to their reconciliation’.21 The cause of this mutual animosity is unknown, but by this time Mary may have taken up with Ley’s estate steward Thomas Wanklin, whom she later married. The strain in their relationship had not lessened by the time he made his will on 2 Nov. 1636, for although he gave his wife half the plate and household goods at Heywood, he asked that ‘God forgive her those wrongs she has done me as I do from my heart forgive her, and forgive me those wrongs I have done her’.

Ley instructed his children to avoid sinfulness, and appealed to his brother, William, ‘to forsake his most ungodly and riotous life.’22 He bequeathed £3,000 to his daughter and brother from the profits of Teffont Evias, and arranged the sale of another manor to repay his debts. He died on 1 Apr. 1638 and was buried at Teffont Evias, where a tablet was erected to his memory.23 He left his finances in a parlous state, and in February 1639 his son James, now the 3rd earl, pleaded poverty when ordered to accompany the king to York: ‘my estate is so small and so encumbered with my father’s debts that I am in no way able to attend Your Majesty in such an equipage as is fit for my quality’.24 James subsequently became a royalist naval officer, governor of Jamaica and a mathematician of some note. Killed by a canon shot on board the Old James while fighting the Dutch at Solebay in 1665, he was succeeded by his uncle, William, after whose death in 1679 the earldom and related titles became extinct.25

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Henry Lancaster


  • 1. Wilts. RO, 1427/3.
  • 2. J. Burke, Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies, 313-14; Add. 39177, f. 113.
  • 3. LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 188, 217.
  • 4. London Mar. Lics. (Harl. Soc. xxvi), 45; Vis. Wilts. (Harl. Soc. cv-cvi), 113.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 165.
  • 6. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 269.
  • 7. Wilts. IPMs ed. G.S. and A.E. Fry (Brit. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 268.
  • 8. C231/4, ff. 67, 192.
  • 9. Wilts. RO, G20/1/16, f. 324v; G20/1/17, f. 41.
  • 10. C212/22/21, 23.
  • 11. LI Black Bks. ii. 217.
  • 12. VCH Wilts. viii. 185.
  • 13. C219/37/308; Wilts. RO, G20/1/17, f. 39v.
  • 14. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. (IHR microfilm), viii. 121; Procs. 1625, p. 47.
  • 15. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 269.
  • 16. CJ, i. 688a.
  • 17. SP14/156/14; SO3/8, unfol. (29 Sept. 1627); CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 82.
  • 18. LI Black Bks. ii. 291, 295, 299.
  • 19. Wilts. IPMs, 268; VCH Wilts. xv. 157, 158; viii. 150, 158, 162.
  • 20. Wilts. IPMs, 219-20; VCH Wilts. xiii. 189.
  • 21. SP16/284/52.
  • 22. PROB 11/177, f. 146v.
  • 23. D. Buckeridge, Church Heraldry in Wilts. 301.
  • 24. SP16/412/137.
  • 25. Burke, 314; Add. 46376B, ff. 22-3; CB, i. 124.