SMYTHE, Sir John III (c.1599-1640), of Sutton-at-Hone, Kent

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.1599, 1st. s. of Sir Thomas Smythe* of London and Bidborough, Kent and his 3rd w. Sarah, da. of William Blount of London. educ. travelled abroad 1615-18. m. 19 Nov. 1618, Isabel, da. of Robert Rich†, 1st earl of Warwick, 3s. 1da.1 kntd. 22 Sept. 1618;2 suc. fa. 1625. d. 16 Oct. 1640.

Offices Held

Freeman, Rochester, Kent 1626.3


Between 1615 and 1618 Smythe and two cousins travelled abroad in the charge of Thomas Brett*. Returning as ‘a proper young gentleman of some 19 years old’, he was ‘inveigled and caught in affection’ with the daughter of the earl of Warwick, one of his father’s business rivals, marrying her in defiance of parental authority.4 As a result of pressure from various peers, Sir Thomas Smythe was ‘easily and quickly’ reconciled to his son, promising Smythe and his new wife an annual allowance of £500 ‘while they remain with him, and £300 a year more if they like rather to live elsewhere’.5 Despite this generous treatment, in July 1619 Smythe secretly travelled to France using a false passport supplied by Brett. According to Chamberlain, he wrote to his father that he had been driven overseas by ‘the clamour of creditors, the high state of expense he was fallen into, the unequal division of his maintenance, the avoiding of some company unfit for him, and the enabling himself to live more providently hereafter’.6 Though Brett was punished for his role in Smythe’s flight, the Privy Council subsequently issued a licence to travel for three years to Smythe, whom they described as being ‘of Bromley’.7 His licence was renewed in 1622,8 but he returned on his father’s death three years later, when, according to City custom, he inherited a third of the estate.9 This included half of his father’s shares in the East India Company, worth £6,350, which he sold in December 1626, presumably to settle his debts.10

Shortly after Smythe entered into his inheritance, his wife’s uncle, the earl of Holland (Sir Henry Rich*), approached the royal favourite, the duke of Buckingham, to secure a parliamentary seat at Rochester for his kinsman.11 Buckingham, the town’s high steward, wrote to the corporation on 29 Dec. 1625 requesting their acceptance of Smythe, ‘your neighbour’, and presuming ‘not to be denied nor to alter that assurance I have given him to rely upon that place and stand for no other’.12 In addition to this powerful backing, Smythe may have been able to count on the support of the recorder of Rochester, Henry Clerke,* whom he later described as one of his ‘especial good friends’.13 However, Smythe’s candidacy aroused the bitter opposition of Sir Thomas Walsingham II, who feared that he would no longer be guaranteed a seat at Rochester, which he had represented since 1621. Writing to the corporation on 2 Jan. 1626, he pointed out that Smythe was ineligible because he was not a freeman, ‘nor, I hope, shall not [sic] be’, adding that ‘I know he is but a stranger amongst you’. Ten days later, however, Smythe assured the corporation that it was his ‘earnest request to do service’ to the city, both through his own efforts ‘and the assistance of my noble friends’.14 This belated attempt to woo the corporation was rewarded, on 18 Jan., with admission to the city’s freedom, but when the election was held on the following day it was Walsingham who emerged the victor. How Smythe subsequently secured election for Buckingham is unclear, but it may be significant that the duke of Buckingham was the county’s lord lieutenant.

Smythe left no trace on the records of the 1626 Parliament. In April 1627 he and his mother were criticized by the London charity commissioners for failing to convey various properties to the Skinners’ Company as required by his father’s will.15 He went abroad again in 1636,16 after drawing up his own will. Appointing his mother as overseer, he included among his executors his ‘loving brother’ Sir Thomas Cheke*, and directed that his library at Sutton-at-Hone, which he valued at £1,000, be sold to increase his daughter’s portion. A nuncupative will was drawn up on his deathbed at Siena on 16 Oct. 1640, in the presence of Lord St. John (Oliver St. John II*), chiefly to secure his servants. His estate had already been conveyed to Henry Clerke and Sir David Watkins in trust for his children, Isabel, Robert, Charles and Henry.17 Just 13 at the time of Smythe’s death, the eldest son, Robert, was not granted administration of the estate until 1643.18 The second son, Charles, sat for Lostwithiel in the Cavalier Parliament and for Penryn in 1680-1, probably as an opponent of Exclusion.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Arch. Cant. xx. 77; SO3/6, unfol. April 1615.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 169.
  • 3. Rochester, Guildhall Mus. Customal, new f. 45.
  • 4. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 185.
  • 5. Ibid. 194.
  • 6. Ibid. 255, 265.
  • 7. APC, 1619-21, p. 25.
  • 8. SO3/7, unfol. March 1622.
  • 9. Arch. Cant. xx. 101.
  • 10. CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, pp. 137, 299.
  • 11. Soc. Antiq. ms 199 ter, f. 7.
  • 12. Ibid. f. 5.
  • 13. PROB 11/195, f. 310.
  • 14. Soc. Antiq. ms 199 ter, f. 15.
  • 15. C93/10/21.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1635, p. 606.
  • 17. C142/613/64.
  • 18. PROB 6/19, f. 8v.