SMYTHE, Sir Richard (1563-1628), of Bromley, Kent and St. Stephen Coleman Street, London; later of Leeds Castle, 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. 1 Dec. 1563, 5th but 4th surv. s. of Thomas Smythe† of London and Westenhanger, Kent and Alice, da. and h. of Sir Andrew Judd of London and Tonbridge, Kent; bro. of Sir John I* and Sir Thomas*. educ. M. Temple 1585. m. (1) Sept. 1589, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Scott† of Smeeth, wid. of John Knatchbull of Mersham Hatch, Kent, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.; (2) aft. 1598, Jane (d. 13 Oct. 1607), da. and h. of John White, Haberdasher, of St. Stephen Coleman Street, London, wid. of Samuel Thornhill† (d.1598) of Bromley, Kent, 1da.; (3) 22 Nov. 1610, Margaret (d.1638), da. and h. of John Langton, merchant, of London, wid. of Robert Clarke (d.1610), merchant, of Bethnal Green, Stepney, Mdx., 1da.1 kntd. 23 July 1603.2 d. 21 July 1628.

Offices Held

J.p. Kent 1602-d.;3 commr. sewers, Walland Marsh, Kent and Suss. 1604-at least 1617, Dengemarsh, Kent 1604-at least 1625,4 Ravensbourne to Gravesend, Kent 1614-at least 1627, Rother valley, Kent and Suss. 1618-at least 1622, Havering levels, Essex 1625,5 subsidy, Kent 1608, 1621-2, 1624; 6 freeman, Hythe, Kent 1614;7 steward, duchy of Cornw. manors of Shepton Mallet and Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Som. 1617;8 vestryman, St. Stephen Coleman Street, London by 1623-at least 1628;9 commr. Forced Loan, Kent 1626.10

Recvr.-gen. duchy of Cornw. (jt.) 1604-d.;11 surveyor-gen. to Prince Charles 1617-24;12 member, Prince Charles’s Council 1617-at least 1625.13

Member, N.W. Passage Co. 1612, E.I. Co. 1614-at least 1624, Muscovy Co. by 1618.14


Smythe, not to be confused with Richard Smythe of Ballynetra, Co. Waterford, who was knighted in 1624 and married into the Boyle family,15 seems to have inherited a large share of his father’s financial genius, which, united with a predilection for wealthy widows, made him very rich. In about 1597 he settled at Bromley, in north Kent, purchasing Leeds Castle sometime before 1599, which he subsequently rebuilt in the Jacobean style.16 He also acquired property in the London parish of St. Stephen Coleman Street. Following the accession of James I he was knighted at Woodford Hall, in Essex. In August 1604 he and his elder brother Sir Thomas were jointly appointed receiver of the duchy of Cornwall, a position which in practice he seems to have exercised alone and which enabled him to apply to the tin industry the mining expertise of the family.17 His business interests were numerous - he invested in the East India, Muscovy and North-West Passage Companies - and consequently a seat in Parliament must have figured low on his priorities. Although a Member of the Commons in 1601, he seems not to have sought re-election in 1604. However, when Sir Norton Knatchbull* refused a seat at Hythe in 1614, Smythe, who had helped purchase the wardship of his nephew Thomas, heir to the Westenhanger estate, may have been unable to resist the pressure to use the Westenhanger interest, especially after he was recommended by his first wife’s brother Sir John Scott*.18 He played little recorded part in Addled Parliament, though, being named only to committees to consider the bill for the speedy recovery of small debts (11 May) and to recommend some course to be taken concerning old debts to the Crown (31 May).19

Smythe became a member of Prince Charles’ Council in April 1617, and seven months later he was appointed surveyor-general to the prince. Despite these new responsibilities, Smythe remained receiver for the duchy of Cornwall, and it was probably in this capacity that in 1620 he helped raise money on behalf of Prince Charles’ sister, Elizabeth of Bohemia.20 Smythe is not known to have stood for Parliament in 1620/1, even though the prince’s Council fielded numerous candidates and despite his interests in such politically sensitive matters as the glass monopoly and the Muscovy Company.21 However, in 1624 he sought a seat at Plymouth with the aid of the prince’s Council, as he wished to promote a bill to enable his widowed daughter, Lady Poyntz, to pay off her late husband’s debts. He failed to get elected, and consequently the measure had to be steered through the Commons by his nephew, Thomas Fanshawe I*, to whom he had recently surrendered his office of surveyor-general.22

Smythe presumably used the Duchy interest to give his son Sir John II parliamentary experience by sitting for the Cornish borough of Mitchell in the next two parliaments. ‘Weak of body’, he made out his will on 12 Oct. 1627, in which he left £3,000 to his unmarried daughter, Margaret, who was a dwarf, and £100 to the London parish of St. Stephen, Coleman Street to provide a stock and buy coal for the poor. His bequests to Ashford and four other Kentish parishes totalled £57. He appointed Fanshawe and his brother William* and Thomas Brett* executors and his ‘honourable and worthy good friend’ Sir James Fullerton* overseer.23 He died on 21 July 1628, leaving £4,500 a year in land and £6,000 in money, plate and goods. Another estimate speaks of £30,000 personalty and a further £20,000 owing to him in good debts.24 In accordance with his instructions, he was buried at Ashford alongside his parents and eldest brother. As he also instructed, a monument, costing no more than £140, was subsequently erected. It mentions his piety, his three wives and their children, his offices in the duchy of Cornwall and in Prince Charles’s Household, his reliability as an accountant, but not his parliamentary experience. His widow married Edward Savage II.25

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. H.G. Fanshawe, Hist. Fanshawe Fam. 92; Arch. Cant. xx. 78; Stow, Survey of London (1633), pp. 295, 788; MTR, 278; PROB 11/68, f. 236; 11/91, f. 62; 11/116, f. 20r-v; GL, St. Andrew Undershaft par. reg.; EDWARD SAVAGE II.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 119.
  • 3. C231/1, f. 129v; Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Chas. I, 59.
  • 4. C181/1, ff. 90v, 92, 96; 181/2, f. 300; 181/3, f. 185v.
  • 5. C181/2, ff. 210, 328v; 181/3, ff. 59v, 159, 225.
  • 6. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 7. G. Wilks, Barons of Cinque Ports and Parl. Rep. of Hythe, 68-9.
  • 8. G. Haslam, ‘Jacobean Phoenix’, in Estates of English Crown 1558-1640 ed. R.W. Hoyle, 282.
  • 9. GL, ms 4458/1, pp. 6, 35.
  • 10. Harl. 6846, f. 37.
  • 11. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 93; 1625-6, p. 559.
  • 12. SC6/Jas.I/1681-6, unfol.
  • 13. Haslam, 275; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 448.
  • 14. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, pp. 239, 272; 1622-4, p. 269; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 549.
  • 15. Shaw, ii. 186; CPR Ire. Jas. I, 4b; Lismore Pprs. ed. A.B. Grosart (ser. i.), ii. 190, 195; iii. 175; iv. 94.
  • 16. E. Hasted, Kent, v. 485; S. Robertson, ‘Leeds Castle’, Arch. Cant. xv. 149.
  • 17. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 490.
  • 18. WARD 9/162, f. 45; G. Wilks, Barons of Cinque Ports and Parl. Rep. of Hythe, 66-7.
  • 19. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 206, 392.
  • 20. Harl. 7004, f. 83.
  • 21. For these interests, see APC, 1621-3, pp. 30, 60, 391, 464.
  • 22. P.M. Hunneyball, ‘Prince Charles’s Council as Electoral Agent, 1620-4’, PH, xxiii. 335; CJ, i. 692a, 694b, 697b, 705b.
  • 23. PROB 11/154, ff. 20-2.
  • 24. Autobiog. of Sir Simonds D’Ewes ed. J.O. Halliwell, ii. 226; C78/367/4.
  • 25. A.J. Pearman, Ashford, 20.