The Tudor Society

March 21 – Puritan Sir John Leveson

On this day in Tudor history, 21st March 1555, Kent landowner, Deputy Lieutenant of Kent and Puritan Sir John Leveson was born at Whornes Place in Cuxton, Kent.

His surname was pronounced "Looson", and we know this  because of letters, such as one by Robert Cecil regarding Sir Richard Leveson where he wrote it as "LUSON". It obviously comes from Louis or Lewis’s son.

Sir John Leveson was the eldest son of landowner Thomas Leveson and his wife, Ursula Gresham. He was educated at Queen’s College, Oxford, and then Gray’s Inn in London.

He was married twice, first to Margaret Manwood, whose father was a member of the Kent gentry class. They had three daughters together, who all predeceased their father, and after Margaret’s death in 1585, he married widow Christian Mildmay, with whom he had five sons and five daughters, seven of whom predeceased him.

Here are a few more facts about this little-known Tudor gentleman…

  • He was a Puritan
  • He traded in pearls and owned shares in the Virginia Company
  • He served as a Member of Parliament for Bossiney in 1584, and then for Maidstone in 1597 and 1601, and for Kent in 1604.
  • He helped prepare the county of Kent for the predicted Spanish invasion in 1588, and served as captain in the French expedition in 1589.
  • He was knighted in 1589, served in Cádiz in 1596 and the Netherlands in 1601-2.
  • In 1601, Leveson helped put down the Earl of Essex's rebellion by commanding men on Ludgate Hill and giving no ground to Essex and his rebels. Essex and his men were forced to withdraw.
  • In 1601, he and his cousin, Sir Richard Leveson, sent 2000 soldiers to Ireland.
  • Leveson’s final years were marred by a falling out with Thomas Sackville, who claimed that Leveson’s cousin, Sir Richard, who had died in in 1605, had taken treasure from a carrack called the St Valentine, and so demanded £40,000 for it. Sir Richard’s cousin, Mary Curzon, who was married to Sackville’s grandson, also produced a forged will in which she was named Sir Richard’s heir, in favour of Leveson’s son, Richard.Leveson ended up having to pay £5000 for the carrack claim, and settle all of his cousin’s debts, although thankfully the forged will was exposed for what it was.
  • Leveson died at Whornes Place, Cuxton, on 14th November 1615, and was laid to rest at the local parish church.

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March 21 – Puritan Sir John Leveson