Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leate, Nicholas
LEATE, NICHOLAS (d. 1631), a London merchant, is said by Nicholl, without authority, to have been an alderman of London. Nothing is known of his parentage or early life, nor is his connection with any branch or the Leate family shown in 'The Family of Leate,' by C. Briefer and J. Corbet Anderson. He lived in London, and amassed a considerable fortune by his enterprise as a merchant.
In 1590 he, with two others, was charged by George Harrison, mariner, with having betrayed his ship and goods to the French at Rouen (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581-1590, p. 709). He was a member of the court of the Levant Company, and in June 1607 appears as one of several members of the company who agreed to take one-sixteenth part each of the tin and farm of preemption belonging to the king (ib. Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 498). On 10 May 1610 Leate presented a petition to the lord mayor and court of aldermen praying them to procure an act of common council to finish Gresham's work of building the Royal Exchange by putting up thirty pictures of 'kings and quenes of this land' in places left by Gresham or the purpose. The pictures were to be graven on wood, covered with lead, and then gilded and painted ' in oyle cullers.' His petition was referred by the aldermen to the court of common council, but no further record relating to it can be found. It is well known, however, that statues of the English kings were set up in the first Exchange, and were destroyed in the great fire of 1666. He appears three years later to have fallen into temporary financial difficulties. On 20 April 1610 the lord mayor and recorder were requested by the council to mediate with Leate's creditors, and persuade them to grant him a reasonable forbearance (Remembrancia, 1878, p. 496; cf. also p. 261).
On 24 March 1616 Leate and John Hike, described as merchants of London, received the lord admiral's permission to fit out a ship to take pirates and sea-rovers, and to retain for themselves three-fourths of the value of the ships and goods seized (ib. 1611-18, p. 356 ; cf. ib. 1628-9, p. 288). In May 1621 the sum of 8,500l. was required by the government from the Turkey and Spanish merchants towards the suppression of pirates. Leate, on behalf of the Turkey merchants, opposed the apportionment of this sum (ib. 1619-23, p. 255), but he was one of the three commissioners appointed for raising the money (ib. p. 301 ; cf. ib. p. 412). As the leading merchant in the Turkey trade Leate appears to have discharged duties of a semi-political character, and to have furnished the government with news from abroad obtained through his correspondents and agents. On 8 Aug. 1625 he urged that the ambassador from Algiers, who was about to leave the country, should be received by the king and presented with 'a ring of 100l. or two.' as peace 'depends much on his report.' and his stay had cost the Turkey Company 800l. (ib. 1625-6, pp. 82, 96, 122). He became a captain in one of the regiments of the trained bands, probably in 1625.
Leate also interested himself very actively in the redemption of English captives in Tunis and Algiers. On 10 July 1626 he had advanced 447l/. 0s. 3d. for that purpose (ib. pp. 210, 295, 372). On 9 Oct. following he petitioned the council that the amount expended by him and the Turkey Company in procuring the peace with Algiers should be levied on merchants trading to the southward (ib. p. 451). A difference on the subject between the company and himself followed, but when brought Defore the council it appears to have been settled in Leate's favour on 30 April 1627 (ib. 1627-8, p. 154). On 16 Sept. 1628 Leate, with eleven other leading merchants, forcibly removed from the custom house certain parcels of currants belonging to them upon which they had refused to pay a newly imposed duty of 2s. 2d. (ib. 1628-9, p. 330, and 1629-31, p. 160). He was a member of the Company of Ironmongers, and 6erved the office of master in 1616, 1626, and part of 1627. His portrait, presented to the company by his two sons shortly after his death, now hangs in the court-room of Ironmongers' Hall, and bears his coat of arms.
Leate was greatly attached to horticultural pursuits, and made use of his opportunities as a merchant beyond seas to introduce from foreign countries many rare and beautiful plants for cultivation in England. Gerard mentions several plants for which he was indebted to Leate, who, he says, 'doth carefully send into Syria, having a servant there at Alepo, and in many other countries, for the which my selfe and likewise the whole lande are much bound unto' (Herball, 1597, p. 246). Parkinson also, in his 'Paradisus' (1629, p. 420), says that the double yellow rose was first brought into England by Leate from Constantinople.
Leate died in 1631, and his will, dated 3 June in the same year, was proved in the P. C. C. on 28 June by Richard and Hewett, his sons, whom he appointed his executors and residuary legatees. To each of his unmarried daughters, Elizabeth, Judith, and Anne, he left a thousand marks. His sons-in-law, John Wyld and Henry Hunt, and his cousin, Ralph Handson, were made overseers of his will. The date of his marriage and the name of his wife cannot be traced.
[City records; Nicholl's Hist, of the Ironmongers' Company ; authorities above quoted.]