Leigh, Francis (DNB00)

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LEIGH, FRANCIS, first Earl of Chichester (d. 1653), son of Sir Francis Leigh, by Mary, daughter of Thomas Egerton, viscount Brackley [q. v.], and great-grandson of Sir Thomas Leigh or Lee [q. v.] of Stoneleigh, was born at his father's seat at Newnham Regis, Warwickshire, before 1600. His father was made a K.B. at the coronation of James I on 25 July 1603, sat in the parliaments of 1601, 1604, and 1621 respectively, and was a member of the Derby House Society of Antiquaries, together with Sir Henry Spelman, Sir Robert Cotton, and Camden. He was an intimate friend of the latter, who left him by his will 4l. for a memorial ring. Some pieces by Leigh are preserved in Hearne's 'Curious Discourses of Eminent Antiquaries' (see Notes and Queries, 7th ser. viii. 7, 92). The son was created a baronet by James I on 24 Dec. 1618, at which time he was also a trustee of Rugby School. He was elected M.P. for Warwick in 1625, and, giving consistent support to the court, was rewarded by being raised to the peerage as Lord Dunsmore by letters patent dated 31 July 1628. He was made captain of the band of gentlemen pensioners and sworn privy councillor in 1641, and on 15 March in the following year he signed a protest with five other lords against the ordinance of the commons with regard to the militia. On the outbreak of the civil war he subscribed money to levy forty horse 'to assist his Majesty in defence of his Royal person, the two houses of Parliament, and the Protestant religion' (Peacock, Army Lists, 2nd edit. p. 9). In August 1642 his park at Newnhamwas despoiled of its venison by the parliamentary soldiers quartered under Lord Brooke at Coventry (State Papers, Dom. 1642, p. 382).

On 3 July 1644 the king fortified his loyalty by creating him Earl of Chichester. In May 1645 he was on the commission appointed to govern Oxford during the king's absence (ib. p. 81). He was, however, more of a courtier than a soldier, and was several times employed as commissioner on the part of the crown during the troubles, notably to meet the Scottish commissioners at Ripon in the autumn of 1640 and those of the Parliament at Uxbridge in 1645 (Clarendon, viii. 211).

Clarendon had no high opinion of his qualities as a statesman, describing him as of a froward and violent disposition, deficient in judgment and temper, whose 'greatest reputation was that the Earl of Southampton married his daughter, who was a beautiful and worthy lady' (ib. vi. 391). Lloyd, on the other hand, in his 'Memoires' (ed. 1668, P. 653), writes of him as 'a stout, honest man in his council,' with 'a shrewd way of expressing and naming' his views.

Leigh appeared several times before the committee for compounding, being assessed in November 1645 to pay, as Earl of Chichester, the sum of 3,000l.; he was given a year in which to make payment (Cal. Proc. Comm. Advance of Money, p. 628). On 26 Jan. following, however, having paid 1,000l. and given security for 1,847l. more, his seques- sequestration was suspended (see Cal. Committee for Compounding, ii. 1499). He died on 21 Dec. 1653, and was buried in the chancel of Newnham Church. He married, first, Susan, daughter of Richard Norman, esq., by whom he had no issue, and secondly, Audrey, daughter and coheir of John, baron Butler of Bramfield; she died 16 Sept. 1652, leaving two daughters, Elizabeth, second wife of Thomas Wriothesley, fourth earl of Southampton [q. v.], and Mary, wife of George Villiers, fourth viscount Grandison, whose granddaughter married Robert Pitt, and was mother of the first Earl of Chatham. The earldom devolved, according to a special limitation, upon Leigh's son-in-law, the Earl of Southampton; the barony of Dunsmore, together with the baronetcy, became extinct.

[Colvile's Warwickshire Worthies, p. 506, with authorities there given; Burke's Extinct Peerage, p. 319; Rogers's Protests of the Lords, p. 12; Commons' Journals, iii. 573, 666; Fuller's Worthies, ed. Nichols, ii. 423; Nugent's Memorials of Hampden (Bohn), p. 262; Clarendon's History, passim.]

T. S.