Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leveson, Richard

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LEVESON, Sir RICHARD (1570–1605), vice-admiral of England, of a family long settled in Staffordshire, was the son of Sir Walter Leveson of Lilleshall, Shropshire (d.1602)and of Anne, daughter of Sir Andrew Corbet. In 1588 he served as a volunteer on board the Ark Royal against the Armada, and in 1596 had a command in the expedition against Cadiz, on which occasion he was knighted [see Howard, Charles, Earl of Nottingham]. In 1597 he is said to have commanded the Hope in 'the Islands' voyage' under the Earl of Essex [see Devereux, Robert, second Earl of Essex], though other lists describe him as commanding the Nonpareil. It is possible that he moved from one ship to the other during the expedition (Lediard, p, 354n.) In 1599 he commanded the Lion in the fleet fitted out, under Lord Thomas Howard, in expectation of a Spanish attempt at invasion. In 1600, with the style of 'admiral of the narrow seas,' he commanded a squadron sent towards the Azores to look out for the Spanish treasure-ships. Great care was taken to keep their destination secret; but the Spaniards, warned by experience, changed the route of their ships, and so escaped. In October 1601 he was appointed `captain-general and admiral of certain of her Majesty's ships to serve against the Spaniards lately landed in Ireland' (Cal. State Papers, Ireland), and in the early days of December forced his way into the harbour of Kinsale, where, after a severe action, he destroyed the whole of the enemy's shipping (ib. Sir Amyas Preston to the Earl of Nottingham, 9 Dec.)

Early in 1602 Leveson was appointed to command a powerful fleet of nine English and twelve Dutch ships, which were 'to infest the Spanish coast.' The Dutch ships were, however, late in joining, and Leveson, leaving his vice-admiral. Sir William Monson [q. v.], to wait for them, put to sea with only five ships on 19 March. Within two or three days the queen sent Monson orders to sail at once to join his admiral, for she had word that 'the silver ships were arrived at Terceira.' They had, in fact, arrived and left again; and before Monson could join him Leveson fell in with them. With his very small force he could do nothing. 'If the Hollanders,' wrote Monson, 'had kept touch, according to promise, and the queen's ships had been fitted out with care, we had made her majesty mistress of more treasure than any of her progenitors ever enjoyed.' It was not till the end of May that the two English squadrons met with each other, and on 1 June, being then off Lisbon, they had news of a large carrack and eleven galleys in Cezimbra bay. Some of the English ships had been sent home as not seaworthy; others had separated; there were only five with Leveson when, on the morning of the 3rd, he found the enemy's ships strongly posted under the guns of the castle. At ten o'clock he stood into the bay, and after a fight which lasted till five in the evening, two of the galleys were burnt, and the rest, with the carrack, capitulated, and were taken to England.

In 1603, during the last sickness and after the death of the queen, Leveson commanded the fleet in the narrow seas, to prevent any attempt to disturb the peace of the country or to influence the succession being made from France or the Netherlands. This was his last service at sea. On 7 April 1604 he was appointed 'lieutenant of the admiralty of England,' or, by the more common title, vice-admiral of England for life (ib. Dom.), and in the following year was marshal of the embassy to Spain for the conclusion of the peace. Shortly after his return he died in London in July 1605; he was buried on 2 Sept. in the old church at Wolverhampton, where there is a statue and monument to his memory. He married by license, dated 13 Dec. 1587, Margaret, daughter of the Earl of Nottingham [q. v.], lord admiral, but died without issue. His portrait, said to be by Vandyck, belongs to the Duke of Sutherland (cf. Cat. of Naval Exhibition 1891).

[Inscription on the monument at Wolverhampton, printed in Shaw's Hist. of Staffordshire, ii. 158. a picture of the monument faces p. 157; Chester's London Marriage Licenses; Lediard's Naval History; Monson's Naval Tracts, bk. i., in Churchill's Collection of Voyages, iii. 164, &c.; Marshall's Genealogist, i. 385.]

J. K. L.