Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stucley, Lewis

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STUCLEY or STUKELY, Sir LEWIS (d. 1620), vice-admiral of Devonshire, was eldest son of John Stucley of Affeton in Devonshire, and Frances St. Leger, through whom he was related to all the leading families of the west of England. His grandfather Lewis (1530?–1581) was younger brother of Thomas Stucley [q. v.] The younger Lewis was knighted by James I when on his way to London in 1603 (Metcalfe, Book of Knights), and in 1617 was appointed guardian of Thomas Rolfe, the infant son of Pocahontas [see Rolfe, John]. In June 1618 he left London with verbal orders from the king to arrest Sir Walter Ralegh [q. v.], then arrived at Plymouth on his return from the Orinoco. He met Ralegh at Ashburton, and accompanied him back to Plymouth, where, while waiting for further orders from the king, Ralegh attempted to escape to France; but, relinquishing the idea, Ralegh returned to his arrest, and was taken up to London, where he was for a short time a prisoner at large. Afterwards, on attempting to escape, he was lodged in the Tower.

Stucley, in whose charge Ralegh was, has been greatly blamed for his conduct in this matter. He has been represented as a mean spy, professing friendship in order to worm himself into Ralegh's confidence, which he betrayed to the king. For this there does not appear to be any solid foundation. On the contrary, it appears that Stucley, although Ralegh's cousin, was appointed his warden not only as a vice-admiral of Devonshire, but as having an old grudge against Ralegh dating from 1584, when Ralegh did his father, John, then a volunteer in Sir Richard Greynvile's Virginia voyage, ‘extreme injury’ by deceiving him of a venture he had in the Tiger [see Grenville, Sir Richard]. It has been said that Stucley wished to let Ralegh escape in order to gain credit for rearresting him. But a gaoler does not gain credit by allowing his prisoner to escape, and Stucley's refusal of the bribe which Ralegh offered him at Salisbury on the way to London may be taken as evidence that Ralegh knew that Stucley was not on his side. If, after that, he chose to give Stucley his confidence, he could only expect it to be betrayed. Stucley certainly gave hostile, but not necessarily false, evidence against Ralegh. No one will pretend that Stucley's conduct was chivalrous, but it seems to have been very much what might have been expected from an honest but narrow and vulgar minded man who believed that he had an injury done to his father to redress. Popular opinion, however, idealising Ralegh, vented on Stucley the indignation which could not be expressed against the king. To the public he was Sir Judas Stucley, and it was reported, probably falsely, that even the king had said to him ‘his blood be on thy head.’ As vice-admiral of Devonshire he had occasion to call on the old Earl of Nottingham, who, addressing him as ‘Thou base fellow! thou scorn and contempt of men!’ threatened to cudgel him for being ‘so saucy’ as to come into his presence. Stucley complained to the king, who answered, ‘What wouldst thou have me do? Wouldst thou have me hang him? On my soul, if I should hang all that speak ill of thee, all the trees in the country would not suffice.’ In January 1618–19 Stucley and his son were charged with clipping coin. His enemies exulted; for this at least the gallows would claim him as their own. The charge may have been true, though he seems to have been condemned by acclamation on the very doubtful evidence of a servant who had formerly been employed as a spy on Ralegh. The king possibly took this into consideration; possibly he thought that he owed Stucley something for his service against Ralegh. He pardoned him, and Stucley, an outcast from society in London, went down to Devonshire. The popular hatred pursued him even to Affeton, and he fled to hide his shame in the lonely island of Lundy, where he died in the course of 1620, raving mad it was said.

Stucley married Frances, eldest daughter of Anthony Monck of Potheridge in Devonshire, and sister of Sir Thomas, the father of George Monck, duke of Albemarle [q. v.] By her he had issue, and the family is still Stucley of Affeton.

[Cal. State Papers, Dom.; The Humble Petition and Information of Sir Lewis Stucley, knt., Vice-admiral of Devonshire, in Harl. Misc. iii. 63–8; Vivian's Visitations of Devon, 1895, pp. 721–3; Gardiner's History of England; Spedding's Life of Bacon; Burke's Baronetage.]

J. K. L.