West, Thomas (1577-1618) (DNB00)

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WEST, THOMAS, third or twelfth Baron De La Warr (1577–1618), born on 9 July 1577, and baptised at Wherwell, Hampshire, was the second but eldest surviving son of Thomas West, second or eleventh baron De La Warr (1566?–1602), by his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Francis Knollys [q. v.] . His grandfather, William West, first (or tenth) baron De La Warr, was nephew of Sir Thomas West, eighth baron West and ninth baron De La Warr.

Thomas, like his father and his brother Robert, was educated at Queen's College, Oxford, matriculating on 9 March 1591–2, but left the university without a degree, and appears to have travelled in Italy in 1595 with a son of Sir Thomas Shirley of Wiston, who was West's godfather (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1595–7, p. 326; Cal. Hatfield MSS. v. 227). On 25 Nov. 1596 he married, at St. Dunstan's in the West, Cecilia, Shirley's youngest daughter, and possibly it was from his three famous brothers-in-law that West imbibed his love of travel and adventure. On 14 Oct. 1597 he was returned to parliament for Lymington (Official Return, i. 434), and probably in the following year served for a time in the Low Countries. In 1599 he was with Essex in Ireland, distinguishing himself in the fight near Arklow on 29 June, and being knighted by the lord deputy on 12 July (Cal. Carew MSS. 1589–1600, p. 311). His connection with Essex led him into difficulties, and in February 1600–1 he was imprisoned in the counter in Wood Street on a charge of complicity in Essex's rebellion; on the 19th Essex asked De La Warr's pardon for bringing his son into trouble, and declared that West ‘was unacquainted with the whole matter.’ He escaped very lightly and, after succeeding his father in the peerage on 24 March 1601–2, became a member of Elizabeth's privy council. He was continued in that office by James I, and on 30 Aug. 1605 he was created M.A. of Oxford University, but his energies were soon absorbed in schemes for the colonisation of Virginia.

In 1609 he became a member of the council of the Virginia company and on 28 Feb. 1609–10 he was appointed first governor and captain-general for life; in the following month he sailed for Virginia with a reinforcement of a hundred and fifty emigrants and supplies. He arrived on 10 June, just in time to prevent the dispersion of the struggling colony. He appointed a council and sent out two expeditions in search of food; in a despatch sent home on 7 July he impressed on the English government the need of liberal support for the colonists and of care in their selection. He himself had returned to England by June 1611 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611–18, p. 48), and gave a very favourable report of the state of the colony; this was printed in the same year as ‘The Relation of the Right Honourable the Lord De-la-Warre, Lord Governour … of the colonie planted in Virginea to the Lords and others of the counsell of Virginea touching his unexpected returne home …’ (London, 8vo); another edition appeared in the same year and was reprinted in 1858, 4to.

On 16 March 1617–18 Chamberlain reported that De La Warr had again sailed for Virginia, and on 14 Oct. following news had reached England of his death, which took place during the voyage on 7 June; the exact locality is a matter of dispute, but it was somewhere off the coast of Virginia or New England. De La Warr's connection with Virginia had been comparatively brief, but his intervention at a critical moment undoubtedly saved the colony from ruin, and Alexander Brown goes so far as to say ‘if any one man can be called the founder of Virginia … I believe he is that man’ (Genesis U.S.A., ii. 1049). His name is commemorated in Delaware bay, river, and state.

De La Warr's widow was on 20 Sept. 1619 granted a pension for thirty-one years out of the dues on imports from Virginia; it was renewed in 1634, but the outbreak of the civil war stopped it; in 1662, however, she was still alive and a fresh grant was made (Cal. State Papers, Amer. and West Indies, 1661–8, Nos. 239, 249). She had in 1651 regained from the committee for compounding lands which she had let to Sir Edward Nicholas [q. v.] , and had been sequestrated for his delinquency (Cal. Comm. for Compounding, p. 2895). By her De La Warr had seven children; the eldest son, Henry, born on 3 Oct. 1603, succeeded as fourth or thirteenth baron, and died in 1628; his great-grandson, John West, first earl De La Warr, is separately noticed. Several of the daughters, with their mother, acted in a court masque on twelfth night, 1616–17.

[The family papers are preserved at Buckhurst and Knole, but they contain little about the third Baron De La Warr; see Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. p. 157, and 4th Rep. pp. x, xiii, 276. See also Cal. State Papers, America and West Indies, 1574–1668 passim; Cal. State Papers, Dom.; Buccleuch and Queensberry MSS. (Hist. MSS. Comm.), i. 103; Court and Times of James I; Captain John Smith's Works, ed. Arber, passim; Stith's Discovery and Settlement of Virginia, 1747; Neill's Virginia Company, 1869, Early Settlement of Virginia, 1878, and Virginia Carolorum, 1886; Proceedings of Virginia Company (Virginia Hist. Soc.), 1888; Brown's Genesis of the United States, 1890; Shirley's Stemmata Shirleiana, pp. 180, 198; Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire, i. 339; Reg. Univ. Oxon. (Oxf. Hist. Soc.); Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Burke's and G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerages.]

A. F. P.