The Proprietors of the Northern Neck
Chapter 3c - Hollingbourne
Thomas, Second Lord Culpeper
Portrait reproduced by kind permission of the
Trustees of the Leeds Castle Foundation.
|XIV. Thomas Culpeper (John13,
first Lord Culpeper), 1635-1689, of Leeds Castle, second Lord Culpeper, was
a large figure in the colonial history of Virginia, who has fared ill at the hands
of the historians.41
He undoubtedly had parts incompatible with the mere courtier: courage which was not all
stubbornness, political intuition, a capacity for cogent argument, independence of
judgment in the interpretation of official instructions on which he felt that a
responsible officer on the ground should have been consulted, and, above all, the ability
to make himself agreeable to those he considered his inferiors, when to do so served his
turn. To be convinced of these qualities it will suffice to read, among his few surviving
state papers, his speeches to the Virginia Assembly on June 9th and 24, 1680 (Journals
H. B., 1659-93, pp. 147, 130) his apologia of 1683 for his administration in
Virginia (Va. Mag., iii, 245), and his far seeing Proposals of
October 18, 1681 (Am. & W. I., 1681-85, No. 260), in which he pointed out:
that Virginia must continue to be economically weak and subject to exploitation by English
merchants so long as she lacked an urban civilization, and
(b) the need of 'uniting of all
the King's subjects in America to help each other in case of foreign enemies, rebellions
and indians, in such proportions as the King shall direct.'
If English statesmen had entertained such. views a century later, history might have
taken a very different course. His vices were those bred of extravagant living in a
society which was reacting f rom puritanism. Aggrieved by what he deemed the injustice
which kept him pinched for money all his life, he grew hard and, indeed, unscrupulous. He
belonged to a generation and to a class which (like democracy in the twentieth century)
believed the world owed it a living, and which, coming to particulars, regarded the
colonies chiefly as a field to be exploited.
More than that, he flagrantly offended public opinion, and embarrassed even his friend
Charles II, by a cynical disregard of appearances in domestic relations. If he had thus
inherited from his father that 'wonderful insinuation and address' which Clarendon found
in the first Lord Culpeper; and had, moreover, overcome the uncertainty of temper which
often diminished his father's influence, he certainly did not cultivate the paternal art
de parvenir 'by industry and thrift.'
He was baptised in Hollingbourne, March 21, 1634/5, as 'Thomas, son of John Culpeper,
Kt. and Judith his wife.' In the will of Sir Alexander12 (1645), written a few
months after his father had been raised to the peerage, he is described as 'Thomas, second
son of John, Lord Culpeper, Baron of Thoresway,' but in his father's will (1660) he had
become 'my eldest son and heir Thomas Culpeper.' He went abroad with his mother in June,
1651 (the pass is in Cal. State Papers, Commonwealth, 1651 p. 529), when he was
sixteen, and thenceforth remained with his father during the exile. It was thus that he
married a Dutch lady at The Hague in August, 1659, being then twenty-four years of age.
Immediately after his father's death he solicited the payment of the King's promised
pecuniary grant; but he soon found himself one of many in similar plight who were
disappointed in the realization of what they had expected to be implied in the
Restoration. For all that Charles II's first Parliament was liberal in its votes to the
Crown, there was not enough to go around among all the hungry cavaliers; and then and for
years to come Culpeper and others were put off with renewed promises and told to wait for
better times. He did secure, however, what many of his class did not, the restoration of
his father's estate which the Commonwealth had forfeited and sold. Promptly there was
enacted (12 Car. II, c. 8, private)
An act for restoring of Thomas Lord Culpeper son and heir and sole executor of John
Lord Culpeper, Baron of Thoresway, and Master of the Rolls, deceased, to all the Honours,
Manors... whereof John... was in possession on the 20th day of May, 1642.
Mindful of his obligation to his late Master of the Rolls, the King did also what else
he could for the son; and soon appointed him to a post of profit. In July, 1661, Culpeper
was installed Captain (later Governor) of the Isle of Wight (Cal. State Papers, Domestic,
1661-62, p. 340; 1665-66, p. 504; 1668-69, p. 118). During this duty, which lasted for
seven years, he resided at Carisbrooke Castle, and there had a valuable training in
responsible administration. On the official side he seems to have acquitted himself with
ability and good humor: several times he won the commendation of the government, on one
occasion, e. g., when he had to break up an assembly of Quakers, and insisted that if they
would not read the prayer book they should read the Koran (ibid., 1664-65, p. 109).
But he so offended the gentry of the island by establishing a mistress at Carisbrooke that
in April, 1666, they petitioned the King to remove him, giving as the nominal reason that,
being a purely military officer, he meddled in civil affairs and did not keep up the
fortifications. Sir R. Worsley (History of the Isle of Wight, 1781, p. 136) prints
the petition and an illuminating letter from Clarendon in reply, in which the petitioners
are politely rebuked for their temerity and assured that Culpeper had the King's
confidence. The minister adds:
My lord Culpeper, had not this petition been presented, would, before this time,
have been removed and another put in his place, for as much as the King, being in the
island, took notice that he was not respected by the gentry, as became his government...
But I believe though you may possibly have one that shall live more socially among you,
you may never have one that will use his power less than my lord Culpeper.
Worsley says that Culpeper resigned 'soon after' this incident, but the state papers
show that he held his post for three years more and it was during that period that he was
given the title of Governor in addition to that of Captain. Specifically, he bore himself
alertly and to the satisfaction of the government during the Dutch war.
He began his participation in the affairs of Virginia on March 20, 1671, when he was
included in the 'Council for Foreign Plantations' (Am. & W. I., 1669-74, No.
470; Cf. Evelyn's diary for May 26, 1671). On the reorganization and enlargement of
function of this body, September 16, 1672, as the 'Council for all affairs relating to
Trade and Foreign Colonies and Plantations,' he was made Vice-President (ibid., Nos. 923,
943). The state papers show him thenceforth actively and responsibly engaged in the
business of the colonies; incidentally negotiating the treaty of commerce with the Dutch,
which was ratified in March, 1674/5 (Domestic, 1673-75, p. 297; 1675-76, p. 11).
In the course of this business Culpeper learned enough of the profits of the Virginia
tobacco trade to see in it his opportunity to realize upon the King's still unsatisfied
promise to his father of a grant of £12,000. His dormant interest in the Northern Neck,
which some of the grantees of 1649 had, since the Restoration, made futile efforts to
vitalize, was his clew.
Culpeper bad not deemed it worth his while to have his name included in the compromise
charter of 1669 relating to the Northern Neck; but aftet he had sat in the government
committee which dealt at first hand with colonial affairs, and saw how Lord Balimore was
beginning to collect in Maryland an old Crown debt, he conceived that he might himself do
even better on the basis of the already established flow of quit rents from the settled
plantations of 'old, Virginia;' that by pocketing a share of them over a term of years he
might eventually realize his father's claim without having to face the troublesome
questions over 'head rights' which had nullified the hopes of proprietary income in the
For these considerations Culpeper now not only revived his inherited interest in the
Northern Neck, by securing formal recognition from the proprietors named in the charter of
1669, that he and his cousin were entitled together to two-sixths of the whole (see post
in the notice of Alexander"), but contemporaneously enlisted the co-operation of the
then all-powerful minister, Arlington, to solicit from the King a grant dated February 25,
1672/3, of the quit rents and escheats of all Virginia, for a term of 31 years from March
These manifestations of interest in the colony mark the turning point of Culpeper's
life. He was thirty-eight years of age, and his remaining sixteen years were to be devoted
to a persistent effort to conjure an income out of Virginia.
The abolition of the Council for Trade in December, 1674, left him without official
occupation. That, instead of seeking other employment in the government, Culpeper
henceforth kept his eyes steadily turned across the Atlantic appears from the fact that,
while he left the management of the charter of 1673 to Arlington, he now himself took over
the management of the Northern Neck. In that capacity he executed the first proprietary
land grant (that of the future site of Mount Vernon) in March, 1674/5, and carried on
during the following summer the conversations with Francis Moryson looking to the sale of
the charter of 1669 to Virginia as a corporation (Burk ) ii, Appendix, p. xxxiii ff.;
Hening, ii, 518 ff.). Still more convincing of his interest, it was now also that he
solicited and secured a patent for the reversion of Sir William Berkeley's post and
'entertainment' in the colony (Hening, ii, 565; Am. & W. I., 1675-76, No. 599).
That patent was as follows, viz:
Culpeper's Patent to be Governor General of Virginia
Charles the Second by the grace of God of England, Scotland, France and
Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc. To all to whom these Presents shall come
Know Yee that Wee, for and in consideration of the many good faithful and
acceptable services done and rendered unto us from time to time, as well in forraigne
parts as within our dominions by our right trusty and well beloved Thomas Lord Culpeper,
baron of Thoresway, eldest son and heir of our late right trusty and well beloved
Councellor John Lord Culpeper deceaced, of whose memory and services wee alsoe retain a
gracious and favourable sence, and for divers other good causes and considerations us
thereunto especially moving, of our esspecial certain knowledge and meer motion, have
given and granted and by these presents, for us our heirs and successors, doe give and
grant unto the said Thomas Lord Culpeper the office of our Lieutenant, and Governor
General of all that our colony and dominion of Virginia in America, with all the rights
members and appertenances whatsoever; and him the said Thomas Lord Culpeper our Lieutenant
and Governor General of all our said colony and dominion of Virginia in America and of all
the rights members and appertenances whatsoever, we, for us our heirs and successors, do
make ordaine constitute and appoint by these presents,
To Have, Hold occupie possesse and enjoy the said office of our Lieutenant and
Governor General above mentioned with all and singular the rights authorities
preheminences jurisdictions profits, sallaries and appertenances whatsoever thereunto
belonging and appertaining, unto him the said Thomas Lord Culpeper.
To be exercised by himself or, in his absence, by such deputy or deputies as we our
heirs and successors shall and will commission thereunto from time to time.
From and immediately after the death, surrende,r fforfeiture or other avoidance of Sir
William Berkeley our present Governor there, for and during the natural life of the said
Thomas Lord Culpeper.
And for the better support of the dignity of the said office, wee do, for us our heirs
and successors, give and grant unto the said Lord Culpeper the yearly fee and salary of
one thousand pounds of lawfull money of England during his natural life; which for us our
heirs and successors wee do appoint to be paid from time to time to the said Lord Culpeper
and his assigns, during his natural life as aforesaid, out of the first revenews and
moneys which are or shall be from time to time raised there for the support of the
Government and payment of our officers of our said colony and dominion; by quarterly
payments upon the feast days of St. John the Baptist [June 24], St. Michael the archangel
[September 29], the Nativity of our Lord God [December 25], and the Annunciation of the
Blessed Virgin Mary [March 25], by equal portions (the first payment thereof to begin and
be made upon the first of the said feast days which shall next immediately ensue the
deat,h surrender, fforfeiture or other avoidance of Sir William Berkeley).
And also all such other fees sallaries allowances profitts perquisites powers
authorities privileges preheminances and jurisdictions whatsoever, civill and military, as
to the said office of our Lieutenant and Governor General do and ought to oppertaine, and
in as large and ample manner to all intents and purposes whatsoever, as the said Sir
William Berkeley or any other person or persons hath, do, or ought to execute and enjoy
And lastly wee hereby strictly charge and command all our officers ministers and
subjects whatsoever in or about the said collony or dominion of Virginia to bee at all and
on all occasions obedient aydeing and assisting to the said Thomas Lord Culpeper and such
deputy or deputies as shall be commissioned by us our heirs or successors from time to
time as aforesaid, touching the due execution of the said office and employment, and all
the matters and things herein specified according to the tenor purpose and intent of these
presents; any former grants commissions instructions or any other matter or thing
whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding.
Although express mention of the true yearely value or certainty of the premisses or any
of them or of any other gift or grants by us or any of our progenitors or predecessors
heretofore made to the aforesaid Thomas Lord Culpeper in these premises is not made, in
any statute, act, ordenanc,e provision, proclamation or restriction heretofore had, made,
published ordayned or provided [these our letters shall obtain] any other thing cause or
matter whatsoever to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding.
In witness whereof we have caused these our letters to be made pattent.
Witness ourselves, at Westminster the eighth day of July in the seaven and twentieth
yeare of our reigne .
By writ of Privy Seal.
Immediately upon Berkeley's death, in July, 1677, Culpeper took the oaths as Governor (Acts
P. C., Colonial, i, 721) and served as such until he forfeited his patent in August,
1683 (Am. & W.I., 1677-80, No. 360, 384, 386). He was, however, in the colony
only during two brief tours, from May to August, 1680, and from December, 1682, to May,
1683. The historians of the period all record that on the first occasion his affability
and apparent interest in their welfare won golden opinions from the planters, but that his
second appearance was characterized by exhibitions of rapacity which disgusted all who
came into contact with. the administration. None of these writers provides a convincing
explanation of this hardening of Pharoah's heart. The fact seems to be that in 1680,
encouraged by the success of his blandishments, Culpeper made up his mind that he could
secure local acquiescence in an effective application of the two proprietary charters in
which he was interested; and in order to reap the full harvest of such an achievement
determined to buy out all the other proprietors. He accordingly returned to England, and
duly made the purchase in the summer of 1681. His deed from the other proprietors of the
Northern Neck was dated July 21st and that from Lord Arlington, September 10, 1681 (Close
Roll 4568, 33 Car. II, pt. 14, No. 19; Hening, ii, 578).
Because they gave the colour to his new relations with the Virginians, it was as
appropriate that Culpeper's first act, on his return to Virginia in December, 1682, should
be to record these instruments in the General Court (Minutes of the Council and General
Court, ed. McIlwaine, 1924, p. 523), as his first act on his previous arrival (May 10,
1680) had been to so record his patent as Governor (Hening, ii, 567). He now asserted his
proprietary rights in the Northern Neck with vigor. Reciting himself 'sole owner,' he
appointed a 'Receiver General' for that territory and gave his officer the full backing of
the government (Va. Mag., ix, 309; i, 125).
He was thus enabled to collect the quit rents, both above and below the Rappahannock;
but the profits which were expected from fines on land grants in the Northern Neck were
conspicuously lacking. No one entered for new land in that territory: the jacitation of
the proprietary title served only to stir the embers of the resentment and sullen
opposition to the existence of a proprietary, which Berkeley had fomented.
In March, 1682/3, Culpeper wrote from Greenspring to Lord Dartmouth (Va. Mag.,
xx, 82) notifying his desire to return to England 'for a short time to prepare certain
things of great consequence in the future which cannot be well understood by letter.' This
adumbration of an imminent abandonment of duty without leave may be explained by
Culpeper's appreciation that his investment in the two charters was likely to be a loss,
and that his best opportunity to recoup was to be at court and there seek to sell his
franchise either to the Crown or to the colony. Although his return cost him his post
(and, what hurt him more, his salary) as Governor, in respect to the Arlington charter he
was successful: in consideration of a pension of £600 per annum for 21 years, charged
upon the establishment of the army, he surrendered that grant to the Crown by a deed dated
May 27, 1684 (Va. Mag., xxxii, 192). As to the Northern Neck, Nicholas Spencer was
able contemporaneously, by an adroit insistence upon the reimbursement of the late
Governor for his disbursement out of the quit rents for the support of the rangers, to
provoke the Assembly (Journals H. B. 1660-93, pp. 202, 203, 208, 228; Hening, iii,
27) to request Lord Howard to open new negotiations for a purchase of the Northern Neck
charter of 1669 by the colony, on the basis of the agreement of 1675; but partly on the
question of price and partly because Virginia still lacked the power to make the purchase
in a corporate capacity, that business failed.
Culpeper then turned for a moment to, speculative investments elsewhere in America. In
1685 he appears as 'one of the owners of the soyle of the Narragansett Teritory' (Acts
P.C., Colonial, ii, 80) ; but he never abandoned his hopes of the Northern Neck.
Because no market had yet been found for it, when the 21 year term of the charter of 1669
began to wear out, he invoked his interest once more to secure a renewal. This he
accomplished at the hands of James II. His petition (Treas. Papers, 4: 5, p. 298)
was dated July 10, 1688, and as Beverley says: 'in the confusion that happen'd in the End
of King James the Second's Reign' he secured the final Northern Neck charter, bearing date
September 27, 1688.
Despite this boon from the last Stuart King, the next we hear of Culpeper is that he
was deeply involved in the intrigues to overthrow the Stuart dynasty. In December, 1688,
after James II's twofold flight, he was one of the self-constituted Committee of the House
of Lords who invi ted the Prince of Orange to assume the government (Historical MSS.
Commission, First Report, p. 16; Va. Mag., xx, 82). Bishop Burnet says (History
of His Own Times, i, 798, 819) that he was the only one of the Lords, who, in the
Convention Parliament, supported Halifax's proposal that Orange should be elected King in
his own right.
But if he thus prudently took part in the 'glorious Revolution,' he did not survive to
reap the reward on which he undoubtedly counted. The Journals of the House of Lords show
that on January 25, 1688/9, he was absent sick from a call of the House; and that on March
2nd, John, Lord Colepeper was sworn in. The proprietor of the Northern Neck had
died at his house in St. James Street on January 27, 1688/9, a few weeks before the
completion of his fifty-fourth year.
He m., 1659, Margaretta (1635-1710),
dau. of Jan van Hesse, late of the household of the Prince of Orange, deceased.
Her birth (January 12, 1634/5), marriage (at The Hague, August 3, 1659) and pedigree
are recorded in the Dutch genealogical periodical De Nederlandsche Leeuw, xiv
(1896), p. 172. Her burial is in the Bromfield (Kent) register, May 12, 1710, as 'the
Right Honourable Margaret Lady Culpeper.' There is no MI.
In a private act of Parliament passed in August, 1663 (12 Car. II, c. 12; House of
Lords MS.; Cf. list of private acts in Ruffhead, iii) to naturalise the foreign
born wives brought home from the exile by several of the cavaliers, she was described as
'Margaret Lady Culpeper, wife of the Right Honourable Thomas Lord Culpeper, Baron of
Thoresway... said Margaret [being born] also at The Hague [in Holland]... said ladies being
Margaret Lady Culpeper
Portrait reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees
of the Leeds Castle Foundation.
The Dutch genealogist already cited describes her father as 'lord of
Piershall and Wena, nobleman of the house of the Prince of Orange,' her mother as
'Catharina van Cats;' and says that her elder sister Charlotte (1629-1716) m. 1655 Thomas
Killigrew the poet, and after the Restoration became a Lady of the Privy Chamber to
Charles II's queen. Mr. Wykeham-Martin (Leeds Castle, p. 171) had access to Lady
Culpeper's marriage-settlement, which unfortunately he did not print for it has since been
lost, and from it quotes the description of her father as 'Sieur jean de Hesse, Chevalier,
en son vivant Seigneur de Pierschil et Wena, et judge des Eaux et Forets de Holland et
West Frize, Captaine de Cavalerie au service de Monseigneurs les Etats Generaux des
Provinces Unies.' In the Leeds Castle family bible George William Fairfax, writing long
after Lady Culpeper's death, recorded her as 'youngest daughter and heir of the Seigneur
jean de Hesse, of the noble family of Hesse of Bergen near Cologne.' Burnaby translates
this into 'a princess of the house of Hesse Cassel.' The family of Hesse maintained, in
several branches, a minor sovereignty on the banks of the Rhine from the middle ages to
the time of Napoleon; but it is apparent from the descriptions quoted above that the
father of Margaret Lady Culpeper, while of that breeding, was modestly cadet, and not at
all princely. To this judgment should be added Lady Culpeper's own testimony after her
husband's death (Hist. MS. Comm., House of Lords MS., 1689-90, p. 434) that she
brought him 'a very great fortune with which he purchased a very considerable estate of
inheritance in fee simple.'
Her will was as
P.C.C. Smith, 145.
Will dated May 8, 1710.
Proved June 19, 1710.
Margaret Lady Culpeper, widow, Baroness Dowager of
Thoresway. To be bur. in prsh. church of Bromfield, to be carried from Leeds Castle to
sd. church on shoulders of six of my own servants, coffin to be bought at Maidstone, not
more than £3 in price, 6 yards of black cloth to be laid on coffin & afterwards given
to six poor women of sd. prsh. To my grandson Thomas Lord Fairfax £4,000 due to me on
malt tickets, also my sixth part of the Virginia estate. To my granddaur. Margaret Fairfax
my £3,000 stock in Bank of England, but if she marry without consent of Katherine Lady
Fairfax her mother & my nephew George Sayers esq. or die before marriage, sd. £3,000
stock to sd. grandson Thomas Lord Fairfax. To said granddaur. my great necklace of pearl
etc. To my granddaur. Katherine Fairfax moneys due to me from her mother-about £800, also
silver chamber pot (sic). To my granddaur. Margaret, silver basin. Rest of goods to my
daur. Katherine Lady Fairfax & she to be exctrix. Signed M. Culpeper,
John Brisenden, Richard Filmer, D. Fuller.
Prob. by Catherine Lady Fairfax, widow, daur. &
and by her had
i Catherine, 1670?-1719, m. 1690, Thomas Fairfax (1657-1710), fifth
Lord Fairfax of Cameron, of whom hereafter.
By his mistress, Susanna Willis, Culpeper had also two natural daughters, whom he
acknowledged and who both m. into county families, viz:
ii Susanna, 1672-1720, m., 1686, Sir Charles Englefield, bart (1670-1728), of
Englefield, co. Berks.
The allegation for the mar. lic., February 15, 1685/6 (Harl. Pub., xxiv, 179),
read, 'Sir Charles Englefield, Bart. of Englefield, Berks, Bachr., about 16 & Susanna
Culpeper, Spr., abt. 14, natural dau. of Thomas Lord Culpeper, who alleges: at St. James
or St. Giles in the Fields, Middx.'
Of the family of Englefield, believed to be of Saxon origin, there is a full notice in
the Barowetages of Wooton (1771 , i, 123) and Betham (1802, i, 147). See also D. N.
B. for several of the family.
From these authorities, supplemented by G. E. C. (all of whom duly record the m.) it
appears that Susan Culpeper's son, Thomas, and dau., Charlotte, both died young; that her
will was pr. December 6, 1720; and that her husband was bur. at Englefield, s.p.s.,
whereupon the Englefield title and estates passed to another branch of that family.
iii Charlotte, 1677-post 1702, m., 1690, John Peshall (1669-1706) of Sugnal, co. Staff.
The allegation for the mar. lic., May 15, 1690 (Harl. Pub., xxvi, 311) read,
'John Peshall Esq. of St. Margarets, Westminster, Bachelor, 21, & Madam Charlotte
Culpeper of St. James in the Fields, Middx., Spinster, 15; consent of her mother, Madam
Susanna Welldon, alias Willis: at St. Edmunds, Lombard Street.'
Like the Englefields, the Peshalls of Eccleshall were created baronets in 1611. From
the notice of them in G. E. C. Complete Baronetage, it appears that this John was
the heir to the baronetcy, sat in Parliament, 1701-02 as burgess for Newcastle-under-Lyme,
and died, 1706, s.p.m.s.,v.p.; and that on the death of his father, 1712. s.p.m.s.,
the baronetcy became extinct; though it was subsequently claimed by another family of
Wotton's notice (1771, i, 120) of Charlotte Culpeper's children is as follows: 'John
[Peshall] who m. Charlotte ' dau. of Thomas, Lord Colepeper, and dying v.p. was
buried July 3. 1706, had two sons, Thomas, baptized August 18, 1691, and another
son, who both died young; and three daus., 1) Frances bapt. September 16, 1693, m. Thomas
Ireland, Esq. of co. Salop, who d. 1718, leaving a son; 2) Charlotte, baptized March 7,
1696, who d. young; 3) Arabella, baptized 1702 [who] m. January 23, 1730, the Rt. Hon. J.
Campbell, viscount Glenorch and now  earl of Breadalbane in Scotland, by whom he had
issue: George, who died an infant, and John, the present viscount Glenorch. She died at
Bath, September 10, 1762.'
As Wotton was writing, John, the second son of the earl of Breadalbane, was killed in a
duel, s.p.s., November 14, 1771, in his 34th year. See G. E. C. Complete
Peerage, s. v. Breadalbane.
The Irelands of Shrewsbury seem also to be extinct.
Thus it was that the blood of the second Lord Culpeper persisted no longer through his
children by Mrs. Willis than it did through the Fairfaxes.
At the time of his death Lord Culpeper was living, as he had been for many years, with
his maitresse en titre Susanna Willis. She seems to have buried him privately, for
there is no record extant of where or when he was interred. More than that, Mrs. Willis
took 'the key to his sets and possessed herself of everything.43 When, after several days, this news came to Leeds Castle, where Lady
Culpeper was then resident, the deserted chatelaine showed her energy. She posted
up to London and on February 22, 1688/9, sued out letters of administration upon her
husband's estate (P.C.C. Admon. Act Book, 1688). Armed with this weapon, she
demanded possession of his effects, only to learn that he had in the preceding October
settled his estate upon trustees largely for the benefit of his two daughters by Mrs.
Willis, and that by a will, dated January 17, 1688/9, he had confirmed this bounty,
leaving the lands which he had acquired with his wife's fortune, charged with his debts.
Outraged by this intelligence, Lady Culpeper rose to the defence of her own daughter. She
filed a bill in chancery against Mrs. Willis, alleging fraud and undue influence, and
praying that the settlement and will be set aside. Mrs. Willis countered effectively:
being in possession, she was content to settle down to a long drawn out chancery suit.
Deeming such delay intolerable, Lady Culpeper then turned for relief to the high court of
Parliament, and had introduced into the House of Lords a bill of which the recital was as
Whereas Thomas, Lord Culpeper, being seized in fee of divers manors etc., in the
counties of Southampton, Kent, Sussex, Warwick and Lincoln, and being also possessed of
divers messuages, etc., during some certain terms of years, unhappily fell into the
acquaintance and conversation of Susanna Willis, otherwise Welden, otherwise Laycock, who
by her artifices so far seduced him that he, for many years before his death, lived apart
from his Lady, who never gave him the least occasion of offence, and with whom he had a
very great fortune, with which he purchased a very considerable estate of inheritance in
fee simple; and the said Lord Culpeper was to that degree ensnared by the said Susanna,
that he spent most of the revenue of his estate upon her, which expense amounted to at
least £60,000, and by that means had but little left to allow his said Lady, and his only
child, Mrs. Katherine Culpeper for their support and maintenance; and although he was
sensible of his miscarriages and often declared to his chief confidents that he would not
do anything in reference to his estate to the prejudice of his wife and child, yet the
said Susanna by fraud, circumvention and evil practices prevailed on him to make several
settlements, which she conceals or has in her custody, for the benefit of her and her two
children, which she caused him to own as his; and at length when Lord Culpeper approached
his death and had not the exercise of his reason, caused him to declare a writing,
prepared by her and her accomplices, to be his will, whereby a great part of his estate is
by pretence disposed of to her and her children, and no provision is made for the payment
of his debts, which are great, and contracted for the buying of rich household stuff,
plate, jewels, etc., for the said Susanna, which she possesses to a great value,
pretending them to be the said Lord Culpeper's gift.
in consideration of all of which the bill proposed
to remedy the said frauds and wicked practices, to relieve Lady Culpeper and her
daughter, and for deterring people from committing the like frauds and deceits for the
future' by enacting that all conveyances, wills, etc. 'made by the said Lord Culpeper or
by his direction, for the benefit of the said Susanna and her reputed children, or persons
in trust for them, shall be null and void.
For all that there was sympathy with the insulted wife, it is apparent that the colour
of the recitals of her bill smacked too much of pleading to make it possible of enactment.
It came to a vote in the House of Lords, January 15, 1689/90, and failed of passage by a
poll of 36 to 35, the determination being that Lady Culpeper should pursue her remedy in
In this parlous situation Lady Culpeper's daughter married, and her husband took the
case in hand. He negotiated a compromise with Mrs. Willis and her daughters, under which
an allowance of £4,000 cash was made to John Peshall, who had recently married the
younger Willis girl, an annuity of £100 per annum, charged on the manor of Thoresway, was
assured to the elder (wife of Sir Charles Englefield); and it was agreed that both Lord
Culpeper's settlement and will should be suppressed, so that his legitimate daughter might
be vested with the remainder of the estate as heir at law. To ratify this arrangement a
new bill was introduced into Parliament in March, 1696/7 (Known as 'Lord Fairfax's Estate
Bill'), of which the recitals were as follows:
Whereas by indentures quinquepartite of 4 Oct. 4 Jac. II betw. (i) late Thos. Lord
C. (2) Sir John Trevor, then Master of Rolls, & Christopher Cratford of St. Giles in
the Fields, gent. (3) William Pottell of Middle Temple, gent. & William Roberts of
Gray's Inn, gent. (4) Samuel Reynolds of St. Giles in the Fields, gent. & (5) Susanna
Weldon als. Willis of St. James in the Fields, spinster, Charlotte Colepeper, spr. &
Dame Susanna Englefield, wife of Sir Charles E., the sd. Lord C. granted to Trevor &
Cratford the manor of Forshaw als. Forshaw in parish of Solyhuss als. Sylehull, , co.
Warw.; tithes of Mayfield, Sussex; lands in Lydd & Bromehill, part of which heretofore
belonged to late Lord Culpeper & the rest was since purchased by his Lordship of Thos.
Colepeper of St. Stephens, esq. & Sir George Carter; the manor of Thoresway, co.
Lincs., charged with payment of £100 a year to Dame Susanna, wife of Sir Charles
Englefield, during her life, under a deed of 20 Feb. 2 Jac. II; also messuage & farm
called Totnams, in or near the parish of Hollingbourne in Kent at a place called Eghorne
Street containing 40 acres, lately purchased by late Lord C. & then or late in tenure
of Alexander Culpeper, gent., under yearly rent of £45 during a lease of 21 years, of
which about 19 were then in being; To hold to A. Trevor & Cratford to use of Thomas
Lord C. for life; remr. as to some (specified) to use of Susanna Welldon, als. Willis, for
life; remr. to use of Wm. Pottell & Wm. Roberts for 200 years on trusts therein
declared; remr. to use of Katherine, daur. of Thos. Ld. C. for 99 years; remr. to her
issue; remainder to the settlors right heirs; and whereas the sd. Ld. Culpeper by his will
of 17 Jan. 1688 confirmed above indentures; And whereas sd. Ld. C. is since dead, &
the sd. Katherine his daur. is married to Thomas Ld. Fairfax & sd. Charlotte is
married, with her mother's consent, to John Peshall of Sugnall, co. Staff-, Esq.; And
whereas it is agreed that £4,000 is owing to said John Peshall.
John, third Lord Culpeper, now intervened in this washing of dirty linen in public. He
was aggrieved by the bill, not only because is set aside the general provision of his
brother's will for vesting his right heirs with an ultimate remainder in all his estate,
but because it ignored certain specific agreements of the second Lord as to charges upon
the inheritance of the first Lord, for the benefit of his younger children. It
subsequently appeared that the second Lord had created anuities to satisfy all of these
last mentioned claims except that of his brother John; who had been left high and dry in
the animosities engendered by the family controversy over the Six Clerks place. John
accordingly used all his interest to defeat Lord Fairfax's bill. Although it duly passed
the Commons house, the new Lord Culpeper was able to block it in the Lords, by another
While gratifying revenge, this success did not, however, accomplish John's larger
purpose of securing a vested interest in his brother's estate; but he pursued his
particular claim in the Court of Chancery and there, in 1700, at last had a decree
establishing in his favor an annuity charged upon a manor in the Isle of Wight.
By virtue of these transactions the second Lord Culpeper's estate came into the hands
of his heiress much diminished. It now consisted chiefly of Leeds Castle and the
appurtenant manors in Kent, which were hardly sufficient by themselves to support that
house; and of the Northern Neck proprietary, then still a castle in Spain.
(Continued in Chapter 4a)
41 Here are some characterizations:
Hartwell, Chilton and Blair (1696) 'one of the most cunning and covetous men in
Beverley (1705, i, 80) 'he had the art of mixing the good of the Country with
his own particular Interest.'
Oldmixon (1708) 'He affected a Despotick way of governing... in other things his
Lordship's Administration was very commendable.'
Sir William Keith (1737) 'a Man of Sound judgment... not wholly negligent of his
Bishop Burnet (1723, i, 798) 'A vicious and corrupt man, but made a figure in
Chalmers (1782) 'having shown by his conduct that they who act under independent
authority will seldom obey even reasonable commands, no more governors were appointed for
Burk (1805, ii, 235) 'the easy smile and bending condescension which he wore
during his first visit... settled down into a severe and gloomy dignity.'
Bancroft (1837, ii, 246) 'He had no high-minded regard for Virginia: he valued
his office and his patents only as property... yet Culpeper was not singularly avaricious.
His conduct was in harmony with the principles which prevailed in England. As the British
merchant claimed the monopoly of colonial commerce, as the British manufacturer valued
Virginia only as a market for his goods, so the British Courtiers looked to appointments
in America as a means of enlarging their own revenues or providing for their dependants.
Nothing but Lord Culpeper's avarice gives him a place in American history.'
Campbell (1860, pp. 328, 337) 'an able but artful and covetous man a man of
Lodge (1881, p., 23) 'Culpeper's sole object was extortion, which he freely
practised... Culpeper's administration was, as a whole, one of simple greed and violent
exaction, varied by an extensive swindle in raising and lowering the value of the coin.'
Doyle (1882, i, 259) 'Culpeper himself seems to have been neither better nor
worse than most public men in that corrupt age. He appears to have been placable and
conciliating in temper and to have shown no lack of intelligence as an administrator. His
worst fault was rapacity, of which he stands convicted both by general tradition and
certain specific actions.'
Osgood (1907, iii, 296) 'Though he appears to have been a man of some ability,
the selection was an unfortunate one... His interest in Virginia seems to have been
limited to securing a favorable settlement of his claims.'
Wertenbaker (1914, p. 239) 'Few British colonial Governors are less deserving of
respect than Thomas, Lord Culpeper.'
Gordon McCabe (1919, Presidential Address to Va. Hist. Soc.) 'despite his
insensate greed, he was not altogether bad... he . gave wise advice as to Indian defence,
his suggestions as to fostering manufactures evidence a clear head, and even some of his
arbitrary amendments to Acts of Assembly proved salutary.' (Return)
42 The relation of the charter of February 25, 1672/3
(Hening, ii, 569) to Culpeper's inherited interest in the Northern Neck is apparent in the
incidental relation of the new and greater grant back to the date of the second Northern
Neck charter, i. e., May 8, 1669. It is significant also that therein (as in Culpeper's
patent of 1675 for the reversion of the government of the colony) the consideration moving
the Crown was recited to be that the grantee was 'son and heir of John, late Lord
Culpeper, deceased, of whose memory and services wee retain a favorable and gracious
Culpeper's plans in relation to the colony under the charter of 1673 have provoked much
historical rhetoric, but it seems clear that they went no further than the realization of
the £12,000 due him on his father's Crown grant. This motif of money is apparent in the
genuine surprise reflected in Arlington's statement to Francis Moryson in October, 1675
(Burk, ii, Appendix, p. x1i) that
'he wondered why the country should be more aggrieved to pay him the quit rents granted
by the patent than to Colonel Norwood and to others; since those rents have never been
accounted for unto the chequer, but still received and enjoyed by the treasurers to their
own proper uses.'
Arlington was referring to Berkeley's statement in the old Governor's since famous
report of 1671 (Hening, ii, 517), that
'there is no revenue arising to his majesty [from Virginia] but out of the quit rents:
and this he hath given away to a deserving servant Colonel Henry Norwood.'
It seems clear that if Culpeper had been content in 1675 with a grant of the quit rents
he would have accomplished his purpose without opposition. His miscalculation arose from
over zeal: in order to secure the quit rents he contrived to have the grant include also
the 'regalities;' which showed a lack of appreciation of the pride and self-consciousness
of Berkeley and his Council in their direct relations with the Crown. (Return)
43 The record of the scandal over the settlement of the
second Lord Culpeper's estate is in (i) Chancery Bills and Answers before 1714, File
Hamilton, ii, Bundle 85, No. 66, and Bundle 671; (2) the private Parliamentary
bills, entitled Lord Culpeper's Bill, January, 1689/90, and Lord Fairfax's
Estate Bill, March, 1696/97, calendared by Historical MSS. Commission, House
of Lords MS., 1689-90, p. 434, and 1695-97, ii, 533; (3) the report of Culpeper v.
Fairfax (1700), 2 Vernon's Reports, 376; and the comment thereon by Narcissus Luttrell
(Brief Relation, iv, 706) ; (4) the subsequent repercussions of futile animosity
against Lord Fairfax in the Culpeper family, recorded by William Henry Ireland
(1777-1835), the Shakespeare forger, whose wife was a Culpeper (History of Kent,
1829, iii, 569). (Return)
21 May 2011