3c. Hollingbourne
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The Proprietors of the Northern Neck

Chapter 3c - Hollingbourne

Thomas Lord Culpeper Painting
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: 

   (a) 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 Northern Neck.

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 10, 1672.42

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 Greeting:

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 the same.

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 [1675].

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 protestants.' 

Margaret Lady Culpeper Painting
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 follows:

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, Witns. John Brisenden, Richard Filmer, D. Fuller.

Prob. by Catherine Lady Fairfax, widow, daur. & extrix.]

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 Peshall.

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 [1771] 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 follows:

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 chancery.

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 close vote.

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 England.'

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 own Interest.'

Bishop Burnet (1723, i, 798) 'A vicious and corrupt man, but made a figure in the debates.'

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 life.'

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 strong judgment.'

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 sense.'

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)

Last Revised: 21 May 2011

 

 
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