John Colepeper of Bedgebery, 1st Baron Colepeper of Thoresway

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John Colepeper, 1st Baron Colepeper

Also Known As: "culpepper; Culpepper of Bedgeberry"
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Culpeper / Colepeper and Anne Culpeper
Husband of Phillipa Colepeper and Judith Colepepper
Father of Thomas Colepeper, 2nd Baron Colepeper (Colonial Governor of Virginia); John Colepeper, 3rd Baron Colepeper of Thoresway; Cheney Colepeper, 4th Baron Colepeper of Thoresway; Elizabeth Hamilton and Philippa Harlackenden
Brother of Sir John Culpeper, 1st Baron of Thoresway

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About John Colepeper of Bedgebery, 1st Baron Colepeper of Thoresway,_1st_Baron_Colepeper

John Colepeper of Bedgebery, 1st Baron Culpeper of Thoresway[1] (c. 1600 – 11 June 1660) was an English politician.

He was the only son of Thomas Culpeper of Wigsell (1561 - 19 Sep 1613) and Anne Slaney (circa 1575 - before 26 Feb 1602), daughter of Sir Stephan Slaney, Lord Mayor of London.[2] The Colepepers (the name is thought to derive from the plant) resided in Sussex for many years, and as early as the reign of King Edward III were serving in administrative capacities in Kent and Sussex.[3]

John Colepeper began his career in military service abroad, and came first into public notice at home through his knowledge of country affairs, being summoned often before the council board to give evidence on such matters. He was knighted, and was elected member for Kent in the Long Parliament, when he took the popular side, speaking against monopolies on 9 November 1640, being entrusted with the impeachment of Sir Robert Berkeley on 12 February 1641, supporting Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford's attainder, and being appointed to the committee of defence on 12 August 1641.

He separated, however, from the popular party on the Church question, owing to political rather than religious objections, fearing the effect of the revolutionary changes which were now contemplated. He opposed the London petition for the abolition of episcopacy, the project of religious union with the Scots, and the Root and Branch Bill, and on the 1st of September he moved a resolution in defence of the prayer-book. In the following session he opposed the militia bill and the Grand Remonstrance, and finally on 2 January 1642 he joined the party of King Charles I, taking office as chancellor of the exchequer.

He highly disapproved of the king's attempt to arrest John Pym and four other members of the Long Parliament, which was made without his knowledge, but advised the enterprise against Hull. On 25 August 1642 he appeared at the bar of the House of Commons to deliver the king's final proposals for peace, and was afterwards present at the Battle of Edgehill, where he took part in Prince Rupert's charge and opposed the retreat of the king's forces from the battlefield.

In December he was made by Charles I, Master of the Rolls. He was a leading member of the Oxford Parliament, and was said, in opposition to the general opinion, to have counselled considerable concessions to secure peace. His influence in military affairs caused him to be much disliked by Prince Rupert and the army, and the general animosity against him was increased by his advancement to the peerage on 21 October 1644 by the title of Baron Colepeper of Thoresway in Lincolnshire.

He was despatched with Hyde in charge of the Prince of Wales to the West in March 1645, and on 2 March 1646, after Charles's final defeat, embarked with the prince for Scilly, and thence to France. He strongly advocated gaining the support of the Scots by religious concessions, a policy supported by the queen and Mazarin, but opposed by Hyde and other leading royalists, and constantly urged this course upon the king, at the same time deprecating any yielding on the subject of the militia. He promoted the mission of Sir John Berkeley in 1647 to secure an understanding between Charles and the army.

In 1648 he accompanied the prince in his unsuccessful naval expedition, and returned with him to the Hague, where violent altercations broke out among the royalist leaders, Colepeper going so far, on one occasion in the council, as to challenge Prince Rupert, and being himself severely assaulted in the streets by Sir Robert Walsh. He continued after the execution of Charles I to press the acceptance on Charles II of the Scottish proposals. He was sent to Russia in 1650, where he obtained a loan of 20,000 rubles from the tsar, and, soon after his return, to the Netherlands, to procure military assistance. By the treaty, agreed to between Oliver Cromwell and Mazarin, of August 1654, Colepeper was obliged to leave France, and he appears henceforth to have resided in Flanders. He accompanied Charles II to the south of France in September 1659, at the time of the Treaty of the Pyrenees. At the Restoration he returned to England, but only survived a few weeks, dying on 11 June 1660.

Several contemporary writers agree in testifying to Colepeper's great debating powers and to his resources as an adviser, but complain of his want of stability and of his uncertain temper. The Earl of Clarendon, with whom he was often on ill terms, speaks generally in his praise, and repels the charge of corruption levelled against him. That he was gifted with considerable political foresight is shown by a remarkable letter written on 20 September 1658 on the death of Cromwell, in which he foretells with uncommon sagacity the future developments in the political situation, advises the royalists to remain inactive till the right moment and profit by the division of their opponents, and distinguishes George Monck as the one person willing and capable of effecting the Restoration (Clarendon State Papers, iii. 412).


Colepeper was twice married: first to Philippa, daughter of Sir John Snelling, by whom he had one son, who died young, and a daughter; and second to Judith, sister of Cheney Culpeper, by whom he had seven children. Of these, Thomas (d. 1719; Crown Governor of Virginia 1680–1683) was the successor in the title, which became extinct on the death of his younger brother Cheney, in 1725. His daughter by Judith, Elizabeth, married James Hamilton. The two were parents to James Hamilton, 6th Earl of Abercorn.[4]

Sir John Culpeper, first baron Culpeper of Thoresway, (and the First Lord Culpeper) was baptised in Salehurst, August 7, 1600, as 'Johanes Colepeper, filius Mri Thomae, armigeri'; was named by his maternal grandmother, Dame Margaret Slaney in her will (1612) as 'my godson John C. another of the sons of my dau. Anne C.,' as well as in her codicil (May, 1618) in the language already quoted; and, in the inq. p.m. of Slaney C. (May, 1619) appears as 'John C. his only brother and heir, and heir of the body of said Thomas by Anne his wife; and is at taking of this inq. under :21, viz: 18 years, 9 months and 9 days and no more.'

He matriculated at Oxford from Hart Hall, April 26, 1616, as 'of Sussex, aged 15' (Foster) and was admitted to the Middle Temple, February 6, 1617/8, as 'Mr. John C., second son of Thomas C. of Wigsell, Sussex, deceased (Hopwood, ii, 625). Having become, by the death of his elder brother in December, 1618, 'primi sternmatis Wigsellensis' (as he later described himself on the MI. of his first wife), he was knighted by James I at Theobald's, January 14, 1621/2 (Nichols, iii, 751).

Clarendon testifies that he 'never cultivated the muses.' If he ever had any intention of pursuing a career at the bar in the tradition of his uncle, John of Feckenham, he abandoned it when he became 'of Wigsell.' Being just of age as he was knighted, and having no home ties, he forthwith prepared to spend 'some years of his youth in foreign parts and especially in armies, ' and to that end liquidated his property.

He had inherited his father's share in the Virginia Company and had already taken a part in the politics of that society (in April, 1623, he allied himself with the Warwick faction, Brown, Genesis, 982), when at the court held May 7, 1623, 'Mr. Deputy propounded the passing of One Share from Sir John Culpeper to Mr. ffreake of the Middle Temple, gentleman' (Records of the London Company, L. C. ed., p. 412). In the same year, 1623 (Close Roll, 21 Jac. I, pt. 26) he sold Wigsell to Sir Thomas C. to be vested in his eldest son, Cheney. It would thus seem that Sir John must have left England in the autumn of 1623; for there is no further record of his until October, 1628, when he. contracted his first marriage. It was accordingly after five years of soldiering in the wake of Gustavus Adolphus that, as Clarendon says, 'in very good season and after a small waste of his fortune' lie returned to England, 'retired from that course of life and married and 'betook himself to a country life.' He now established himself in Hollingbourne (he describes himself 'of Hollingbourne' in his mar. lic., 1631, and is so described again in the Commonwealth act of 1650, and, under the influence of Sir Thomas, commenced politician. To quote Clarendon again, his school was county affairs, 'the business of the country and the concernments of it, in which he was very well versed: and being a man of sharpness of parts and volubility of language he was frequently made choice of to appear at the Council board in those matters which related to the country, in the managing whereof his abilities were well taken notice of.' The result was that he was returned (Official Returns of M. Ps. 1878) to the Short Parliament (1640) as burgess for Rye (Cinq Port). In the Long Parliament he was Knight of the shire for Kent and made his celebrated speech against monopolies (Rushworth, iv, 133).

The remainder of his career is part of the history of England. His fundamental conservatism soon drew him into opposition to the crescent 'reforming party.' In the small company of Falkland and Hyde he stood at last by the bishops and against the Grand Remonstrance; with the result that all three were invited by Charles I to join the government. On January 2, 1642, Culpeper was sworn of the Privy Council and appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, which office he exchanged the following year for that of Master of the Rolls. Notwithstanding these dignities, 'as his courage was always unquestionable,' when war came he did service also in the field: at Edgehill (Keinton) he charged with Rupert's cavalry, acquitting 'himself like a brave man-at-arms,' and at Newbury again 'enobled his Gowne with Martiall Achievements.' For the example of these acts, as well as his service in the Council Chamber, the King raised him to the peerage in 1644; but in so doing 'did much dissatisfy both the court and the army.' Clarendon's own comment (Rebellion, v, 4) is that 'though he did imprudently in desiring it, did deserve it.' In 1645 he became, with Hyde, a member of the Council set up in the west of England for the Prince of Wales; and eventually escorted his young master from Cornwall to Scilly. Thence Culpeper left to join the Queen mother in Paris: and so began his long wanderjahr on the continent.

During the exile, the future fortunes of Culpeper's family were shaped by two lawyer-drawn papers. On September 18, 1649, he and his cousin-german Thomas Culpeper (son of John of Feckenham) were included in the patent which created the proprietary of the Northern Neck of Virginia; and in 1651 the Commonwealth by act of Parliament (Acts, 1651, c., 10) declared forfeited and ordered sold all the manors and estates of 'Sir John Culpeper, late of Hollingbourne in the County of Kent, Knight:' a description which was intended for an insult by disregarding the warborn peerage.

Culpeper survived to take part, at the age of sixty, in Charles II's entry into London. After that dramatic 'ride in triumph through Persepolis' he was destined for a large part in the restoration government (see Ranke's comment on him) ; actually he assumed his function as Master of the Rolls (swearing in, in that capacity, his old colleague Hyde as Lord Chancellor), and for some weeks sat regularly at the Council board. But in June of the restoration year he fell ill, while he 'lay' at Hartinge, co. Sussex, in the house of his friend, Sir Edward Ford, whose daughter his dead son Alexander, had married. Weary after more than ten years of exile, he planned here a settlement of his disordered estate. His English property had been sequestered and sold and he was deeply in debt. 'He used to say,' his son reported later (Gent. Mag., lxvii (1797) p. 477) 'that the usurer and he were not yet even; for he had only scratched the usurer, the usurer had stabbed him.' He was, however, comforted by a promise from the King of a grant sufficient to put his house in order; and, quite unconscious of the part that promise was to play in the history of Virginia, died on July 11, 1660 [the date is on his MI.], having made the following will (See Culpepper Connections Archives)

It does not appear from the Hollingbourne register that he was buried there, but in 1695 two of his children then surviving erected in Hollingbourne church a monument with the following MI.:

'To the lasting memory of John, Lord Culpeper, Baron of Thoresway, Master of the Rolles and Privy Counsellor to two Kings, Charles the First and Charles the Second. For equal fidelity to the King and Kingdome he was most exemplary. And in an exile of above ten years was a constant attendant and upright Minister to the Prince last mentioned. With him he returned tryumphant into England on the 29th of May 1660; but died the 11th of July next following in the 61st year of his age to the irreparable loss of his family. He commended his soul to God his faithful Creator, and ordered his body here to expect a blessed Resurrection. His Patent of Honour from King Charles the First dated the 21st of October 1644 may serve for his immortal Epitaph. Part whereof is here below faithfully copyed from the Latine original & translated into English: [the latin text, which follows, is here omitted]

'Whereas our well beloved and most faithful Counsellor John Culpeper Kt. Mr. of the Rolles of our Chancery, of the Antient and Noble family of the Culpepers in our Counties of Kent and Sussex many ages past renowned for persons of eminent ability both in War and Peace, hath given us signall testimonies of his approved Loyalty, singular Manhood, and profound judgment; who, in that never to be forgotten Battell of Keinton, where both our own and the publick safety were manifestly at stake, being then chancellor of our Exchequer, acquitted himselfe like a brave man-at-arms; who, at Newberry, and on other occasions always enobled his Gowne with Martiall Achievements; and lastly, who, in our most perilous junctures by his seasonable and solid Counsells hath been a principal support of our Crowne and Dignity, &c.'

'By his wife Judith, daughter of Sir John (sic) Culpeper of Hollingbourne Kt. he had 7 children that survived him, Thomas, later Lord Culpeper, John now Lord Culpeper, Cheney, Frances, Elizabeth, widow of James Hamilton Esq. late Groom of the Bedchamber to King Charles the Second, Judith, and Philippa. Of these John Lord Culpeper and Elizabeth Hamilton, equally zealous of expressing their Duty, have on the 10th day of June in the year 1695 erected this Monument.'

Source: Fairfax Harrison, "The Proprietors of the Northern Neck"

Birth: Aug. 7, 1600 Salehurst East Sussex, England Death: Jul. 11, 1660 Kent, England

1st Baron Culpeper of Thoresway

Only son of Thomas Culpeper of Wigsell, Sussex, and Anne Slaney. Paternal grandson of John Culpeper of Wigsell, Sussex, and Elizabeth Sedley. Maternal grandson of Sir Stephen Slaney, Lord Mayor of London.

John was twice married, first to Philippa Snelling in 1628, daughter of Sir John Snelling. They were parents to a son, Alexander, and a daughter named for her mother. Philippa died in 1630.

He married secondly his cousin Judith Culpeper in 1631, daughter of Sir Thomas Culpeper of Hollingbourne, Kent.

They were parents to seven children including Thomas Culpeper, 2nd Baron and Crown Governor of Virginia, and Elizabeth, mother of the 6th Earl of Abercorn.

John was created a peer in 1644, and held the offices of Chancellor of the Exchequer and Master of the Rolls.

Buried on his request in the vault of Culpeper Chapel, his monument was not erected until 1695 by the 3rd Lord Culpeper and his daughter Elizabeth.

He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son Thomas.