DEVEREUX, Leicester (1617-76)

DEVEREUX, Leicester (1617–76)

suc. fa. 1649 as 6th Visct. HEREFORD

b. 1617, 2nd but 1st. surv. s. of Walter Devereux (later 5th Visct. Hereford), and 2nd w. Elizabeth, 2nd da. of Thomas Knightley of Burgh Hall, Staffs., and wid. of Matthew Martin of Barton, Cambs.; bro. of Walter Devereux. educ. unknown. m. (1) 6 June 1642, Elizabeth (d.1669), da. and h. of Sir William Withypoll, of Sudbourne, Suff. 1 da.; (2) 1670, Priscilla, da. of John Catchpole of Suff. 2s. 2da.1 bur. 2 Jan. 1677; will 29 Sept.- 21 Dec 1676, pr. 1 Nov. 1677.2

Officer, parlty. forces 1645;3 capt. Prince Rupert’s Regt. of Horse 1667.4

Commr. Suff. 1647, assessment for Ireland 1648, settling militia in Suff., Herefs. and Warws. 1648, assessment for Suff. 1649, 1650, 1652;5 steward, manorial cts., Carm. and Card. Wales, 1661;6 gamekpr., Sudbourne, Suff. 1664.7

Associated with: Ipswich.

Leicester Devereux, born into a position of wealth and political prominence, could trace his family origins in the Welsh Marches back to the twelfth century. His father’s main territorial base was in Warwickshire, but Leicester Devereux, like his younger brother Walter, married a Suffolk heiress and established himself in East Anglia. Upon his marriage he acquired the Ipswich estate of Christchurch but only after a bitter legal quarrel, firstly, with his volatile father-in-law Sir William Withypoll and, after Withypoll’s death, with Ptolemy Tollemache (whose family were major landowners in the area).8 Apart from his extensive estates in Suffolk, Devereux had landholdings across East Anglia, the Midlands, the East Riding and Pembrokeshire.9 At his death he was able to bequeath some £10,000 to his children.10

The date of Hereford’s succession to the viscountcy is uncertain but there is evidence that his father died in November 1649. This would explain Hereford’s revival, in the first months of 1650, of the 5th viscount’s suit against William Seymour, marquess of Hertford (later 2nd duke of Somerset), over entailed property in Herefordshire belonging to Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex.11 Leicester Devereux had followed the family’s lead in his civil war allegiances and fought on the side of Parliament; his dispute with the royalist Hertford thus had political overtones. Throughout the 1640s and 1650s he served as a commissioner for Suffolk, the only peer to serve on a county committee.12

Ipswich and its surrounding region, staunchly anti-Laudian since before the Civil Wars, proved a sympathetic political environment for the new viscount.13 Hereford’s marriage to Elizabeth Withypoll had also brought him an electoral interest in the small corporate town of Orford. Having forged strong local political ties, including an affiliation with the Ipswich lawyer and politician, Thomas Edgar, Hereford used his interest to secure Edgar’s election as Member for Orford when the town’s franchise was restored in 1659. Edgar continued to act as Hereford’s confidant and man of business throughout the rest of the latter’s life, although Hereford’s younger brother, Walter Devereux, took over the Orford parliamentary seat in 1660. At the Restoration, Hereford petitioned the king for Welsh offices traditionally associated with the Devereux family. A suggestion made in December 1660 that he be made lord lieutenant of Herefordshire was rejected by Charles II who had found that Hereford was ‘not at all beloved’ but Edward Hyde, the future earl of Clarendon, insisted that Hereford was ‘honest and all men say worth the cherishing’ and this may explain why, despite his parliamentarian past, he was granted the stewardship of the manorial courts in Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire and the constableship of Carmarthen Castle.14 .

On 27 Apr. 1660 Hereford took his seat in the Lords as one of those former parliamentary supporters who would form the core of the presbyterian bloc in the House. Hereford had several kinship connections in the House including the Seymours, Mountjoy Blount, earl of Newport, and George Berkeley, 9th Baron (later earl of) Berkeley, his lifelong friend.15 His parliamentary career was far from active, and he rarely attended the House for more than 40 per cent of sittings. Of the 15 sessions that assembled during his lifetime, he failed to attend four (in 1665, 1670, 1673 and 1675), and of the remaining 11, attended only five for more than a quarter of the time.

On 3 May 1660, Hereford was one of the peers named to the delegation to bring home the exiled king. Hereford was present in the House on 11 Sept. 1660 for the debates on the Lords proviso to the bill for confirming and restoring ministers; he registered his protest against the Lords amendments to the disputed proviso. He was rarely named to legislative committees but on 4 July 1661, was named to the committee for the bill to vacate fines levied by Sir Edward Powell. One week later, on 11 July 1661, he was tipped to support Aubrey de Vere, 20th earl of Oxford, in his case for the great chamberlaincy. On 16 July 1661 he registered his proxy in favour of Frederick Cornwallis, Baron Cornwallis, and the following day the House gave him leave to absent himself and go into the country.

Hereford clearly wished to spend more time in Suffolk in advance of the parliamentary election. In August 1661, through his ‘worthy and bountiful benevolence’ of 20 loads of timber to repair the Town House and quay, he helped to secure the re-election of his brother Walter as Member for Orford. Hereford’s two younger brothers, Walter and Edward, were freemen of the town and the family shared its political dominance with the Tollemaches. Hereford continued to exercise paternal oversight in Orford and in 1662 made a contribution to relieve the town’s needier inhabitants.16

On 7 May 1662, Hereford was again excused absence from the House. This was repeated on 3 June 1663 when the House noted that he intended to leave his proxy. Two days later, the proxy was duly registered in favour of Berkeley, and was not vacated until the end of the session. By the middle of July 1663, it was assumed by Wharton that the proxy would be used to support the impeachment attempt on Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon.

Hereford arrived for the spring 1664 session on 27 Apr. 1664 and was promptly named to the committee to compose differences between the former royalist Sir John Pakington and the inhabitants of Aylesbury. The following week, Hereford claimed privilege in the case of his chaplain, Samuel Aldus, who had been ejected from Hereford’s donative living at St. Peter’s church in Ipswich by the ‘violence of factious people’. The case was referred to the committee for privileges, and the offenders were ordered to appear before the House. On 9 May 1664, Hereford’s complaint was discussed in committee and Hereford’s brother, Edward Devereux, gave a sworn statement. Since the offending action had fallen within the parliamentary session, the committee reported that Hereford’s parliamentary privilege had been breached and that his rights in the living should be restored.17 The following day, the House duly ordered a restoration of Hereford’s rights of presentation. On 26 Nov. 1664, Hereford requested the discharge of all but one of the Ipswich offenders: Joseph Hubbard was reprimanded at the bar of the House three days later for contempt of the Lords’ order.

Hereford remained in the country, hardly ever attending the autumn 1664 session and absenting himself from the Oxford Parliament in October 1665. It is possible that there was a fine dividing line between Hereford’s protection of his property rights and a more aggressive adventurism. In May 1666, the Swedish envoy complained that individuals acting in Hereford’s name had seized corn from a Swedish ship that had been wrecked near Orford Ness in 1662. The king ordered Hereford, who had refused to appear at the admiralty to answer the charge, to make good his claim.18

The Anglo-Dutch wars rendered the Suffolk coast particularly vulnerable and Hereford’s military experience was useful in securing the region from attack. He and Oxford were both concerned in the defence of the coast in June 1667.19 Hereford attended the autumn 1667 parliamentary session on only 18 occasions, but he was present on 13 Nov. 1667 to hear the impeachment charges against Clarendon. He attended for the crucial vote on 20 Nov. and supported the king against the chancellor. By 25 Nov. he was again absent, with another proxy entered in favour of Berkeley. According to the proxy book, this was cancelled on 28 Apr. 1668, although the Journal does not record Hereford’s return to the House until 5 May. Presumably Hereford had acquitted himself well the previous year in the defence of Suffolk, for on 5 Oct. 1668, the king and James, duke of York, dined with him at Ipswich and were treated to ‘all the expressions of joy possible’: bell-ringing, gunfire, decorated church steeples and flower-strewn streets.20

On 19 Oct. 1669, the first day of the new session, Hereford was named to the committee for privileges. He attended the brief session on only 11 days, and was named to only two committees. On 22 Nov. 1669 his proxy was registered in favour of James, duke of York. It was vacated at the end of the session in mid-December, to be re-entered on 17 Mar. 1670 in favour of York’s friend and ally, Henry Mordaunt, 2nd earl of Peterborough, for the duration of the session.

The Suffolk county by-election of February 1673, occasioned by the suicide of Henry North, came at a difficult time for the Church in the wake of the king’s Declaration of Indulgence. York, concerned at the political clout of Nonconformists, wrote to Hereford in advance of the poll recommending the court candidate Lionel Tollemache, styled Lord Huntingtower (later 3rd earl of Dysart [S]). Despite having the support of Hereford, the greater part of the Suffolk gentry, and the Church, the controverted election resulted in a defeat for Tollemache.21

Hereford arrived in the House for the spring session on 18 Feb. 1673 and was named to three committees. His last attendance that session was on 8 Mar. – some seven months before the end of the session. He registered his proxy with his fellow East Anglian magnate, the former Presbyterian Horatio Townshend, Baron Townshend. The proxy was vacated at the end of the session.

Hereford was present on 7 Jan. 1674, the first day of the new session, and named to the committees for petitions and for privileges. He appears to have been inactive in the six week session. By the following year, his reaction to the policies of the government under the direction of Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby (later marquess of Carmarthen and duke of Leeds) identified him with the Country opposition.22 In the protracted debates over Danby’s non-resisting Test in the spring of 1675, he was ‘a steady man among the Country lords’.23 On 20 May 1675, Hereford sat in the House for the last time. He did not attend the autumn 1675 session but remained on his Suffolk estate.

Hereford died at the end of December 1676, having made a codicil to his will to protect his financial arrangements from disruption by his second wife. He was succeeded in the peerage by his three-year-old son and namesake. Hereford’s executors – Thomas Edgar (senior and junior), Charles Cocks, Edward Steynor, and the Sudbourne rector, Theophilus Hook, were given guardianship of the young 7th Viscount, who was to be maintained from family estates in Pembrokeshire.


  • 1 Collins, Peerage (1812).
  • 2 TNA, PROB 11/355.
  • 3 CSP Dom. 1645-7, pp. 173-4.
  • 4 CSP Dom. 1667, p. 182.
  • 5 A. and O. i. 975, 1093, 1243, ii. 43, 309, 478, 675, 1443.
  • 6 CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 497; Eg. 2551, f. 65.
  • 7 CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 617.
  • 8 TNA, C/131/42; W.A. Copinger, County of Suffolk, iii. 357; LJ, vii. 654; HMC 5th Rep. 103; HMC 6th. Rep. 74.
  • 9 VCH Cambs. and Isle of Ely, iv. 206-19; TNA, E134/35Chas2/Mich32; Birmingham Archives, ms 3307/ACC1927-020/335613, 335645, 335684, 335724, ms 3197/ACC 1919-025/280271, 280275, 280349, 280400, 280703; VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), vii. 181-204; TNA, PROB 11/355.
  • 10 Glos. Archives D2322/F/2; G.C.M. Smith, Family of Withypoll, with Special Reference to their Manor of Christchurch, Ipswich, 91; TNA, PROB 11/355.
  • 11 CJ, iv. 696; Longleat, DE/Box XIV/2.
  • 12 Swatland, 11.
  • 13 HP Commons 1660-1690, i. 402.
  • 14 Notes which passed, 20; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 497.
  • 15 TNA, PROB 11/355.
  • 16 Suff. RO (Ipswich), EE5/14/2.
  • 17 PA, HL/PO/DC/CP/1/1, p. 110.
  • 18 CSP Dom. 1665-6, p. 401.
  • 19 CSP Dom. 1667, p. 223.
  • 20 CSP Dom. 1668-9, pp. 4, 7.
  • 21 HP Commons 1660-1690, i. 392.
  • 22 Jones, Party and Management, 14.
  • 23 Timberland, iii. 122-5.