Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester (fifth creation)

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The Earl of Leicester.
Arms of Coke, Earls of Leicester: Per pale gules and azure, three eagles displayed argent[1]

Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, KB (1697–1759) was a wealthy English land-owner and patron of the arts. He is particularly noted for commissioning the design and construction of Holkham Hall in north Norfolk. Between 1722 and 1728, he was Member of Parliament (MP) for Norfolk.

He was the son of Edward Coke (Coke is pronounced "Cook") and Carey Newton. As a young man, Coke embarked on a six-year 'Grand Tour', returning to England in the spring of 1718. During his time overseas in Rome in 1715, he made the acquaintance of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, the aristocratic architect at the forefront of the Palladian revival movement in England, and of William Kent. Both were later to be engaged by Coke to work on his mansion at Holkham which housed the considerable collection of works of art that Coke had accumulated on his travels. In 1717, during these travels he purchased the Codex Leicester, containing some of the works of Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian artist and scientist.

However, Coke was badly affected by financial losses when his investments in the South Sea Company proved worthless. This delayed the building of Coke's planned new country estate for over ten years. It was not until around 1732 that Burlington and Kent made their first drawings for the new mansion. Norfolk architect Matthew Brettingham was also influential in its design (though he attributed the design of the Marble Hall to Coke himself). Work on the foundations began in 1734, but it was to be 30 years before work was completed. As he surveyed the result of his long years of labour and achievement, Lord Leicester lamented: “It is a melancholy thing to stand alone in one's own country. I look around not a house to be seen but my own. I am Giant of Giant Castle and have ate up all my neighbours my nearest neighbour is the King of Denmark.”[2]

Coke, who had been created Earl of Leicester in 1744, died in 1759, five years before the completion of Holkham, having never fully recovered his financial losses. Thomas had been predeceased by his only son, the rake Edward Coke, Viscount Coke (1719–1753), whose marriage to Mary Campbell proved disastrous and childless. Therefore Holkham was inherited by Thomas's nephew Wenman Coke, who died in 1776 and was succeeded by his son Thomas William Coke, later 1st Earl of Leicester of Holkham.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1967, p.669
  2. ^ Stirling, A. M. W. (1908). Coke of Norfolk and His Friends; The Life of Thomas William Coke, First Earl of Leicester of Holkham. John Lane Company, Page 62
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Sir Jacob Astley
Thomas de Grey
Member of Parliament for Norfolk
1722–1728
With: Thomas de Grey 1722-27
Sir John Hobart 1727-28
Succeeded by
Harbord Harbord
Sir Edmund Bacon
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Harrison
Edward Carteret
Postmaster General of the United Kingdom
1733–1759
With: Edward Carteret 1733-1739
Sir John Eyles 1739-1745
Everard Fawkener 1745-1759
Succeeded by
Lord Trevor
The Earl of Bessborough
Masonic offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Norfolk
Grand Master of the Premier
Grand Lodge of England

1731–1732
Succeeded by
The Viscount Montagu
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
(new creation)
Baron Lovel
1728–1759
Succeeded by
(extinct)
Earl of Leicester
1744–1759