John Leake

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For other people named John Leake, see John Leake (disambiguation).
Sir John Leake
John Leake by Godfrey Kneller.jpg
Sir John Leake by Godfrey Kneller
Born (1656-07-04)4 July 1656
Rotherhithe, London
Died 20 August 1720(1720-08-20) (aged 64)
Greenwich, London
Buried at St Dunstan's, Stepney, London
Allegiance  England (to 1707)
 Great Britain
Service/branch  Royal Navy (1664–1707)
 Royal Navy (1707–1714)
Years of service 1673–1714
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Commands held HMS Firedrake
HMS Dartmouth
HMS Oxford
HMS Eagle
HMS Plymouth
HMS Ossory
HMS Kent
HMS Berwick
HMS Britannia
HMS Association
Battles/wars Third Anglo-Dutch War
Nine Years' War
War of the Spanish Succession
Other work MP for Rochester

Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Leake (4 July 1656 – 21 August 1720) was a Royal Navy officer and politician. As a junior officer he saw action at the Battle of Texel during the Third Anglo-Dutch War. He then distinguished himself when he led the convoy that broke the barricading boom at Culmore Fort thereby lifting the Siege of Derry during the Williamite War in Ireland. As a captain he saw action in some of the heaviest fighting (70 of his men were killed) at the Battle of Barfleur and was also involved in a successful attack on the French ships at the Battle of La Hogue during the Nine Years' War.

Leake went on to be Commander-in-Chief, Newfoundland and then, as a flag officer, served as Second-in-Command to Admiral George Rooke at the Capture of Gibraltar and he commanded the vanguard in the Battle of Málaga during the War of the Spanish Succession. He later returned to Gibraltar with a combined English, Dutch and Portuguese force of 35 ships and defeated Baron de Pointis at the Battle of Cabrita Point.

Leake also served under Sir Cloudesley Shovell and the Earl of Peterborough at the Siege of Barcelona and was present at the capitulation of the city by French and Spanish forces. A further siege took place between when a Franco-Spanish army led by Philip V of Spain laid siege to Barcelona in an attempt to recapture it. The Franco-Spanish army abandoned the siege when Leake arrived. Leake later captured Sardinia and landed the Earl of Stanhope with forces that took the well-fortified harbour of Port Mahon on Minorca.

Leake served as Member of Parliament for Rochester from 1708 to 1715 and as First Lord of the Admiralty from 1710 to 1712.

Early career[edit]

Born the son of Richard Leake, a master gunner, and Elizabeth Leake, Leake joined the Royal Navy in early 1673.[1] He was assigned to the first-rate HMS Royal Prince, flagship of Admiral Sir Edward Spragge, and saw action at the Battle of Texel in August 1673 during the Third Anglo-Dutch War. He left the Royal Navy when the War ended in 1674 and served in merchant vessels but rejoined in 1766 and became master gunner in the second-rate HMS Neptune in 1683. Promoted to commander on 24 September 1688, he was given command of the bomb vessel HMS Firedrake and saw action under Battle of Bantry Bay in May 1689 during the Nine Years' War.[2]

The Battle of Barfleur, where Leake commanded the third-rate HMS Eagle in some of the heaviest fighting (70 of his men were killed)

Promoted to captain on 3 May 1689, Leake was given command of the fifth-rate HMS Dartmouth; he distinguished himself when he led the convoy that broke the barricading boom at Culmore Fort thereby lifting the Siege of Derry in July 1689 during the Williamite War in Ireland.[2] He transferred to the command of the fourth-rate HMS Oxford in the Mediterranean Fleet in October 1689 and to the command of the third-rate HMS Eagle in May 1690 and saw action in some of the heaviest fighting (70 of his men were killed) at the Battle of Barfleur in May 1692. Leake also commanded HMS Eagle, by then flagship of Vice-Admiral George Rooke, in a successful attack on the French ships at the Battle of La Hogue later that month.[3] He transferred to the command of the third-rate HMS Plymouth on convoy protection duties in December 1692 and to the command of the second-rate HMS Ossory in the Mediterranean Fleet in July 1693.[4]

Leake was given command of the third-rate HMS Kent on a mission to transport troops to Ireland in May 1699 and then transferred to the command of the third-rate HMS Berwick in January 1701.[5] He took command of the first-rate HMS Britannia, flagship of the Earl of Pembroke, on an expedition to Cádiz in January 1702, and then transferred to the command of the second-rate HMS Association in June 1702.[6]

Promoted to commodore on 24 June 1702, Leake became Commander-in-Chief, Newfoundland, with his broad pennant in the fourth-rate HMS Exeter.[6] He sailed with eight ships with orders to attack the French fishing harbours and their ships at sea at this early stage of the War of the Spanish Succession. In this expedition 51 enemy ships were taken or destroyed. While in Newfoundland Leake also reported on the failure of the local people to observe legislation prohibiting trade with New England.[7]

Senior command[edit]

The Battle of Málaga at which Leake commanded the vanguard

Promoted to rear admiral on 9 December 1702, Leake became Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth in January 1703. Promoted to vice admiral on March 1703, he sailed, with his flag in the second-rate HMS Prince George, in a fleet dispatched under Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell to take troops to Lisbon in Spring 1703. Although his ship was caught in the great storm of December 1703, it suffered no serious damage.[8]

Knighted in February 1704, Leake served as Second-in-Command to Admiral George Rooke at the Capture of Gibraltar in August 1704 and he commanded the vanguard in the Battle of Málaga later in the month.[9] In October 1704 Field Marshal Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt sent a message to Leake at Lisbon requesting his urgent assistance after the appearance of French ships in the Bay of Gibraltar. Leake set sail at once, bringing more supplies for the defenders who were caught in what became known as the Twelfth Siege of Gibraltar.[10] Leake arrived with twenty ships and, in the subsequent naval engagement, six French frigates were destroyed and a seventh ship was captured intact. With Gibraltar safe for the moment, Leake left for Lisbon in January 1705 with the sick and wounded members of the garrison aboard his ships.[11] He became Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet in later that month and returned to Gibraltar with a combined English, Dutch and Portuguese force of 35 ships and defeated Baron de Pointis at the Battle of Cabrita Point in March 1705.[12] The combined French and Spanish Fleet under Marshal Tessé gave up the siege as hopeless following an order from King Louis XIV of France in April 1705.[13]

The London Gazette dated 14 May 1705 detailing the return of Leake from Gibraltar after the Battle of Cabrita Point.
St Mary's Church in Beddington where Leake donated a new altarpiece, communion-table, rails and pavement for the chancel in 1710

Leake served under Sir Cloudesley Shovell and the Earl of Peterborough at the Siege of Barcelona and was present at the capitulation of the city by French and Spanish forces in October 1705. A further siege took place between in April 1706 when a Franco-Spanish army led by Philip V of Spain laid siege to Barcelona in an attempt to recapture it. The Franco-Spanish army abandoned the siege when Leake arrived in May 1706. On the way back, he supported operations to capture Cartagena in May 1706, Alicante in July 1706, Ibiza in September 1706 and Majorca later that month.[14] Leake was promoted to full admiral, appointed Commander in Chief of the Navy and given authority to fly the flag of an Admiral of the Fleet on 8 January 1708.[1]

Leake was appointed a member of the council of the Lord High Admiral (an office vested at that time in Prince George of Denmark) in June 1708 and elected Member of Parliament for Member of Parliament for Harwich in May 1708 and Member of Parliament for Rochester in July 1708. He could not represent both seats and chose to represent the latter.[15]

Meanwhile, back in the Mediterranean, Leake captured Sardinia in August 1708 and landed the Earl of Stanhope with forces that took the well-fortified harbour of Port Mahon on Minorca in September 1708. He was re-appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Navy for an expedition to the Baltic Sea in December 1708 and, after being appointed Rear-Admiral of Great Britain on 24 May 1709, went on to become a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty on the Admiralty board led by the Earl of Orford in November 1709.[16] In Parliament he supported the prosecution of Henry Sacheverell in Spring 1710.[15] Later that year he donated a new altarpiece, communion-table, rails and pavement for the chancel at St Mary's Church in Beddington where he owned a country house.[17]

Leake became First Lord of the Admiralty in the Harley Ministry in November 1710, but declined to take a political position in that role, and was re-appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Navy for expeditions in January 1711 (for trade protection in the Channel) and in April 1712[18] (for an attack on Dunkirk).[19] He stood down as First Lord in September 1712 but was re-appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Navy for yet another expedition in March 1713 before resigning as a Lord Commissioner in October 1714.[16] Knowing that he would be perceived as a Tory, following his active involvement in the Harley Ministry, he stood down from Parliament immediately prior to the general election in 1715.[15]

Leake died at his town house in Greenwich on 21 August 1720 and was buried at St Dunstan's, Stepney.[20] He was described by John Campbell as a "virtuous, humane and gallant man, and one of the greatest admirals of his time."[21]

Family[edit]

In around 1681 Leake married Christiane Hill, daughter of Captain Richard Hill; they had one son.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "John Leake". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 24 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Campbell, p. 78
  3. ^ Campbell, p. 80
  4. ^ Campbell, p. 81
  5. ^ Campbell, p. 83
  6. ^ a b Campbell, p. 84
  7. ^ "John Leake". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved 24 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Campbell, p. 85
  9. ^ Campbell, p. 86
  10. ^ Jackson, p. 107
  11. ^ Jackson, p. 109
  12. ^ Jackson, p. 111
  13. ^ Alexander, p. 64
  14. ^ Campbell, p. 93
  15. ^ a b c "Leake, Sir John (1656-1720), of Mile End, Stepney, Middlesex and Beddington, Surrey". History of Parliament. Retrieved 24 May 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "Sainty, J. C., Lord High Admiral and Commissioners of the Admiralty 1660-1870', Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 4: Admiralty Officials 1660-1870 (1975), pp. 18-31.". Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  17. ^ Lysons, Daniel (1792). "'Beddington', in The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey". London. p. 49-67. Retrieved 24 May 2015. 
  18. ^ The London Gazette: no. 4989. p. 2. 8 April 1712. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  19. ^ The London Gazette: no. 5029. p. 3. 10 July 1712. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  20. ^ Campbell, p. 101
  21. ^ Campbell, p. 103

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Callender, Geoffrey (2007). The Life of Sir John Leake. 52 & 53. Navy Records Society 1893–2006. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Edward Russell
First Lord of the Admiralty
1710–1712
Succeeded by
Earl of Strafford
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Ellis
Thomas Davall
Member of Parliament for Harwich
May 1708–December 1708
With: Thomas Frankland
Succeeded by
Kenrick Edisbury
Thomas Frankland
Preceded by
Sir Cloudesley Shovell
Sir Stafford Fairborne
Member of Parliament for Rochester
1708–1715
With: Sir Stafford Fairborne to 1710
William Cage from 1710
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Palmer, Bt
Sir John Jennings
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Vacant
Rear-Admiral of Great Britain
1709–1714
Succeeded by
Vacant