Richard Leveson (died 1699)

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Richard Leveson
Born12 July 1659
DiedMarch 1699
UnitLeveson's Dragoons
Third Regiment of Horse
Battles/warsNine Years War
Battle of the Boyne
Battle of Aughrim
AwardsMP for Lichfield 1685-87
MP for Newport 1692-95
Governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed 1691-1699

Richard Leveson was an English soldier and politician who served under James II and then William III after the 1688 Glorious Revolution. He was Member of Parliament for Lichfield 1685–1687 and for Newport, Isle of Wight from 1692–1695.[1]


Dudley Castle; Thomas Leveson commanded the Royalist garrison 1643-46.

Richard Leveson was the eldest son of Robert Leveson and Sarah Povey, member of a wealthy merchant family from Wolverhampton in Staffordshire. During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, his Catholic grandfather Thomas held Dudley Castle for Charles I from 1643-46 and was one of 25 former Royalists listed by Parliament in 1651 as subject to 'perpetual banishment and confiscation;' he died in exile on 8 September 1652. [2] Their relatives included Sir Richard Leveson (1598-1661) of Trentham Hall, who was also a Royalist as well as the Leveson-Gower family.

Despite the losses caused by the Civil Wars, in 1660 Robert Leveson's annual income was still around £700, a comfortable income for the period.[1] Records show Robert Leveson was closely involved in Staffordshire politics, for example helping the Government implement the 1661 Corporation Act in the boroughs.[3] While neither Richard or Robert were Catholic, they were a substantial and important county family with a record of loyalty to the Crown. They were also connected to the future James II through Sarah's father Thomas Povey, his Treasurer from 1660-1668.[a]


When James became King in February 1685, Richard Leveson was appointed Groom of the Chamber; the function of such positions was less important than the status which indicated physical proximity and thus the King's favour. In May, Leveson was elected as one of two Members of Parliament for Lichfield in what became known as the Loyal Parliament.[4]

Turning point; the Seven Bishops greet the crowd after their acquittal, June 1688

In June 1685, he was Captain of a troop of dragoons when the Monmouth revolt broke out; the rebellion itself quickly collapsed but James II expanded his army as a result. In August 1685 Leveson's troop became part of a new regiment, the Queen Consort's Light Dragoons, with Alexander Cannon as Lt-Colonel and the Duke of Somerset as Colonel.[b][5] Cannon was promoted Colonel when the Duke of Somerset fell from favour in August 1687, with Leveson as Lt-Colonel.

In late 1687, James acted to ensure a Parliament that would vote for his Declaration of Indulgence; anyone who wished to stand for election had first to confirm support for the repeal of the 1678 Test Act, a measure requiring holders of public office to swear to uphold 'the Protestant religion.'[6] His father Robert confirmed his willingness to do so but Richard refused; combined with the trial of the Seven Anglican bishops for seditious libel in June 1688, many of James' supporters now viewed his policies as going beyond toleration for Catholicism into an assault on the Church of England. The vast majority now abandoned him; the seven signatories of the Invitation to William asking him to assume the English throne included representatives from the Tories, the Whigs, the Church and the Navy.

Battle of the Boyne, July 1690

William III landed at Torbay on 5 November 1688 in the invasion known as the Glorious Revolution; with the exception of Cannon, Leveson and the majority of the Regiment defected, an action leading to his exclusion from a General Amnesty issued by James in May 1692. William appointed him Colonel in place of Cannon; the regiment now became known as 'Leveson's Dragoons,' since they were then considered the property of their Colonel and changed names when transferred.[7]

The regiment was in Ireland during the 1689-1691 Williamite War in Ireland and fought at the Boyne in July 1690, Leveson being promoted Brigadier-General.[5] While on leave in London in early 1691, he fought a duel with Sir Henry Belasyse, a fellow officer in Ireland.[8] At this time, he was also appointed Governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed, a position he held until his death, although mostly absent.

Jacobite defeat at Aughrim in August 1691 led to the Treaty of Limerick ending the war in Ireland; his regiment returned to England in February 1692 and December was returned as MP for Newport, Isle of Wight.[9] On 19 January 1694, he transferred to the Third Regiment of Horse and returned to full time military service in Flanders.[5] He did not stand for Parliament in 1695 and remained in Flanders until the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 ended the Nine Years War. He died in March 1699.


Richard Leveson did not marry, although he left money in his will to two illegitimate sons with the balance going to his two brothers. His father Robert outlived him, dying on 6 June 1709.


  1. ^ Samuel Pepys records him as being 'a wretched accountant;' in 1668 Povey sold his position as James' Treasurer for £2,000.
  2. ^ Commissions were private assets that could be bought, sold or used as an investment and many Colonels played no active military role.


  1. ^ a b Members Constituencies Parliaments Surveys. "LEVESON, Richard (1659-99), of Wolverhampton, Staffs". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 2018-02-14.
  2. ^ Smith, G (2003). The Cavaliers in Exile 1640-1660 (2014 ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. p. 55. ISBN 1349510718.
  3. ^ Halliday, Paul (2008). Dismembering the Body Politic: Partisan Politics in England's Towns, 1650-1730. Cambridge University Press. p. 93. ISBN 0521526043.
  4. ^ Henning, Basil (1794). The House of Commons, 1660-1690, (1983 ed.). Haynes Publishing. p. 386.
  5. ^ a b c Cannon, Richard (1846). Historical Record of the Third or King's Own Regiment of Light Dragoons (2015 ed.). Forgotten Books. ISBN 1-330-44220-2. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  6. ^ Miller, John (January 2012). "Book Review; James II and the Three Questions: Religious Toleration and the Landed Classes, 1687–1688 by Peter Walker". Catholic Historical Review. 98 (1): 127–129. A good summary of the background to the Three Questions.
  7. ^ Chandler David, Beckett Ian (1996). The Oxford History Of The British Army (2002 ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 52. ISBN 0-19-280311-5.
  8. ^ Hayton, D(ed), Cruickshanks, E (ed), Handly, S (ed). "Belasyse, Sir Henry (c.1648-1717), of Potto, Yorks. and Brancepeth Castle, co. Durham". The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  9. ^ Hayton, D(ed), Cruickshanks, E (ed), Handly, S (ed). "Leveson, Richard (c.1659-1699), of Wolverhampton, Staffs". The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715. Retrieved 26 September 2018.