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Samson Lennard and Margaret Fiennes

Updated: Feb 3, 2019

Sampson Lennard was the son of John of Lennard of Knole. While I have discovered no relationship to them, I find the tale fascinating.

Sampson commanded a body of Light Horse when England was overthrown by the Spanish Invasion in 1554-1565. He held the title of Custos Brevium of Common Pleas at one time. He married Lady Margaret "Lady Dacre" FIENNES on 10 Nov 1564 in England. She was twenty-three years old, the youngest child and only daughter of Sir Thomas FIENNES, 9th Baron Dacre, and Lady Mary NEVILLE. (The barony of Dacre was obtained by Hubert DE VAUS, who went to England with William the Conqueror). She was born in 1541. In the year of her birth, her father was hanged by order of King Henry VIII, for the murder of a gamekeeper during a hunting expedition, although Thomas was said to have not even been at the scene at the time of the assault. His lands and title were forfeited to the crown. He was only twenty-four years old and it is said that his abundant estate caused his destruction, by way of covetous courtiers. The title of Baron Dacre was later restored to Margaret's brother Gregory by Queen Elizabeth (the first), however it had lapsed in abeyance at the time of Gregory’s death.

For the first thirty years of their marriage, Sampson and Margaret lived at Chevening, about fifteen miles southeast of London. After Lady Margaret’s brother, Lord Gregory, 10th Baron Dacre died in 1594, Sampson claimed the barony on her behalf in 1604 she was declared Baroness Dacre of the South or “suo jure Baroness Dacre” by King James I of England, a title which she held until her death. Through the barony, the family acquired Hurstmonceux Castle in Sussex and relocated forty-three miles south in East Sussex. Between 1595 and 1600 Margaret’s portrait was painted by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Under English Common law, in effect since the late Middle Ages, an unmarried woman “feme sole” (single woman) was entitled to own property. After she married, though, she became “feme covert”, (a covered woman). Any property she owned or inherited was transferred to her husband. This was the custom until the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870. Sampson and Margaret , Lady Dacre, "lived much at Hurstmonceux where they were remarkable for their noble house-keeping and splendid hospitality. They did much to embellish the Castle." The Church of St. Botolph at Chevening contains splendid tombs and effigies of this couple, Sampson Lennard being represented as an armored Knight. They had three sons and five daughters whose effigies are sculptured on their parent's tomb. Mr. W.F. Pullen, London, England. (Found in “Annals of the Leonard Family” by Fanny Koster, p. 12).

He was also an English Member of Parliament during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, for several constituencies beginning in 1571 when he represented Newport (Cornwall). He represented Bramber in 1584-5, St. Mawes in 1586-7, Christchurch in 1588-89, St. Germans in 1592-93, Rye in 1597, Liskeard in 1601, and Sussex County in 1614. He was prominent in the gentry of Sussex and of Kent, where he was High Sheriff from 1590-1591. “Visitations of Kent” taken in 1574 and 1592 list the following children for Sampson and Margarett (sic, Old English): “Henry Lennard, sonne and heire, Gregory, Thomas, John, Anne, Mary, Margaret, Frances, and Elizabeth. Lady Margaret died on 16 Mar 1612 at Chevening. Sampson died on 20 Sep 1615. Their younger son, Sir Henry LENNARD (1570-1616), succeeded his mother as 12th Baron Dacre. The title 0f Dacre was retained and the castle was kept in the family for over a hundred years. Later, Thomas LEONARD, Earl of Sussex, sold Hurstmonceux to George NAYLOR. It still stands today, considered one of England’s finest examples of 15th Century art, a noble, dignified, and eloquent reminder of a time long since passed. At St. Botolph’s Church, the tombs of Sampson & Margaret can be seen. The tomb features figures of a man in armor and a woman in robes resting their heads on pillows. A ducal crown is at his feet, and a dog is at hers, symbols of heraldry. Kneeling on one side are their three sons, one wearing robes, the other two wearing armor. Kneeling on the other side are their five daughters. There are six coats of arms on top, displaying their quarterings. The children of Sampson and Margaret were:

  • Henry, 12th Baron Dacre (born 25 Mar 1569-70 in Chevening, Kent, died 10 Aug 1616 at Hurstmonceux, married Chrysogna BAKER in 1589 in Chevening, accompanied the Earl of Sussex in the taking of Cales in 1596 and was knighted there, sat of trial of Robert Carr, had a son named Richard who died in 1630),

  • Gregory LEONARD (born 25 Oct 1573, died childless on Feb 1617 or 1620),

  • Thomas LEONARD (born 23 May 1577 in Chevening, Kent, died unmarried),

  • John LEONARD (“Visitations of Kent” includes a son named John as Sampson and Margaret’s fourth son, though no further information is found. Sampson’s epitaph indicates that out of seven sons, three survived and four “extinguished”. “Henry, Baron Dacre, Gregory, and Thomas survived. The other four in infancy extinguished, and the five remaining of 6 daughters, one of which perished.”),

  • Anne LEONARD (born about 1579 in Chevening, Kent, married Herbert MORLEY. She died 19 Sep 1624),

  • Mary LEONARD (born about 1588 in Chevening, Kent, England, married Sir Ralph Bosville),

  • Margaret LEONARD (born about 1592 in Chevening, Kent, married Sir Thomas WALLER, by whom she had issue, including Parliamentarian soldier Sir William WALLER),

  • Frances LEONARD (born 1586 in Chevening, Kent, married Sir Robert MOORE, 1607. She died in 1625.

  • Elizabeth LEONARD, born about 1581 in Chevening, Kent, died Dec 1631, married Francis BARNHAM, 1599, by whom she had issue.

More information about this family can be found here:

And don't miss the Leonard page!


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