Sir John Peyton

IMG 6560Sir John Peyton

Peyton, Sir John (1544–1630), soldier and administrator, born between February and December 1544, was the second son of John Peyton of Knowlton, Kent (d. 1558), and his wife, Dorothy, daughter of Sir John Tyndale. Before 1564 Peyton served in Ireland under his father's friend and neighbour Sir Henry Sidney of Penshurst, and in 1568 he was again in Ireland with Sidney, then lord deputy. He became a member of Sidney's household and sometimes bore dispatches to England for him. On 8 June 1578 he married Dorothy, the only child of Edward Beaupré of Beaupré Hall, Outwell, Norfolk, and his second wife, Catherine Beddingfield, and the widow of Sir Robert Bell (d. 1577). From his wife's large property, Peyton gained a position in the county of Norfolk. She died in February 1603.

In 1586 Peyton served under the earl of Leicester with the expedition to the Netherlands. In 1586–7 he was lieutenant-governor of Bergen op Zoom, and was often effectively in command there in Willoughby's absence. He was knighted in 1586, and in 1588 was appointed colonel in the forces for the defence of the queen's person against the threatened attack of the Spanish Armada. He was granted the receivership of the counties of Norfolk and Huntingdon and of the city of Norwich in 1593. In 1596 he was appointed one of three deputy lieutenants of Cambridgeshire under Roger, Lord North, treasurer of the household, and in 1602 he was appointed deputy lieutenant of the same county under Thomas, Lord Howard de Walden.

Peyton was appointed lieutenant of the Tower of London in June 1597, and it was in that capacity that he examined several witnesses in the trial of Essex and was present at Essex's execution. On 10 December 1600 he was appointed to the commission to investigate controversies and abuses in the ordnance office. A report was written detailing the abuses and proposing wide-ranging reforms. Peyton was discharged from the lieutenancy of the Tower on 30 July 1603 and appointed, apparently in accordance with his own wishes, governor of Jersey, a post forfeited by attainder of its previous holder, Sir Walter Ralegh. Ralegh had been under Peyton's care as a prisoner in the Tower, and his 'strange and dejected mind' had caused concern to Peyton, for whom he would send several times a day in his passions of grief (BL, Add. MS 6177, fols. 127–8). Later, in January 1604, Peyton was, according to a letter from Dudley Carleton to John Chamberlain, disgraced for entertaining intelligence between Cobham and Ralegh.

Peyton took the usual form of oath as governor before the royal court of Jersey on 10 September 1603. Peter Heylyn states that Peyton tried to do away with the Calvinist form of church government then current in Jersey and to introduce the established church there, but that does not seem to have been his intention immediately upon his appointment. In fact, James I, believing it to have been sanctioned by Elizabeth, expressly permitted the continuation of the French Calvinist form of church government in Jersey and Guernsey. There was a dispute between Peyton and the Jersey colloquy in 1604 over the manner of the appointment of a minister to a benefice, but generally Peyton seems to have been on good terms with the ministers during his early years in office, and sometimes attended and participated in the colloquy meetings. His relationship with the colloquy deteriorated when they took issue with his appointment of a chaplain in 1609. Following a dispute in 1613 over the refusal of Peyton's episcopally ordained candidate for a vacant benefice in Jersey to submit to the laying on of hands of the ministers, delegations were summoned to England in 1614, one favouring the continuation of the status quo and another supporting the introduction of the usages of the Church of England to Jersey. The final outcome was the appointment of David Bandinel as dean in 1620 and the promulgation of the ecclesiastical canons for Jersey in 1623: these together represented the end of the Calvinist form of church government in the island and its bringing into the reformed Church of England.

The period of Peyton's governorship saw much strife in Jersey over civil matters, and Peyton was involved in constant disputes with Sir Philippe de Carteret, with Philippe Maret, and, most of all, with the bailiff Jean Herault. The dispute between Peyton and Herault over the relationship of the bailiff and governor led to a suit resulting in the judgment of 1617 declaring that the charge of the military forces rested only in the governor: this judgment has ever since been regarded as a principle fundamental to the government of the island. During the time of his residence in Jersey, Peyton seems to have conscientiously supervised the defence and fortifications of the island, and many of his records relating to the military care of the island survive in the state papers.

Peyton's friends included Sir Philip Sidney, Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby de Eresby, and Henry Cuffe, Essex's secretary. He died on 4 November 1630 and was buried on 15 December at Doddington in the Isle of Ely, where he had had his private residence since his wife's death. Though it was stated by John Lewis Peyton that he was ninety-nine at the time of his death, and the monument of his great-granddaughter Mrs Alice Lowe, in Christ Church, Oxford, gives his age at death as 105, from his own statements of his age as seventy-nine in February 1624 and eighty in December 1624 it appears that Peyton was in fact eighty-six.

Sir John Peyton (1579–1635)Peyton's only son, Sir John Peyton (1579–1635), matriculated as a fellow-commoner of Queens' College, Cambridge, in 1594. From 1598 to 1600 he travelled extensively in Germany, Bohemia, Poland, Switzerland, and Italy: the detailed account of these travels which he addressed to his father survives in manuscript in Cambridge University Library. He married, on 25 November 1602, a relative, Alice, the second daughter of Sir John Peyton of Isleham in Cambridgeshire. They had three sons, Robert, Algernon, and Henry, and six daughters, Elizabeth, Alice, Dorothy, Frances, Susanna, and Anne. Alice, who was born in 1607 or 1608, in 1633 married Edward Lowe, a gentleman of Salisbury who became master of the choristers and organist of Christ Church, Oxford. Peyton served as lieutenant to his father as governor of Jersey in 1607 and intermittently from 1618 until his father's death. He was knighted on 28 March 1603. He died early in 1635; his wife was the sole executor of his will, dated 24 February 1635. She was buried at Doddington on 28 March 1637.