Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ley, James (1618-1665)

LEY, JAMES, third Earl of Marlborough (1618–1665), naval captain, was the son of Henry Ley, second earl of Marlborough, and grandson of James Ley, first earl of Marlborough [q. v.] By the death of his father he succeeded to the title on 1 April 1638, and within a few weeks he was urging an old petition of his father's against the Earl of Carlisle, who had, it was alleged, bought up the interest of his grandfather in ‘the Caribbee islands,’ especially in St. Christopher's, Nevis, and Montserrat, for an annuity of 300l., which he would not pay and had not paid for eleven years. The outbreak of the civil war prevented any settlement of the claim. Marlborough threw in his lot with the king, and is spoken of as commanding the ordnance in the royal army of the west in 1643, as admiral commanding at Dartmouth in November 1643, and as commanding a squadron of ships in February 1643–4 (Doyle, Official Baronage of England). These last appointments must have been merely nominal, for the king had no naval force at sea independent of that acting in his name under the orders of the parliament.

In 1645 Marlborough took out a party of adventurers to the West Indies, and established a colony on the island of Santa Cruz. The colonists, however, found the climate unhealthy, and they were presently driven out by the Spaniards (ib.; Cal. State Papers, Colonial, America, and West Indies, 1661–8, No. 1368). In 1649 Marlborough would seem to have again attempted to found a settlement, obtaining permission from the council of state to go to sea, on his bond of 20,000l. to attempt nothing against the existing government (23 June 1649; Cal. State Papers, Dom.) The adventure apparently again failed, as there is no further notice of it, but in November 1660 he offered to the government of the Restoration a schedule of proposals concerning Jamaica, by which the plantation was to be made profitable.

Towards the end of 1661 he was appointed captain of the Dunkirk, and commodore of a squadron to go out to the East Indies, to receive Bombay from the Portuguese. For his personal expenses and outfit the king gave him 1,000l. (ib. Colonial, America, and West Indies, 20 Feb., 6 March 1662, where the intended voyage is wrongly described as to the West Indies). With five ships, carrying five hundred soldiers, under the command of Sir Abraham Shipman, he sailed in March, and arrived at Bombay on 18 Sept. 1662. On various pretexts, however, the Portuguese governor refused to deliver up the island, and as the soldiers were very sickly, he finally landed them on a small barren island near Goa, and with the squadron returned to England. On 13 June 1663 he was granted an annuity of 500l., payable out of the revenues of the Caribbee Islands (ib. 2 March 1667, No. 1432), for his own life and that of his uncle William, but whether as a reward for services or as an equivalent for the payments due from the Earl of Carlisle does not appear. In 1664 he was nominated the successor of Lord Windsor in the governorship of Jamaica (ib. 637). He did not live to go out, being killed in command of the Old James, in the action with the Dutch fleet on 3 June 1665. He was unmarried and the title passed to his uncle, William.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. i. 59; Bruce's Annals of the Hon. East India Company; a Description of the Port and Island of Bombay (1724); other authorities in the text.]

J. K. L.