Sir John Leake


Sir John Leake (1656-1720) 1722 John Faber Jr, after 1712 original, by Sir Godfrey Kneller


British admiral. Born at Rotherhithe in 1656, the son of a naval officer, John Leake served with his father as a boy on board Royal Prince in 1673 and then in merchant ships before returning to the navy. In 1688 he commanded Firedrake in Earl of Dartmouth Admiral George Legge’s fleet and was with Admiral Arthur Herbert in the 1 May 1689 Battle of Bantry Bay, setting fire to the French ship Diamant (54).

Promoted immediately in consequence, Leake commanded Dartmouth (40) and joined Admiral Sir George Rooke to cut the boom in the 28 July 1689 siege of Londonderry. In the 19 May 1692 Battle of Barfleur, Leake commanded Eagle (70), and in the 22–24 May Battle of La Hogue, Rooke flew his flag in her. Leake served in the Mediterranean under Admiral Edward Russell, Earl of Orford, in 1694 and 1695–1697. In July 1702 he was appointed governor and commander in chief, Newfoundland, where he successfully attacked the French fishery.

Promoted to rear admiral in December 1702, Leake rose to vice admiral in 1703 and accompanied Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell to the Mediterranean. Knighted in February 1704, he next served under Rooke at Gibraltar and in the 13 August 1704 Battle of Vélez-Málaga. On the fleet’s departure, Shovell left Leake in command.

Provisioning at Lisbon when the French under de Pontis attacked Gibraltar, Leake returned, surprised them, and took 3 frigates and 5 smaller ships on 25 October. Again the French returned, and on 10 March 1705, Leake, reinforced by Sir Thomas Dilkes and with 35 ships of the line, forced their withdrawal, capturing or destroying 5. In 1706 he served under Shovell and Charles Mourdant, third earl of Peterborough, in operations leading to the capture of Barcelona. On Shovell’s departure in January 1706, Leake was left in command.

Operating at times in defiance of Peterborough’s orders, Leake successfully relieved Barcelona in April 1706. Subsequently, he took Cartagena, Alicante, Majorca, and Ibiza. On Shovell’s death, he was appointed to command in the Mediterranean in 1708. An Admiralty commissioner, 1709–1714, he was named first in the 1710–1712 commission but declined to be first lord, apparently acting as chairman through the remainder of Queen Anne’s reign. He served as MP for Rochester, 1708–1714. Not employed under King George I, he died in Greenwich on 21 August 1720.


Callender, Geoffrey, ed. The Life of Sir John Leake, Rear Admiral of Great Britain, by Stephen Martin-Leake. Publications of the Navy Records Society. Vols. 52, 53. London: Navy Records Society, 1920.

Hattendorf, John B. “Leake, Sir John.” In New Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *