Sir John Leake (4 July 1656 – 21 August 1720) was an English flag officer and politician during the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Leake, a full admiral, served in the House of Commons from 1708 to 1715.
Leake was born at Rotherhithe, the second son of Richard Leake, Master Gunner of England. Whilst a captain he distinguished himself in several engagements, especially on 28 July 1689, when he led the convoy that broke the barricading boom at Culmore Fort, thus lifting the Siege of Derry. During the War of the Grand Alliance, he fought at Bantry Bay (1689), Beachy Head (1690) and La Hogue (1692).
Soon after the War of the Spanish Succession was declared, Leake was appointed captain of HMS Exeter and sailed from Plymouth, 22 July 1702, with eight ships to Newfoundland, to attack the French fishing harbours and their ships at sea. In this expedition 51 ships were taken or destroyed. Of these, 16 were brought to England, 6 were sent to Lisbon, 5 were sold at St. John's, one was left there for the security of the harbour, and one other sent to France with the prisoners. The remaining 22 were burnt. He also had destroyed all French settlements at Newfoundland. Upon his return to England, Leake was made Rear-Admiral and offered a knighthood, which he declined. The following March he was promoted to Vice-Admiral.
In 1704 Leake was sent to the Mediterranean and took part in the assault and capture of Gibraltar under Admiral George Rooke. The next month he helped to repel a French counterattack during the Twelfth Siege of Gibraltar, commanding the vanguard on HMS Prince George in the Battle of Vélez-Málaga. The next year, on 21 March 1705, he repelled a second attack on Gibraltar, beating Pointis in the Battle of Cabrita Point. The French and Spanish under Marshal Tessé gave up the siege after this defeat.
In 1706 the French tried to retake Barcelona, which had been taken by Sir Cloudesley Shovell and the Earl of Peterborough in September 1705. Shovell had returned to England, and Leake, who was left with a squadron in the Mediterranean, sailed to Barcelona and lifted the siege on 22 May. On the way back, he bombarded and captured Cartagena and Alicante.
Leake was made full Admiral in 1707 and he took Sardinia on 15 August 1708. On 29 September he landed Stanhope with forces from Barcelona who took the well-fortified harbour of Port Mahon on Menorca. This gave the allies a permanent all season base to dominate the Mediterranean, a strategic success of the first order.
In 1708, Leake was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Rochester. He held the seat until 1715. He was made first lord of the Admiralty in 1710. On the accession of George I of England, he fell from favour and retired into private life.
Leake died at Greenwich aged 64 and was buried at Stepney church. He was described as a "virtuous, humane and gallant man, and one of the greatest admirals of his time."
Leake married Christiane Hill, daughter of Captain Richard Hill.
- Publications of the Navy Records Society 1893–2006 (Volumes 52 & 53, The Life of Sir John Leake, Vols. I & II, ed. Geoffrey Callender)
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- Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
- The Newfoundland expedition
- Bombardment of Alicante
|First Lord of the Admiralty
Earl of Strafford
|Parliament of Great Britain|
Sir Cloudesley Shovell
Sir Stafford Fairborne
|Member of Parliament for Rochester
With: Sir Stafford Fairborne to 1710
William Cage from 1710
Sir Thomas Palmer, Bt
Sir John Jennings
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