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Dr. Leonard Poe, physician in the court of James I and Charles II of England


Will of  Dr. Poe  Excerpt from essay on Jacobean physicians regarding Dr. Poe


Through the research of British historian, Sir Edmund Thomas Bewley and others we learn that one of the earliest well-known members of the Poe family in England was Dr. Leonard Poe. Dr. Poe died in 1631. According to Bewley’s research, Dr. Leonard Poe died without male heir. In other words, his sons did not leave male descendants. He states that the line “went extinct.” My own research bears this out. Nonetheless, it is clear that Dr. Poe was a member of the Poe family that seems to have originated in Nottinghamshire. While no one alive today is his direct descendant, many of us with the Poe surname are collateral relatives.


His funeral certificate states that Dr. Leonard was the son of James Poe, son of Richard Poe of Poesfeld in the County of Derby. In his long and involved will, most of his estate went to his favored son, James, and to his nephew, Robert Poe (being an apprentice unto one Mr. Harris, a shoemaker in London).The testator gave 10 pounds to be paid to him at the end of his apprenticeship. He gave 5 pounds to his sister, Beverly, or if she died, to her eldest daughter. He also gave to brother, Anthony Poe, 10 pounds and to testator's cousin, William Poe, dwelling with one Richard Holman, gentleman, the sum of 10 pounds.


These are the three known sons of Dr. Leonard Poe. This is what we know about them from Bewley’s research:


  1. Leonard Poe (eldest). Appears to have been born non compos mentis (mentally incompetent).
  2. James Poe, became Fellow of King's College, Cambridge and a Master of Arts of the University. Lived with his wife Jane (or Julian) at Swindon Hall, Kirkey-Overblow, Yorkshire. Their daughter, Anne, was married on January 1, 1660/1 to Thomas Jenner.
  3. Theophilus Poe, matriculated from Broadgate Hall, Oxford on February 6, 1623/4; but he did not proceed to a degree, and is described in his father's will as "of unthriftie livinge."


We know of these daughters from Dr. Leonard Poe's will:


1, An unnamed daughter marred David Ramsey

            children: William Ramsey

                           Frances Ramsey

2. An unnamed daughter married a Mr. Grint

3. An unnamed daughter married a Mr. Bastwicke (the will says "sone and daughter Bastwicke." The will also says "son" David Ramsey . The terms son and son-in-law seem to be interchangeable in the will).


Dionisia Bastwicke

Judith Bastwicke

4. An unnamed daughter married John Hankinson


We know of these relatives from Dr. Leonard Poe's will:

Robert Poe is named as a nephew and noted to be at the time an apprentice unto one Mr Harris a shoomaker of London


We know from Dr. Leonard's will that he had a brother:

Anthony Poe (this is, according to Bewley, Anthony Poe of Papplewick, Nottinghamshire, England).


There is an interesting assortment of "friends" and servants listed in the will as well. There may be a reference to a mistress and children born outside his legal marriage.



"The Dictionary of National Biography Earliest Times", Volume XVI (see references), has an article that states Dr. Leonard Poe died April 4, 1631. He is said to have been a physician from Rhenish Palatinate. In 1590 he served the Earl of Essex who got a license (MD) for Leonard 7-13-1596. He had several legal troubles during the various reins under which he served. See essay that includes much data on Dr. Leonard Poe at the following link (note the PDF format, you will need Acrobat Viewer): Dr. Leonard Poe Essay. It is not so that Dr. Poe was “Rhenish.” His will makes it clear that he was of the Nottingham Poe family who had been in that area at least since the early 1500s. Bewley explains that people of the Poe surname seeking to add scope to their pedigree when they applied for a coat of arms developed this fiction.


This is from American historical association. Historical manuscripts commission. Report 8, Part i, page 228 (see references)

1598, June 30, Leonard was imprisoned and lost license but retained his reputation with his patients and community. 1606, Dec. 11 License was returned with no restrictions due to Earls of South & North Hampton and Salisbury.

1609, Jan 12 Leonard was made the dr. of the Kings household.

1609, July 7th was elected to College of Physicians

1615, July 22 was mandated to be Created Medical Dr and obtained a degree at Cambridge.

1621 April Was one of three attended Lord Treasurer of Salisbury and attended to his death.


Here is why Dr. Leonard Poe is of any concern to Samuel Poe research, and the American Poe family in general. Dr. Leonard Poe was granted land by James I, King of England, through the Second Virginia Charter (May 23, 1609)

See: Second Virginia Charter


Information on this charter can also be found in Hening's Statutes at Large, Vol. I (1619-1660) p.82. (see references).


No evidence had been found showing a transferal of this grant to any of Dr. Leonard Poe’s relatives or friends. He may have sold his rights to the grant. Some evidence indicates that Dr. Leonard Poe retained some kind of interest in the Virginia Colony.


Correspondence between Jamestown and London includes the mention of a Mr. and Mrs. Poe. I do not know what other Mr. Poe this could be except Dr. Leonard Poe and his wife, Dionisia Boone. However, this is pure conjecture based on the charter mentioning Dr. Poe and knowing he resided in London, the city referenced by the letter.


The following letter is a summary of online data at the Library of Virginia, Colonial Records Database. This is a verbatim copy of the abstract available on the Library of Virginia site.


Here is a JPG image of the TIFF file at the Library of Virginia repository noted above.

Image of the Abstract


Depository: Magdalene College, Cambridge, Ferrar Papers, Box xii, No. 1255

Title: Sir George Yeardley. Letter to Sir Edwin Sandys.

Dates: 27 Jun 1621

References: C. M. Andrews, Guide to Manuscripts Materials, 1908, pp. 429-30;

S. M. Kingsbury, Introduction to the Records of the Virginia Company, 1905,

p. 148; Records of the Virginia Company, 1906-35, vol. III, pp. 462-4 (full


Yeardley, in reply to Sandys' brief letter sent by The Abigail, expresses his great joy at hearing of the election of his successor (Sir Francis Wyatt), promises to do his utmost for him, and hopes that he and Sandys's brother will arrive safely. Yeardley promises to attend to Sandy's request concerning Mr. and Mrs. Poe*. He has commended Mr. Arondell to Captain Nuce; of Mr. Lapworth and Captain Smyth he will write in his letter to the General Company. He has written at large both to the General Company and to the Society of Southhampton Hundred by The Margaret and John and other ships.

From James City, 27 June 1621, to Sir Edwin Sandys, knight, one of His Majesty's Council for Virginia, at London.


* Note that in this record from the reign of Charles I, Dr. Poe is referred to as “Mr.”

Middlesex: - Rolls, Books and Certificates, Indictments, Recognizances, Coroners' Inquisitions-Post-Mortem, Orders, Memoranda and Certificates, 1625-1667, vol. 3


  Recognizances and Indictments Taken from Sessions of Peace Rolls Temp. Charles 1st.


County: Middlesex

Country: England

07 Oct , 4 Charles 1st.--Recognizances, taken before George Longe esq. J. P., of John Hill yoman and Robert Hill oatemealemaker, in the sum of twenty pounds each; For the appearance of the said John Hill at the next S. P. for Middlesex, to answer &c. "for rudelie and wilfully running with his carte against the coache of Mr. Doctor Poe and breakinge the axe-tree thereof." S. P. R., . . . Dec , 4 Charles 1st.


So, the governor of the Jamestown Colony, Sir George Yeardley, promises to “attend” to some request made by Mr. and Mrs. Poe. In 1621, we know that Dr. Leonard was in England attending to the death of Lord Treasurer of Salisbury. Whatever the request was, it made through Sir Edwin Sandys, in London.


In the Second Virginia Charter mentioned above, with the name of Dr. Poe, we also find the names:


Sir Samuell Sandys, Knight

George Sanndys

Henry Sandys, and

Edwin Sandys, the sonnes of Sir Edwin Sandys


It is likely, then, that Dr. Poe was associated with Edwin Sandys and might have been referred to as Mr. Poe. At one point in his career, his standing as a doctor was taken away and later returned:


The Second Virginia Charter provides more interesting name associations. Note these names from the list:

Doctor Meddowes [Meadows]

Henrie Collins


Less than ninety years later, we find these names associated with Samuel Poe. Meddowes is a name listed in the original grant from which Samuel Poe’s lands appeared to have been formed. Samuel Poe purchased land in 1707 from a Collins.


Captain Poe

One other Poe name "seems" to be associated with the Virginia Company. A "Captain Poe" is listed in the proceedings of the Virginia Company of London: November 4, 1623, to May 24, 1624 (see references). This appears to be a mistake in the "records." Either the transcriber of the original records got it wrong, or the editor of the modern book copy of the proceedings got it wrong.


The mention of "Captain Poe" appears on page 363 of the Records. The list delineates the members of the charter and is basically the same list of names in the same order as they appear on the charter.


The list of names in the second charter surrounding Dr. Poe:


Sir Dudley Diggs, Knight [Digges]

Sir Rowland Cotton, Knight

Doctour Mathewe Rutcliffe [Sutcliffe]

Doctor Meddowes [Meadows]

Doctor Tumer

Doctor Poe

Captaine Pagnam

Captaine Jeffrey Holcrofte

Captaine Raunne [Romney]

Captaine Henrie Spry

Captaine Shelpton [Shelton]


Here is the same list as it appears in the Records:


Sir Dudley Digges

Sir Rowland Cotton


Doctor Mathew Sutcliffe

Doctor Medowes

Doctor Turner

Captain Poe

Captain Pagman

Captain Geoffrey Holcrofte

Captain Raine

Captain Henry Sprye

Captain Shelpton


Oxford University Press

Poe, Leonard (d. 1631), physician, was the son of James Poe and grandson of Richard Poe, of Poesfeld, Derbyshire. The Poes were substantial yeomen from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and do not appear to have originated in the Rhenish palatinate, as some have suggested. Leonard Poe, identified in the annals of the Royal College of Physicians as a deacon of Lincoln, took up medicine after being sequestered as a puritan. Despite his background, Poe was licensed by the office of the archbishop of Canterbury to practise medicine, which he did in London beginning in 1587.

From 1589 Poe made numerous appearances before the College of Physicians for unlicensed practice and malpractice. Examinations at the college revealed that he knew neither Greek nor Latin and had no familiarity with academic medicine. This lack of formal knowledge did not prevent him, however, from winning the confidence of a fashionable clientele, or of many others who readily became his patients. Chief among these was the earl of Essex, whose service Poe was in, in 1590. Essex also supported him before the college in 1592, 1594, and 1595, finally winning from it, on 13 July 1596, a restricted medical licence for Poe. He was thereby permitted to treat venereal, cutaneous, and calculous diseases, gout, and simple tertian ague, though he was required to call for the assistance of a member of the college when treating other fevers and severe diseases. Even though he carried a letter of protection signed by seven members of the privy council, including Essex, Poe's troubles with the college continued and reached a head on 30 June 1598, when some younger fellows, including Thomas Moundeford and William Paddy, secured orders for his imprisonment and the revocation of his licence. But once again a settlement was agreed, with the compromise of all parties.


Essex's death in 1601 did not end Poe's aristocratic patronage. On 11 December 1606, at the suggestion of the earls of Suffolk, Northampton, and Salisbury, all restrictions on his licence were removed. On 12 January 1609 he was made ordinary physician of the king's household, and on 7 July of the same year the persistent influence of his aristocratic patrons, who now also included the earl of Worcester, led to his election as fellow of the College of Physicians. In April 1612 he was one of three physicians in attendance on Lord Treasurer Salisbury, and was present at his death on 24 May. Salisbury's high regard for Poe, whose hand he clasped as he died, increased Poe's respectability. He obtained his MD from Cambridge University by mandate in 1615.

Poe's tenure at the college was calm throughout. In 1616 he gave what was called a ‘splendid feast’ at the college, for the fellows and their wives. On 6 June 1625 he attended the death of Orlando Gibbons, the composer, and carried out the post-mortem. In 1629 he was referred to as ‘one of her Majesty's doctors in physic for the most part residing at Court’. He died in the parish of Christ Church, in the City of London, on 4 April 1631; his will of the same year (PRO, PROB 11/159, sig. 37) identified him as a physician-in-ordinary to Charles I.

Poe was married to Dionisia Boone of Sussex; they had three sons and six daughters. His eldest son, Leonard, suffered from mental illness. His youngest son, Theophilus, who matriculated at Oxford in 1624, was considered a wastrel by his father. His second son, James Poe, retained his trust and was made sole executor of his will. One of the doctor's daughters, Susanna, married the puritan physician John Bastwick, and carried away her husband's ears in 1637, after his mutilation on the orders of the court of Star Chamber. Her younger sister, Judith, also married a physician, Thomas Grent, a fellow of the College of Physicians, who doubtless benefited from his father-in-law's position to become physician-in-ordinary to James I.

William Birken


Sources  E. T. Bewley, The origin and early history of the family of Poë or Poe (1906) · CSP dom., 1603–10; 1619–23; 1625–49 · R. R. James, ‘Licences to practise medicine and surgery issued by the archbishops of Canterbury, 1580–1775’, Janus, 41 (1937), 97–106 · APC · G. Clark and A. M. Cooke, A history of the Royal College of Physicians of London, 3 vols. (1964–72) · Eighth report, 1, HMC, 7 (1907–9) · Tenth report, HMC (1885); repr. (1906) · Munk, Roll · Calendar of the manuscripts of the most hon. the marquis of Salisbury, 24 vols., HMC, 9 (1883–1976) · The Chamberlain letters, ed. E. M. Thomson (New York, 1965) · annals, RCP Lond. · F. Peck, ed., Desiderata curiosa, 1 (1732) · R. R. James, ‘Dr Thomas Grent, sen. and jun.’, Janus, 43 (1939), 131–6 · Venn, Alum. Cant. · will, PRO, PROB 11/159, sig. 37


Wealth at death  exact sum unknown: will, PRO, PROB 11/159, sig. 37



© Oxford University Press 2004–7

All rights reserved: see legal notice 


William Birken, ‘Poe, Leonard (d. 1631)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 31 Jan 2007]


Leonard Poe (d. 1631): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/22433


Susanna Bastwick [née Poe] (d. in or after 1657), petitioner and possibly poet, was the third daughter of Dr Leonard Poe (c.1570–1631) and his wife, Dionise Boone (fl. 1600–1630). Twin girls (Judith and Dionise) were born to the Bastwicks in 1626. A son, John the elder, was born in 1633; John the younger in 1636; and Susanna, the last child, after her parents' reunion in 1640. Susanna's dedication to her husband was total: she broke off contact with her family when Bastwick quarrelled with her father; she lived with him in the Gatehouse Prison; and she accompanied him to the scaffold in 1637. Before the earlopping she kissed each ear; afterwards, she picked them up and put them in her bosom, an act which aroused the enthusiasm of Thomas Carlyle: ‘Brave Dame Bastwick, worthy to be a mother of men!’ (T. Carlyle, Historical Sketches of Notable Persons and Events in the Reigns of James I and Charles I, 1898, 273). Whenever Bastwick was in prison, she campaigned tirelessly for his relief. John Lilburne also affectionately remembered her visiting him in gaol. She published several petitions she made to parliament, and may also have been the author of three admiring poems, signed S. B., appended to Bastwick's Independency not God's Ordinance (1646).

To set forth all thy parts, learning and skill


It were a work too hard for Homer's quill one began. A work appeared in 1647, by B. S., solely to praise Bastwick: its author had ‘known him for more than 20 years’ and ‘had more experience of his conversation than anyone in England’ (B. S., 8). After Bastwick's death Susanna petitioned Cromwell for aid, describing herself as ‘a woman of sorrows’ (S. Bastwick), and in 1657 Irish lands were settled on her and her children. However, in 1661 they were confiscated by Charles II. Her death date is unknown.