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The Lord Colepeper
Governor of Virginia
In office
MonarchCharles II
Preceded bySir William Berkeley
Succeeded byThe Lord Howard of Effingham
Personal details
Born(1635-03-21)21 March 1635
Died27 January 1689(1689-01-27) (aged 53)
London, England

Thomas Colepeper, 2nd Baron Colepeper (21 March 1635 – 27 January 1689) was an English peer and colonial administrator who served as the governor of the Isle of Wight from 1661 to 1667 and as the governor of Virginia from 1677 to 1683.


Restoratation of Lord Colepeper Act 1660
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act for restoring to Thomas Lord Culpeper, Son and Heir and Sole Executor of John Lord Culpeper, Baron of Thorswey, and Master of the Rolls, deceased, all the Honours, Manors, Lands, and Tenements, Leases not determined, and Hereditaments whatsoever, whereof the said John Lord Culpeper was in Possession on the 20th Day of May, 1642, or at any Time after, which have not been since sold or aliened by the said John late Lord Culpeper, by Acts or Assurances to which himself was Party and consenting.
Citation12 Cha. 2. c. 9
Royal assent13 September 1660
Coat of Arms of Thomas Colepeper

Born in 1635, Thomas was the son of Judith and John Colepeper. As a royalist, his father left England following the execution of Charles I at the end of the English Civil War. Thomas lived with his father in the Netherlands where he married the Dutch heiress Margaret van Hesse on 3 August 1659. He returned to England after Charles II's restoration, where his wife was naturalised as English by Act of Parliament.[1]

Colepeper was made governor of the Isle of Wight from 1661 to 1667, which involved little administration but added to his wealth. He was elected as a bailiff to the board of the Bedford Level Corporation for 1665 and 1667.[2]

He became the governor of Virginia in July 1677[3] but did not leave England until 1679, when he was ordered to do so by Charles II. While in Virginia, he seemed more interested in maintaining his land in the Northern Neck than governing so he soon returned to England.[4] Rioting in the colony forced him to return in 1682, by which time the riots were already quelled. After apparently appropriating £9,500 from the treasury of the colony, he again returned to England. Charles II was forced to dismiss him, appointing in his stead Francis Howard, Baron of Effingham. During this tumultuous time, Colepeper's erratic behaviour meant that he had to rely increasingly on his cousin and Virginia agent, Col. Nicholas Spencer.[5][6] (Spencer had succeeded Colepeper as acting governor upon the lord's departures from the colony.)

Colepeper lived the rest of his life in London with his mistress Susannah Willis and their two daughters. He left a will in favour of Willis and her daughters that was suppressed. Catherine Colepeper, his only child with his wife Margaret van Hesse, instead inherited much of his wealth and married Thomas Fairfax, lord of Cameron, in 1690.

In Virginia, Culpeper County and its county seat Culpeper are named after him. Darwin Island, the most northerly of the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, was named Lord Culpepper's Island[7] in his honour by the pirate William Ambrosia Cowley in 1684 and the name Culpepper Island was maintained for centuries thereafter.[8]




  1. ^ "House of Lords Journal Volume 11: 27 August 1660 Pages 144-145 Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 11, 1660-1666". HMSO 1830. Retrieved 28 December 2022 – via British History Online.
  2. ^ Wells, Samuel. History of the Drainage of the Great Level of the Fens Called ..., Volume 1. p. 457.
  3. ^ Grant of the Office of Lieutenant and Governor-General, 21 June 1675, Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, Great Britain Public Record Office, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1896
  4. ^ Office, Great Britain Public Record (1896). Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series ... Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts.
  5. ^ Campbell, Charles (1860). History of the Colony and Ancient Dominion of Virginia. Lippincott.
  6. ^ Bruce, Philip Alexander; Stanard, William Glover (1894). The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. Virginia Historical Society.
  7. ^ McEwen (1988), p. 235.
  8. ^ McEwen (1988), p. 239.


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