Catherine Culpeper1

Female, #8948, (1670 - May 1719)
Father*Thomas Lord Culpeper 2nd Baron of Thoresway (c 1635 - 27 Jan 1689)
Mother*Margaretta van Hesse (12 Jan 1635 - c 10 May 1710)
Name-AltSpell This surname is sometimes spelled Culpepper. 
Name-AltSpell This surname is sometimes spelled Colepeper. 
Birth*1670 Catherine was born in 1670. 
Death of Father27 Jan 1689 Her father Thomas Lord Culpeper 2nd Baron of Thoresway died on 27 Jan 1689 at Saint James Street, London, England
Marriage*circa Oct 1690 She married Thomas Fairfax Fifth Lord Fairfax of Cameron circa Oct 1690. 
Married Namecirca Oct 1690  As of circa Oct 1690, her married name was Fairfax. 
Birth of Son22 Oct 1693 Her son Thomas Fairfax Sixth Lord Fairfax of Cameron was born on 22 Oct 1693 at Leeds Castle, Leeds, co. Kent, England
Birth of Son9 Jul 1697 Her son Henry Culpeper Fairfax was born on 9 Jul 1697 at Leeds Castle, Leeds, co. Kent, England
Birth of Son6 Nov 1706 Her son Robert Fairfax Seventh Lord Fairfax of Cameron was born on 6 Nov 1706 at co. Kent, England
Death of Spouse6 Jan 1710 Her husband Thomas Fairfax Fifth Lord Fairfax of Cameron died on 6 Jan 1710. 
Will8 May 1710 She is mentioned in the will of Margaretta van Hesse on 8 May 1710.2 
Death of Mothercirca 10 May 1710 Her mother Margaretta van Hesse died circa 10 May 1710 at Leeds Castle, Leeds, co. Kent, England.2 
Will12 Aug 1710 She is mentioned in the will of John Lord Culpeper 3rd Baron of Thoresway on 12 Aug 1710.3,4 
Death*May 1719 She died at Leeds Castle, Leeds, co. Kent, England, in May 1719. 
Burial*1 Jun 1719 Her body was interred on 1 Jun 1719 at Broomfield, co. Kent, England
Biography Catherine married Thomas, 5th Baron Fairfax, of Cameron, in Scotland, and had a daughter Frances, who married Denny Martin, Esq., and conveyed the estate of Leeds Castle, in Kent, to his family, now represented by C. P. Wykeham-Martin, of Leeds Castle.5 
Biography* Catherine Culpeper (daughter of Thomas, second Lord Culpeper), 1670?-1719, Lady Fairfax, grew up and spent her life at Leeds Castle; but there being no entry of her baptism in the Bromfield register, which records all her children, it follows that she was born elsewhere. The available evidence, though meagre, is that that event in the history of the Northern Neck of Virginia took place in Holland in the year 1670.

Diligent search for a baptismal record has been made, without result. It is necessary, therefore, to argue such evidence as is available (See note 1 below):

The family tradition, recorded by Mr. Wykeham-Martin, is that Lord Culpeper separated from his wife soon after marriage, was later reconciled to her and finally left her after the birth of their only child. There is evidence to bear out the first part of this tradition in the record of the issue of a passport in May, 1661 'for the wife of Lord Culpeper to go to Holland with her servants, luggage, coach and six horses' (Cal. State Papers, Domestic, 1660-61, p. 234).

That Lady Culpeper refused to return to England because her husband was openly living with another woman, and that, by advice of his friends, he sought to induce her to preside over his household at Carisbrooke Castle in order to quiet the criticism of him in the Isle of Wight which eventually resulted in his having to resign his post there, may be inferred from the record (ibid., 1661-62, p. 69) of a leave of absence granted to Lord Culpeper in February, 1662, with permission to go beyond sea 'on private concerns.' But there the unsatisfactory testimony ends.

Parish registers at The Hague, in the Isle of Wight, in Kent and in London have been searched in vain for the baptism of the child whose birth followed the temporary reconciliation, whenever it was. Apart from her baby portrait, which has not been convincingly dated, the first evidence for that child is the mention of her by her father in the letter he wrote to his sister Judith from Massachusetts, October 5, 1680, on his way back to England after his first tour of duty as Governor of Virginia (Va. Hist. Register, iii, 189): 'I shall now marry Cate as soon as I can and then shall reckon myself to be a Free man without clogge or charge.'

It may be objected that this is evidence for a birth earlier than 1670, for on that hypothesis she would be only ten when the letter was written; but it may be answered that in the seventeenth century marriages were 'arranged' almost in infancy: e.g., Lord Culpeper's elder brother, Alexander (Alexander Culpeper of Greenway Court), married a girl of 12. What is persuasive for the date 1670 is that, there being no record of Lord Culpeper during the two years from December, 1668, when he resigned the governorship of the Isle of Wight, until March 1670/1, when he was appointed to the Council for Foreign Plantations, it may be argued that he was absent from England during that period, and that the reconciliation with his wife and the birth of the child occurred on the Continent. This would fit with the family tradition that he left his wife finally immediately after the birth of his daughter; because his first illegitimate daughter by Mrs. Willis was born in 1671.

Named for her maternal grandmother, 'Cate' makes her first appearance on the public record in January, 1689/90, a year after her father's death, when 'Lord Culpeper's bill' in the House of Lords described her as 'his only cliild, Mrs. Katherine Culpeper' (Historical MSS. Commission, House of Lords MS. 1689-90, p. 434).

It was during the following spring that Philip Ludwell (Philip Ludwell of James City, VA) left England to return to Virginia with a commission to open a proprietary land office in the Northern Neck; and in the earliest land grants recorded in the books he then opened, she is recorded as the proprietor under the same designation, 'the Honourable Mistress Katherine Culpeper.' This status lasted, however, only a few months, for in the autumn of 1690 she married. Thenceforth, during twenty years until her husband's death, she disappears, as a wife of her time was wont to do: her husband had become the proprietor of the Northern Neck in her right and took personal charge of that business in the attempt to solve its problems. She, herself, is silent: even in the Northern Neck land grants she is recited during this period simply as 'Katherine, his wife.'

That her husband had his imagination stirred by the Virginia estate appears from the diligent and conservative attention he gave it. It was the fifth Lord Fairfax who prevented the liquidation of the proprietary. When, in the autumn of 1690, Lord Howard suggested to him that the charter of 1688 was tainted, he declined to sell out to the colony at the nominal price proposed (Va. Mag., ix, 32), just as he declined later to exchange the proprietary with the Crown for the 'lott and cope, and office of Bergmaster in the Wapentake of Wicksworth,' co. Derby (Acts P. C., Colonial, vi, 95). When the Assembly proceeded to hostilities (Journals 11. B., 1660-93, p. 371) he met the innuendo against his wife's father squarely and countered effectively. It was he who went before William III's Privy Council with the petition dated May 21, 1691, praying that the circumstances of the sealing of the charter of 1688 be examined by the law officers of the Crown, and that the title thereto be specifically confirmed to the representatives of Lord Culpeper who should be found entitled thereto. In all this he was entirely successful. The petition was referred to the Attorney General (Sir John Somers) who, having examined the record and heard counsel for Virginia as well as Lord Fairfax, reported that there was no ground 'for vacating the said Letters Patents by scire facias or otherwise.' Whereupon an Order in Council was entered on January 11, 1693/4 (Acts P. C., Colonial, ii, 188), adjudging that the

     said grant did Pass in all the usual Methods of Grants of that Nature' and that 'the Petitioners Margaret Lady Culpeper, Thomas Lord Fairfax, Katherine his wife and Alexander Culpeper, Esqr. be permitted to enjoy the benefit of the said Letters Patents according to Law, so as they keep strictly to the Tenor thereof, in Execution of the several powers and authorities thereby granted; of which all Persons whom it may concern are to take notice.

It was the fifth Lord Fairfax again who procured the second Richard Lee to attorn to the proprietors for his Westmoreland lands and so break the ice of local resistence; who enlisted Robert Carter as the proprietary agent in 1702; and who backed Carter up in his claim of 1708 that the proprietary boundary was the south fork (Rapidan) and not the north fork (Hedgman's) of the Rappahannock. It was thus during Catherine Culpeper's coverture and by her husband's efforts that her doubtful title to the Northern Neck was established beyond all future cavil; and an estate which had been practically without value when she inherited it was nursed to the point of producing for her an income of £500 per annum and, by its subsequent growth, of assuring her children of the means to support their place in the world.

While the dowager Lady Culpeper seems consistently to have supported Lord Fairfax in these proceedings, his wife did not appreciate them. She wanted to be quit of Virginia. When her husband died, in January, 1709/10, leaving his own estate in great disorder, and was followed to the grave in a few months by her mother, Lady Fairfax's anger against her husband blazed. She listened to dark counsels of land agents (Fairfax Correspondence, ed. Bell, 1849, iv, 242), and peremtorily removed Robert Carter from the agency in Virginia, appointing in his place Edmund Jenings and his youthful nephew, Thomas Lee. Her state of mind after having taken these measures, which were to prove costly, is reflected in a letter she wrote contemporaneously to her eldest son, then at Oxford (Fairfax MSS. Bodleian Library, Oxford).

     I have done all I can in business in London now, but it is all very bad. Your father hath destroyed all that can be for you and me both; but I will do all that is in my power to get something again, and I do hope you will deserve it of me in time.

This is the only record Catherine Culpeper has left to speak for her on the surviving record, until eight years later she dictated her will. That her sentiment had meanwhile hardened rather than softened is apparent in the disposition of her estate she then made. She had become suspicious even of her heir and instead of turning her estate over to him, then a man of twenty-six, she sought to tie his hands indefinitely by vesting her property in her neighbours and kinsmen, William Cage of Milgate (Note 2), and Edward Filmer of East Sutton (Note 3), in fee on trust' upon an elaborate entail.

She m., 1690, Thomas Fairfax (1657-1710), fifth Lord Fairfax of Cameron. As in the case of her birth, primary evidence of the date and place of the marriage is lacking. It seems likely, therefore, that, like her birth, that marriage was celebrated in Holland. The lack is, however, supplied, nearly contemporaneously, by a dispatch of November 6, 1690, from Lord Howard of Effingham to the Virginia Council (Va. Mag., ix, 32): '1 have already spoken to my Ld. Fairfax, who married Mrs. Culpeper who administered (sic) to my Lord Culpeper, abt. the Northern Neck.' It thus appears that Catherine Culpeper was married in the autumn of 1690.

She died at Leeds Castle at the end of May, 1719, and was buried, beside her mother, in the vault she had built in Bromfield Church (Note 4), June 1, 1719, as 'the Rt. Honble. Catherine Lady Fairfax, Dowager.' That her eldest son resented her lack of confidence in him appears in the fact that he erected no MI. over her tomb.

Her will follows:

P. C. C. Browning, 105
Will dated April 21, 1719
Proved June 23, 1719.

Catherine Lady Fairfax, Baroness Dowager of Cameron, in the Kingdom of Scotland. To be bur. in psh. church of Broniefield near my late mother Margaret Lady Culpeper. To my eldest son Thomas Lord F. the reversion of the manor of Greenway Court, to which I am entitled at end of a term of years, for life: & to the heirs male of his body; in default to the heirs of his body; in default to my youngest son Robert F. in fee. To sd. son Robert F. £1,000 out of sd. manor, at 21; also £3,000. To my son Henry Culpeper F. £100 only,'having already advanced for him about £1,400 in buying him a Commission in the Army. To my eldest daur. Margaret £500. To my daur. Frances £2,500 at 21 or marriage with consent of my exer; also £100 a year for maintenance meanwhile. To my daur. Mary £2,000, at 21 or marriage with exer's consent; also £80 a year meanwhile. To William Cage of Milgate in prsh. of Bersted, Kent, esq., & Edward Filmer of East Sutton, Kent, esq. all my manors etc. in Isle of Wight, co. Southampton & in co. Kent & all lands in Virginia in fee on trust for payment of legacies etc., & then for my eldest son Thomas Lord F. for life; remr. to sd. Trustees as Contingent Remainder Trustees; remr. to his sons successively in tail male; in default to my son Henry Culpeper F. & his sons similarly; in default to my son Robert F. & his sons similarly; in default to my daurs. in common, in tail; in default to my right heirs. Rest of personal estate among my sons & daurs. equally. Sd. William Cage to be sole exer. Whereas in lifetime of my late daur. Catherine F. I entered into a Bond to George Sayer esq. Dec for payment of £800 to her, which I intended as a legacy; who dying intestate I have taken out Admon. to her goods, but she left no personal estate; and whereas all my children are entitled to part of the moneys due on the Bond; such children as shall not have released their claim in my lifetime shall release same to my exer. Witns. D. Fuller, Jno. Mason, E. Finch. Prob. by William Cage esq., exer.6 
Note* Footnotes to the preceding biography:

Note 1:
In view of the necessity for this argument it is interesting that there probably existed in Virginia as late as 1875 good evidence for the missing date. The sixth Lord Fairfax brought out with him in 1747, and left with his personal effects at Greenway Court, a Culpeper family Bible. This passed with the house to Thomas Bryan Martin's devisee (Cf. Kercheval. 3d ed. 1902, p. 160) and on March 29, 1879, her descendant, Mr. William C. Kennerley of White Post described its fate as follows (MS. penes me):
     Immediately after the acknowledgment of your letter of the 19th inst., I went over to my brother's, at Greenway Court, for the purpose of procuring the old family Fairfax (sic) Bible, which I intended to send you as a present; and was shocked to learn that it was burned in the conflagration of the wing of my brother's house in '75... I especially regret the loss of the Bible as it contained a Register of the births and deaths of more than a dozen Fairfaxes and Martins, 'Thomas,' 'Bryan,' 'Rev. Denny Fairfax,' and marriages of Lady Colepeper Fairfax, the mother, I presume, of Lord Fairfax, and others which I do not remember.
     The loss of this Bible is the more to be regretted because it seems to have contained a record of entries by Margaret, Lady Culpeper, and her daughter. The family Bible which is still extant at Leeds Castle is a Fairfax as distinguished from a Culpeper record, and throws no light on the problems here considered. See notes 53 and 54 post.

Note 2: Col. William Cage, who was Sheriff of Kent in 1695 and M.P. in 1702, 1710 and 1713, was a grandson by his first marriage of that William Cage of Milgate in Bersted, who, in 1637, married, secondly, Joan Culpeper, a sister of Lady Fairfax's grandmother and, in consequence, is called 'brother' by the first Lord Culpeper in his will (Berry, Kentist Genealogies, p. 273; Harl. Pub., xxvi, 232; and the MI. of Elizabeth, wife of Sir Thomas Culpeper, the elder, ante); but he was of kin to Lady Fairfax because his mother was a daughter of her grandmother's brother, Sir Cheney Culpeper. Lady Fairfax had depended upon this 'cousin' for business advice for some time before she made her will. Thus in her letter to her son, December 15, 1711 (The Fairfax Correspondence, iv, 244) she says 'Colonel Cage is a great and entire friend to me and you have reason to respect him.' When Fairfax went out to Virginia the second time he took with him one of this family. See the lively fox hunting letter of J. Cage, written from Belvoir to Capt. Lawrence Washington at Mount Vernon (undated, but before 1750) in Conway, Barons, p. 245.

Note 3: This Edward Filmer had been a practising barrister of the Parliamentary bar but was soon to become, on the death of his father in 1720, the third baronet of his house. It was to him that Lord Fairfax referred in his letter to George Fairfax, April 6, 1747 (Neill, p. 77): 'I have sent you by Captain Cooling of the Elizabeth two dogs and one bitch of Sir Edward Filmer's hounds which he promised you.' He must have declined Lady Fairfax's trust as he does not appear with Col. Cage in the Northern Neck grant books. The Filmers of East Sutton were also, through the St. Legers and the Scotts, of kin to the WigselI Culpepers (Cf. the will of Samuel Filmer, 1670, P. C. C. Penn. 58, in Va. Mag., xi, 181) ; but they have their own claims to the interest of Virginians. They descended from that Samuel Argall who was one of the early Governors, and had maintained their relation with the colony. Thus. in 1643, Henry Filmer was a resident of Warwick County, serving as a burgess and justice of the County Court. He was a brother of that convinced and uncompromising royalist, Sir Robert Filmer, author of the Patriarcha (Dict. Mat., Biog., re-issue ed., vi, 1304) and a great great uncle of Lady Fairfax's trustee. For this family, see the Visitation of Kent, 1619; Berry, Kent; Va. Mag., xv, 181.

Note 4: Bromfield was originally a parish, served by a religious of the priory of Leeds. The boundaries, practically limited to the lands held of Leeds Castle, have been maintained; but since the dissolution of the priory the church has been annexed to the rectory and church of the adjacent Leeds parish which was erected within the priory lands. As a consequence, Bromfield now ranks as a chapel. Vested by Queen Elizabeth in the Archbishop of Canterbury, the advowson of Leeds and Bromfield has since been held by that prelate, who collates a perpetual curate (Hasted, ii. 484, 486).
     Catherine Culpeper, Lady Fairfax, had all her children baptized in Bromfield chapel and later built there a family vault where she buried her mother, and was herself interred, as were a number of her descendants. The Bromfield register thus became a genealogical source record for the last generation of the proprietors of the Northern Neck.
     For these considerations the Virginia Assembly gave the name Bromfield to the parish created in Culpeper in 1752 (Hening, Vi, 256) ; but neither Bishop Meade nor Dr. Philip Slaughter (see the comment on the name in St. Marks Parish, p. 80) had the clew to that designation.6 


Thomas Fairfax Fifth Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1657 - 6 Jan 1710)
Marriage*circa Oct 1690 She married Thomas Fairfax Fifth Lord Fairfax of Cameron circa Oct 1690. 
ChartsThe Culpepers of Hollingbourne, co. Kent, England (Possibly extinct): Descendant Chart
Last Edited21 May 2011


  1. Col. F.W.T. Attree R.E./F.S.A. & Rev. J.H.L. Booker M.A., "The Sussex Colepepers, Part I", Sussex Archaeological Collections, XLVII,47-81, (1904)
  2. Fairfax Harrison, The Proprietors of the Northern Neck - Chapters of Culpepper Genealogy, Richmond, VA: The Old Dominion Press (Privately printed), 1926, Repository: LDS Family History Library - Salt Lake City, Call No. US/CAN Film #929429. Transcription available online at:
    Will of Margaret Lady Culpeper, widow, Baroness Dowager of Thoresway, P.C.C. Smith, 145, Will dated May 8, 1710, Proved June 19, 1710.
  3. Public Records Office, National Archives, London.
    Will of John 3rd Lord Culpeper, dated 12 Aug 1710, transcribed by Charles Andrew Grigsby. Image at: and
  4. E-mail written 2007 to Warren Culpepper from Charles Andrew Grigsby, England, e-mail address.
  5. Col. F.W.T. Attree R.E./F.S.A. & Rev. J.H.L. Booker M.A., "The Sussex Colepepers, Part I", Sussex Archaeological Collections, XLVII,47-81, (1904)
    Page 69.
  6. Fairfax Harrison, The Proprietors of the Northern Neck - Chapters of Culpepper Genealogy, Richmond, VA: The Old Dominion Press (Privately printed), 1926, Repository: LDS Family History Library - Salt Lake City, Call No. US/CAN Film #929429. Transcription available online at: