Sondes, Sir George, Earl of Feversham 1600-1677, born in 1600 at Lees Court, in the parish of Sheldwich, near Feversham in Kent, was son and heir of Sir Richard Sondes (1571-1645) of Throwley and afterwards of Lees Court, by his wife Susan, daughter of Sir Edward Montagu (1532-1602) of Boughton [see under Montagu, Edward, first Baron Montagu of Boughton]. He was of an old Kentish family, and his grandfather, Sir Michael Sondes, was resident in Sheldwich from 1576 to 1587. George was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he entered in 1615, and where his tutor was Dr. Preston; but he does not appear to have proceeded to a degree. He was made a K.B. on 1 Feb. 1626, upon Charles I's coronation, and he represented Higham Ferrers in the parliament of 1628-9, while as a staunch royalist he was made sheriff of Kent in 1637-8. On the outbreak of the civil war he was named a deputy lieutenant for Kent, and was on the royalist committee for the county in 1643. When the parliamentary cause proved triumphant, he suffered greatly in his estate, and was imprisoned from 1645, first in Upnor Castle and then in the Tower, whence he was released in May 1650, but not finally discharged until 25 June following, after compounding for his estate by a payment of 3,350l. (Cal. of Proceedings, p. 867). Altogether he computed that he lost not less than 30,000l. by the civil war. On his release, however, he began rebuilding Lees Court from the plans of Inigo Jones, but his pursuits were interrupted by a terrible calamity which befell him in 1655. On 7 Aug. in that year, his younger son, Freeman, a sullen youth of eighteen or nineteen, apparently actuated by jealousy, killed his elder brother George, while asleep in an upper room in Lees Court, by a deadly blow on the back of the head with a cleaver. The murderer, who at once apprised his father of his crime, was taken to Maidstone next day and arraigned at Maidstone assize on 9 Aug. He pleaded guilty, was sentenced to death, and was hanged at Maidstone on 21 Aug., meeting his end with resignation. The fratricide proved a fruitful theme for the pulpit, and is still memorable on account of the curious pamphlet literature that it evoked. Robert Boreman [qv.] at once issued A Mirrour of Mercy and Judgment, or an exact true narrative of the Life and Death of Freeman Sonds, Esq., 1655, 4to (Brit. Mus.). Other ministers and godly men of the vicinity, less compassionate than Boreman, traced the visitation to Sondes's own moral remissness. He had failed (it was said) to continue the endowment of Throwley free school as purposed by his father, had improperly executed the will of his father-in-law, Sir Ralph Freeman, and had generally mismanaged his sons' education. Sir George answered the charges with humility in a Plaine Narrative to the World, of all Passages upon the Death of his Two Sonnes (London, 1655, fol.); this is scarcely less steeped in religious sentiment than Robert Boreman's avowedly edifying tract. There followed from other pens The Devils Reign upon Earth, being a Relation of several sad and bloudy Murthers lately committed, especially that of Sir George Sonds his son upon his own brother - London, 1655, 12mo (Hazlitt, Handbook); and A Funeral Elegie upon the Death of George Sonds, Esq. — by William Annand Junior of Throwllgh, whereunto is annexed a Prayer compiled by his sorrowful Father, 1655, s. sh. fol. (Brit. Mus.).
On the Restoration Sondes was again appointed deputy lieutenant for Kent, and represented Ashburton in parliament from 1661 to 1676, when on 8 April, in recompense for his unwavering loyalty to the royalist cause, he was created Baron of Throwley, Viscount Sondes, and Earl of Feversham, with remainder to his son-in-law, Louis Duras or Durfort, earl of Feversham [qv.]. He died at Lees Court, without male issue, on 16 April 1677. Thomas Southouse dedicated his Monasticon Favershamiense to Sondes in 1671.
Feversham was twice married: first, in 1632, to Jane, daughter and heiress of (Sir) Ralph Freeman of Aspeden, Hertfordshire, lord mayor of London in 1633-4, by whom he had three sons: Freeman, who died an infant, and the George who was murdered by his younger brother, also named Freeman. He married, secondly, on 25 Feb. 1655-6, at St. Paul's, Covent Garden, Mary, daughter of Sir William Villiers, bart., of Brooksby. By his second wife he had two daughters: Mary, baptised in Sheldwich church on 15 March 1656-7, who married, on 9 March 1675-6, Louis Duras, baron Duras of Holdenby, and subsequently Earl of Feversham; and Katharine, baptised on 20 April 1658, who married, on 17 July 1677, Lewis Watson; the latter in 1689 became Baron Rockingham, and upon the death of the second Earl of Feversham, was created Baron Throwley, Viscount Sondes of Lees Court, and Earl of Rockingham (19 Oct. 1714).
Dugdale's Baronage, ii. 485
G. E. C.'s Complete Peerage
Doyle's Official Baronage
Hasted's Kent, ii. 716, 783
Archæologia Cantiana, xviii. 295 sq.
Lewis's Abbey of Favresham, 1707
Sondes's and Boreman's tracts were reprinted together at Evesham in 1790, and in the Harleian Miscellany, x. 23-67
Lowndes's Bibl. Manual, ed. Bohn
Brit. Mus. Cat. s.v. Sondes.
Contributor: T. S. [Thomas Seccombe]