Sir John Suckling was born in February, 1609, into a prominent gentry family. His father, also Sir John, was a longtime member of Parliament who held a number of minor positions at court; in 1622, he purchased the office of Comptroller of the King’s Household, which he occupied until his death in 1627. The poet’s mother, Martha, was the sister of Lionel Cranfield, later first earl of Middlesex and, until his impeachment in 1624, Lord Treasurer of England. Although his mother died in 1613, Suckling maintained close ties with the Cranfield family; his uncle’s disgrace, countenanced by the royal favorite the duke of Buckingham, alienated Suckling from the inner circles of the court.
Suckling matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, between 1623 and 1628; he was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1627. He may have served in the English expedition against the French on the Ile de Ré in 1627 and definitely fought in Lord Wimbledon’s regiment in the Dutch service in 1629-1630. In October, 1631, Suckling joined the embassy to Gustavus Adolphus led by Sir Henry Vane, who was negotiating with the Swedish monarch for the return of the Palatinate to Charles I’s brother-in-law, the Elector Frederick. Vane sent Suckling to England in March, 1632, with dispatches for the King. His mission complete, Suckling remained in England and plunged into a course of gambling and womanizing that lasted for the rest of the decade. During this period, according to John Aubrey, Suckling invented the game of cribbage. To recoup the vast sums he lost at cards and bowling, Suckling entered into a prolonged courtship of the northern heiress Anne Willoughby. Although the king supported his suit,...
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