Sir Anthony St. LEGER

(Sheriff of Kent)

Born: ABT 1496, Ulcombe, Kent, England

Died: 16 Mar 1558/9, Ulcombe, Kent, England

Buried: Croydon, Surrey, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: Ralph St. LEGER

Mother: Anne PROPHET

Married: Agnes WARHAM (d. 24 Mar 1558/9) (dau. of Hugh Warham of Croydon and Marion Cole)


1. William St. LEGER

2. Warham St. LEGER (Sir Knight)

3. Nicholas St. LEGER of Beamstone

4. Robert St. LEGER

5. Jane St. LEGER

6. Anne St. LEGER

7. Anthony St. LEGER (Sir)

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Born c.1496, first son of Ralph St. Leger of Ulcombe. Educ. Camb.; travelled France and Italy; G. Inn. Married Agnes, dau. of Hugh Warham of Croydon and niece and heiress of William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury. Suc. family 1518. Kntd. 1539; KG 1544. J.p. Kent by 1526, sheriff 1539-40; commr. to survey Calais 1535, 1552, to defend Kent coast 1539, heresy 1552; gent. privy chamber by 1538-c.53; ld. deputy, Ireland Jul 1540-48, Aug 1550 - May 1551, Oct 1553-May 1556; PC 7 Aug 1553 - BEF 1558; envoy to France Aug 1553. The Imperial Ambassador in London confused St. Leger with Sir Thomas Chaloner, Member of Parliament, which has led several subsequent writers to the belief that St. Leger was in France most of the year.

When twelve years of age St. Leger was sent for his grammar learning with his tutor into France, for his carriage into Italy, for his philosophy to Cambridge, for his law to Gray's Inn, and for that which completed all, the government of himself, to court, where his debonairness and freedom took with Henry VIII, as his solidity and wisdom with the Cardinal Wolsey.

At eighteen Anthony joined the retinue of George Neville, Lord Abergavenny, an association which grew into a family tie when one of his sons, Warham, married Lord Abergavenny's daughter Ursula Neville and her sister Catherine married one of Anthony's Devon nephews. He was present at the marriage of the princess Mary at Paris in Oct 1514, and is mentioned in the following year as forming one of Lord Abergavenney's suite (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, i. 898, ii. 134).

After Wolsey's downfall he seems to have taken a prominent part, he attached himself to Cromwell, whote active agent he was in the demolition of the suppressed abbeys.

On 2 Aug 1535, he was appointed, along with Sir William Fitzwilliam and George Paulet, to inquire into the state of Calais, and to take measures for strengthening the English Pale in France (ib. ix. 79). The following year he was one of the grand jury of Kent that found a true bill against Anne Boleyn (cf. Froude, ii. 507), and his name appears in the list of such noblemen and gentlemen as were appointed in Oct that year to attend upon the King's own person in the northern rebellion (Letters and Papers of Hentry VIII, xi.233).

On 31 Jul 1537 was appointed president of a commission of enquiry into the condition of Ireland 'for the ordre and establishment to be taken and made touching the hole state of our lande of Ireland, and all and every our affaires within the same, bothe for the reduccion of the said lande to a due civilitie and obedyens, and the advanncement of the publique weale of the same' (State Papers, Henry VIII, printed, ii. 452-63). He and his fellow-commissioners arrived at Dublin on 8 Sep, and having with the assistance of the lord-deputy, Lord Leonard Grey, dissolved the army, they set out on the 26th on a tour of inspection through the parts adjacent to the English Pale. In the course of this work, he obtained much useful knowledge of the country.

He returned to England at the end of Mar or beginning of Apr 1538 and in Jun was appointed one of the gentlement of the King's privy chamber. He was knighted early in 1539, and was one of the jury that tried and condemned Sir Nicholas Carew on 14 Feb. In Oct that year he went to Brussels in order to procure a safe-conduct through Flanders from the Queen of Hungary for Anne of Cleves, whom he escorted to England (Cal.State Papers, Henry VIII, i.114, pt. ii. 126) and on his return was made sheriff of Kent and a commissioner for the establishment of the church of Canterbury with a view to its conversion into a cathedral.

Anthony was a long time friend of Sir Thomas Wyatt of Allington Castle in Kent and upon his death in 1542 Anthony wrote the Epitaph upon Sir Thomas which expresses is own personal respect and admiration for the man. Anthony's step-grandaughter Jane Finch (dau. of Catherine Moyle, wife of Nicholas St. Leger) married into the Wyatt family by marrying George Wyatt the grandson of Sir Thomas Wyatt.

On 7 Jul 1540, Anthony was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland with a salary of 666 13s 4d., and tasked with the repression of disorder. He moved against the Kavanaghs, permitting them to retain their lands only by accepting feudal tenure on the English model. By a similar policy he exacted obedience from the O'Mores, the O'Tooles and the O'Conors in Leix and Offaly; and having conciliated the O'Briens in the west and the Earl of Desmond in the south, he carried an act in the Irish parliament in Dublin conferring the title of King of Ireland on Henry VIII and his heirs. Conn O'Neill, who had remained sullenly hostile, was forced to submit.

In the same year obtained an act of parliament disgavelling his estates in Kent (Robinson's Gavelkind, p. 299).

St. Leger's policy was generally one of moderation and conciliation - more so than Henry VIII wished. He recommended The O'Brien, when he gave token of a submissive disposition, for the title of Earl of Thomond; O'Neill was created Earl of Tyrone; an administrative council was instituted in the province of Munster; and in 1544 a levy of Irish soldiers was raised for service in Henry VIII's wars. St. Leger's personal influence was proved by an outbreak of disturbance when he visited England in 1544, and the prompt restoration of order on his return some months later.

Though so carefully prepared, St. Leger was never a principal adviser to any of his sovereigns, being required instead to devote himself to the thankless task of trying to impose an alien government on the Irish. Recognizing that Ireland is much easier won than kept, as he put it, he concentrated on the area around Dublin, and endeavoured to win over the local leaders by grants of land, small gifts and honest persuasion. At first successful, the end of his first period in office was marred by a quarrel with Ormond, the most powerful Irishman.

Sometime about 1544 Sir Anthony received the honour of the Garter together with 200 to his salary as deputy. In Sep 1548 Sir Anthony returned to England having been superseded by Sir Edward Bellingham.

On 20 Apr 1550 he was appointed to meet the French hostages for the fulfilment of the treaty of Boulogne, between London and Dover, and on 4 Aug he was reconstituted lord deputy of Ireland (Instructions in Cal. Carew MSSi.226-30), being sworn in on 10 Sep charged with the duty of introducing the reformed liturgy into Ireland. Reappointed by Protector Somerset, St. Leger was given the impossible task of imposing the new Book of Common Prayer. Somerset made no allowance for the differences between England and Ireland, and was warned by St. Leger that the Irish should be handled with the more humanity lest they, by extremity, should adhere to other foreign powers. His conciliatory methods led to his recall in the summer of 1551.

In May 1552 he had a grant in fee farm of the castle of Leeds in Kent, and on 12 Jun he was appointed a commissioner for the survey of Calais and the marches. His name occurs as one of the witnesses to the will of Edward VI, 21 Jun 1553; but he supported the claims of Mary, and on 7 Aug was sworn a privy councillor.

After the accession of Queen Mary he was again appointed Lord Deputy in Oct 1553 and reached Dublin on 11 Nov. By Mary's reign money was short and St. Leger's own standing had been undermined by accusations of corruption. He offended the catholics by certain verses ridiculing the doctrine of transubstantiation. But he had other and more powerful enemies, chief among whom must be reckoned Sir William Fitzwilliam who charged him with falsifying his accounts in favour of Andrew Wyse, late vice-treasurer. The charge of keeping false accounts caused him to be recalled for the third time in 1556, and on 26 May surrendered the sword of state to Thomas Radcliffe, lord Fitzwalter. John Hooker wrote:

'This man ruled and governed very justly and uprightly in a good conscience ... [yet] many slanderous informations were made and inveighed against him, which is a fatal destiny, and inevitable to every good governor in that land. For the more pains they take in tillage, the worse is their harvest; and the better be their services, the greater is the malice and envy against them, being not unlike to a fruitful apple tree, which the more apples he beareth, the more cudgels be hurled at him'

The truth of the matter will never be ascertained. His own attitude would no doubt have been the same as a statement he had made when similar accusations had been levelled against him in 1538: I have too long abstained from bribery to begin now. There is no doubt that Mary kept him short of money, and he was said to have left debts in Ireland of over 3,000. His return from Ireland in 1556 to face a Privy Council inquiry marked the end of his active career. The investigation was still in progress when Elizabeth succeeded, and, typically enough, far from dropping the charges, she renewed the inquiry into his accounts. Perhaps it was his vulnerability that led St. Leger, now in his sixties, to seek, for the first time, election to Parliament, or perhaps it was simply that he wished to serve at least once as knight of his shire, an honour his absences in Ireland had often denied him, though he could have sat in Mary's last, where he might have been more at home. The vestigial journals of Elizabeth's first Parliament do not mention his name, and St. Leger died during its course. On 8 Dec 1558 a letter was addressed to him requiring him to 'to signifye with speed... what he myndeth to doo herein'; but his death at Ulcombe on 16 Mar 1559 put a stop to further proceedings.

He was buried at Ulcombe, his family seat for 450 years. His wife died eight days later. The state funeral for Sir Anthony had already been arranged, posing a problem for the Herald's Office. There was no precedent for a person of his rank being buried with his wife. The problem was solved by burying Agnes first on the day before her husband's funeral on 5 Apr. They were both buried at Ulcombe, Kent. (Moya Frenz St. Leger, 1986)

St. Leger must be classed as indifferent in religion. He was attached to both Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell, though he should not be confused with a namesake, a Sussex priest, who was wholly committed to Cromwell. He served both Somerset and Mary, moderating as far as he could, the extremes of both regimes. When the protestant Archbishop of Dublin chided him for conservatism he retorted, Go to, your matters of religion will mar all. When the Catholic Bishop Gardiner of Winchester was condemning a priest for conducting reformed services he intervened: My good lord chancellor, trouble not yourself with this heretic. I think all the world is full of them.

In John Stowe's 1595 survey of London and Westminster states "crossing the London bridge to Southwark note near the bridge a stone yard for repairs to the bridge. Next to this is St. Leger house which I believe was once owned by Sir Anthony then by Sir Warham St. Leger, on the other side is a bakehouse". Renamed St. Leger House after it was granted to Sir Anthony at the dissolution of the monasteries. Once known as the Inn of St. Augustine when owned by the Abbots of St. Augustine, Canterbury. It probably became the London residence of Sir Anthony. The rambling stone and timber-built house had many rooms, wide passages and staircases and numerous galleries.



Lloyd, State Worthies

C. Wykeham Martin, Hist. Leeds Castle

W. A. Phillips, Hist. Church of Ire.

Strype, Cranmer

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