Oliver St. JOHN

1° V. Grandison

Born: ABT 1562, Lydiard Tregoze, Wiltshire, England

Died: BEF 29 Dec 1630

Father: Nicholas St. JOHN of Lydiard Tregoze

Mother: Elizabeth BLOUNT

Married: Joan ROYDON

He was the second son of Nicholas St John (ca. 1526 – ember 1589) of Lydiard Park in Wiltshire and Purley Park in Berkshire, by his wife Elizabeth (bef. 1542 – 1587), daughter of Sir Richard Blount of Mapledurham House in Oxfordshire, and Elizabeth Lister. His mother was distantly related to Charles Blount, 8th Baron Mountjoy, and on his father's side he was descended through a female line from the Grandisons, and was related to the St Johns, Barons of Bletso. He seems to have grown up mostly at Purley, and was educated at Oxford, matriculating from Trinity College on 20 Dec 1577, and graduating B.A. on 26 Jun 1578. Knowing that his father, who expected him to make his own way, would leave him very little money, he decided on a career in the law. In 1580 he was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn; but about Mar 1584 he killed the well-known explorer George Best in a duel and was compelled to flee the country. The motive for the duel is unclear, although St John's violent temper no doubt contributed to it: by his own later admission he was "by nature the child of wrath".

St John now sought his fortunes as a soldier abroad, and served in Flanders and in France. Before 1591 he had attained the rank of captain, and in the autumn of that year commanded Essex's horse at the siege of Rouen. In 1592 he returned to England, and was elected member for Cirencester in the parliament summoned to meet on 19 Feb 1593. In March he was placed on a commission for the relief of maimed soldiers and mariners, and made several speeches during the session. On 19 Feb 1593 Thomas Heneage seconded the nomination of Sir Edward Coke as Speaker. Though he was in charge of the subsidy bill in that Parliament he did not enjoy the confidence of the House to the same extent as had Hatton in similar circumstances. On 6 Mar, during a debate on the subsidy, Oliver St. John accused Heneage of misrepresenting the Commons case. Cecil intervened to extract an apology from St. John. But parliament was dissolved in Apr, and soon afterwards Essex recommended St John to Robert Cecil as a cavalryman. He again sought service in the Netherlands, and was present at the battle of Nieuport on 2 Jul 1600.

Tyrone's rebellion took experienced English soldiers to Ireland, and St John accompanied Mountjoy there in Feb 1601; he was knighted by Mountjoy at Dublin on 28 Feb, and was given command of two hundred men. He took a prominent part in the siege of Kinsale in the autumn, repulsing a night attack of the Spanish on 2 Dec, when he was wounded. On 13 Dec he left the camp to carry despatches to Queen Elizabeth. In Nov 1602 he was back in Ireland commanding twenty-five horse and 150-foot in Connaught, under Sir George Carew, and in the same year he was recommended by Cecil for the office of vice-president of that province (but the arrangement does not seem to have been carried out). From 1604 to 1607 he sat in the English parliament as member for Portsmouth. On 12 Dec 1605 he was made master of the ordnance in Ireland, and sworn of the Irish privy council.

From this time St John was Sir Arthur Chichester's most trusted adviser. Early in 1608 he was named a commissioner for the plantation of Ulster. He drew up a scheme for the plantation of the province, and accompanied Chichester in his progress through Ulster in 1609. As an undertaker he had grants of fifteen hundred acres in Ballymore, co. Armagh, and a thousand acres (4 km˛) in 'Keernan. He advised that no grants of the lands of the banished Earls should be made, but that they should be let to the native Irish at a high rent. Early in 1609 Chichester sent him to England, and he drew up a report of the commissioners' proceedings for Salisbury's benefit.

In 1613 he was elected member of the Irish Parliament for County Roscommon, and took an important part in the dispute about the speakership, which descended into pantomime after the rival factions chose Sir John Everard and Sir John Davies. Speaking from his experience of the English House of Commons, St John urged that the first business of the house was to elect a speaker, and that the proper method of voting was to leave the house and be counted in a lobby. Everard's supporters, however, placed Everard in the chair, from which he was only ejected by the majority after Davies, a very fat man, actually sat on him. St John was one of the members sent to lay the matter before James I: as a result Everard was summoned before the Privy Council and briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London, before being sent home with an admonition. In Dec 1614 St John resigned the mastership of the ordnance; he was in England during Oct 1615, when Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset was committed to his custody, in connection with the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury.

On 2 Jul 1616 St John was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland; he received the sword of state on 30 Aug. His appointment was partly due to his close family connection with George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, by then the prime Royal Favourite, and his administration, like Chichester's was marked by persecution of recusants. He banished, by proclamation, all monks and friars educated abroad. He also pushed on the colonisation of Ulster, and the plantation of co. Longford in 1618 was followed next year by that of co. Leitrim. His severity against the recusants created enemies, and the fact that he owed his appointment to Villiers made him unpopular with many of his council. Early in 1621 they urged his recall; and, though James commended him and protested against involving him in disgrace, he was finally commanded to deliver up the sword of state to Lord Chancellor Loftus on 18 April 1622. He left Ireland on 4 May.

St John still remained in favour at court. On 28 Jun 1622 he was sworn of the English privy council, on 23 Jun 1623 he was created Viscount Grandison of Limerick in the peerage of Ireland, on 16 Aug 1625 he was made Lord High Treasurer of Ireland, and on 20 May 1626 was raised to the English peerage as Baron Tregoz of Highworth, Wiltshire.

In 1624 St John was placed on the Council of War, and served on other commissions. He also interested himself in foreign and colonial affairs, frequently corresponding with his nephew, Sir Thomas Roe. In 1627 he bought the manors of Wandsworth and Battersea, where he had had a house since 1600. His health failing, he sought the advice of Sir Theodore Turquet de Mayerne. After a visit to Ireland in 1630 to settle his estates there, he returned to Battersea, where he died on 30 Dec in the same year, being buried there on 12 Jan 1631.

St John married Joan, daughter and heiress of John Roydon of Battersea, and widow of Sir William Holcroft; she was buried at Battersea on 10 Mar 1631; by her he had no issue. The barony of Tregoz became extinct. Grandison's manors, Wandsworth and Battersea, passed to his nephew Sir John St John. The viscounty of Grandison passed to his grand-nephew, William Villiers, son of Sir Edward Villiers (who was the Duke of Buckingham's brother) by his wife Barbara, younger daughter of Sir John St John, Grandison's elder brother.


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