St. Leger, Anthony (DNB00)
|←St. Lawrence, Robert||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 50
St. Leger, Anthony
|St. Leger, Francis Barry Boyle→|
|1904 Errata appended.|
ST. LEGER, Sir ANTHONY (1496?–1559), lord-deputy of Ireland, eldest son of Ralph St. Leger, esq., of Ulcombe, Kent, and Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Haut of Shelvingbourne in the same county, was born about 1496. ‘When twelve years of age,’ says Lloyd (State Worthies, i. 99), ‘he 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 Grays-Inne; and for that which completed all, the government of himself, to court; where his debonnairness and freedome took with the king, as his solidity and wisdome with the cardinal.’ He was present at the marriage of the Princess Mary at Paris in October 1514, and is mentioned in the following year as forming one of Lord Abergavenny's suite (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, i. 898, ii. 134). After Wolsey's downfall, in which, if we may trust the uncorroborated evidence of Lloyd, he seems to have taken a prominent part, he attached himself to Cromwell, whose 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 Poulett, 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 October that year to attend upon the king's own person in the northern rebellion (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, xi. 233). On 31 July 1537 he was placed at the head of a commission ‘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 Sept., and, having with the assistance of the lord-deputy, Lord Leonard Grey [q. v.], dissolved the army, they set out on the 26th on a tour of inspection through the parts adjacent to the English Pale. Beginning at Kilkenny, where a jury of the inhabitants gave evidence as to the nature of the disorders prevailing among them and of the grievances they suffered at the hands of the neighbouring native Irish and of the degenerate Anglo-Norman gentry, the commissioners proceeded systematically in like manner through Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, Dublin, Meath, and Louth. The inquisitions taken by them are most valuable as presenting a vivid picture of the state of affairs prevailing in the debatable lands at the eve of the reconquest of the island. (With the exception of those for Dublin, Meath, and Louth, which appear unfortunately to have been lost, they have been edited by Messrs. Graves and Hare in the ‘Annuary’ of the Kilkenny Archæological Society for 1856.) The rapidity and discretion with which the commissioners accomplished their work extorted general admiration. ‘Trewlye,’ wrote Agard to Cromwell, ‘they have takyn great paynz, and in ther bussyness here do usse them verrey dyscretelye, and, in espechiall, Mr. Sentleger, whom, by reason of his dyscreschion and indyffrensye towardes everye man, is hylye commendyd here; and ryght well he is worthie’ (ib. ii. 532). As for St. Leger himself, while postponing fuller discussion till his return to England, he significantly remarked that in his opinion Ireland was much easier to be won than to be retained, ‘for onelesse it be peopled with others than be there alredy, and also certen fortresses there buylded and warded, if it be gotten the one daye, it is loste the next’ (ib. ii. 534).
He returned to England at the end of March or beginning of April 1538, and apparently in June was appointed one of the gentlemen 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 [q. v.] on 14 Feb. In October 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, xiv. pt. 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. On 7 July 1540 he was constituted lord deputy of Ireland with a salary of 666l. 13s. 4d., and in the same year obtained an act of parliament disgavelling his estates in Kent (Robinson's Gavelkind, p. 299).
St. Leger's appointment as lord deputy marks the beginning of a new epoch in the history of Ireland. Hitherto Henry VIII had been content to follow more or less closely in the footsteps of his predecessors; but the rebellion of the Geraldines, while convincing him of the futility of trying to govern through the heads of the great Irish families, furnished him with the pretext and opportunity for adopting an entirely new system of government. The results of the inquiry instituted in 1537 supplied him with the general outlines of his new policy, which may be briefly summed up as aiming at the recognition of his own temporal and spiritual supremacy, the gradual conquest of the island by a judicious admixture of force and conciliation, and the substitution of the English system of land tenure for that of the old tribal system. For the nonce the plan of importing colonists, as hinted at by St. Leger, was to remain in abeyance; but in selecting St. Leger to carry his new policy into effect, Henry could have found no better qualified instrument.
Leaving court on 19 July, St. Leger reached Dublin on 5 Aug. The country on the whole was fairly quiet, except for the Kavanaghs to the south of the Pale. Five days after his arrival St. Leger made an inroad into their country, ‘burnyng and destroying the same.’ The Kavanaghs, bending before the sudden storm, submitted, and their chieftain agreed to renounce the objectionable title of MacMurrough, and St. Leger, wishing to show them and the Irish generally that it was rather their obedience than their property that the king desired, restored them to their lands on condition of holding them by knight's service and keeping the peace in future. By such ‘gentle handling’ he hoped to overcome their ‘fickle and inconstant natures’ and give to their submission a lasting basis. Thence he proceeded into Leix, where he took hostages from the O'Mores and their confederates, and entered into a treaty with Owen O'Conor, chief of Irry, the main object of which was to keep the O'Conors of Offaly in subjection. The only immediate danger to be feared was on the side of the O'Tooles, and, on the expiration of their truce, St. Leger determined to proceed against them. They were accordingly shortly afterwards required to quit their mountain fastnesses and settle elsewhere, ‘where they should have no occasion to do your subjectes so moche harme.’ On their refusal, St. Leger invaded their country, whereupon Turlough O'Toole demanded a parley, in consequence of which he repaired to England with an interpreter and a letter of recommendation from St. Leger to Norfolk. His petition and that of his brother, Art Oge, to be allowed to hold their lands on conditions similar to those enjoyed by the Kavanaghs was supported by St. Leger and granted by Henry. Christmas was spent at Carlow Castle settling the Kavanaghs and O'Mores, and on new year's day St. Leger set out for Munster. At Cashel he was met by James FitzJohn Fitzgerald, fourteenth earl of Desmond [q. v.], with whom St. Leger was much pleased, and on his submission admitted him to the earldom of Desmond. He even accepted an invitation to Kilmallock, ‘where,’ as he wrote to the king, ‘I thinke none of your Graces Deputies cam this hundreth yeris before.’ From Kilmallock he proceeded to Limerick, chiefly in order to parley with O'Brien, who met him there. The interview was not so satisfactory as he could have wished, but he was gratified by the submissive attitude of MacGillapatrick of Ossory and MacWilliam of Connaught, and returned, much satisfied with his journey, to Dublin.
Parliament, for which great preparations had been made, assembled at Dublin on 13 June, and among the acts passed was one giving to Henry and his heirs the title of King of Ireland. ‘And for that the thing,’ wrote St. Leger, ‘passed so joyously, and so miche to the contentation of every person, the Sonday foloing ther were made in the citie greate bonfires, wyne sette in the stretis, greate festinges in their howses, with a goodly sorte of gunnes.’ Two noblemen of importance alone held aloof—O'Donnell and O'Neill. With the former St. Leger had an interview on 6 Aug. in O'Reilly's country, when a basis for an agreement was arrived at. O'Neill, on the other hand, obstinately refused either to submit or to meet the deputy, and so on 15 Sept. St. Leger invaded his territory with fire and sword. O'Neill attempted to outflank him and attack the Pale, but his manœuvre was frustrated by Lord Louth. A second and third hosting followed in quick succession, which brought O'Neill to his knees. A parley was granted him and a subsequent meeting appointed at Dundalk to arrange the terms of his submission. The adjourned meeting of parliament at Limerick on 15 Feb. 1542 was attended with good results, and O'Brien having renounced his claim to any land on the east side of the Shannon, he was received to mercy and recommended for the title of Earl of Thomond. Henry, indeed, complained that St. Leger was a little too free in granting Irishmen their requests; but things were going smoothly for the first time within the memory of the oldest living official, and his objections were treated, as perhaps they were meant to be made, pro forma. But there were those of his colleagues that regarded St. Leger with jealousy, and Robert Cowley, master of the rolls, slipped across to England without license to complain of his maladministration. His complaint was found to be grounded on malice, and, having been dismissed from his office, he was left for a time to reflect on his misdemeanour in the Fleet.
After the submission of O'Neill, St. Leger thought the time had come when he could advise the king to entrust the government to an Irish nobleman, especially since he had found in the Earl of Desmond a counterpoise to any overweening pretensions on the part of Ormonde. But his suggestion was not likely to recommend itself to Henry, and indeed appears to have been ignored by him (cf. St. Leger to Paget, 3 Aug. 1545). Other proposals of a more practical sort, however, received his approval, such as the establishment of a permanent council in Munster, the removal of restrictions on the admission of Irish students into the inns of court, and the adoption of measures for the better preservation of state documents and for the reformation of the countries bordering on the Pale. As a sign that Ireland could be made a source of strength to the crown, St. Leger in April 1543 volunteered to raise a force of five hundred horsemen for the war in France or Scotland. But in January 1544 he was allowed to repair to England, and the execution of his project devolved on Lord-justice Sir William Brabazon [q. v.] St. Leger's departure was the signal for disturbances, which the council attributed to ‘youre lordshipes olde frende Occhonor’ [see O'Connor, Brian or Bernard, (1490?–1560?)]; but which were perhaps as much due to the rumour that the young heir to the earldom of Kildare was about to return with the assistance of France. Nevertheless the levy was fairly satisfactory, and the list of kerne raised is an excellent commentary on the practical results of St. Leger's administration.
It was the end of June before St. Leger, having in the meantime received the honour of the Garter together with an augmentation of 200l. to his salary as deputy, returned to his post. The effect of his return was instantaneous, and before many weeks had elapsed he was able to report that the country had returned to its former state of tranquillity. In view of the threatened invasion by France, measures were taken by him to fortify Cork and Kinsale, and in September orders arrived from the council to raise two thousand kerne to assist the Earl of Lennox in his Scottish expedition. The notice, St. Leger remarked, was a short one, and ‘two thousand men were not so soon to be levied,’ but he hoped to have them ready for embarkation within a fortnight. The men were forthcoming at the time fixed, owing to the exertions of the Earl of Ormonde, who was appointed to command them. But the earl, who had been led to believe that his appointment was a device on the part of St. Leger to get rid of him, shortly afterwards preferred a serious charge against him. What ‘toy’ he had in his head, the archbishop of Dublin, George Browne, was unable to say, and St. Leger, being equally ignorant, intercepted Ormonde's letters to the privy council. During the winter the quarrel became so acute that the privy council intervened, and in April 1546 St. Leger and Ormonde repaired to England, where they were speedily reconciled. The mischief was soon afterwards traced to the lord chancellor, John Alen, who was thereupon deprived of the great seal and clapped in the Fleet. St. Leger returned to Ireland on 16 Dec., and his commission as deputy was confirmed on 7 April 1547 by Edward VI. The O'Byrnes, who had taken the opportunity to annoy the citizens of Dublin, were sharply repressed, as were also the O'Mores and O'Conors; and in order to bridle the latter more effectively, St. Leger repaired the fort of Dingan in Offaly, and Fort Protector, as it was now called, in Leix. An incipient rebellion on the part of the sons of Thomas Eustace was likewise repressed before it had time to come to a head, but in September 1548 St. Leger, having been superseded by Sir Edward Bellingham [q. v.], returned to England, taking with him those two disturbers of the public peace, Brian O'Conor and Patrick O'More.
On 20 April 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 MSS. i. 226–30), being sworn in on 10 Sept. In February 1551 he received an order, having already taken measures for the translation of the whole service of the communion into Latin, for the introduction of the English liturgy; but before any proclamations were issued, he convoked an assembly of the clergy at Dublin on 1 March, and, in declaring the king's intention to them, he is reported to have said (Harl. Miscellany, ed. 1810, v. 601): ‘This order is from our gracious king and from the rest of our brethren, the fathers and clergy of England, who have consulted herein and compared the holy scriptures with what they have done; unto who I submit, as Jesus did to Cæsar, in all things just and lawful, making no questions why or wherefore, as we own him our true and lawful king.’ The speech, intended to conciliate such men as Primate Dowdall, and breathing a spirit of enlightened tolerance, gave great offence from its lukewarmness to George Browne (d. 1556) [q. v.], archbishop of Dublin, and, complaints of St. Leger's predilection for the old religion reaching the king's ears, it was determined early in April to revoke his appointment. It was some time before the commission for his successor, Sir James Croft [q. v.], arrived, but in the meantime he governed only by Croft's advice. He surrendered the sword at Cork on 23 May, and shortly afterwards repaired to England. On 6 Aug. Browne transmitted a long complaint touching St. Leger's alleged papistical practices (Shirley, Orig. Letters, no. xxiii.). There is little doubt that St. Leger believed that the zeal of the reformers was outrunning their discretion. ‘Goe to, goe to,’ said he to Browne, ‘yor matters of religion woll marre all.’ His case came before the privy council in January 1552, and in the meantime he was, by Edward's own orders, banished the royal chamber. The acts of the council are unfortunately silent as to the course of his examination; but, from the fact that in April he was readmitted to the king's chamber, there is every reason to believe that he had little difficulty in rebutting Browne's charges. In May he had a grant in fee farm of the castle of Leeds in Kent, and on 12 June 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 June 1553; but he supported the claims of Mary, and on 7 Aug. was sworn a privy councillor. He was reappointed lord deputy of Ireland in October, and reached Dublin on 11 Nov.
His instructions touched the restoration of the old religion, the reduction of the army, the establishment of a council in Munster, and the leasing of lands in Leix and Offaly. Want of money crippled his administration. According to Campion, 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 (1526–1599) [q. v.], who charged him with falsifying his accounts in favour of Andrew Wyse, late vice-treasurer. He was accordingly recalled for the third time, and on 26 May 1556 surrendered the sword of state to Thomas Radcliffe, lord Fitzwalter (afterwards third Earl of Sussex) [q. v.] The question of his defalcations was discussed at the council board, but St. Leger, who was suffering from sciatica, did not appear. On 8 Dec. 1558 a letter was addressed to him requiring him ‘to signifye with speed … what he myndeth to doo herein;’ but his death at Ulcombe on 16 March 1559 put a stop to further proceedings. He was buried in the parish church there on 5 April, the day following the interment of his wife, who died eight days after him, on 24 March.
St. Leger married Agnes, daughter of Hugh Warham, esq., of Croydon, niece and heiress of Archbishop Warham, and had issue William, who married Isabel, daughter of Thomas Keys or Knight, was father of Sir Warham St. Leger (d 1600) [see under St. Leger, Sir Warham, (1525?–1597)], and died during his father's lifetime, having, it is said (Harl. MS. 1425, f. 54), been disinherited by him; and Sir Warham (d. 1597) [q. v.] who succeeded him. According to Lloyd, Sir Anthony St. Leger ‘was neither souldier, nor scholar, nor statesman, yet he understood the way how to dispose of all those to his countries service and his master's honour, being all of them eminently, though none of them pedantickly and formally, in himself.’ ‘He was the deputy that made no noise,’ and he might have added the only deputy out of a long succession who appreciated fully the good and bad points of Irish character. He originated the custom of cess, but he was the only deputy that managed to make the revenues of Ireland suffice to meet the expenses of its government (cf. Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors, i. 379). An epitaph by him on Sir Thomas Wyatt is printed among Wyatt's ‘Poems.’
[There is a good life of St. Leger in Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 192–6. The principal authorities are Berry's County Genealogies, Kent, p. 287; Hasted's Kent, ii. 423; Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall, vi. 96–106; State Papers, Henry VIII (printed), vol. iii. passim; Cal. State Papers, Hen. VIII, ed. Brewer and Gairdner, i. 898, ii. 134, ix. 79, x. 219, xi. 233, xiv. pt. i. 3, 114, 151, xiv. pt. ii. 126, 223; Acts of the Privy Council of England, new ser. vols. i.–vii.; Cal. State Papers, Ireland (ed. Hamilton), vol. i.; Cal. Carew MSS. vol. i.; Cal. Hatfield MSS. i. 82; Haynes's State Papers, pp. 165, 166, 193; Chronicle of Queen Jane (Camden Soc.), pp. 100, 135; Journal of King Edward VI in Cotton. MS. Nero C. x.; Shirley's Original Letters; Ware's Rerum Hibernicarum Annales; Annals of the Four Masters, ed. O'Donovan; Lloyd's State Worthies; Machyn's Diary; Chronicle of Calais (Camden Soc.); Holinshed's Chronicle; Cal. Fiants, Hen. VIII, Nos. 304, 325, 340, 372, Edw. VI, Nos. 157, 162; Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. p. 94, 4th Rep. p. 202, 9th Rep. pt. i. p. 120; Harl. MS. 284, f. 116; Cotton. MS. Titus B. xi. f. 437; Egerton MS. 2790, f. 1, and also Sloane MS. 2442, f. 132; Addit. MSS. 5751 f. 293, 6362 f. 11, 34079 f. 2; Gent. Mag. 1862, ii. 785; Wills's Irish Nation, i. 367–71; Webb's Compendium.]
|166||ii||17||St. Leger, Sir Anthony: for vol. xxiii. read no. xxiii.|