Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Snagge, Thomas

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SNAGGE, THOMAS (1536–1592), speaker of the House of Commons, was born in 1536 at Letchworth, Hertfordshire, where his father, Thomas Snagge, was lord of the manor. A brother Robert was a bencher of the Middle Temple, and sat as member for Lostwithiel in the parliament of 1571. In 1552 Thomas entered as a student at Gray's Inn, and was called to the bar by that society in 1554. In 1563 he was appointed ‘reader,’ and in 1574 became ‘double reader.’ He sat as member for the county of Bedford in the parliament of 1571, and appears to have become an effective debater in the House of Commons. On 13 Sept. 1577 the queen, in a private letter to Sir Henry Sidney [q. v.], nominated Snagge to the office of attorney-general for Ireland, ‘being sufficiently persuaded of his learning and judgment in the law wherein he had been in long practice as a counsellor’ (Morrin, Patent and Close Rolls of Ireland, ii. 11). Snagge's patent of appointment was dated 2 Dec. 1577. ‘The Dutye that he oweth to her Majestie and his Countrye,’ wrote Walsingham to Sidney, ‘doth make him leaue all other Respects and willinglie to dedicat himself to that Seruice, for the which I thinke him a Man so well chosen both for Judgement and bould Spirit … as hardlie all the Howses of Court could yeld his like’ (Collins, Letters and Memorials of State, i. 228). Snagge did not belie Walsingham's expectations. Three months after his arrival in Dublin, Sidney wrote of him to Walsingham: ‘I fynde him a Man well learned, sufficient, stoute, and well-spoken, an Instrument of good Service for her Majestie, and soche a one as is carefull to redresse by Wisdome and good Discreation soch Errors as he fyndeth in her Majesties Courts here. So that by his presence I find my selfe well assisted and humblye thank yr Lordships for the sendinge him to me, and more of his Sorte are needed’ (ib. p. 231). Snagge held the office of attorney-general for Ireland for three years, returning to England in 1580, when he was appointed serjeant-at-law. He was treasurer of Gray's Inn for that year, and resumed his large practice at the bar. To the parliament of November 1588 Snagge was returned for Bedford town, and was chosen speaker of the House of Commons (12 Nov. 1588). Parliament was prorogued on 4 Feb. 1588–9, but Snagge continued to hold the office until the dissolution on 28 March 1589–90. In 1590 he was advanced to the dignity of queen's serjeant. He died in 1592, in the fifty-seventh year of his age. He was buried at Marston-Morteyne, where is a handsome canopied monument to his memory, with recumbent effigies in marble of himself and his wife. By his marriage with a coheiress of Thomas Dikons, Snagge acquired the large estates of the Reynes family in Bedfordshire. His eldest son, Sir Thomas Snagge of Marston-Morteyne, was elected member for Bedford county in November 1588, was one of the first knights made by James I on his accession in 1603, and was high sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1607.

[Manning's Lives of the Speakers of the House of Commons; Dugdale's Origines Juridiciales; O'Byrne's Representative Hist. of Great Britain and Ireland; Blaydes's Genealogia Bedfordiensis; Visitations of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire (Harl. Soc.), vols. xix. xxii.; Cal. State Papers, Ireland, vols. lxix. lx. lxxxv.; Holinshed's Chron. p. 1314; Stow's Chron. p. 687; Blaydes's Bedfordshire Notes and Queries; Offic. Ret. of Members of Parliament; Calendar of the Lords' Journals, p. 138; Journals of the House of Commons; Douthwaite's History of Gray's Inn.]

T. W. S.