DIGBY, Kenelm (by 1518-90), of Stoke Dry, Rutland.
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Family and Education
Steward, lands in Rutland formerly of Duke of Clarence 1540-d.; sheriff, Rutland 1541-2, 1549-50, 1553-4, 1561-2, 1567-8, 1575-6, 1585-6; j.p. 1543-d.; commr. benevolence 1544/45, musters 1546, contribution 1546, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; other commissions 1543-d.; custos rot. 1558/59-d.4
Kenelm Digby began his long parliamentary career when on 14 Apr. 1539 he was elected junior Member for Stamford. It was the sole occasion on which he was to sit for a borough and he probably owed the nomination to his friend John Harington I, who may have been deputy steward of the town at the time of the election and who was himself returned to this Parliament as senior knight for Rutland. Nothing is known of Digby’s part in the proceedings of the House, but as his father was to die on 11 Apr. 1540, the day before the opening of the third session, he is likely to have missed at least the early part of that session.5
Sir Everard Digby was about 70 when he died, so that the eldest son was doubtless well into his majority when he succeeded to the inheritance and may already have married the daughter of Catherine Parr’s wealthy chamberlain. He at once took his father’s place in local administration, being pricked sheriff in November 1541 and joining the county bench when the term was over. Excluded by his shrievalty from the Parliament of 1542—in which, however, his influence is probably to be seen in the election of his cousin Simon Digby—three years later he succeeded Harington as senior knight of the shire. This was the beginning of an exceptional performance: in the course of the next 40 years Digby was to sit for his county in nine more Parliaments, and the three which he missed were put out of his reach by two of his six further terms as sheriff. Even though conditions in Rutland were favourable to such a near-monopoly, it is a measure of Digby’s achievement that only one or possibly two of his fellows attained the same total, Thomas Warcop in Westmorland and perhaps Sir Thomas Cheyne in Kent. He does not figure on the opposition lists for the Parliaments of October 1553 and 1555.
Whatever knowledge of the law Digby had acquired at the Middle Temple, an inn with which he retained a connexion for many years, was put to both public and private use: regularly named to commissions of oyer and terminer for the midlands, he was also consulted on legal matters by his friends and relatives, for whom he often acted as a feoffee. It was perhaps his legal bent which in 1572 prompted his demand to see the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon’s patent of lieutenancy before acknowledging Huntingdon’s standing in the county, a piece of officiousness which incensed the earl. With so ardent a Puritan as Huntingdon, however, Digby can have felt little at ease: in 1564 he was reported to be ‘indifferent’ in religion but towards the end of his life he was described as unsound in faith and one of his sons was a notable Catholic. Formerly a purchaser of ex-monastic lands, he was later obliged to sell the manor of Morcott bought by his father, as well as lands in Newton Burdett.6
Digby died at a great age on 21 Apr. 1590 and was buried at Stoke Dry, where the tomb and inscription survive.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: S. M. Thorpe
- 1. Stamford hall bk. 1461-1657, f. 129v.
- 2. Only ‘Ken...’ can be read on the indenture (C219/24/129), but the identity is obvious.
- 3. Presumed to be of age at election. Vis. Rutland (Harl. Soc. iii), 20; PCC 73 Drury; VCH Rutland, ii. 223, 227.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, xii, xviii, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 75, 88; 1550-3, pp. 141, 395; 1553, pp. 357, 415; 1553-4, p. 29; 1563-6, p. 42.
- 5. PCC 1 More.
- 6. PCC 14 Windsor, 8 Pyckering, 35 Mellershe; Egerton 2896; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 37; Lansd. 54, f. 78; VCH Rutland, i. 150, 182; ii. 208; LP Hen. VIII, xxi; CPR, 1560-3, p. 386; C142/219/98.
- 7. VCH Rutland, ii. 227; Pevsner, Leics. and Rutland, 325.