DIGBY, Sir Everard (by 1472-1540), of Tilton, Leics. and Stoke Dry, Rutland.
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Family and Education
b. by 1472, 1st s. of Sir Everard Digby of Tilton and Stoke Dry by Jacquetta, da. of Sir John Ellis of Devon. educ. ?L. Inn, adm. 1495. m. by 1518, Margery, da. of Sir John Heydon of Baconsthorpe, Norf., 3s. inc. Kenelm 1da. suc. fa. 22 Jan. 1509. Kntd. by 1520.1
J.p. Leics 1511-d., Rutland 1524-d., commr. subsidy, Rutland 1512, 1514, 1515; other commissions Leics. and Rutland 1509-d., sheriff, Rutland 1513-14, 1518-19, 1528-9, 1532-3, Warws. and Leics. 1520-1, jt. steward, lands in Rutland formerly of Duke of Clarence May 1517.2
The Digbys had been one of Rutland’s leading families since the mid 15th century and by the 16th had established themselves in several midland counties. Sir Everard Digby’s grandfather, a Lancastrian, had been killed at Towton and his father and uncles are said to have fought at Bosworth. Several of these uncles enjoyed distinguished careers, including Sir John Digby of Ab Kettleby, Leicestershire, sometime knight marshal of the Household to Henry VII. Already related to many of the local gentry, including the Caves, the Fieldings and the Hunts, Sir Everard Digby married into a leading Norfolk family, connected with the Boleyns and with the 1st Earl of Rutland, while one of his sisters married Sir William Skeffington, master of the Ordnance and in 1529 knight of the shire for Leicestershire. Shortly after his father’s death Digby sued out a pardon as of London, Stoke Dry, Rutland, Tilton, Ashby-de-la-Zouche and Kirby, Leicestershire. In 1525 he added to his inheritance by buying the manor and advowson of Morcott, Rutland.3
The Everard Digby who was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1495 and who was probably (although then called Edward) in trouble in the following year for ‘railings and contempt’, may have been the future Member, then in his mid or late twenties, or his cousin, a son of Sir Thomas Digby, or even another namesake whose place in the family is unknown but who was later a monk of the London Charterhouse. Digby’s skilful interpretation, during one of his terms as sheriff, of the law of sanctuary in favour of a servant accused of murder suggests that he had some training in the law. It was, however, the cousin who served in France in 1512 and 1526, on the first occasion and perhaps also on the second as under master of the Ordnance to Sir William Skeffington; it was also probably he who in the latter year was a gentleman usher out of wages. The recently knighted Sir Everard Digby was himself initially appointed to attend the Field of Cloth of Gold but his name was later erased from the list of Leicestershire knights; in 1523 he led a retinue to France under the 1st Duke of Suffolk.4
A natural choice for the knighthood of the shire, which both his father and grandfather had achieved in their day, Digby may well have sat before 1529. In that year, moreover, he was sheriff and, unless the election was very much delayed, he enjoyed the rare (and illegal) distinction of returning himself as senior knight: the anomaly may be explained—and may have been condoned—by the smallness of the county and the shortage of resident gentry qualified to serve in either capacity. Nothing is known of the part played by Digby in the proceedings of the Commons. He was presumably returned again in 1536, in accordance with the King’s general request for the re-election of the previous Members.
Digby made his will on 13 Dec. 1539, bequeathing his books and coffers to his eldest son Kenelm. According to the inscription (now lost) on his effigy in Stoke Dry church he died on the following 11 Apr.5