SLEGGE, Edward (by 1494-?1558), of Cambridge.
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Family and Education
Treasurer, Cambridge 1521, bailiff 1524, coroner 1527, mayor 1528-9; j.p. 1537; commr. gaol delivery 1540, relief, Cambs. 1550; serjeant-at-arms 1535-c.1555.3
Edward Slegge must have been of gentle birth to achieve the office of serjeant-at-arms but nothing is known of him before his admission to the freedom of Cambridge in 1514-15 save that his mother’s name was Joan. Shortly after he had attained his first municipal office, that of treasurer in 1521, he was appointed an executor of the will of John Bury. If other leading townsmen held him in the same esteem at this time—although his performance of his duties as executor was to involve him in two chancery cases—he may have been chosen to represent the town in the Parliament of 1523 for which the names of the Cambridge Members are unknown.4
In 1529 Slegge made a vigorous effort as mayor to determine his successor and, when defeated in that attempt by Thomas Brakyn, to control the ensuing parliamentary election by holding it without warning on the last day of his year of office. The ruse failed and the two men chosen a week later were Brakyn and his supporter in the earlier disturbances, Robert Chapman: Slegge and five aldermen of his party sued Brakyn in the Star Chamber, with unknown result, and Chapman was appointed to bring proceedings, which were however not sustained, against Slegge in the mayor’s court. Brakyn and Slegge seem to have been reconciled.5
At the time of these disputes Slegge was also under sentence of excommunication by the vice-chancellor of the university, and although he never again achieved the mayoralty he often represented the town in its disputes with the university and with other towns. He was thus well qualified to serve Cambridge in Parliament. He is known only to have attended the last session of the Parliament of 1542, and since his receipt of 20s. on 19 Feb. 1544 ‘when he went up to London to the Parliament’ and later of 22s. ‘for his whole Parliament money’ exactly matches, at the town’s then customary rate of 1s. a day, attendance for the remainder of the session of 1544 with three days’ travelling time, it is almost certain that he was returned at a by-election held after the opening of that session. Whom he replaced is not known: only Brakyn received wages for an earlier session and the town’s return in 1542 is lost. Slegge is remembered today neither for his defence of his town’s interest nor for his Membership but for his part in bringing the succession crisis of 1553 to an end when in Queen Mary’s name he arrested the Duke of Northumberland on 22 July.6
In February 1550 Slegge obtained a crown lease for 21 years of land at Comberton, Cambridgeshire, which involved him in further quarrels and lawsuits. Three years later he joined with another man to buy ex-chantry lands in Cambridgeshire, Staffordshire and elsewhere for £1,539: the pair promptly resold the Staffordshire lands. His effort to purchase some freehold land leased to him near Cambridge was thwarted by one Robert Ray and led to the forfeiture of his lease in 1554 and a series of lawsuits, in one of which he was called ‘a very froward perverse and malicious man following the most devilish counsel of his two sons’. The only indication found of the date of Slegge’s death comes from a chancery suit of 1596, in which his grandson stated that he had died ‘about the last year of the reign of Queen Mary’; he was perhaps a victim of the epidemic of that time. No will has been found although he is said to have made at least two; one of these he entered ‘in a book wherein he usually wrote his debts, receipts and reckonings’, but it was the other, written on paper, which was pronounced valid in a court of wards action soon after his death.7