ST. LEGER, Sir John (by 1516-93/96), of Annery in Monkleigh, Devon.
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Family and Education
b. by 1516, 1st s. of Sir George St. Leger of Annery by Anne, da. of Edmund Knyvet. m. by June 1535, Catherine, da. of George Neville, 5th Lord Bergavenny, at least 2s. 4da. suc. fa. 1533/37. Kntd. 1544/1 Oct. 1547.1
Commr. relief, Devon 1550, musters 1569; j.p. 1554, q. 1558/59-d.; dep. lt. Devon and Cornw. 1558, Devon 1569; sheriff, Devon 1560-1.2
John St. Leger was only a boy when his father and grandmother arranged that he should marry a daughter of the wealthy royal favourite Sir William Compton; the bride was to bring a dowry of £2,346 and both families were to settle lands on the couple. The marriage did not take place, seemingly because Catherine Compton died, and it was replaced by a match with Catherine Neville, a granddaughter of the 3rd Duke of Buckingham. St. Leger was married by 1535 and within two years he had livery of an inheritance comprising lands in nine counties. He served in the French campaign of 1544. According to Sir William Paget, Henry VIII on his deathbed chose St. Leger for creation as a baron, but the Council revised the King’s plan after his death.3
It was not until he was about 40 that St. Leger entered the Commons but he was to sit in every Parliament save one for the 30 years which followed. His election in 1555 may have owed something to the prominent part he had played in the rounding up of the Carew rebels at the beginning of the previous year; this had earned him the thanks of the Queen and a place on the Devon bench. Himself linked by marriage with the Carew and Courtenay families, and returned for Dartmouth with the outgoing sheriff James Courtenay, St. Leger is likely to have enjoyed most support from James Bassett, the court favourite who sat in this Parliament as one of the knights of the shire. The names of Courtenay and St. Leger are conspicuously absent from the list of Members, among them many ‘western’ men, who voted against one of the government’s bills. For the rest of Mary’s reign St. Leger was an active local official, and when early in 1558 Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford was made lord lieutenant of Devon and Cornwall, Sir Thomas Denys and St. Leger became his deputies.4
St. Leger had both added to and consolidated his possessions in Devon, especially through grants of ex-monastic lands, but in later life he parted with much of his property and he died in the mid 1590s a poor man.5