MANNERS, Roger I (c.1536-1607), of Uffington, Lincs.
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Family and Education
Esquire of the body to Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth; constable of Nottingham castle during the minority of 3rd Earl of Rutland Dec. 1563.
When Manners reached early manhood he was sent to sea under the Lord Admiral, whose good opinion he won. He promised to apply himself ‘to the understanding of the marine causes and affairs’, which he did for most of Mary’s reign, probably taking part in the battle of St. Quentin. Doubtless through his mother, who was popular with Queen Mary, he obtained the post of esquire of the body, and when Elizabeth came to the throne he gave up the sea for the court, where he spent much of the rest of his life. At first, he was continually attendant on the Queen, but in 1583, in respect of his good services, the Queen relieved him of most of his duties, and permitted him to attend only when he wished, or at her express command.
Numerous letters from Manners to his family survive. As well as providing an intimate picture of court life during the reign, they give a detailed insight into his character. Never married—the married endorsement ‘concerning a match with Roger Manners’s daughter’, on a letter from Lord Morley, certainly misinterprets the contents Manners was an affectionate brother and uncle. In many ways, despite his constant reiteration that he wished to be a countryman and ‘follow the plough’, he was a typical courtier: pliable, amusing, ready with tongue and pen, cynical and engagingly lazy; a keen sportsman, always ready to curtail a letter if called to the pleasure of the chase; an open handed host, ever anxious to entertain visitors in his ‘poor cottage’ at Uffington, where the hospitality dispensed was much remarked on.
In 1572, when suspected of having favoured the late Duke of Norfolk, he deplored ‘popish idolatry’, and it is apparent that his religious attitude depended entirely on his loyalty to the Crown. In 1603, when the Queen lay dying, he wrote to his brother John: ‘I will not go about to make kings, nor seek to pull down any; only will obey such as be chosen and crowned’. In 1601, when his great-nephews, the 5th Earl of Rutland and the Earl’s brothers, were involved in the Essex rising, he wished that they ‘had never been born, than so horrible offence offend so gracious a sovereign to the overthrow of their house and name for ever, always before loyal’. His distress was such that the Queen sent Sir John Stanhope to comfort him, and Robert Cecil wrote him letters of encouragement. It was doubtless as a token of the Queen’s confidence in his loyalty that Rutland was finally committed to his custody—a responsibility of which Manners soon tired.
There is no reason to doubt that this ‘old There experimented courtier’ was sincere when, summing up his knowledge for his niece, Bridget, on her entrance to the Queen’s service, he advised:
First and above all things ... forget not to use daily prayers to the Almighty God to endue you with his grace ... apply yourself wholly to the service of her Majesty, with all meekness, love and obedience, wherein you must be diligent, secret and faithful. To your elders and superiors [be] of reverent behaviour; to your equals and fellow servants, civil and courteous; to your inferiors ... be no meddler in the cause of others. [Let] your speech and endeavours ever bend to the good of all and to the hurt of none.
After sitting for the local borough of Grantham in 1563, Manners seems neither to have sought election to Parliament himself nor, in general, to have influenced his nephew the 5th Earl’s patronage. However, in 1601 he may have played a part in the return of Oliver Manners at Grantham and did intervene to have Henry Capell II brought in at Boston, a borough which had never before returned a Rutland candidate. But at the time of this election, several members of the family, as well as the 5th Earl himself, were in disgrace, and it looks as though Manners was exercising the family patronage on their behalf.
Under James I Manners lived in retirement, either at Enfield or at his town house in the Savoy. He had done well out of royal bounty, and had augmented his portion as a younger son with several manors and chantry lands, as well as leases. These he settled in his last years on various of his nephews and great-nephews. The manor of Long Bennington went to the 5th Earl of Rutland, Fleet Fitzwaters and Holbeach and chantry property to his namesake Roger Manners II, and Pillerton to Oliver Manners; other tithes, and rectories and leases were left to his nephew Charles’s young sons. He also made careful arrangements that enough of his property should be in the hands of his executors for a sufficient time to yield sizeable dowries for some of his neices, on a scale with the dowry he had given one during his lifetime. Before his death he had also given generously to the building and upkeep of Corpus Christi, Cambridge. Manners died 11 Dec. 1607, and was buried in the tomb in Uffington church which he had long ago erected for himself and his younger brother, Oliver, who had died in 1563. His soul he bequeathed to the Trinity who in the person of Jesus Christ had redeemed him ‘from the tyranny of the Devil, to be one of the society and elect company of heaven by the only merit of [his] dreadful passion’.
This biography is based on L. C. John, ‘Roger Manners, Elizabethan Courtier’, HL Quarterly, xii. 57-84; HMC Rutland, i. ii, iv. passim; HMC Hatfield, passim; Lodge, Illus. passim; PCC 95 Huddleston; Lansd. 15, f. 178; 46, f. 124; 77, f. 71 seq.; 78, f. 24; 79, f. 150; 80, f. 2; 89, f. 33; 108, ff. 5, 7, 9; APC, xxxii. 340; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 89; C142/303/137, 146; 304/19; CPR, 1563-6, p. 45; Coll. of Arms. Talbot mss, transcribed by G. R. Batho.