SNAGGE, Thomas I (1536-93), of Marston Moretaine, Beds. and Serjeants' Inn, London.
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Family and Education
b. 1536, 1st s. of Thomas Snagge of Letchworth and bro. of Robert. educ. G. Inn 1552, called 1554. m. bef. 1564, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Thomas Dickons of Marston Moretaine, 5s. inc. Thomas II 2da. suc. fa. 1571.
J.p. Beds. from c.1569; Autumn reader, G. Inn 1563, 1574, bencher by 1574; attorney-gen. [I] 1577-80; serjeant-at-law 1580; Queen’s serjeant 1590; recorder, Bedford from ?c.1569.
Speaker of House of Commons 1589.
Though the principal part of his father’s estate passed to his younger brother Robert, Snagge’s fortunate marriage assured him an ample estate in Bedfordshire, while his father, a wealthy man, had already settled on him the manor of Howell Bury. In 1569 he added to his Bedfordshire estate by the purchase of the barony and castle of Bedford and the manor of Kempston Daubeney. Still, though he was on the Bedfordshire commission of the peace, he was really a London lawyer, and his election as knight of the shire is surprising. He was classified as ‘earnest in religion and fit to be trusted’ in the bishops’ reports of 1564, and he was a less extreme protestant than his brother Robert. His concern in the debate on the bill for coming to church and receiving communion, 9 Apr. 1571, was that it could be turned against protestants as well as Catholics. He ‘showed at large the inconvenience of the old law for coming to service, and of this if they both be conjoined’, pointing out that as in many places services were not held according to the book of common prayer as the old law prescribed, sermons often replacing prayers, the addition of the new law to the old would mean that ‘if he come not he shall lose £12, and if he do come and be present and the service not said to the prescribed title of the Book, he should lose one hundred marks’. On 13 Apr., on the bill for suppressing simony, he averred
that the cause of the slanders which the Papists have against the Church of England, in that they say cobblers, tinkers, tailors, millers, etc. are of the ministry, groweth thereby, that the livings are detained by the patrons from the spiritual in their own hands, to their own private uses.
Snagge was active in 1571 on committees appointed for the subsidy (7 Apr.), fraudulent conveyances (11 Apr.), church attendance (21 Apr.); fugitives (24 Apr., 25 May), treasons (11 May), jeofails (12 May) and corrupt presentations (25 May).1
In September 1577 Walsingham obtained Snagge the attorneyship in Ireland, at £100 above the usual salary. Walsingham wrote to Sir Henry Sidney:
although the discontinuance, by this means, of his study and practice here, doth bring with it many discommodities, and therefore might move him to be slow in consenting to enter into this fruitless journey, if he had chief regard to his own particular; yet the duty that he oweth to her Majesty and his country with the assurance that he conceiveth, by my promise and otherways, or your lordship’s good favour, doth make him leave all other respects, and willingly to dedicate himself to that service.
After a difficult crossing Snagge arrived in Ireland to find things there very different from Westminster Hall, and his tenure of office was poisoned by a quarrel with the master of the rolls, Nicholas White. However, there could be no denying Snagge’s efficiency, and he was suggested for the chancellorship of Ireland.2
In 1586 Snagge again represented Bedfordshire in Parliament, but was less active than in 1571. He sat on committees dealing with Mary Stuart (4 Nov.), Norfolk returns (9 Nov.), errors in fines (9 Mar. 1587), fish (9 Mar.), and, as a knight of the shire, the subsidy committee (22 Feb.). In 1588 when members of two more influential families took the county seats, Snagge was brought in for the borough, and made Speaker of the 1589 Parliament, a position for which his legal experience and ability made him a natural choice. For some reason at the time he was chosen his first name is given repeatedly in the journals as George. During the course of the session he had to put the Commons’ point of view on purveyance and reform of the royal Household to the Queen, and, 8 Mar., report her reply to the House, which was that
the Queen had as much skill, will and power to rule and govern her own household as any subject.
As Speaker he received the conventional sum of £6 13s. 4d. from the city of London for his favour during the Parliament, and after the dissolution he received the usual promotion to Queen’s serjeant. The next year, on 7 Apr. 1591, he made his will, leaving his estates to his sons Thomas and Robert, who went to law about the division after the death of their mother, the executrix. Snagge himself died aged 57 in his chamber at Serjeants’ Inn on 16 Mar. 1593, and was buried at Marston Moretaine, where a monument was erected to him.3