ST. JOHN, Oliver III (c.1560-1630), of Battersea, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1560, 2nd s. of Nicholas St. John of Lydiard Tregoze, Wilts. by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Richard Blount of Mapledurham, Oxon. educ. Trinity, Oxf. BA 1578; L. Inn 10 Oct. 1580. m. c.1592, Joan, da. and h. of Henry Roydon of Battersea, wid. of Thomas Holcroft I, s.p. Kntd. 28 Feb. 1600; cr. Visct. Grandison [I] 1621, Baron Tregoz 1626.

Offices Held

J.p. Surr. 1593; gent. pens. 1593/96-1605/6; master gen. of the ordnance [I] 1605-14, PC [I] 1605; MP [I] 1613-15; ld. dep. [I] 1616-22; PC 1622; high treasurer [I] 1625-30.1


The St. Johns of Lydiard Tregoze were a cadet branch of the Bletsoe family, descended from the Sir Oliver St. John who had married Margaret, the Beauchamp heiress. As a younger son, St. John himself was expected to make his own way in the world, his father leaving him only £40 a year. Originally intended for the law, he killed George Best, the companion and chronicler of Frobisher, in a duel (‘by nature I am the child of wrath’, he said in his will), and was forced to flee the country in 1584. So he served in the Netherlands and later in France, and in 1595 he was included in a list of officers with a note that he had commanded a company of horse at the siege of Rouen, where, on the first day, his horse had been killed in the charge. But he was in England for the Parliament of 1593, and again in 1597, when he took the Surrey levies to London. He is last known to have been on the Continent in 1600, at the battle of Nieuport.2

St. John was presumably returned for Cirencester through the influence of Charles Danvers, who had also served in the Netherlands. As one of the Cirencester Members St. John could have served on a cloth committee, 15 Mar. 1593. He was certainly one of those appointed on 30 Mar. to join with the Lords in distributing the contributions of both Houses for the relief of poor maimed soldiers, and a few days later was among those appointed by the Privy Council to make a list of soldiers who had been maimed or disabled in the Queen’s service in the four preceding years, submitting a report to the lord keeper, who would then inform both Houses of Parliament of the situation. He was still concerning himself with the plight of ex-servicemen in the 1604 Parliament.3

As Oliver St. John II, friend of Peter Wentworth and Humphrey Winch, was also in the 1593 Parliament, it is seemingly perverse to suggest attributing a speech made 27 Feb. in support of James Morice’s motion on the ‘hard courses of the bishops ... towards sundry learned and godly ministers’, to the soldier. But the journalist has him saying ‘I am but young’ and this fits 33 better than 48. Perhaps Oliver St. John II had asked him to speak on his behalf so as to avoid following Wentworth to the Tower, for the sentiments were certainly his; perhaps there is total confusion and the speech was made by someone else, such as Henry Finch (who certainly did support the motion). However, the entry in D’Ewes is explicit: ‘Then up stood Mr. Oliver St. John, as may be collected out of the aforesaid original journal book of the House of Commons, where he is said to have spoken next after Mr. Henry Finch’.

The ancient charter of this realm says nullus liber homo, etc., which is flatly violated by bishops jurisdiction. You know what things Thomas Becket stood upon against the King, which things are now also crept in.

It was useless to cite precedents, or ‘thieves may prescribe to take purses on Shooters Hill because time out of mind they had done so ... and because it is allowed in Geneva, so to allow it here, that is no reason. For in Geneva there be many things allowed, which the party speaking [probably William Lewin is meant] would, I daresay, be loath to have used here.’ Again, it was probably Oliver St. John III who got into a dispute with Heneage, the vice-chamberlain, on 6 Mar. over the terms of reference to be given to the committee which was to discuss the subsidy with the Lords.4

St. John’s first mission to Ireland was early in 1600, when he took over from England 800 reinforcements and stayed to take part in the campaigns of the summer, in which he distinguished himself. He continued in command of a company, and was present at the siege of Kinsale in 1601, where he was wounded. He made regular journeys to England with messages for the lord deputy, and in 1601 Mountjoy suggested him to Cecil as muster master general for Ireland. He finally obtained an Irish office in 1605, became lord deputy under Buckingham, and died 29 Dec. 1630.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: A. M. Mimardière / P. W. Hasler


  • 1. CP, vi. 74; Hatfield ms 278.
  • 2. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 167-8; J. S. Taylor, Our Lady of Battersea, 152; DNB; Manning and Bray, Surr. iii, App. cxx; PCC 1 St. John; Lansd. 78, f. 138; HMC Hatfield, vi. 570; APC, xxiv. 416; xxvii. 105, 164.
  • 3. D’Ewes, 501, 512; APC, xxiv. 160; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 82.
  • 4. D’Ewes, 475, 489-90.
  • 5. CSP Ire. 1559-60, p. 479; 1600, pp. 4, 336, 501, 503; 1600-1, pp. 53, 59, 173, 175-7; 1601-3, pp. 13, 203; APC, xxx. 809; HMC Hatfield, xii. 483; CP, vi. 74.