ST. JOHN, Sir Anthony (c.1585-by 1651), of Chester, Cheshire; formerly of Southill, Beds.
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Family and Education
b. c.1585, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Oliver, 3rd Bar. St. John† of Bletsoe, Beds. (d.1618) and Dorothy, da. and coh. of John Rede† of Boddington, Glos.;1 bro. of Sir Alexander*, Sir Beauchamp*, Sir Henry*, Sir Oliver I* and Sir Rowland*. educ. Queen’s, Camb. 1601.2 m. (1) by 1611, Katherine, at least 1s. 2da.; (2) by 1628, Thomasine, ?s.p.3 kntd. 5 Aug. 1608;4 d. by 18 May 1651.5 sig. Anthony St. John.
Capt. of ft., 3rd earl of Essex’s regt. 1642.6
An obscure figure who owed his modest preferments to his family’s influence, St. John went to Cambridge with his younger brother Alexander* in 1601, and the pair were knighted when the king visited Bletsoe in 1608. By this time St. John had inherited the manors of Longford and Norton, Gloucestershire from his mother. An absentee landlord, he chose to take large entry fines for leases at low rents and remained resident in Bedfordshire, where two of his daughters were baptized in 1612-13.7 By 1621, however, he was living in Chester, whose corporation he successfully petitioned in 1628 to make one of his servants a freeman.8
St. John’s return for Wigan and Cheshire in four successive parliaments is difficult to explain, as his family’s estates lay almost exclusively in the East Midlands and South Wales. His second wife, Thomasine, whose origins are unknown, may have come from the area, but his return for the county in 1625 required a powerful patron, presumably John Egerton†, 1st earl of Bridgewater, whose daughter Arbella had married his nephew Oliver St. John II* in 1623. He was doubtless also backed by Sir George Booth, whose son William, knight of the shire in 1624, was married to Bridgewater’s niece. St. John’s patron at Wigan may have been Sir Peter Legh†, who owned property in Wigan and Cheshire, and had been returned for both constituencies at the end of Elizabeth’s reign. Legh was also nephew to the wife of Bridgewater’s late brother, Thomas Egerton†, which explains why St. John hailed Legh as his ‘noble and most worthy cousin’ later in the 1620s.9
St. John left little trace on the records of the parliaments in which he sat. Numerous citations of ‘Sir A. St. John’ in the journals almost certainly refer to his brother Sir Alexander, who sat in six parliaments between 1614 and 1629; only a handful of entries refer specifically to ‘Sir Anthony St. John’. During the 1626 Parliament St. John’s family maintained a simmering hostility towards the duke of Buckingham. It is therefore not surprising that Sir Anthony was one of those appointed to attend a conference of 4 Mar., at which the Lords questioned the hostile tone of the Commons’ summons to Buckingham to explain his role in the detention of the St. Peter of Le Havre. Towards the end of the same session St. John was named to the committee for the second draft of the adultery bill (10 June), while in 1628 he was included on the committee for the estate bill for Legh’s relative Dutton, Lord Gerard (7 May). As a Lancashire burgess, he was also entitled to attend the committees for the York gaol patent (19 May 1624), and the estate bills for Lord Morley (14 Mar. 1626) and Lady Bulkeley (10 June 1626).10
Although St. John stood for Wigan again in the spring of 1640, Legh’s death in 1636 must have diminished his support: he was defeated, and did not stand again in the autumn. It was presumably his brother the earl of Bolingbroke (Oliver St. John I*) who secured him a captaincy in the earl of Essex’s foot regiment at the outbreak of the Civil War. He spent at least part of the war on garrison duty at Windsor, but did not lose touch with the north-west entirely, as he later sought payment of his arrears from the fines of Cheshire royalists such as earl Rivers (John Savage*).11 His whereabouts during the last years of his life is unknown, although his death was recorded by his sister-in-law Dame Sibilla St. John, who described him as ‘lately deceased’ in her will of 17 May 1651. He was survived by a son, but his male descendants were dead by 1711, when the main Bedfordshire estates passed to the descendants of his younger brother Sir Rowland*.12