DIGBY, Simon, 4th Baron Digby of Geashill [I] (1657-86), of Coleshill, Warws.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 18 July 1657, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Kildare, 2nd Baron Digby [I]; bro. of Robert Digby and William Digby. educ. privately; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. 1674; L. Inn 1676. m. 27 Aug. 1683, Lady Frances Noel (d. 29 Sept. 1684), da. of Edward Noel, 1st Earl of Gainsborough, 1da. suc. bro. 29 Dec. 1677.
Commr. for assessment, Warws. 1679-80, dep. lt. by 1680-d.
Lord Digby first stood as a court candidate for Coventry in August 1679, but finished at the foot of the poll. As patron of the Coleshill living he was ‘one of those few who thought a cure of souls too great a trust to be given upon any other consideration than pure merit’. In consequence he was ‘under the greatest concern imaginable that he might be found a faithful steward in the disposal of that trust’, and select one ‘as might be a constant friend and monitor to him, in all the difficulties of the spiritual life, during his pilgrimage here’. His eventual choice was the future non-juror, John Kettlewell. Digby was returned for Warwick at the general election of 1685, probably with the assistance of Lord Brooke (Fulke Greville). A very active Member of James II’s Parliament, he was named to 20 committees. The most important in the first session were the committee of elections and privileges, and those to recommend expunctions from the Journals, to estimate the yield of a tax on new buildings, and to provide for the general naturalization of Huguenot refugees. He was ‘very much against establishing an army’, and spoke in the debate after the recess to such effect that he was appointed to the small committee to draft the address against the employment of Roman Catholic officers. He was listed among the Opposition, but died on 19 Jan. 1686, and was buried at Coleshill. Kettlewell’s funeral sermon naturally dwells on his ‘many notable virtues’, which included the proselytization of his friends.
He would follow them with good counsels, which he would manage discreetly and time seasonably, laying wait for them in their most impressive moods, especially after any great danger, or in time of sickness; and wherein he would reason clearly, endeavouring to convince and persuade them, both from the cogent reason of things, and from the more affecting argument of his own experience.
His sins were few, and even though he occasionally indulged in games of chance he made it a rule that what he lost should go as the price of his pleasure, what he won, to the poor.
J. Kettlewell, Works, i, 21-22, 797, 800-2; HMC Lindsey, 31; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 518.