Michael Linton's Bayeux Tapestry: 1066 - A Medieval Mosaic and Puzzles
BATTLE ABBEY ROLL.
ACCOUNT OF THE NORMAN LINEAGES.
IN THREE VOLUMES.—VOL. III
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.
This electronic edition
was prepared by
Michael A. Linton, 2007
from St. Leger, near Avranches. Richard de St. Leger is on the Dives Roll. Robert de St. Leger was of Sussex, 1086, and appears to have been the father of William de St. Leger, who, with his son Clarembald, granted lands to Battle Abbey in the time of Henry I. (Mon. i. 318). There is a "fond tradition" in the family that it was upon this Sir Robert's arm the Conqueror leaned when he first stepped ashore in England. If so, the arm must have proved unreliable, for Wace records that the Duke, in his eagerness to land, missed his footing and fell on his face as he touched English ground. It was an unlucky accident; and the cry "Mai signe est ci!" rose on every side; but William, with ready wit, interpreted the omen in his own favour. He had stretched out his arms to break his fall, and thus taken possession of his new kingdom. "'See, Seignors!' he cried out lustily, 'by the splendour of God! I have seized England with my two hands; without challenge no prize can be made. All is our own that is here: and now we shall see who will be the bolder man.' Then one of his men ran forward and put his hand on a hut, and took a handful of the thatch, and turned to the Duke, and said heartily, 'Sire, come forward and receive seizin; of this land I give you seizin; without doubt the land is yours.' And the Duke said, 'I accept it; may God be with us.'"—Roman de Rou.
Robert de St. Leger settled in Kent, where he succeeded the Earl of Ewe as tenant of Ulcomb, holding it of the Archbishop by knight service. Many generations of his descendants—a gallant race of Kentish gentlemen—followed him there, and lie in the parish church; for "the common burial of the Sellingers hath bene," as Leland tells us, "cheiffely at Ulcombe." Ralph de St. Leger attended Coeur de Lion to the siege of Acre; another Ralph was one of the Recognitores Magna Assises in 1200; and a third, with two others of the family, was knighted by Edward I. at Carlavarock. In the following century they intermarried with the blood Royal of England. John de St. Leger, who was Sheriff of Kent 9 Hen. VI., was the father of Ralph, who succeeded him at Ulcomb, and of two younger sons, Sir Thomas, and Sir James, both destined to make great alliances. Sir Thomas married the widowed Duchess of Exeter, Anne Plantagenet, sister of Edward IV., and was beheaded by Richard III. in 1483, leaving an only daughter Anne, the wife of George Manners Lord Ros. Sir James married another Anne, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ormonde, who brought him thirty-six English manors, and was the ancestor of the St. Legers of Eggesford and Annery in Devonshire. Their son, Sir George, was Sheriff of the county in 1530, as was their grandson, Sir John, in 1562 but the latter soon after sold his inheritance, and left his two sons "in a poor estate." Both died s. p.
The elder brother, Ralph St. Leger of Ulcomb, Constable of Leeds and Sheriff of Kent in 1468, was grandfather of the successful Sir Anthony, who made his mark at the Court of Henry VIII.: "a wise and wary gentleman," esteemed "a valiant servitor in war, and a good justicer in peace, properly learned, who had gravity interlaced with pleasantness." As a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, he won the favour and confidence of the King, who enriched him with some of the spoils of the monasteries, gave him the Garter, and appointed him in 1540 Lord Deputy of Ireland. He retained his post in the two succeeding reigns, holding it for sixteen years, till Queen Mary recalled him on learning that he had once written verses in ridicule of Transubstantiation. This was brought under her notice by his enemies at court; where "sundry noblemen pelted and lifted at St. Leger till they shouldered him quite out of all credit. He, to be accounted forward and pliable to the test of King Edward the VI.th, his reign, rymed against the real Presence for his pastime, and let the papers fall where courtiers might light thereon, who greatly magnified the pith and conveyance of that noble sonnet. But the original of his own handwriting (though contrary to his own judgment) wandering in so many hands, that his adversary caught it, and tripped it in his way, the spot whereof he could never wipe out. Thus was he removed, a discreet gentleman, very studious of the state of Ireland, entach'd, stout enough, without gall."—Campion.
"He was," says Fuller, "properly the first Vice Roy of Ireland, seeing Shadows cannot be before their Substance; and in his Deputyship Henry the Eighth assumed the title of King and Supreme Head of the Church in Ireland.
"To him all the Irish Nobility made their solemn submission, falling down at his Feet upon their knees, laying aside their Girdles, Skeines and Caps. This was the fourth solemn submission of the Irish to the Kings of England; and most true it is, such seeming submissions have been the Bane of their serious Subjection; for, out of the Pale, our Kings had not power either to punish or protect, where those Irish lords (notwithstanding their complimental Loyalty) made their List the Law to such whom they could overpower.
"He seized all the Abbey Lands in Ireland for the King's use; a Flower of the Crown which alone had made a Posy, if continued thereunto."
After his recall, he retired to end his days in his native county of Kent, where he died three years afterwards. He left two sons; Sir Warham, of Ulcomb: and another Sir Anthony, appointed in 1593 Master of the Rolls in Ireland, and subsequently one of the Keepers of the Great Seal by James 1st, who was seated at Wyverton Hall, Boughton-Montchensie, in Kent, in the reign of Charles I., but died without posterity.
Sir Warham, the heir, "an honest and sufficient man," was likewise employed in Ireland, and, selling most of his English estates, cast in his lot there altogether. He was first Governor, then Knight (or Provost) Marshal, and finally, in 1599, President of Munster; but was killed the same year in an engagement with Hugh Macguire, Lord of Fermanagh, "in which Sir Warham and the said Hugh killed each other at the head of their troops." His son, Sir William, was again Lord President of Munster, having been appointed on the death of Sir Edward Villiers in 1627, and took part actively for the King in the Civil War that followed. The next in succession, another Sir William, slain in 1644 while leading the Irish levies at the battle of Newbury, was the grandfather of Arthur St. Leger, created Viscount Doneraile in 1703. This title was transmitted in the direct line by two generations only; the third Viscount, being in very delicate health, was ordered to Lisbon by his physicians, and died there in 1729, leaving his uncle Hayes heir to the title and estates. He, too, the last male heir of the St. Legers, was childless; and, at his death in 1767, the Viscountcy became extinct. The property passed to the second son of his only sister Elizabeth, the wife of Richard Aldworth, who took the name of St. Leger, and was created Viscount Doneraile in 1785.
This Mrs. Aldworth was a Freemason, and is supposed to have been the only woman in the world ever initiated into the secrets of the craft. Her father, a zealous Mason, sometimes opened Lodge at Doneraile; and on each of these occasions his young daughter was seized with a devouring curiosity to watch the proceedings. She could, however, devise no hiding place in the Lodge room, till, one day, the works of an old clock that stood there were taken out to be repaired, and, she, being a slim and lissome girl, contrived to ensconce herself in the vacant case. She could thence, in perfect security, observe what she had so passionately desired to see—the initiation of a new member. But, after witnessing the first two steps of "that awful and mysterious ceremony," she became frightened, "and those who understand this passage," her biographer impressively adds, "must know what the feelings of any person" in similar case would be. She resolved at all hazards to get away; and, watching her opportunity, succeeded in stealing noiselessly out of her hiding-place, and reaching the door unperceived. Softly turning the handle, she opened it and darted out, thinking she had made her escape; but found herself face to face with "a grim and surly Tiler," guarding the threshold with a long rusty sword. She screamed aloud; the Lodge, alarmed, rushed to see what was the matter; and "finding from the Tiler that she had been in the room during the ceremony, in the first paroxysm of rage and alarm actually, it is said, proposed to put her to death." This is a part of the story which it is very difficult to believe. "It was only by the moving and earnest supplication of her younger brother that her life was spared, on condition of her going through the two steps she had already seen."—Life of the Honorable Mrs. Aldworth. The diploma (or whatever the document may be called) that she received is carefully preserved: and her portrait, with a glass case containing the apron and jewel she used to wear, remains in the Lodge room at Cork.