Walter St John: a background

John St John courtesy of Lydiard Tregoze

A short introduction to the main characters in the 16th-century tragedy of Walter St John and Isaac Daubeney, pupil and teacher. The portrait is of Walter's younger brother, John, aged 17; he was very close in age to Walter. The portrait was kindly provided by Lydiard Tregoze house.

'Mr Walter Sainct Jehan fus enterré dans le Temple le dix et neufième jour d’aougst”

'Isaac Dabney fus enterré le dix et neufième jour d’augst'

 Walter St John; Thomas Leighton and his son, Thomas; Samuel Cartwright; Pierre Carey and his son, Pierre; Isaac Daubeney

WALTER ST JOHN of Lydiard Tregoze, Wiltshire. Walter’s father John St John died young in 1594. He was married to Lucy Hungerford, whose family had been involved in much intrigue at the Tudor Court, and they seem to have had 10 children during their thirteen-year marriage. Walter was the eldest surviving son, and must have been between 13 and 16 years old when he died. His brother John, who married Anne Leighton (see portrait below, also courtesy of Lydiard Tregoze), daughter of the Governor of Guernsey, Thomas Leighton, was probably just a year or so younger; from his portrait we know that he was 17 in 1603. The ties between the St John and Leighton families were strong. After the death of his brother, John became a ward of Leighton.1

John St John, Walter's younger brother, aged 17, detail from a portrait of 1603, by kind permission of Lydiard House and Park

John was elevated to a baronetcy in 1611; we do not know the date of his marriage to Anne Leighton, but according to the extract below it must have been before 1609, when Leighton died; she would have been around 18 in that year. Walter referred to Thomas Leighton Jnr. as his 'brother;' this was probably a simple manner of address, as Anne Leighton would have been only five in 1597; but he too may have been officially a ward of Leighton at this point.

Their sister Lucy also came to stay with Thomas Leighton, after the accident:

But the circumstances of the family just then were sad. The father died 1594, and the mother much about the same time, and the daughters were dispersed among their relations, who were not always kind to them, till, on the marriage of their brother, Sir John, to Anne Leighton, they all returned to the family home at Lydiard Tregoze. Jealousy of the elder sisters, however, towards Lucy, the youngest, who was, said her daughter, Mrs Hutchinson, 'by the most judgments preferred before them all' induced her to accompany her sister-in-law, then Lady St John, on a visit to Sir Thomas Leighton, her father, then living at Castle Cornet. Lucy St John withdrew into the town of St Peter Port, where she boarded with a minister and his wife (he was Nicolas Baudouin, a friend of Calvin’s) to learn the language. Here she would have been contented to remain, being attracted to the Genevan doctrine and discipline, had not a 'powerful passion in her heart drawn her back' to England. This love affair, however, did not run smooth. The gentleman, 'of greater name, estate, and reputation' than all her other suitors, had been treacherously enticed away from her to marry another, whom 'when he recovered his senses, he hated.' [She then has to leave her brother’s house] 'to withdraw herself into the island where the good minister was, and there to wear out her life in the service of God.'2

Curiously, Nicolas Baudouin was an enemy of Leighton who had been forced to leave the island in 1583; he returned from exile to Guernsey in 1598, the year in which Samuel Cartwright (see below) left the island; perhaps Thomas Leighton had mellowed. However, before returning to Guernsey Lucy met and married Sir Allan Apsley, as his third wife. He became Lieutenant of the Tower of London and there Lucy ministered to Sir Walter Raleigh during the last months of his life, providing him with chemicals for his experiments. This is according to the letters of her daughter, the renowned poet and writer Mrs Lucy Hutchinson.3

John St John and Anne Leighton, courtesy Lydiard Tregoze

The magnificent house of the St John family still stands at Lydiard Tregoze in Wiltshire, although it is not the Tudor one Walter and John would have known. The Church at Lydiard Tregoze contains monuments and memorials to the family, including a spectacular family tree.4 Walter is commemorated there on a monument to his parents and siblings, erected by his brother John. The double portrait above is a detail from the family group in the Church, and shows John St John and Anne Leighton. The St John and Hungerford clans, and their extended families, had played a major part at the Tudor court; the young Walter St John was the uncle and great-uncle of two of the most notorious members of Charles II’s court—both John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and Barbara Villiers, mother of the Duke of Monmouth, as well as the much more respectable eminent bluestocking Lucy Apsley Hutchinson. He was buried in the Town Church, where he would be joined by Thomas Leighton in 1609.

THOMAS LEIGHTON and his son THOMAS Thomas Leighton, a member of the nobility from Worcestershire, was a soldier and diplomat, with strong Puritan sympathies. He was Governor of Guernsey from 1570 until 1609, when he died and was buried in the Town Church.

Anne Leighton, portrait detail, by permission of Lydiard House and Park

The Colloquy placed young men training for the ministry with Thomas Cartwright at the Castle. However, separately from this, Leighton employed young men with a Puritan background as tutors for his children. These children may or may not have included his daughters Anne (pictured above) and Elizabeth, who were perhaps at Court with their mother, but certainly did include his son Thomas. His children were born late in his life; he did not marry Elizabeth Knollys, the Queen’s lady, until he was 48, and did not spend much time with her as she lived mostly at Court (Sir Walter Raleigh was an admirer of hers, and wrote her a poem). For a good account of his life and contentious works in Guernsey, read James Marr’s Guernsey People.5

In 1597 Leighton was 67; we may forgive him for sleeping after dinner. He was also at this time deeply embroiled in an argument over a personal slight with several of the Jurats, which was characterised by very bad feeling between the parties. The proceedings of this trial are also given in full in the Commissioners’ 2nd Report of 1848. The Jurats were cleared of the charge at the end of August; we can perhaps understand his depression and the 'little comfort' he found in Guernsey, as he writes on 28 August 1597, nine days after the accident, in a letter to Lord Cecil:

Good Mr Secretary. I have received your Honour’s most kind letter of the third of the present which came into my hands in a time when I was oppressed with sorrow and destitute of all comfort by reason of my late loss of young St John, a gentleman I loved most dearly. I guess that on this my wife hath acquainted you with the lamentable accident, and therefore I will omit further writing thereof to render my most humble thanks for your Honour’s letter which was unto me a singular comfort in mine affliction -[could the Queen] grant unto me that my wife should be licensed to come hither to me at Michaelmas next. Now in consideracion of the little comfort I take in this place I do humbly beseech you Honour that with your good word with her highness ye will be pleased to further my wife’s despatch - 6

Leighton had three children with Elizabeth Knollys. Thomas, who was born in 1584, was, like the other boys, about thirteen at the time of the accident. He married Mary Zouche at Hanbury in Worcestershire, Thomas Leighton’s main home, in 1603. The Zouches were related to the Hungerfords; Lord Zouche had for a short time shared the Governorship of Guernsey with Thomas Leighton, and was a good friend of his wife. Elie Brevint of Sark, in his Notebook, Vol. II §258, remarks upon this relationship: 'Queen Elizabeth confiscated the property of one Throckmorton, traitor priest, and gave it to Lady Leighton. At present the second daughter of Milord Zouche lives in this house; she is the widow of Thomas Leighton, and has got married again, to a man who was formerly a domestic servant.' Anne Leighton was born in about 1591 and married Sir John St John; she died in childbirth in 1628, having produced 13 children in 14 years. Her sister Elizabeth married a minor Worcestershire noble, Sherington or Sheringham Talbot, a descendant of the Earl of Shrewsbury.

SAMUEL CARTWRIGHT Samuel Cartwright was the son of Thomas Cartwright.7 He is mentioned in his father’s will, which was drawn up in May 1603, as being not yet twenty-one years of age, and could therefore have been at his oldest 16 when the tragedy occurred.

In June 1586 Thomas Dickinson brought before the Colloquy8 (the Synod of religious elders) the need and importance of having the Gospel preached at Castle Cornet in English: à raison de plusieurs personnes de la maison de monseigneur le Gouverneur et autres habitanz de l’Isle qui n’entendent la langue Françoise. Eventually the famous Protestant Divine, Thomas Cartwright, was brought in as Pastor. Cartwright was a man who had a great deal of influence on the history of Guernsey. He was one of the first Puritans and it is due mainly to him that the English Presbyterian Church took the form that it did. He and his ideas, however, being based on the principles of Geneva, did not find favour with Elizabeth in England, who regarded them as dangerous to her authority. Although he was far from the most radical of his brethren, his 'tyrannical tendencies' fell on fertile ground in Guernsey, in the absence of the founder of Guernsey Calvinism, Nicolas Baudouin, and remained in force here until 1660. Cartwright had been protected by many members of the nobility, including Francis Knollys, Thomas Leighton’s father-in-law, and then by the Earl of Leicester, Leighton’s brother-in-law. He was appointed chaplain to Castle Cornet in 1595, at a time when his fortunes were at a low ebb, accompanying Lord Zouch to the island. He was about five years younger than Leighton. He had written several books, including an exposition of Church Discipline 'the policy of the Church of Christ ordained and appointed of God for the good administration and government of the same.' Heylyn, in his Book VI, 'A Survey of the Estate of Guernsey and Jerzey,' p. 326, has it that Paulet and Leighton, the Governors of the islands, 'were both resolved to settle the Geneva discipline in every Parish in each Island; for which cause they had sent for Snape and Cartwright, those great incendiaries of the English Church to lay the ground-work of that building.'

Although the Colloques from 1595 onwards are dominated by laymen elders rather than clergy, they consulted Cartwright on everything. The Churches in Jersey and Guernsey had suffered a falling-out, but after Cartwright arrived in 1595 they seem to have been reconciled. He returned to England in 1598.

PIERRE CAREY and his son PIERRE Pierre Carey was the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey, and Thomas Leighton’s man. Captain of the Town regiment, he married Jacquine LeFebvre (de L’Épine), 'Une Dame d’honneur de France,' in the Huguenot church at Vitré. Their son Pierre, born in May, 1584, like Walter St John and Thomas Leighton Jnr., was around thirteen at the time of the accident; at the age of seventeen he matriculated from Trinity College, Oxford, became Receveur du Roi at twenty, and married Marie Germain in 1606. He captained the St Martin’s regiment of militia. He died ten days before his father, in 1629. His son, also Pierre, a Parliamentary Commissioner, made a famous escape from Castle Cornet.

ISAAC DAUBENEY Although Isaac Daubeney may have been related to Walter, as there are family ties between Daubeney and St John, and perhaps came with him to live in Leighton’s household, it is far more likely that he came to Leighton on recommendation. After Daubeny’s death, at Leighton's request, Thomas Cartwright asked his Puritan friend Laurence Chadderton at Cambridge to find a suitable tutor to replace him. Chadderton was the master of Emmanuel College, where Isaac Daubeney matriculated in 1588 as a sizar (students, often sons of clergymen, who could not afford the fees; in the early period they had to work as college servants, serving food to their better-off brethren); probably, then, Chadderton had been responsible for Daubeny’s joining the Leighton household. Cambridge produced many eager young Presbyterians; Sidney Sussex college in particular had just been founded by Mary Sidney, a close relative of Walter St John’s mother, as a school for ministers of this persuasion. William Bradshaw, who matriculated at Emmanuel College in 1589, was sent to replace Daubeney, and the Governor was very pleased with him. He returned to England in 1598 to attend the by then newly-built Sidney Sussex. In Guernsey Bradshaw naturally came under Cartwright’s influence and went on to become a well-respected puritan thinker and writer, his sweet demeanour leaving behind him 'a grateful memory—not unlike therein to musk or civet,' quoted by Tupper, FB, in Chronicles of Castle Cornet, Guernsey: Barbet, 1851, p. 292.

Daubeney is called Dabney in the burial registers, and was also known as Dawney at Cambridge. Families with this set of linked names are found particularly in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, and some were of consequence, but Isaac as yet cannot be identified with certainty. If Isaac went up to Cambridge at the age of 16 or 17, he would have been in his late twenties at his death. Unlike Walter, he was buried outside the Church; he was not quite good enough to be laid to rest inside together with the boy he had tried to save.9

1 John was made a ward officially; Elizabeth Knollys wrote at the time of the application to court that she and her husband 'had a mind to marry him to their daughter Anne.'

2 From a newspaper article by 'Hafiz' (annotated as Henrietta Tupper), entitled 'Castle Cornet and some ladies of quality who sojourned there in the 16th and 17th centuries,' in Castle Cornet Essays, a MSS collection in the Library. The other ladies are Dorothy Osborne and Mrs Lambert.

3 Parry, E. A. , Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple, 1652-54: London, Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, 1888.

4 On folding doors, at the North side of the chancel, are two genealogical tablets, exhibiting pedigrees of the St Johns, with their portraits, and representations of their respective arms .. One of these tablets is intituled 'The ten lineal descendants of ye 2 families of St John of Lydiard Tregoze, and St John, of Bletsho, brought down to the present year 1684 .... On these folding doors is likewise a monumental memorial in honour of Sir John St John, Knt., and his Lady, whose figures are painted on the entablature, in the attitude of kneeling. At the feet of the lady are six children in mourning habits, and ... this inscription:

'Here lieth the body of Sir John St John, Knt who married Lucy, daur and coheir of Sir Walter Hungerford, of Farley, Kent, by whom he had issue Walter, that died young, Sir John St John, Knt., and Baronet, Oliver, that died young, Catharine, Anne, Jane, Elinor, Barbara, Lucy, and Martha, that died a child; he deceased 20th Sept. 1594. She was secondly married to Sir Anthony Hungerford, Knt., by whom she had Edward, Bridget, and Jane, then died the 4th June, 1598. This was erected by Sir John St John, Knt. And Baronet, in the year 1615, the 20th of July.' " From The Beauties of England and Wales: Wiltshire, pp. 645-9. See also Smallwood, Frank T., The Reports of The Friends Of Lydiard Park, 3 (1970) and 5 (1972).

Marr, James L., 'Thomas Leighton,' in Guernsey People: Chichester, Phillimore, 1984; Davis, Greswolde, 'Sir Thomas Leighton' in Review of the Guernsey Society, Autumn 1961. For the rebuilding and management of Castle Cornet under Leighton, see, for example, the Scrapbook held in the Library, and Le Patourel, John, ed., The Rebuilding of Castle Cornet, I & II, Guernsey: Royal Court 1958, and Le Patourel, John, 'A Guernsey Budget in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I,' The Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, Summer (1955) XI (2). pp. 42-3; Eagleston, A. J., 'Guernsey under Sir Thomas Leighton,' Transactions of the Société Guernesiaise, 1937 (XII) (1), pp. 72 ff.; The Channel Islands under Tudor Government, 1485-1642, Cambridge: CUP for the Guernsey Society, 1949.

5 State Papers Office Hist. MSS VI 233, Aug 28 1597.

6 In 1592 Walter’s father John had erected a monument at Lydiard Tregoze to his own father, Nicholas St John, who died in 1589, and his mother, Elizabeth Blunt, who died in 1587. He says that his father was prominent in the courts of Edward, Mary and Elizabeth (he was one of the forty members of the 'chosen retinue,' essentially royal bodyguards, now known as the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms, instituted by Henry VII in 1509); that he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Richard Bl[o]unt; and that they had three sons, John, Oliver, and Richard, the latter two unmarried, and five daughters, who married well. In 1630 Walter’s brother John St John inherited the estates in Battersea of his intrepid uncle Oliver, Lord Grandison. 'On the breaking out of the Civil War he attached himself zealously to the royal party, as did all his sons, three of whom fell in battle, fighting the Kings cause. At his decease (1633) he was succeeded by his grandson John, who dying issueless before he came of age, his uncle Walter obtained the title and the estates. [He resided] at Battersea, where he died in 1708, leaving an only son Henry his rank and property.' [He became father to Henry St John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke.] The inscriptions and biographies can be found in John Britton's The Beauties of England And Wales: Wiltshire, pp. 645-59: Verner & Hood, 1814 (first publ. 1801).

7 Pearson, Scott, Thomas Cartwight and Elizabethan Puritanism, Cambridge University Press, 1935; Ogier, Darryl M., Reformation and society in Guernsey: Woodbridge, Boydell, 1996. The Chapel in the Castle stood at the end of the Banqueting Hall and was destroyed in the explosion of 1672.

8 The original acts of the Colloquy are held in the Library.

9 The Daubeneys trace their ancestry back to the Norman D'Albini family; Philip d'Albini was appointed Governor of Guernsey in 1207, and is said to have built the Tower at Castle Cornet. In 1586 the Colloquy ordered that the practice of burial under the floor of the Town Church should be discontinued for practical reasons, with the exception of the Governor and his household; see T. F. Priaulx, Guernsey in the 16th and 17th centuries, Part V, the Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, Spring 1964, XX (1), p. 13.