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St Leger, Sir Anthony

ST LEGER, SIR ANTHONY (c. 1496-1559), lord deputy of Ireland, eldest son of Ralph St Leger, a gentleman of Kent, was educated abroad and at Cambridge. He quickly gained the favour of Henry VIII., and was appointed in 1537 president of a commission for inquiring into the condition of Ireland. This work he carried out with ability and obtained much useful knowledge of the country. In 1540 he was appointed lord deputy of Ireland. His first task was to repress disorder, and he at once proceeded with severity against the Kavanaghs, permitting them, however, to retain their lands, on their accepting feudal tenure on the English model. By a similar policy he exacted obedience from the O'Mores, the O'Tooles and the O'Conors in Leix and Offaly; and having conciliated the O'Briens in the west and the earl of Desmond in the south, the lord deputy carried an act in the Irish parliament in Dublin conferring the title of king of Ireland on Henry VIII. and his heirs. Conn O'Neill, who in the north had remained sullenly hostile, was brought to submission by vigorous measures. For the most part, however, St Leger's policy was one of moderation and conciliation rather more so, indeed, than Henry VIII. approved. He recommended The O'Brien, when he gave token of a submissive disposition, for the title of earl of Thomond; O'Neill was created earl of Tyrone; and administrative council was instituted in the province of Munster; and in 1544 a levy of Irish soldiers was raised for service in Henry VIII. 's wars. St Leger's personal influence was proved by an outbreak of disturbance when he visited England in 1544, and the prompt restoration of order on his return some months later. St Leger retained his office under Edward VI., and again effectually quelled attempts at rebellion by the O'Conors and O'Byrnes. From 1548 to 1550 he was in England. He returned charged with the duty of introducing the reformed liturgy into Ireland. His conciliatory methods brought upon him the accusation that he lacked zeal in the cause, and led to his recall in the summer of 1551. After the accession of Mary he was again appointed lord deputy in October 1553, but in consequence of a charge against him of keeping false accounts he was recalled for the third time in 1556. While the accusation was still under investigation, he died on the 16th of March 1559.

By his wife Agnes, daughter of Hugh Warham, a niece cf Archbishop Warham, he had three sons, William, Warham and Anthony. William died in his father's lifetime leaving a son, Sir Warham St Leger (d. 1600), who was father of Sir William St Leger (d. 1642), president of Munster. Sir William took part in " the flight of the earls " (see O'NEILL) in 1607, and spent several years abroad. Having received a pardon from James I. and extensive grants of land in Ireland, he was appointed president of Munster by Charles I. in 1627. He warmly supported the arbitrary government of Strafford, actively assisting in raising and drilling the Irish levies destined for the service of the king against the Parliament. In the great rebellion of 1641 he bore the chief responsibility for dealing with the insurgents in Munster; but the forces and supplies placed at his disposal were utterly inadequate. He executed martial law in his province with the greatest severity, hanging large numbers of rebels, often without much proof of guilt. He was still struggling with the insurrection when he died at Cork on the 2nd of July 1642. Sir William's daughter Margaret married Murrough O'Brien, i.st earl of Inchiquin; his son John was father of Arthur St Leger, created Viscount Doneraile in 1703.

A biography of Sir Anthony St Leger will be found in Athenae Cantabrigienses, by C. H. Cooper and T. Cooper (Cambridge, 1858) ; see also Calendar of State Papers relating to Ireland, Hen. VIII.-Eliz. Calendar of Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII. ; Calendar of State Papers (Domestic Series'), Edward VI. James I.; Calendar of Carew MSS.; J. O'Donovan's edition of Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters (7 vols., Dublin, 1851); Richard Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors (3 vols., London, 1885-1890) ; J. A. Froude, History of England (12 vols., London, 1856-1870). For Sir William St Leger, see Strafford' s Letters and Despatches (2 vols., London, 1 739) ; Thomas Carte, History of the Life of James, Duke of Ormonde (6 vols., Oxford, 1851); History of the Irish Confederation and the War in Ireland, edited by Sir J. T. Gilbert (Dublin, 1882-1891). (R. J. M.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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