SAYER, George (c.1655-1718), of Pett Place, Charing, Kent
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Family and Education
b. c.1655, 1st s. of Sir John Sayer of Whitehall by Katherine, da. of John van Hessen van Piershill of Wens, Zeeland. m. 30 Sept. 1685, Frances (d. 1731), da. and h. of Sir Philip Honywood of Pett Place, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1667.1
Page of honour to Queen by 1671–?1680; member, Queen’s council by 1684; vice-chamberlain to Catherine of Braganza, 1685–97, to Queen Mary, 1692–4; sub.-gov. and 1st gent. of bedchamber to Duke of Gloucester, 1698–1700.2
Freeman, Canterbury 1695–d.3
Sayer’s family originated in Essex, one of his ancestors having sat for Colchester in the 16th century and his grandfather having represented the borough. His immediate family were Royalists and courtiers: his uncle Sir George had married the daughter of the great chamberlain of Moravia and served the ‘Winter Queen’ of Bohemia as master of horse, while his own father had been knighted by Charles II in 1649 at Breda. Sir John Sayer had evidently spent the next few years abroad because he served as a lieutenant-colonel of foot in the Dutch army before the Restoration, married a Dutchwoman and had several children in the Low Countries, including George, who was born at The Hague. Although his exact date of birth is unknown, a number of sources indicate that it was probably in 1655. Le Neve notes that he was 13 years old in 1667, and his funerary monument states that he was aged 63 at death; more vaguely, his marriage licence has him aged ‘about 28’ in 1685. After the Restoration, Sayer, together with his mother and two brothers, was naturalized in 1664 by Act of Parliament. However, evidence from travel warrants suggests that the family may have spent some time abroad even after 1660: in 1664 the governor of Gravesend was ordered to allow the family to travel on to London, provided that they had not come from The Hague or any other area in the Low Countries infected with plague. From a letter written to Sir Joseph Williamson*, it would appear that at least part of Sayer’s schooling took place in the United Provinces. Such an upbringing would explain his inclusion on a list in Portland’s papers of MPs who knew the French language. After his father died in 1667, having reached the rank of colonel of a newly raised regiment, his mother continued to receive a pension of £500 p.a. from Charles II as a reward for her husband’s loyalty and good service, plus another of £200 p.a. for the maintenance of her children. Indeed, the whole family seems to have traded on its previous loyalty to the Stuarts to become ensconced in the royal household or other posts at court. Sayer was joined as a page of honour to the Queen by his brother Adolphus; another brother, Robert, was appointed a yeoman of the guard; while yet another, John, served as a groom of the bedchamber to William III. Lady Sayer herself served as dresser to Queen Mary of Modena, and then to Mary II. Such royal favour was poorly repaid by the Sayers’ collective adherence to the Revolution, leaving Jacobites bitter over their conduct. The Earl of Ailesbury (Thomas, Lord Bruce†) commented that Charles II ‘had raised the family out of the kitchen [a reference to John Sayer, master cook, who may have been a relative], and I knew one brother, vice-chamberlain to the Queen Dowager, and another in good employment, and all turned ungrateful to the last degree, even to spit out their venom’. Given the ease with which Sayer managed the transition from Jacobite to Williamite courtier, it would seem that his Dutch connexions held him in good stead. After the Revolution he continued to serve the Queen Dowager as vice-chamberlain, and added, in 1692, the equivalent post in the household of Queen Mary, defeating the rival claims of Alexander Popham* and Hon. Philip Bertie*. Such closeness to the court enabled him to secure several profitable crown leases, including one in Lancashire valued at about £135, for 99 years after the death of the Queen Dowager, at a rent of 10s. p.a., and another covering woodland in Surrey.4
Sayer’s Kentish property was acquired through his wife, the heiress of Pett Place, an estate almost equidistant from Canterbury and Maidstone. He served as a deputy-lieutenant for the county from 1689 and as a justice from 1690. His support for the new regime was manifest in his subscription to the Bank of England in 1694, albeit for under £2,000, which he may have transferred to his son, George, who as a minor in 1710 had stock worth over £2,000. Given the distance of Pett Place from Canterbury, it would seem that his interest there owed something to the court, whose lead he followed in the House. Thus he was forecast in January 1696 as likely to support the Court over the proposed council of trade, signed the Association in February and voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. in March. However, he was absent from the division on 25 Nov. 1696 over Sir John Fenwick’s† attainder. In March 1697 Luttrell reported false rumours that Sayer was to succeed the Earl of Albemarle as master of the robes, and in August of that year he was dismissed from his household office by the Queen Dowager, along with her other Protestant servants. On a list of placemen drawn up in July 1698, Sayer was noted as lieutenant of the yeomen of the guard, whereas it would seem in fact that it was his brother, Robert, who held this post. However, by the end of September, he was not only re-elected to Parliament but was back in place as sub-governor and first gentleman of the bedchamber to the Duke of Gloucester, places together worth £1,000 p.a. Criticism was voiced over his appointment, on the grounds that he was not a nobleman. He was listed as a placeman in September 1698, and on a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments compiled at about the same time was grouped with the Court party. As one would expect, his name appears on both lists of those voting on 18 Jan. 1699 against the disbanding bill. On a list of early 1700 he was again listed as a placeman, although the death of Gloucester in July deprived him of his office. Writing apropos this event, Bonet described Sayer as ‘à l’esprit droit, doux et polis’. Although he remained bereft of a place as such under Queen Anne, it appears that his pension as a servant of Queen Mary (in effect his salary of £500 p.a.) was continued after 1702 and he seems to have supported the Court in Parliament, albeit from a Whiggish position. On 13 Feb. 1703 he voted to agree with the Lords’ amendments to the bill enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. At the beginning of the following session he was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack, and did not vote for it on 28 Nov. By virtue of his pension he was named as a placeman in a list drawn up at the end of the 1705 Parliament.5
Sayer did not stand again. In October 1709, Luttrell erroneously reported his imminent appointment in place of Emanuel Scrope Howe* as envoy to Hanover. On 13 May 1712, Sayer petitioned the Commons asking that a debt owed him by one Richard Gomeldon be provided for in the bill currently progressing through the House to allow the sale of part of Gomeldon’s Kentish estate. His pension was continued, albeit irregularly paid, and was ten quarters in arrears by December 1713; however, it was still being paid in 1716. Sayer died on 21 May 1718, leaving in his will £800 to his wife and £200 to his brother, Brigadier John Sayer. The remainder of his estate he left in trust to his only son, George.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Basil Duke Henning / Stuart Handley
- 1. Burke, Commoners, iii. 505–6; F. Haslewood, Memorials of Smarden, 229; IGI, London.
- 2. Cal Treas. Bks. iii. 818; vi. 456–7; vii. 1448; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 264, 433.
- 3. Canterbury Freemen Roll ed. Cowper, 323.
- 4. T. Cromwell, Colchester, 190; CSP Dom. 1660–1, p. 294; 1663–4, p. 490; 1667, pp. 181, 494, 516; 1666–7, p. 419; 1675–6, p. 412; Huguenot Soc. xviii. 76; PCC 160 Carr; Nottingham Univ. Lib. PwA 153, list of French-speaking MPs; HMC 7th Rep. 177; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. ix.), 38–39; P. Parsons, Monuments and Painted Glass in E. Kent, 119; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxx), 213; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 1190; ix. 330, 1761; x. 126; Ailesbury Mems. 220; Luttrell, ii. 391.
- 5. Hasted, Kent, vii. 437; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 206; info. from Prof. N. Landau; DZA, Bonet despatch 6/16 July 1694; Egerton 3359; Luttrell, iv. 197, 264, 673; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 182; Add. 30000 D, f. 245; Cal Treas. Bks. xviii. 212.
- 6. Luttrell, vi. 501; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 543; xxx. 233; Parsons, 121; PCC 122 Tenison.