ST. JOHN, Henry I (1652-1742), of Lydiard Tregoze, Wilts.; Battersea, Surr.; and Berkeley Street, Westminster, Mdx.
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Family and Education
bap. 17 Oct. 1652, 1st s. of Sir Walter St. John, 3rd Bt.* educ. Eton 1661–8; Caius, Camb. 1668–9, MA (St. John’s) 1669; Oxf. DCL 1702. m. (1) 11 Dec. 1673, Lady Mary (d. 1678), da. and coh. of Robert Rich, 3rd Earl of Warwick, 3s. (2 d.v.p.); (2) 1 Jan. 1687, Angelica Magdalena (d. 1736), da. of Claude Pellissary, treasurer-gen. of the galleys to Louis XIV, wid. of Philip Wharton of Edlington, Yorks., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. as 4th Bt. 3 July 1708; cr. Visct. St. John 2 July 1716.1
St. John had been tutored by the Presbyterian divine Daniel Burgess, who, by compelling his charge to study the works of Dr Manton, had unwittingly prepared him, in St. John’s own words, ‘to be a High Churchman, that I might never hear him read nor read him more’. He became ‘a typical Restoration rake’, being described by Swift as ‘a man of pleasure’. His worst excess had been the murder of Sir William Estcourt† in a drunken brawl in 1683, a crime for which a pardon had been bought for him by his mother. St. John resembled his father only in his Whiggery, though even here his partisanship was mild enough for Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) to list him as a Tory after his re-election for the family borough of Wootton Bassett in 1690. Three years later Grascome classed him as a Court supporter. Despite the fact that he was an unimportant Member, never recorded as speaking, he was chosen knight of the shire in 1695, probably as a natural inheritor of the seat from his father. Forecast as likely to support the Court on 31 Jan. 1696 in the division over the proposed council of trade, he signed the Association but did not vote on the Fenwick attainder. In 1698 he transferred back to Wootton Bassett, being classed as a Country supporter on a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments. He was subsequently included in a forecast of probable opponents of a standing army.2
St. John stood down at Wootton Bassett in January 1701 in favour of his son Henry II*, possibly in return for Henry’s agreement to a marriage of convenience with Frances Winchcombe, an heiress with estates in Berkshire. This electoral arrangement lasted until 1708, when St. John turned Henry jnr. out of the seat and proposed instead to stand himself. Party-political as well as personal reasons may have played a part in estranging father from son: it was said that St. John objected to young Henry’s having resigned office along with Robert Harley* rather than serve in a ministry dominated by the Junto. Whatever the cause, Henry II could only accept the decision and watch helplessly as the family interest suffered an unprecedented reverse. The bitter experience of defeat probably induced St. John to stand aside once more for his son in 1710. Their relationship was still an unhappy one, however, even after the younger Henry’s advancement to the peerage as Viscount Bolingbroke. In 1712 the French ambassador described the elder St. John as a ‘Wight [Whig] aussi outré que le fils est Thorris [Tory], ce qui fait peu de commerce entre eux’. Bolingbroke’s flight and attainder after the Hanoverian succession did not, it would seem, reflect on his father, who had, perhaps out of political tact, left England as the crisis gathered in June 1714 to take the waters at Aix-la-Chapelle, and who in 1716 was created a viscount in his own right, with a special remainder to the sons of his second marriage.3
In his later years St. John had by some accounts become cantankerous, being described by members of his family as ‘pertinaciously green, unvenerated and unamiable’. When Bolingbroke later assessed the commodiousness of the manor house at Battersea he noted that St. John, having stripped the house of most of its paintings, took ‘not only . . . several that were good . . . but put in lieu of them some that would scarcely deserve their place in an alehouse’. St. John wrote his will on 13 Oct. 1738, setting aside £300 to be buried ‘decently but not splendidly’. His household effects in Battersea and Lydiard Tregoze were left to Bolingbroke, and mention was also made of another house in Albemarle Street, London. He gave £300 and a picture of the Duchess of Cleveland to his son John, £880 to a number of servants and sums of £50 each to the Free Church of the Savoy and to the Battersea school founded by his father. He set aside £10,000 in trust, with the interest being for the use of his daughter, Henrietta, and son John. A servant, Thomas Osborne, was named as the sole trustee and executor. St. John died on 8 Apr. 1742, and was buried in the family vault under the chancel at Battersea.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: D. W. Hayton / Henry Lancaster
- 1. H. T. Dickinson, Bolingbroke, 3; J. E. Taylor, Our Lady of Batersey, 322.
- 2. Swift Stella ed. Davis, 52; Dickinson, 1–2; K. Feiling, Tory Party, 384.
- 3. Dickinson, 4, 14, 63–64; Stanhope, Reign of Anne, 443; HMC Bath, i. 190; F. Salomon, Geschichte, 356; HMC Portland, v. 460.
- 4. W. Sichel, Bolingbroke and his Times, 141; Taylor, 91; PCC 170 Trenchy.