ST. LEGER, John Hayes (1756-1800), of Grangemellon, co. Kildare and Park Hall, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 23 July 1756, 1st s. of John St. Leger of Grangemellon by Mary, da. and h. of Hon. Thomas Butler, MP [I], gov. Limerick. educ. Portarlington;1 Eton 1767-70. unm. suc. fa. 1769; uncle Anthony St. Leger† to Park Hall 1786.
Capt. 55 Ft. 1778; maj. 90 Ft. 1779, 65 Ft 1780; lt.-col. 65 Ft. 1782; capt. and lt.-col. 1 Ft. Gds. 1787; dep. adj.-gen. to forces under Duke of York 1793, barrack master 1794; brevet col. 1793; lt.-col. 16 Drag. 1794; maj.-gen. 1795; col. 80 Ft. 1795-d.; c.-in-c. Trincomalee 1796-d.
Groom of bedchamber to Prince of Wales 1784-95, to Prince and Princess of Wales 1795.
‘Handsome Jack’ St. Leger was second cousin (of the half-blood) to Hayes St. Leger (1755-1819), who succeeded as 2nd Viscount Doneraile in 1787. He appears to have entered the army comparatively late and may have served in the West Indies during the American war. He became friendly with the Prince of Wales and was described in 1781 as his ‘great favourite at present’. As one of the Prince’s companions in dissipation he incurred the censure of George III, who told his son that ‘the conduct that makes all good men despise a St. Leger’ was even ‘more criminal in the heir apparent’.2 In 1784 he was appointed to the Prince’s household but soon afterwards, according to a later account of his career, was forced by the threat of financial ruin to retreat to Ireland. He lived there for about two years and was much in the company of the lord lieutenant, the 4th Duke of Rutland, a renowned bon viveur, whose widow’s lover he became for a brief period in 1790, during an interval in her pursuit of the Duke of York. After inheriting an estate worth £2,000 a year from an uncle in 1786 he returned to England and was reappointed to the Prince’s household in May 1787.3 His younger brother Anthony was equerry to the Prince and later vice-chamberlain to the Princess of Wales.
At the general election of 1790 St. Leger, who had been elected to Brooks’s ten years earlier, stood for Okehampton on the interest of the 5th Duke of Bedford. There was a double return, but he was seated by decision of the committee of inquiry in February 1791. He joined the Whig Club on 16 Nov. 1790, attended its meeting of 11 Jan. and voted with opposition on the Oczakov question, 12 Apr. 1791. That month he was also listed a supporter of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. Shortly afterwards he accompanied the Duke of York on his special mission to Berlin. Richard Grenville, comptroller of the duke’s household, jealously commented that ‘from his total ignorance of the language, and being very much a man of pleasure, I can hardly think that he will be of any further use to HRH than that of an agreeable companion’. He remained in Germany for the duke’s marriage in September and returned to England in November 1791.4
St. Leger did not vote against government in the division on Oczakov, 1 Mar. 1792, and in December was listed among Members ‘supposed attached’ to the Duke of Portland, with an additional acknowledgment of his allegiance to the Prince. He was on Windham’s provisional list of potential recruits for the ‘third party’ and was invited to their meeting of 17 Feb. 1793, but did not attend. Nor had he done so on 10 Feb., but on the 28th he followed Windham in seceding from the Whig Club. In March he went with the Duke of York to Flanders, where he served on the staff of the British army and saw action with the Guards. He returned home with the duke at the end of 1794.5 In the ministerial survey compiled for the next general election in 1795 he was considered ‘hopeful’, though the word ‘pro’ was also marked lightly against his name. He is not known to have spoken in the House and on 24 Nov. 1795 he was a defaulter ordered to attend in a week’s time.6
St. Leger did not seek re-election at the general election of and shortly afterwards sailed for Trincomalee to take command of the British forces there. He never returned to England and died suddenly at Madras, ‘seized with a convulsion-fit’, 31 Jan. 1800.7
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: P. A. Symonds / David R. Fisher
- 1. Iris Butler, The Eldest Brother, 29.
- 2. Prince of Wales Corresp. i. 44, 57; HMC Carlisle, 553; H. Walpole, Last Jnls. ii. 361.
- 3. Geo. III Corresp. i. 34, 365; Parl. Portraits (1795), i. 165-6; Prince of Wales Corresp. ii. 877.
- 4. Morning Chron. 12 Jan. 1791; Prince of Wales Corresp. ii. 579, 581, 604, 636; Cornwallis Corresp. ii. 125.
- 5. Prince of Wales Corresp. ii. 733, 857.
- 6. CJ, li. 103.
- 7. Prince of Wales Corresp. iii. 1216; Gent. Mag. (1800), i. 187; Eton Coll. Reg. 1753-90 .