DIGBY, Philip (1577-at least 1636), of ?St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster and Sherborne, Dorset
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Family and Education
bap. 27 July 1577, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Sir George Digby† (d. 1587) of Coleshill, Warws. and Abigail, da. of Sir Arthur Heveningham of Ketteringham, Norf.;1 bro. of Sir John Digby*. ?unm. sig. Phillippe Digbye.
While the ‘Philip Digby of London’ recorded on the indenture for Milborne Port is too vaguely described to permit a conclusive identification of this Member, the only man known to have described himself in this fashion (in a deed of May 1629) was the elder brother of the 1st earl of Bristol (Sir John Digby*).2 Bristol, whose Sherborne estate lay two miles to the west of Milborne, almost certainly arranged for the borough’s enfranchisement in 1628, and probably recruited his brother to help with the passage of two private bills confirming his title to Sherborne, which had been questioned by Carew Ralegh* since 1624.3 In the event, Digby played no part in this project: his brother’s Sherborne bill was committed in the Commons on 23 May, three days before his election. Furthermore, although the return for Milborne must have reached the Commons by 4 June, Digby was not included on the committee for Ralegh’s restitution bill that day, when Bristol’s interests were promoted by Edward Kirton and Sir Lewis Dyve.4 Digby left no trace on the records of his only Parliament.
Little can be ascertained about Digby’s life. His father bequeathed him and his younger brother annuities of £40 apiece, but his failure to improve his fortune merely highlights the magnitude of Bristol’s achievement.5 In 1606 Digby was appointed by his mother as attorney to receive her jointure allowance of £200 from his eldest brother, Sir Robert†. At that time he may have been living with her, as his address was given variously as Coleshill and St. Martin-in-the-Field in a series of deeds concerning Lady Digby’s jointure in 1619-20.6 Digby was naturally a keen follower of Bristol’s fortunes: in a letter of 1623 (written from Salcey, Northamptonshire, the home of the earl’s brother-in-law Sir Baldwin Wake) he anxiously discussed the prospect of delays in the Spanish Match harming his brother’s reputation:
I hope my lord stands fair and gracious with the two highest [Prince Charles and Buckingham] in these fast and loose times ... We in the country speak well of him, whilst I have seen a letter out of Spain doth much commend him for his wisdom, stoutness and his brave carriage of the business.7
Digby probably entered his brother’s service after their mother’s death in 1624; most earlier references to a ‘Mr. Digby’ in Bristol’s papers are to his nephew Simon Digby, who served the earl in Madrid and became an extraordinary clerk of the Privy Council in 1619.8 Bristol co-opted both men as trustees when he bought a farm in Sussex in 1625, and Philip was certainly in his brother’s service by February 1636, when he was accused of embezzling goods worth £10,000 belonging to the earl’s recently deceased secretary, Walsingham Gresley.9 He last appeared in the family records in November 1636, when his life annuity of £40 was confirmed by his nephew, Robert, Lord Digby of Geashill.10 He was probably dead by the autumn of 1640, when the senior seat at Milborne Port went to his nephew, George, Lord Digby. No will or administration has been found.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. IGI ‘Warws.’; Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 17; Nichols, Leics. (1800), iii. 474.
- 2. BRL, Wingfield-Digby A1165-6; C219/41A/68.
- 3. Kyle thesis, 442-8. See also MILBORNE PORT.
- 4. CD 1628, iii. 557-8; iv. 83-4.
- 5. PROB 11/70, f. 246; C142/212/45.
- 6. BRL, Wingfield-Digby A977, 1077-8, 1092-6.
- 7. Add. 29974, f. 70; Nichols, iii. 474.
- 8. Nichols, iii. 474; APC, 1619-21, p. 26.
- 9. Add. Ch. 6004; C2/Chas.I/G30/20.
- 10. BRL, Wingfield-Digby A1187-8.