DIGBY, John (by 1508-48), of Ab Kettleby, Leics.
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Family and Education
b. by 1508, 2nd s. of William Digby (d. by 1529) of Ab Kettleby by 1st w. Rosa, da. and h. of William Perwich of Northants. m. settlement 1528/29, Mary, da. and coh. of Sir William Parr, Baron Parr of Horton, at least 3s. suc. gdfa. 25 May 1533.2
?J.p. Leics. 1538-d.; commr. musters 1539; sheriff, Warws, and Leics. 1539-40; servant to Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland.3
Although it may be taken for granted that John Digby belonged to the Leicestershire branch of the well-known family, his identity is not beyond dispute, for there were at least two contemporaries so named in that county. One was a gentleman pensioner, John Digby of Welby, only a mile from Ab Kettleby, who died in 1556 and who had been an executor of the will of his cousin Sir John Digby of Ab Kettleby, the former knight marshal of the Household, who had died in 1533. The second, who is here taken to have been the Member, was that Sir John’s grandson and heir.4
Digby was probably brought up either by his grandfather, who survived his own eldest son William, or perhaps in the household of the 1st Earl of Rutland, whose servant he may afterwards have become. He inherited from his mother the manor of Middleton Colingtree and other lands in Northamptonshire. His father was awarded custody of these lands in November 1520, and the rent of £15 13s.4d. a year which he was charged indicates that they were extensive; Digby received livery of them in April 1529. William Digby had married as his second wife Ellen, daughter of the former attorney-general John Roper and later wife of Edward Montagu, chief justice successively of the King’s bench and common pleas. His son’s marriage to a daughter of Sir William Parr could have led to the young Digby’s entry into the household of the earls of Rutland, although Parr did not mention Digby in his will.5
Digby first appears in the 1530s as a defendant in Chancery against two kinsmen who sued him for non-payment of a rent charge issuing out of Yorkshire land inherited from his grandfather; he was also at issue in the Star Chamber with the abbot of Croxton, Leicestershire. It is not impossible that he was by-elected to the Parliament of 1529 and then sat in that of 1536, for both Leicestershire knights of the shire died during the first of them and one, Sir William Skeffington, had married an aunt of Digby. In January 1538 Digby was one of those instructed by Cromwell to arrest a Leicestershire priest suspected of sedition, and by the following year he was probably on the county bench and was due to be pricked sheriff. If not already a Member he was thus well placed to become one, especially if his possible service with the Earl of Rutland dates back so far.6
Digby served in the vanguard of the army in the French war of 1544, his contingent of 48 men being the next largest for Leicestershire after that of Villers. It is almost certain that he was the man then described as ‘servant to the Earl of Rutland’, for the other John Digby named among Leicestershire gentlemen for the army was described as ‘of Quickathelly’ or Welby. Surprisingly, this is the last reference found to either in his lifetime: even though the new Earl of Rutland may not have continued his father’s patronage, Digby’s connexion with Queen Catherine Parr could be expected to have left some trace. Digby died in March 1548. His widow married Henry Broke.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: D. F. Coros
- 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
- 2. Date of birth estimated from age at grandfather’s i.p.m., C142/55/16, 18, 40. LP Hen. VIII, iv; Wards 7/4/79; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 42; PCC 38 Noodes.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv, xix; HMC Rutland, iv. 320, 326, 328, 344.
- 4. PCC 22 Alen.
- 5. C142/35/82; LP Hen. VIII, iii; PCC 21 Chayre; Wards 7/4/79.
- 6. C1/975/92, 976/43; 142/55/16; St.Ch.2/11/83-85, 22/234, 244; PCC 22 Alen; LP Hen. VIII, xiii; HMC Rutland, iv. 320, 322, 326, 344.
- 7. LP Hen. VIII, xix; Wards 7/4/78-79.