ST. JOHN, Oliver II (c.1545-1618), of Standfordbury and Bletsoe, Beds.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1545, 2nd s. of Oliver, 1st Baron St. John, by his 1st w. Agnes, and bro. of John II. m. Dorothy, da. of John Rede of Boddington, Glos., 6s. inc. Oliver IV 7da. suc.bro. as 3rd Baron 1596.

Offices Held

J.p. Beds. from c.1584, sheriff 1585-6, 1589-90, custos rot. 1596; ld. lt. Hunts. from 1596; recorder, Bedford by 1596; commr. trials of the Earls of Essex and Southampton 1601.1


Although St. John’s wife brought him four Gloucestershire manors, and his father bequeathed him Nether Turkdean and other lands in Gloucestershire, he made his chief residence Stanfordbury, which he had purchased in 1564; the parish register records the baptism of six of his children between 1588 and 1596.2

St. John was a friend of Peter Wentworth and brought Humphrey Winch into Parliament for Bedford in 1593 with the idea of introducing a bill to settle the succession, but the Privy Council heard of the scheme and had Wentworth put in the Tower. St. John and Winch were allowed to continue to attend the House, but the St. John who took part in the debates later in the session was Oliver St. John III. As the senior knight for Bedfordshire St. John could have served on the subsidy committees in both the 1589 (11 Feb.) and 1593 (26 Feb.) Parliaments and on a legal committee, 9 Mar. 1593. In 1597 Wentworth, when his release from the Tower was under discussion, said that St. John (who by now had succeeded to the family peerage), would stand surety for him, and find others to do the same, and that as his wife was dead he would rather live with St. John at Bletsoe. Among St. John’s other friends was Christopher Yelverton, who secured his honorary admission to Gray’s Inn in 1598.3

As the Bedfordshire lord lieutenancy had, since 1585, been in the hands of Henry Grey, Earl of Kent, whose family had been in the county since the thirteenth century, the head of the St. John family was usually lord lieutenant of Huntingdonshire, in which county they owned some estates. St. John’s tenure of the office was, in the Elizabethan period, poisoned by complaints from the Council about the poor quality of his levies. In 1598:

the country shall be driven to the charge to find new armour and furniture and your Lordship receive that imputation we would be loath should amongst all other lieutenants happen unto you ... we wish amends to be made with more diligence hereafter upon the occasion of her Majesty’s service ...

and, in 1600,

You have ... given such an example of carelessness as we have not known in any man’s lieutenancy.

After 1609 he left the administration of his estates to his eldest son Oliver St. John IV so

that hereafter I may lead a quiet contemplative life, whereby I may be the better prepared for death when it shall please God to finish my course here on earth.

He looked forward to enjoying ‘that blessed estate which is prepared in heaven for the elect children of God’. He died 2 Sept. 1618.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A. M. Mimardière


  • 1. CP, xi. 334, 336; S. Rudder, Glos. 301; PRO Index 4208; PCC 22 Tirwhite; E163/14/8.
  • 2. PCC 22 Tirwhite; VCH Beds. iii. 258; Beds. Par. Reg. ed. Emmison, xii. 8-10.
  • 3. D’Ewes, 431, 474, 496; HMC Hatfield, vii. 286, 303.
  • 4. CP, vii. 172; xi. 336; VCH Beds. ii. 326; APC, xxix. 47, 154; xxx. 169-70; VCH Hunts. ii. 23; Nichols, Progresses Jas. I, i. 518, 523; ii. 203; iii. 557, 672, 984; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 408; CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, pp. 448-9; 1611-18, p. 255; PCC 110 Meade; C142/376/126.