Katharine Pleydell Bouverie – A Simple Potter


katharine pleydell bouverie

Katharine Pleydell Bouverie

Today Katharine Pleydell Bouverie’s work comes with an expensive price tag, which would probably astonish the potter. Katharine described herself ‘as a simple potter. I like a pot to be a pot, a vessel with a hole in it made for a purpose’.

Katharine’s training began in post First World War London at the Central School of Arts and Crafts where she met Bernard Leach, regarded as the “father of British studio pottery.” She completed her apprenticeship at the Leach Pottery in St Ives doing odd jobs alongside learning from Japanese ceramicist Matsubayashi Tsurunosuke.

In 1924 Katharine returned to the family home at Coleshill, Wiltshire where she established her own pottery. She was later joined by potter and teacher Norah Braden and the two women shared a studio for eight years.

In 1946 the Pleydell Bouverie family sold Coleshill House to Ernest Cook and Katharine moved to Kilmington Manor, Warminster where she continued to work until her death in 1984 aged 89.

Katharine’s obituary appeared in the Times, published January 17, 1985.

“Miss Pleydell Bouverie’s contribution to modern pottery lay in the glazes which were her life long experiment. In particular she created a range of wood ash glazes which beautifully complimented the simple undemonstrative style of her pots.”

katharine pleydell bouverie

Katharine Pleydell Bouverie

Katharine has been described as unassuming, her passion for her work far exceeding any desire for fame or fortune.

She was a founder member of the Craftsmen Potters’ Association of Great Britain and helped establish the Crafts Study centre at the Holburne Museum in Bath. Her work was exhibited through the 1950s to the 1970s and a major retrospective exhibition was held in 1980.

So, here comes the St John family reveal.

Vernon St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, was born in 1896, the only legitimate son of Henry, 5th Viscount Bolingbroke, and his former housekeeper Mary Elizabeth Emily (Bessie Howard). Following the death of her husband in 1899, Lady Bolingbroke and her three sons took up permanent residence at Lydiard Park.

Vernon Henry, 6th Viscount, circa 1927

Vernon St John

Vernon was seemingly a gentle soul who loved nature, the countryside and music. He served as a private in the First World War, the only peer of the realm to do so, and was invalided out of the army suffering from shell shock.

Katharine Pleydell Bouverie was born on June 7, 1895 at Coleshill House, Berkshire. She was the youngest of three children. Her father was the Hon Duncombe Pleydell Bouverie, second son of Jacob Pleydell Bouverie, 4th Earl of Radnor.

Katharine Pleydell Bouverie and Vernon St John, Viscount Bolingbroke were second cousins. Their common ancestors were their great-grandparents Sir Henry Paulet St John, 3rd Baronet and his wife Jane Mildmay who had eleven sons and three daughters. One of their daughters, Maria St John Mildmay, married Vernon’s grandfather Henry, 4th Viscount Bolingbroke and a second daughter, Anne Judith St John Mildmay, married Katharine’s grandfather Jacob, 4th Earl of Radnor.

Did Katharine and Vernon enjoy family get togethers at Coleshill or Lydiard, a mere 12 miles apart. The old aristocratic families liked to maintain their kinship connections, so who knows?

Photograph of Coleshill House, formerly in Berkshire [c 1930s-1980s] by John Piper 1903-1992

Coleshill House

Both properties were sold in the 1940s. Coleshill House, built in the 17th century, was sold to Ernest Cook in 1946.  Sadly, during renovation work in 1952, a blow lamp used to remove old paintwork from dormer windows, set fire to the property.  A gallant rescue effort by local people managed to save valuable paintings, furniture and books. What little remained of the building was later demolished.


Lydiard House

The Lydiard estate was sold by the Trustees of his mother’s will in 1943. Vernon, broken by the loss of his inheritance and 500 years of St John family history at Lydiard House, moved to Hampshire. Lydiard House and Park was bought by Swindon Corporation and has been in public ownership for 75 years.


The Favourite

Have you seen The Favourite, the story of Queen Anne, her long-time favourite Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough and the contender for that position, Abigail Hill? The story is layered with pathos and humour and even the laugh out loud moments are incredibly sad.

The film stars Rachel Weisz as Sarah, Emma Stone as Abigail and Olivia Colman as Queen Anne. The winner of a Golden Globe and nominated for a BAFTA, what next for Colman, an Oscar?

The film ends … well, I won’t tell you how it ends, but would you like to know what happened next, and of course, what is that all important St John link?

After a volatile confrontation (with sexual overtones) in the woods, Abigail marries the dashing young Samuel Masham, but who was he?

Samuel Masham, first Baron Masham of Otes, was the son of Sir Francis Masham, 3rd Baronet, and his wife Damaris Cudworth. As the film reveals, Samuel was at the centre of life at Queen Anne’s duplicitous court. He served as first a page, then equerry and groom of the bedchamber to Anne’s husband, Prince George of Denmark. He entered parliament as a Tory MP for Ilchester in 1710 and Windsor in 1711 and was one of twelve Tory peers created in 1712.

Masham married Abigail in 1707 and the couple had at least five children, three sons and two daughters, the elder of whom was named Anne, after Abigail’s best friend forever, the Queen.

Ann Hoare nee Masham by Michael Dahl

Born in 1708, Anne was only 18 when she married banker Henry Hoare II on April 11, 1726. Henry Hoare II became known as Henry ‘the Magnificent’ in recognition of the work he accomplished on the family estate at Stourhead, furnishing the palatial Palladian mansion with works of art and landscaping the grounds. Sadly, Anne never lived to enjoy the fruits of his labours as she died on March 4, 1727 shortly after the birth of her daughter. The young couple had been married less than a year and Anne was just 19 years old.

The baby born on February 28 1727, a daughter, was named Anne after her mother. Little Anne died on January 30, 1735 just before her eighth birthday. Mother and daughter are buried in Stourton churchyard, the parish church just a short walk from the home where they both lived and died.

Henry Hoare II ‘ Henry the Magnificent.

Now brace yourself for the St John connections as there are several. The Hon Anne Masham, the young first wife of Henry Hoare II, daughter of Samuel and royal favourite Abigail, traces her ancestry back four generations to her great-great-grandmother Lady Elizabeth Barrington. In 1611 Lady Elizabeth married William Masham, 1st Baronet, but this was not her first marriage. She had previously been married to Sir James Altham, by whom she had a daughter Johanna.

In 1630 Johanna married Sir Oliver St John, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, at St Mary’s Church Harrow. The couple had four children, two sons and two daughters. One daughter, Johanna, married Sir Walter St John of Lydiard Tregoze, the other Catherine married his brother Henry.

This makes young Anne Hoare nee Masham and the brilliant but attainted politician Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, Secretary at War in Queen Anne’s government in 1704, third cousins.

But the St John connection doesn’t end there.

Hoare’s bank was founded in the 1670s by Richard Hoare. In 1697. Henry St John (Johanna and Walter’s reprobate son and the father of Viscount Bolingbroke) opened an account with Hoare’s bank in Fleet Street, the first of three generations of St Johns to do so. In 1704 Walter, Henry’s father, opened an account.

In 1735 John (Jack) St John, Viscount Bolingbroke’s half-brother, also entrusted his finances to Hoare’s bank. In fact, by 1735 Jack was about to inherit his wife’s not inconsiderable fortune and was thinking about remodelling the Tudor mansion house at Lydiard Park. Jack nipped down to Warminster to see what Henry was doing at Stourhead. Jack might have had a grand design but the grounds at Lydiard Park didn’t extend to 2,600 acres, which was fortunate as his bank account wasn’t up to the challenge either.

All things considered Jack made a very nice job of Lydiard House and Park, which is still enjoyed by thousands of visitors every year.

See below views of Stourhead and Lydiard Park.

A Treasure Trove of Family Wills

Sometimes the handwriting is almost illegible, the archaic language difficult to interpret, but I do love grappling with a last Will and Testament.

I recently came across a treasure trove of family wills which helped me identify titles and properties and make some important family links.

The four Bulkeley sisters died within an eight year period – Bridget in 1775, Anne and Elizabeth in 1778 and Eleanora in 1782. Bridget was a spinster, the other three all married but only Anne had children.

Bridget, the eldest sister, was baptised on July 18, 1705 at St Martin in the Fields and at the end of her life was living in Highgate.  In the 18th century Highgate was a small, country town some five miles away from London. Set high above its neighbouring parishes Highgate offered a healthy environment in which to live for those wealthy enough to afford the property prices, much like today really.

Views of Highgate

When Bridget wrote her will on April 30, 1761 she had no need to identify her address, ‘I Bridget Bulkeley of Highgate’ sufficed. Today it is difficult to identify where she might have lived, if the property still survives.

Bridget’s will was my first find and was the key that unlocked the family relationships. After the usual preamble, Bridget announces bequests to her sisters.

‘I give to my sister Ellinora Maria Hervey wife of George Hervey of Tiddington in the County of Oxford Esq and to the said George Hervey one hundred pounds between them I give to my sister Ann Bertie widow of the late Reverend Dr William Bertie of Allbury in the County of Oxford the sum of one hundred pounds Item I give to my sister Elizabeth Price wife of William Price of Rhiwlas in the County of Flintshire Esq and to the said William Price the sum of one hundred pounds between them.’

Then comes a generous bequest to her nieces.

‘Item I give to my three nieces Fanny Bertie Sophia Bertie and Ann Bertie the daughters of the said late Dr William Bertie and his wife to each of them the sum of one thousand pounds to be paid to them respectively at their respective ages of twenty one years…’

To her nephews James and Richard Bertie she gives the sum of £100 when they reach the age of 21 and arrangements are made should any of the nephews and nieces ‘dye.’

Bridget leaves bequests to her three servants. Mary Parott receives £100 plus an additional £10 to spend on mourning attire. Ann Howard and Catherine Pinock receive £10 and £5 respectively for ‘mourning.’

Bridget appoints her brother in law George Hervey and John Jones, an ironmonger from the Parish of St Martins, to be executors of her Will but by the time of her death in 1775 both had also died. Administration of her will, therefore, went to her sister Anne.

Bridget was buried on November 20, 1775 in the vault beneath the Church of St Michael, Highgate – not the present church but the old Highgate Chapel, originally a hermitage chapel.

the Old Chapel Highgate

The Old Chapel, Highgate

For all her married life Anne lived in the Oxfordshire parish of Albury where her husband William Bertie was Rector at the parish church. The baptisms of their children appear in the parish registers and when her sister Eleanora married George Hervey on September 19, 1749 the service was conducted by William. In 1767, several years after William’s death, Anne moved to Wales where she lived with her sister Elizabeth at Daynol in the County of Flintshire.

In her will Anne makes reference to several large sums of money – £2,000 from her marriage settlement, £1,500 left to her by her ‘Uncle Abingdon’ and a further sum of £1, 438 0s 7d, totalling £4,938 0s 7d. Her three daughters were bequeathed varying amounts of money. Frances receives £775 (£100 of which was left to her by her ‘Grandmother Bulkeley.’) Sophia receives £375 while Anne is bequeathed £775. Sophia was married so possibly received an endowment at the time of her wedding, while Anne and Frances remained spinsters. Everything else went to her son Richard who she appointed as her executor.

Elizabeth’s will made on July 6, 1778, less than six months after Anne’s death, is the briefest of all four documents. Her first instruction is that she wishes to be buried with her late husband in the parish church of Llanfawr in Merioneth. Next she leaves £20 to Hester Bridge, who is one of the witnesses on both Anne and her own will, and then £20 to her ‘servant maid Catherine Humphrey.’ Everything else she wraps up very neatly leaving the ‘rest residue and remainder of my personal estate and effects of what nature or kind soever’ to her nephew Richard Bertie and unmarried nieces Frances Eleanor and Anne Bertie.

What is noteworthy about Bridget, Anne and Elizabeth’s wills is the absence of any personal bits and pieces, jewellery, paintings, books. it’s all about the money.

Eleanora Maria was living at Rivers Street in the City of Bath at the time she made her will and at last there are some personal items. She also begins with instructions as to her burial. She wants a private funeral and to be buried with her late husband George in the vault at Chilton parish church. The three Bertie nieces are left £50 each as is their brother Richard, who this time dodges the burden of being made executor. She leaves mourning rings to the Earl of Abingdon and several friends, and small cash bequest to her servants, Samuel and Elizabeth Badrick and Fanny Stone on condition they are still in her employ at the time of her death.



Rivers Street, Bath


Eleanora later added a codicil to her will with a bequest of £50 made to William Montague, a family friend.

Why doesn’t Eleanora have the same disposable income enjoyed by her sisters? Eleanora was the second wife of George Hervey in a marriage that had not produced any children. The Hervey estate went, therefore, to his daughter from his first marriage, Barbara Hervey.

The four sisters along with two brothers were the children of Richard Bulkeley, 4th Viscount Bulkeley of Cashel and his wife Lady Bridget Bertie. The Bulkeley family hailed from Anglesey and was one of the most powerful families in North Wales. Richard Bulkeley, 4th Viscount Bulkeley, a staunch Tory and Jacobite sympathiser, was described as a ‘vigorous personality, but such was the cumulation of offices in his own person that the squires of the western commotes broke out in revolt.’ *

Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey

The girls mother Lady Bridget Bertie, also came from a wealthy influential family.  The Bulkeley/Bertie parents were therefore keen to maintain family connections when it came to the marriage of their daughters. Anne married the Rev William Bertie, the brother of Willoughby Bertie, 3rd Earl of Abingdon.  Elizabeth was married to William Price, the son of Martha Bulkeley. Martha was the sister of Richard Bulkeley, 3rd Viscount Bulkeley who was Elizabeth’s grandfather.

Bridget, Viscountess Bulkeley

But how do the four Bulkeley sisters figure in the St John family history and Lydiard Park. The Bertie name may give you a clue. This was the family who fought hard to get their hands on Eleanor Lee’s fortune, much to the chagrin of her grandmother, Anne, Countess of Rochester, formerly Anne St. John.

Anne St John was born at Lydiard Park, the daughter of Sir John St John 1st Baronet and his wife Anne Leighton Ta dah!


*Thomas Richards, D.Litt;, (1878-1962) Bangor published 1959

Anne, Mrs Wharton

Have you ever heard of the 17th century poet and dramatist Anne Wharton? No, neither had I.

The only work published during her lifetime was an elegy to her uncle John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. After her death there was a short period during which her work was celebrated, but after that she was largely forgotten until in 1997 when Germaine Greer and Susan Hastings edited a publication called The Surviving Works of Anne Wharton.

The younger of two daughters, Anne was born on July 20, 1659 after the death from smallpox of her father Sir Henry Lee, 3rd Baronet of Ditchley, Oxfordshire.  She was baptised at All Saints Church, Spelsbury, Oxfordshire and her mother died just ten days later. The two little orphaned sisters were raised by their paternal grandmother, Anne Wilmot, Countess of Rochester.

Anne Mrs Wharton

Anne, Mrs Wharton

In 1664 Anne, Countess of Rochester, was appointed Groom of the Stole to Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, the first wife of the King’s brother James. Until the death of the Duchess in 1671 Anne Rochester spent much of her time at court with her two little granddaughters in tow. A court described as “extravagantly and exhibitionistically licentious” by Greer and Hastings,

Anne and Eleanor received an education befitting their status, possibly joining the Princess Mary for French lessons at Court. They would have received lessons in music, dancing, writing and needlework and Anne was known to have spoken Italian.

When not at Court, the Countess of Rochester remained living at the  home of her first husband, Sir Francis Henry Lee, in Ditchley with her extended Lee and Wilmot family.

By 1665 the sisters were living at the newly repaired and restored Wilmot family seat, Adderbury House, which had suffered under the occupation of parliamentarian troops during the Civil War.

The original house was small and Anne Wilmot remodelled the property in 1661 on which she is said to have spent £2,000. In a 1665 tax assessment there were 14 hearths recorded in the property and an inventory drawn up in 1678 lists Great and Small Halls, Drawing Room, Great Room above stairs, Great Square Chamber, Lesser Dining Parlour and eleven other rooms, excluding the offices.

Aged just 12 and 10 years old, Eleanor and Anne bought their first property under the supervision of their trustee Sir Ralph Verney, a 40 acre estate called Chelsea Park. The sisters had inherited a considerable fortune from their mother, Anne Danvers, making them each a very marriageable proposition.

Anne St John, Countess of Rochester

Anne St John, Dowager Countess of Rochester

An entry in the parish registers of St Mary’s, Adderbury on September 16, 1673 records the marriage of the Honble Thomas Wharton Esq., eldest son of the Lord Wharton and Anne Lee, the younger daughter of Sir Henry Lee. Thomas was 25, Anne just 14 years old.

The minimum legal age at which a girl could marry in England was then 12 years old, although in practise this was unusual.

Anne’s husband Thomas Wharton had already earned a reputation as a rake and even her uncle, the licentious John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester was horrified that his mother was brokering a marriage with the profligate Whig politician, but perhaps Rochester had his own agenda.

Charles II wanted Anne to be married to a member of the Arundell family. Richard Arundell, 1st Baron Arundell of Trerice had served in the Royalist army during the Civil War and had fought at Edgehill and Lansdowne. He was raised to the peerage after the Restoration in recognition of the support he and his father had given Charles I. It was probably Richard’s son John the King had in mind for Anne.

But Lady Wilmot had set her sights on the fortune of Thomas Wharton. The irony of this is that Anne brought a dowry of £10,000 to the marriage and an income of £2,500 a year. On her death she left everything to Wharton.

Wharton was believed to have infected his young wife with syphilis, the great scourge of the 17th century, but Anne’s death sentence may have already been delivered before her marriage.  After her death in 1685, her brother in law, Goodwin Wharton, wrote an explosive autobiographical expose. The manuscript was never published but is held by the British Museum.

Goodwin claimed that he had had an affair with Anne but that he had not been the only one. He wrote of how before her marriage (remember, aged 14) Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough, would bribe a servant to admit him into the bedroom Anne shared with her sister. He also claimed that Anne had ‘lain with long by her uncle, my Lord Rochester.’ It would seem likely that Anne had been abused and assaulted before her marriage and the candidates for infecting her with syphilis were several.

What kind of person was she? John Carswell author of The Old Cause: Three Biographical Studies in Whiggerism published in 1954, described her as a ‘demure, pious child’ while other accounts of Anne’s character have been somewhat derogatory and inaccurate and recorded to enhance the reputation of her husband. Considering her prominent position in court life she is something of a shadowy figure, seldom noted at social events when it could be safely assumed she was present. The only continuing interest in her appears to be in that of the inheritance she shared with her sister Eleanor, a battleground between their husband’s families and their grandmother Anne Rochester.

Copyright Lydiard House / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl Rochester

There was evidence of Anne’s frail health even before she married. In August 1672 she went to Bath to take the treatments where she stayed for three months, a particularly long time which would have cost a considerable amount of money. Aged thirteen and just months before her wedding, Anne was suffering from a very sore throat. She soon began to experience problems with her eyes and in 1678 travelled to Paris for treatment. Two years later she returned to Paris suffering for convulsions (involuntary muscle spasms) which increased in frequency and severity.

Greer and Hastings propose a number of theories concerning Anne’s ill health, and make a convincing case that she was infected with syphilis long before her marriage to Wharton. However, they point out that her symptoms could also be attributable to epileptiform seizures, tuberculosis and even as a consequence of her medical treatment where mercury was commonly used.

Anne’s last days were spent wracked by convulsions and in great pain. She died at Adderbury on October 29, 1685 aged just 26 years old. She was buried in the Wharton family vault beneath the Chancel at St Mary Magdalen, Upper Winchendon.

Anne left £3,000 to Hester, John Wilmot’s daughter by the actress Elizabeth Barry, the rest of her fortune she left to her husband.

Thomas Wharton succeeded to the title Marquis of Wharton in 1715, some 30 years after Anne’s death. Anne’s correct title was therefore plain Mrs Wharton, not Marchioness of Wharton as she is frequently called in books and articles and which has caused confusion between other women named Anne in the Wharton family.

Even during her lifetime Anne enjoyed an extensive critical readership and the admiration of a network of professional writers including among them Aphra Behn. The first collected edition of her works was published in 1997 by Germaine Greer and Susan Hastings and in 2004 more work was discovered including 11 poems previously unknown.

Copyright Lydiard House / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Sir Walter St John

So what is the connection to the St John family, although I’m sure you have probably worked it out by now. In the summer of 1664 Eleanor and Anne accompanied their grandmother on a visit to Lydiard Park where they stayed with Lady Rochester’s younger brother Sir Walter St. John. Sir Walter had been one of the trustees acting on behalf of the young Anne Lee during the marriage arrangements. Anne’s grandmother, Anne Wilmot, Countess of Rochester was the daughter of Sir John St John 1st Baronet, and his wife Anne Leighton who lived at Lydiard Park.


The Surviving Works of Anne Wharton edited, with textual notes and commentary, by G. Greer & S. Hastings published by Stump Cross Books 1997

Charlotte Calvert, Lady Baltimore

How does Maryland, one of the Thirteen Colonies on the Eastern seaboard that came together to form the United States, have a connection with the St John family from Lydiard Tregoze in Wiltshire?

Lady Charlotte Lee was born on March 13, 1678 (Old Style) at St James’s Park at the house acquired for her parents by her grandfather Charles II. Her mother was Lady Charlotte Fitzroy, Charles’s favourite daughter by his mistress Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine. Her father was Edward Henry Lee, 1st Earl of Lichfield. Charlotte, who was the eldest of some 20 children, was born when her mother was fourteen years old and her father fifteen.

Lady Charlotte Lee

Many online sources describe this portrait as being of Lady Charlotte, but it is more reliably believed to be that of her grandmother Barbara Villiers, Countess Castlemaine.

In 1699 Charlotte married Benedict Leonard Calvert. It was his great grandfather, George Calvert, who founded Maryland as a safe haven for persecuted English Catholics in 1632. Cecil Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore (Benedict’s grandfather) was granted a Charter for the new colony to be named Maryland in honour of Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I.

However, the Calvert’s lost their Maryland inheritance in 1688 when it became a Royal Colony following the events of the Glorious Revolution and the accession to the English throne of William and Mary.


Benedict Leonard Calvert, 4th Baron Baltimore

Within a year of their marriage Charlotte had given birth to the first of at least six children, including a set of twins. In these still turbulent religious times Charlotte’s father, the Catholic Earl of Lichfield, had endeavoured to steer his daughter along a purely Protestant path. However, after the birth of her first son in 1699 Charlotte converted to Catholicism.

Charlotte and Benedict separated in 1705 after an unhappy and abusive marriage. Salacious rumours circulated citing his cruelty and their mutual infidelities. It was said Charlotte had born a child in 1706 by her lover Colonel Robert Fielding, who was at the time bigamously married to Charlotte’s grandmother Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine.

In 1711 Benedict’s petition to Parliament for a divorce from Charlotte failed. He died four years later having only months before succeeded to the title of 4th Baron Baltimore on the death of his father. Having claimed her title of Lady Baltimore, Charlotte quickly remarried.

Her second husband was the entrepreneurial Christopher Crowe who held a diplomatic post in Italy while also acting as an agent acquiring works of art for the English nobility.

The couple married in Geneva in August 1715 but made their home at Woodford Hall, a property set in parkland with surrounding woods and farmland on the edge of Epping Forest. Charlotte had four children by her second marriage – Christopher, Catherine, Charlotte and George.

In a post nuptial agreement drawn up in 1719 Christopher declared the property in trust for his lifetime and after that to his wife the Rt Hon. Charlotte, Lady Baltimore for her lifetime but sadly Charlotte would only live another two years. She died at the age of 42, some sources say from rheumatism, others from arthritis.

In the 19th century Woodford Hall was the childhood home of poet and political activist and arts and crafts legend, William Morris. Demolished at the beginning of the 20th century the Woodford Parish Memorial Hall in Woodford High Road stands on the original site, next to St Mary’s Church where Charlotte was buried in 1721.


Washington Monument Mt. Vernon, Baltimore – From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

The Maryland Colony was restored to the Calvert family’s control by George I, and Charlotte’s eldest son Charles inherited the title to Maryland aged just fifteen, on the death of his father and grandfather. He held the office of Proprietary Governor from 1732-1733.

In 1727 Charles appointed his younger brother Benedict Leonard Calvert (Charlotte’s second son) Governor, an office he held until 1731. Leonardtown is named in his honour.

Charlotte’s third son, Edward Henry Calvert held the office of Commissary General and President of the Council of Maryland and the Calvert/Maryland continued through to the next generation (more to follow).


The three surviving daughters of Sir John St John 1st Baronet and his wife Anne Leighton kneel at the feel of their parents’ memorial.

But, have you worked out the St John, Lydiard Tregoze connection? Well actually there are two! On her maternal side Charlotte was the granddaughter of Barbara Villiers, Countess Castlemaine who in turn was the granddaughter of Barbara St John (d1672) of Lydiard Tregoze. Charlotte’s father, Edward Henry Lee, was the grandson of Anne St John (1614-1696). Anne was Barbara’s niece, the daughter of her brother Sir John St John 1st Baronet. A portrait of Barbara hangs in the State Bedroom in Lydiard House. Barbara also appears on the St John Polyptych in St Mary’s Church and Anne is one of the kneeling figures on her parent’s tomb. Both memorials were commissioned by Sir John.


The six St John sisters.


Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Leighton

The Knollys family were about as close to Elizabeth I as it was possible to be.

Katherine Knollys was her first cousin, the daughter of Mary Boleyn, and possibly even her half sister. There is a much disputed rumour that Katherine was the product of her mother’s affair with Henry VIII. The King, however, did not acknowledge Katherine as his daughter, but he did put a lot of opportunities and wealth in her way. Perhaps neither Mary nor the King could be entirely sure, but there is no denying a strong physical resemblance.


Katherine, Lady Knollys

Katherine’s husband Sir Francis Knollys served three Tudor monarchs in roles varying from Privy Councillor to Governor of Portsmouth and guardian of Mary, Queen of Scots. A staunch puritan, he worked tirelessly for Elizabeth I at great personal sacrifice.

Katherine served in the young Princess Elizabeth’s household before she acceded to the throne and records reveal that Katherine and her husband Francis took part in the ceremony and celebrations for Elizabeth’s coronation and that coronation livery was granted to Lettice and another sister, Elizabeth Knollys. From 1558 Katherine served as a Lady of the Bedchamber, accompanied by her daughters, including young Elizabeth Knollys, then aged just nine years old, who served as a Maid of the Chamber.

The Queen’s relationship with the couples children was also close and complicated and in the case of their daughter Lettice, well quite frankly, a little weird.

Lettice Knollys

Lettice Knollys

Lettice had an affair with and later married the Queen’s favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Essex, causing the Queen to call her a She-Wolf, among other insults, and to banish her from Court.

At the end of her life the Queen’s last favourite was none other than Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and Lettice’s son, by her first husband Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex. I know, bizarre, and the Queen never forgave the beautiful red head who bore a passing resemblance to herself.

But let’s return to the life and times of Katherine’s seventh child and fourth daughter, Elizabeth born upon ‘trynte even’ 1549. Henry VIII’s 12 year old son was on the throne, although the boy’s uncle, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, was Protector and called all the royal shots.


Elizabeth Leighton formerly Knollys

Sir Francis was a Justice of the Peace in Oxfordshire at this time, so it is most likely Elizabeth was born at the Knollys family home Rotherfield Greys. In 1557, during the reign of Mary Tudor, Katherine left the country to join her husband in religious exile in Germany, taking her five youngest children with her; most probably Elizabeth, Robert, Richard, Francis and Anne.

A year later the family returned – Katherine was appointed Chief Lady of the Privy Chamber and the future looked safe – well as safe as it ever looked in Tudor times.

Elizabeth spent pretty much her whole life in the confines of the claustrophobic court where the women employed to care for the Queen’s every need had to apply for a licence to be absent from court for more than two weeks.

Positions at court were all about status with the top posts reserved for ladies from the upper echelons of society.

By 1566 Elizabeth was one of the Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber, the day room where the Queen spent much of her time. Elizabeth had daily access to the Queen, to confide in and to influence her and it is known that she was involved in privy council business and decision making.

In 1578 Elizabeth married Thomas Leighton; a somewhat late marriage for both of them. she was 28 and he was 43.

Thomas had been a Gentleman of the Household for ten years before which he had served as a soldier and had seen service at the Seige of Rouen in 1562 and in defence of the garrison at Le Havre a year later. In 1569 he had commanded 500 harquebusiers during the Northern Rebellion and in 1570 he was appointed Governor of Jersey and Guernsey.

Elizabeth, however, remained at court for most of their married life. She had three children, a son Thomas and two daughters, Elizabeth born in 1583 and Anne in 1587.


Anne St John formerly Leighton

When Catherine Middleton became engaged to Prince William in 2010 a family tree was published purporting that both Catherine and William could trace their common ancestry to Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Leighton and her husband Sir Thomas. William descended from their younger daughter Anne who married Sir John St John 1st Baronet and Catherine from the elder one Elizabeth.

Unfortunately, in a pamphlet written in 1890 by an over zealous family historian, Canon James Davenport, who jumped to one too many conclusions, as it is so easy to do, and traced the Davenport family through the Talbots to the elder Leighton daughter. Then in 2010 it was republished all over again, this time in the Daily Mail, and I for one became very excited – a second, sideways link from the young Royals to Lydiard House and the St John family.

Sadly the error was quickly exposed – but the good news is there still remains a St John, Lydiard Park link between William and Anne!