St Leger (Seintleger, Sallinger), Sir Warham (d. 1600), soldier, was the son of William St Leger of Bilsington and Belgar in Kent and grandson of Sir Anthony St Leger (qv), lord deputy of Ireland on three separate occasions in the 1540s and 1550s. His father should have succeeded to the sizeable St Leger estates in Kent but was disinherited in favour of his younger brother, Sir Warham St Leger (qv) (d. 1597).
Early service in Ireland Sir Warham was heavily involved in various colonial enterprises in Munster from the 1560s to the 1590s and it was natural that his nephew and namesake would also pursue a career in Ireland. In March 1575 he appears en route to Ireland from England and was described as a servant of Walter Devereux (qv), 1st earl of Essex, who tried to establish a private colony in east Ulster during 1573–5. Presumably St Leger had accompanied Essex to Ulster in 1573 and fought in his unsuccessful campaigns against the native Irish, whose military opposition to this venture brought about its collapse in 1575. It is uncertain if he remained in Ireland or returned to England.
Following the outbreak of the second Desmond rebellion in Munster in summer 1579 he was appointed provost marshal of Munster and given command of a company of fifty horse in August. As provost marshal he was responsible for maintaining discipline within the army and also had authority over the civilian population, having been granted a commission to execute martial law. This was as much an administrative role as a military one, but he did not neglect his duties as an army captain, being active against the rebels in the area around Kilmallock in spring 1580. He resigned as provost marshal in August and returned to England in October to attend to his private affairs, having earned the praise of his superiors for both his valour in battle and his administrative diligence.
In summer 1581 he was ordered to raise in England a force of 100 men for service in Ireland. By around early June these soldiers were at Liverpool and Chester awaiting shipment to Ireland when they mutinied and fled these ports. This probably delayed his return to Dublin, where he was by January 1582. Although the Desmond rebellion continued to rage in Munster he did not go to the province and instead seems to have been preoccupied with investigating a conspiracy against the crown involving a number of prominent members of the Pale gentry. For his efforts he was rewarded with custody of the property of William Nugent (qv), one of the leading plotters within the Pale. However, the queen suspected that St Leger and his colleagues were falsely accusing landowners in the hope of gaining their property and called a halt to the execution and expropriation of the Pale gentry in 1582. He was forced to return Nugent's property to his wife.
Officeholder and landowner On 25 July 1583 St Leger was made governor of Queen's Co. (Laois), and given command of a company of foot. This area was relatively easy to rule, as the formerly ferocious opposition of certain septs of the O'Mores to the plantation of their lands had been broken. In October 1587 he was accused of favouring the native Irish over English settlers and of not enforcing penal laws against catholics. This was ascribed to the influence of his catholic wife, Elizabeth Rothe of Kilkenny, whom he married in the mid 1580s. A more likely explanation lay in the inadequate financial and military support he received from the crown, which compelled him and other English captains to seek allies among the native Irish.
His wife was a widow of Henry Davells and Humphrey Mackworth, both of whom had died at the hands of Irish rebels. This marriage gave him control of Davell's properties in Co. Carlow and of a lease held by his wife of the former abbey of St Finbar, near Cork. At some point after 1587 he was also made guardian of the Bagenal estate in the barony of Idrone, Co. Carlow, being appointed constable of Leighlin to assist him in this. The previous occupier, Dudley Bagenal, had been killed prosecuting a bitter feud with the Kavanaghs, leaving only a minor to succeed him. St Leger's appointment as custodian of Idrone reflected the government's desire to stabilise the barony. However, the Kavanaghs remained embittered and regularly clashed with the royal garrison at Leighlin.
St Leger resided at Leighlin and at Monasterevin, Co. Kildare, where he had been appointed royal constable by 1596. A reference to him in 1590 as being a gentleman of the Pale suggests that he held some property there, possibly near Monasterevin. His property interests and military commands made him an important regional figure and responsible for the defence of the western and south-western approaches into the Pale. His sphere of influence also comprised the northern and eastern borders of the territory of Thomas Butler (qv), 10th earl of Ormond, the most powerful noble in the country. He appears to have engaged in curbing the dominance of Ormond and of his supporters in the counties of Carlow, Tipperary, and Kilkenny. Certainly, he was friendly with the Butlers of Dunboyne, who were Ormond's main rivals within his lordship, while his relations with the earl appear to have been tetchy.
Ulster: negotiations with Tyrone He was well regarded by the government, particularly during the lord deputyship (1588–94) of Sir William Fitzwilliam (qv), who in summer 1593 posted him to Monaghan, where he had command of fifty men. War then loomed between the crown and a confederation of Ulster lords led by Hugh O'Neill (qv), 2nd earl of Tyrone, which made Monaghan a strategically vital region. This posting also facilitated his role as agent for Robert Devereux (qv), 2nd earl of Essex, who held title to land in Monaghan in the barony of Farney. St Leger collected rent on Essex's behalf during this time. In January 1594 he campaigned under the marshal of Ulster, Henry Bagenal (qv), against rebel forces led by Hugh Roe Maguire (qv) in Fermanagh.
However, the crown's military position weakened during 1594–5, forcing it to pursue negotiations with the confederates. In August 1595 the general of the royal army in Ireland, Sir John Norris (qv), authorised St Leger to parley with Tyrone, and he played a prominent role in a series of talks with Tyrone and the other rebel leaders during 1595–6. He was chosen for this role because of his long-standing friendship with Tyrone, which probably dates back to his time serving the 1st earl of Essex in east Ulster in 1573–5. Then a loyalist, Tyrone had aided Essex's beleaguered colony. However, in 1595 Tyrone was playing for time and had no intention of making peace with the crown.
As this process played itself out, St Leger became aware that his participation in these negotiations was making him enemies among the more hard-line members of the government. The most important of these was the lord deputy, Sir William Russell (qv), who tried to undermine St Leger by giving one of his main rivals in Queen's Co. the authority to exercise martial law there. In summer 1596 Norris attempted to stop the spread of the rebellion into Connacht through diplomacy and dispatched a reluctant St Leger into the province to negotiate with the Burke rebels. The resulting conference in June was a fraught affair in which he argued heatedly with ‘Red’ Hugh O'Donnell (qv), lord of Tyrconnell, and feared that the rebels were going to seize him. Now convinced of the futility of these talks, he was dismayed by Norris's refusal to recognise that Tyrone was not negotiating in good faith. In his private correspondence he declared that the government would have to commit itself to war in Ireland or risk losing the entire country.
Return to Leinster By this time he had become alarmed by the worsening situation in the midlands, where the O'Moores were growing restless once more under the leadership of the formidable Uaithne MacRory O'Moore (qv). By August he was back in Leinster, where he complained that he did not have enough men to maintain order and advised that the government placate Uaithne by granting him land formerly held by his family in Queen's Co. In November it was reported that the upsurge in violence in the midlands had effectively overthrown the English settlements there, and some members of the Irish privy council blamed St Leger for this, claiming that he had favoured some local Irish. Throughout 1597, he and his men clashed repeatedly with the O'Moore rebels, who were assisted by forces sent into the midlands by Tyrone under the command of his best captain, Richard Tyrrell (qv). That year he was knighted on 30 October.
In November a local truce was agreed after negotiations between St Leger and Uaithne. However, on 7 December a dispute broke out between the royal garrison at Maryborough and about 400 rebels under Uaithne and Tyrrell over the rebels' right to claim provisions from the inhabitants of Queen's Co. St Leger left Maryborough to raise reinforcements among the loyal English and Irish in the county, but in his absence his lieutenant led his two companies out of the fort to parley with the rebels. A battle ensued, in which the English were routed and much of the town of Maryborough was burnt. This was an embarrassing defeat for St Leger, and the vagueness of his report led his superiors to suspect negligence, or that the English had provoked the fight, or both. After this setback the remnants of the royal forces in Queen's Co. were confined to Maryborough in a state of siege.
St Leger seems to have spent most of 1598 in Dublin recovering from a leg wound he had received in battle. During this recuperation period the house he was staying in caught fire. Unable to flee due to his lame leg, he had to be carried out of the burning building. Although he had had a narrow escape, most of his possessions perished in the blaze. Worse still, shortly beforehand his land and livestock in the country had been thoroughly pillaged by rebel forces. These double disasters left him facing financial ruin. In January 1599 he went to London, where he petitioned to receive his pay arrears, which then amounted to £2,542. Some of this appears to have been granted to him, and in March the queen ordered his elevation to the Irish privy council. He was back in Dublin by the end of April to assist the newly appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland, the earl of Essex, in his forthcoming campaigns against the rebels. He was based at Monasterevin in early 1599, having command of 350 men.
Service under Essex Although St Leger had previously served both Essex and his father, his relations with the earl had cooled. During his time in London he relied on the favour of Essex's rival and principal secretary to the queen, Sir Robert Cecil. Once back in Ireland he reported to Cecil on Irish affairs and was critical of Essex in these dispatches. Essex wished to attack the rebel fastness in Ulster but St Leger believed this was not practical and that he should focus on recovering Leinster first; in this he was at least partly motivated by his own private interests. In September he accompanied Essex into Ulster, but reiterated his view to Cecil that Essex was throwing away the opportunity to achieve real progress in Leinster. As it was, instead of attacking Tyrone Essex negotiated with him. After parleys between the two men on 7 and 8 September at which St Leger was present, a truce was agreed.
On returning to Dublin, Essex appointed St Leger and Henry Power as commissioners to govern Munster. Much of the province was in rebel hands and, despite the truce, rebel forces were blockading Castlemaine, Co. Kerry, the only fort remaining in royal hands in west Munster. St Leger had been absentee constable of Castlemaine since August 1597 and his priority was to preserve it for the crown. However, the royal forces in Munster were demoralised, poorly equipped, and poorly provisioned. Supplying Castlemaine by land was out of the question due to its remoteness, the weakness of the royal forces, and bad weather, while supplying the castle by sea was impossible due to contrary winds. As a result its famished garrison surrendered Castlemaine to the rebels in November.
Struggling to hold the royal army in the province together, he withdrew his forces into the main towns. The Munster corporations resented this burden and complained to Dublin and London. For his part, St Leger found the corporations unhelpful if not defiant, but dared not risk an open confrontation. Meanwhile he quarrelled with the chief justice of Munster William Saxey, who alleged that St Leger had exceeded his authority by interfering in judicial proceedings in Cork. Saxey also became involved in a bitter dispute with Sir George Thornton, after which he refused to attend meetings of the Munster provincial council.
Tyrone in Munster; death of St Leger St Leger was criticised for losing Castlemaine, for the dissension within his provincial administration, for remaining within Cork city attending to civil matters, and for generally failing to reassert the crown's authority in Munster. Age, injury, and five years of largely unsuccessful campaigning appears to have sapped his resolve; he advised that the government appease the leader of the Munster rebellion, James fitz Thomas Fitzgerald (qv), and rely on untrustworthy Irish lords such as Florence MacCarthy Reagh (qv). In February 1600 Tyrone marched into Munster in overwhelming strength to receive the submission of the lords of the province. The rebel leader sent St Leger a courteous letter in which he referred to him as his former friend. However, his words were belied by his actions, as he and his men systematically devastated the estates of those lords who remained loyal to the queen.
Hopelessly outnumbered, St Leger and his forces remained within the walls of Cork as Tyrone's army plundered up to the city gates. The rebel army having passed, St Leger and Power reconnoitred the area around Cork with about forty to fifty men on horses. They stumbled across a body of mounted rebels of about the same number led by Hugh Maguire (qv), and an affray ensued in which Maguire recognised St Leger and charged him. St Leger shot Maguire with his musket but the rebel captain continued his advance and struck St Leger on the head with his spear. Maguire drew away but had scarcely left the battlefield before he collapsed and died. St Leger was carried back to Cork and died of his wounds on 4–5 March some four days after the encounter.
With his wife he had at least two sons, William (qv), who served as lord president of Munster, and Anthony. After his death, his wife was accused of corresponding with rebel leaders but this charge was discredited. Having lost three husbands in the royal service, she was treated sympathetically by the crown.