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The St. Leger (pronounced saint ledger or sellinger) family is an old Anglo-Irish family with Norman and German roots going back over a thousand years, and whose name has appeared more than a few times in history.

The surname St. Leger is recorded in several forms The St. can be dropped altogether. "St." is an abbreviation of Saint, and the whole name is an anglicized version of "de Sancto Leodegario". Branches of the family have dropped the Saint part of the name, some partly for religious reasons during the reformation as the name is perceived as strongly Catholic.

This name can be described as French, but is originally of Germanic origins. The name ultimately derives from the pre 7th century Old German personal name Leodegar composed of the elements liutr (tribe), and gari (spear). St. Leger, a 7th century martyr and bishop of Autun, contributed to the popularity of the name in France, while in Germany the name was connected with a different saint, Ludger, an 8th century bishop of Münster.

The name was introduced into England by the Normans after 1066, and is first recorded in the Cartulary of Battle Abbey (Kent) in the early 12th, and in Pipe Rolls 1192 (Hampshire). The surname was introduced into Ireland in the 12th century following the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169, where it achieved considerable status. Early examples of the surname recording include Sir Anthony de Saint Leger, Knight of the Order of the Garter who brought Ireland under the Crown. He served as Viceroy of Ireland for five terms. A plaque dedicated to Sir Anthony Saint Leger can be found in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

William Ledger and Elizabeth May were married at St. Margarets, Westminster, London, on April 25th 1595. The first recorded spelling of the family name is possibly that of Adam Leger, which was dated 1279, in the Hundred Rolls of Cambridgeshire, during the reign of Edward I of England.

The English and Irish family can trace it origins back to Robertus de Villapari vel. de Sancto Leodegario (also known as Sir Robert de Saint Leger, a Norman knight who arrived as part of the Norman Conquest of 1066. His son, Ralph De St. Leger fought at the Battle of Hastings. Sir Robert had stigmata.

Several generations of St. Legers fought in the Crusades. Lord Jean St. Leger (1160-1216) 'lived mainly on his French lands in Normandy whilst his brother Wizo cared for the lands at Fairlight in Sussex. As a result of his feudal duties, he accompanied the French King Philip August on his conquest of Normandy, placed thus in a bad position, in reprisal the English King confiscated his English lands and arrested him on reconquering Normandy. Jean was held prisoner at Corfe Castle in Dorset for many years. The Barons revolt allowed the St. Leger family to offer ransom/release aided by the English Master Templar Roger St. Leger on 30 Aug 1216. Lord of Fairlight.'

The Christian name Jean runs in the French St. Leger family. Another, Sir Jean De St. Leger, accompanied Robert, Duke of Normandy on the First Crusade 1096. Another St. Leger rode with Philip Augustus in Palestine in 1191. A map of Jerusalem 1099-1147 during the times of the Crusades, shows a "Leger's Pool" just outside Damascus Gatemarker. Geoffrey De St. Leger fought with Richard I of England in Palestine from 1186 to 1201 or 1202. He was present at the siege of Acre in 1187. Ralph St. Leger, Lord of Ulcombe also too part in the siege of Acre in 1187.. His tomb still exists in Ulcombe Church. He returned to England around 1201. As his son carried the same name there are confusions but a Ralph St. Leger was a signatory to Magna Carta in 1215.

Another Jean St. Leger was a Benedictine and Abbot of the Abbey of St. Wandrillemarker, France, during the 14th century. Bishop Thomas St. Leger 1240-1320 was the Archdeacon of Kells around 1275 and is said to have raised money for the Crusades.

Sir Thomas Saint Leger was a Knight of the Order of the Bath and Ambassador to France. He along with Louis XI and others signed the treaty of Pecquigny, ending the Hundred Years War. He married Anne Plantagenet, Duchess of Exeter. Upon Edward IV of England's death in 1483, St. Leger was beheaded by Richard III of England. He and Anne, who had died giving birth to their only child also named Anne, are buried in The Roos Chapel, St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. Their daughter married Sir George Manners, of the family of the Duke of Rutland. Their tomb (Sir George Manners) can be found in the Queen's private chapel in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

Another St. Leger of historical importance was Gen. Anthony St. Leger. He was born in 1731 probably in Kildare, Ireland. He was one of a group of noblemen and gentlemen who in 1778 gathered for a private dinner party in an upper room of the Red Lion Inn which stands in the market square in Doncaster. When they departed, history had been made. A horse race which was to set the pattern for classic racing throughout the world had been christened the St. Leger. The race, a sweepstake for three-year-olds, had been born two years earlier in 1776, at the suggestion of Lt. Col. (later Major-General) Anthony St. Leger and ran for the first time over a two-mile course on Cantley Common in Doncaster. The classic race, The St. Leger has been run at Doncaster ever since.

And another important branch of the St. Leger family is that of Sir Anthony St. Leger KG of Ulcombe in co. Kent. Sir Anthony was a courtier and lawyer of Lincolns Inn charged by King Henry VIII to devise a policy to bring Ireland under the Crown. Sir Anthony drew up the 'grant-re-grant' policy whereby Irish chieftans would hand over their lands to Henry and be granted them back with an English title. Sir Anthony travelled to Ireland and met each chieftan to negotiate. Sir Anthony, considered by Irish historians to be an English gentleman and reasonable man, spent 13 months travelling through Ireland on this mission. He managed to persuade the majority of chieftans to accept this plan but three great chieftans in the north of Ireland held out, sowing the historical seeds of the troubles to come. He served 5 terms as Lord Deputy in Ireland, and was granted Leeds Castle in Kent for his service to the King. His descendants became the Lords Doneraile of Doneraile Court in co. Cork in Ireland. The male line became extinct and the title is now in abeyance.

St Legers in history

St Legers of notable historical interest include:


  • Moya Frenz St. Leger, St. Leger The Family and the Race", 1986 ISBN 0-85033-588-4, reprinted in 2004

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