RALPH ST LEGER (d 1470), of Ulcombe, Kent, married Anne, daughter of Sir Edward Hart, and had six sons, of whom the elder son,
SIR ANTHONY ST LEGER, KG, of Ulcombe, Kent, constituted Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1540.
Sir Anthony served five terms as Lord Deputy, and was granted Leeds Castle in Kent for his service to the King. His descendants from both Irish branches, Doneraile and Heywards Hill, are today scattered throughout the world.
Sir Anthony was succeeded by his eldest son,
WILLIAM ST LEGER, who had a son,
SIR WARHAM ST LEGER, who was appointed commissioner for the Governor of Munster in 1599. He was killed eventually in battle (in single combat), by Hugh Maguire, Lord of Fermanagh, who fell himself at the same time. His son,
THE RT HON SIR WILLIAM ST LEGER, a privy counsellor, and Lord President of Munster in 1627.
Sir William represented the city of Cork in parliament, in 1639, and was appointed, in that year, Sergeant-Major-General in the Army; he was subsequently employed against the rebels in Ireland; married Gertrude de Vries, a Lady of Lower Germany.
Dying in 1642, he was succeeded by his son,
SIR WILLIAM ST LEGER, knight, MP, who fell at the battle of Newbury in 1644, and was succeeded by his brother,
JOHN ST LEGER, of Doneraile, County Cork, who wedded, firstly, Lady Mary Chichester, elder daughter and co-heir of 1st Earl of Donegall. His eldest son,
THE RT HON ARTHUR ST LEGER, 1ST VISCOUNT DONERAILE; created, in 1703, Baron Kilmayden and VISCOUNT DONERAILE. His eldest son,
ARTHUR, 2nd Viscount, MP for Doneraile, 1777-87.
HAYES, 3rd Viscount; colonel, South Cork Militia.
HAYES, 4th Viscount, DL (1818-87); honorary colonel, King's Royal Rifle Corps; died tragically having been bitten by his pet fox.
The 4th Viscount was one of the great Victorian hunting men, and his end was ironic and macabre. He kept a pet fox which was housed near the gate at the side of the Court. The fox became rabid and bit its master. Lord Doneraile contracted rabies and was smothered with pillows by the housemaids to spare him suffering and prevent him spreading the disease to others.
THE PRESENT Doneraile Court dates from the early 18th century, probably by Arthur, 1st Viscount Doneraile. A three-storey, seven-bay, cut-stone front was built on to the house about 1730.
The house has a three-bay breakfront, blocked quoins, crisply-moulded window surrounds with scroll keystones in the two upper storeys; and a doorcase with Ionic columns and a scroll pediment.
Later in the 18th century curved end bows were added; and later still, the side elevation was extended by a bow-fronted addition, thus becoming a garden front of three bays between two bows.
On the other side of the house, a wing containing a new dining-room was added in 1869 by the 4th Viscount of the 2nd creation; though this was demolished relatively recently.
During the Victorian era, ninety gardeners were employed to maintain the parkland.
The 7th Viscount died at the Court in 1956.
The estate and its 400 acres were bought by the Irish state in 1969 from the St Leger family, for the purpose of creating a wildlife preserve.
In 2011, there was a €10m plan to turn the house and its extensive grounds into a major tourist attraction, focused on turning the historic Doneraile Court into a tourist mecca.