The ancient family of St Leger is of French extraction, and derives from
SIR ROBERT SENT LEGERE, Knight, as the name was then written, one of the companions in arms of WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR; and, according to a family tradition, the person who supported that prince with his arm when he quitted the ship to land in Sussex.
This Sir Robert, having overcome a pagan Dane who inhabited the manor of Ulcombe, in Kent, fixed his abode there; and in that place his posterity flourished for many generations.
The lineal descendant of Sir Robert,
SIR ANTHONY ST LEGER, KG, of Ulcombe, Kent, went first into Ireland in 1537, being appointed by HENRY VIII one of the commissioners for letting the Crown lands there, and returning into England, was constituted Lord Deputy of Ireland, in 1540.
In 1543, he was recalled to inform the King of his administration of affairs, which gave His Majesty such satisfaction that he created him a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and sent him back as Lord Deputy; in which high office he continued until 1556, serving three sovereigns, when, being recalled by QUEEN MARY, he retired to his estate in Kent, and died there in 1559.
Sir Anthony married Agnes, daughter of Hugh Warham, and was succeeded by his second, but eldest surviving son,
WILLIAM ST LEGER, who had a son,
SIR WARHAM ST LEGER, who was appointed President of Munster in 1566, by Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy of Ireland.
In 1580, he caused James of Desmond, who was denominated a notorious rebel, to be hanged under martial law at Cork.
He was killed, eventually, in battle (in single combat), by Hugh Maguire, Lord of Fermanagh, who fell himself at the same time.
This gentleman wedded Ursula, youngest daughter of George, Lord Abergavenny, and was succeeded by his son,
THE RT HON SIR WILLIAM ST LEGER, Privy Counsellor, Lord President of Munster, 1627, who represented the city of Cork in parliament, 1639, and was appointed, in that year, Sergeant-Major-General in the Army.
Sir William was subsequently employed against the rebels in Ireland.
He married Gertrude de Vries, a Lady of Lower Germany; and dying about 1642, left with other issue, from which descended the St Legers of Yorkshire, and General St Leger,
WILLIAM, his heir;The eldest son,
JOHN, successor to his brother;
SIR WILLIAM ST LEGER, Knight, MP, who fell at the battle of Newbury, 1644, was succeeded by his brother,
JOHN ST LEGER, of Doneraile, County Cork, who wedded the Lady Mary Chichester, elder daughter and co-heir of the 1st Earl of Donegall, and was succeeded by his son,
THE RT HON ARTHUR ST LEGER, of Doneraile, who was created, in 1703, Baron Kilmayden and VISCOUNT DONERAILE.
His lordship espoused, in 1690, Elizabeth, daughter and heir of John Hayes, of Winchilsea, by whom he had issue,
ARTHUR, his successor;He died in 1727, and was succeeded by his eldest son,
ARTHUR, 2nd Viscount (1694-1734), who wedded firstly, in 1717, Mary, only child of Charles, Lord Mohun (who lost his life in a duel with the Duke of Hamilton), and had an only son,
His lordship wedded secondly, in 1738, Catherine Sarah, daughter of Captain John Conyngham, but had no surviving issue.
He was succeeded by his son,
ARTHUR MOHUN, 3rd Viscount (1718-50), who espoused firstly, in 1738, Mary, daughter of Anthony Shepherd, of Newcastle, County Longford; and secondly, in 1739, Catherine, eldest daughter of the Viscount Massereene; but died childless in 1749, when the honours reverted to his uncle,
HAYES, 4th Viscount (1702-67), who married, in 1722, Elizabeth, eldest daughter and co-heir of Joseph Deane, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer; but dying without issue, when the viscountcy etc became EXTINCT, and the family estates devolved upon his nephew,
ST LEGER ALDWORTH, who represented the borough of Doneraile in parliament in 1749; and upon succeeding to the estates of his maternal ancestors, assumed the surname and arms of ST LEGER.
He was elevated to the peerage, in 1776, as Baron Doneraile; and advanced to a viscountcy, in 1785, as VISCOUNT DONERAILE (2nd creation).
His lordship wedded Mary, eldest daughter of Redmond Barry, of Ballyclough, County Cork, by whom he had,
HAYES;His lordship died in 1787, and was succeeded by his eldest son,
Henrietta; Elizabeth; Mary; Louisa Anne; Caroline Catherine; Charlotte Theodosia; Georgiana.
HAYES, 2nd Viscount (1755-1819), who espoused, in 1785, Charlotte, fourth daughter of James Bernard, of Castle Bernard, and sister of Francis, 1st Earl of Bandon, and had issue,
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, the Hon Nathaniel Warham Robert St John St Leger.
- Hayes St Leger, 2nd Viscount (1755–1819);
- Hayes St Leger, 3rd Viscount (1786–1854);
- Hayes St Leger, 4th Viscount (1818–87);
- Richard Arthur St Leger, 5th Viscount (1825-91);
- Edward St Leger, 6th Viscount (1866–1941);
- Hugh St Leger, 7th Viscount (1869–1956);
- Algernon Edward St Leger, 8th Viscount (1878–1957);
- Richard St John St Leger, 9th Viscount (1923-83);
- Richard Allen St Leger, 10th Viscount (b 1946).
The 4th Viscount was one of the great Victorian hunting men, and his demise was both 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.
DONERAILE COURT, Doneraile, County Cork, comprising three storeys and seven bays, dates from the early 18th century.
A cut-stone front was added ca 1730.
The house has a three-bay breakfront, blocked quoins, crisply-moulded window surrounds with scroll keystones in the two upper storeys, and a door-case 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 Doneraile Court in 1956.
The estate and its 400 acres was 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.
First published in December, 2012. Doneraile arms courtesy of European Heraldry.