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St. John, Anna

St. John, Anna

Female 1614 - 1695

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  • Christened  5 Nov 1614  Wiltshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender  Female 
    Buried  18 Mar 1695  Spelsbury, Oxfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID  I01850  My Genealogy
    Last Modified  16 Jun 2015 

    Father  St. John, John,   b. Abt 1584, Of Lydiard Tregoze, Wiltshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1648, Battersea, Surrey, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Mother  Leighton, Anne,   c. 14 Oct 1591, Hanbury, Worcestershire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   bur. 19 Sep 1628, Lydiard Tregoze, Wiltshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married  09 Jul 1604  St James, Westminster, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID  F00542  Group Sheet

    Family 1  Lee, Francis Henry,   b. 3 Mar 1615, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   bur. 23 Jul 1639, Chelsea, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married  02 Oct 1632  Battersea, Surrey, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID  F00744  Group Sheet

    Family 2  Wilmot, Henry,   c. 26 Nov 1613, St Martins in the Field, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   bur. 19 Feb 1658, Spelsbury, Oxfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married  Bef 1645 
    Children 
    >1. Wilmot, John,   c. 10 Apr 1647, Ditchley, Oxfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Jul 1680, Spelsbury, Oxfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location
    Family ID  F00745  Group Sheet

  • Photos
    Anne St John
    Anne St John

  • Notes 
    • Will of Anne Rochester Countess Of Rochester - 1 June 1683 Proved 1 April 1696

      University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester Library Bulletins: Volume XXVIII Number 1 Summer 1974
      "My dearest sonne": Letters from the Countess of Rochester...:
      James William Johnson. Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservations.

      With the purchase of twenty-one holograph letters by Anne St. John Wilmot, Countess of Rochester, to her grandson, Edward Henry Lee, first Earl of Lichfield, Rush Rhees Library has become one of only four owners of the known correspondence of this extraordinary woman. ... The letters provide a unique insight into the private and public lives of some of England's most prominent seventeenth century families while displaying characteristic facets of their composer, a lady previously best known as the wife of Henry Wilmot, the Royalist soldier and diplomat, and mother of John Wilmot, the scandalous rake and poet of the Restoration era.

      Anne St. John was born on 5 November 1614, one of ten children of Sir John St. John of Lydiard Tregose, Wiltshire....It was at Battersea that she married Sir Francis Henry Lee (1616-1639), the sixteen-year-old Baron of Ditchley, in October 1632, much to the distaste of her future mother-in-law. The widowed Lady Lee did not care for the St. Johns, criticizing them openly; and though she eventually became a close friend and ally of Anne St. John Lee's during the Cromwell period, she infuriated her son by marrying a Parliamentarian leader (the Lees were all Royalists) in 1633 and permanently taking a sizeable portion of the Lee family income with her. In spite of the bad beginning, the marriage of Anne St. John and Harry Lee was a happy one, lasting for seven years and producing at least three children: two sons and a daughter. Unfortunately, like many others in the seventeenth century, Harry Lee died young. After following the king, Charles I, to York in 1639, he contracted smallpox and died after his return to Chelsea, refusing to let his wife near him for fear she might be struck too.

      As a young widow, Anne Lee was named executrice of the Lee estate, ... She often stated her "mony feares" at her lack of experience; but she had a number of "friends" to rely upon, ... Her ill-spelled letters to Hyde in the early 1640s reveal a will of iron under her professions of innocence and gratitude, and her womanly wiles showed plainly that she knew how to succeed in a man's world...

      An unknown suitor proposed to her, making "brave condissions for a joyter & a fortun for children if she hath any by him," but she refused him. If she remarried, by terms of Francis Henry's will, she lost control of her Lee properties; and though they were entangled in the legal process of sequestration, she was unwilling to risk anything for a marriage jointure or settlement.

      In 1644, however, when the Lee estates had emerged from sequestration ... Anne Lee did marry again. Her second husband was Henry Wilmot of Adderbury, Oxon., ... Not long after their marriage, Henry Wilmot was captured by the Parliamentary Army and exiled to the Continent, where he largely stayed until his death in 1658. Only three or four occasions can be documented when Lord and Lady Wilmot were together. ..

      During her husband's long exile, Lady Wilmot had to battle constantly to prevent the Parliamentarians from seizing the Lees' and Wilmots' property. Her infant Lee daughter had died in 1640, but her two surviving Lee sons, Henry and Francis Henry (Harry and Frank), and her Wilmot infant had to be protected, their estates managed, their educations supervised, and their marriages planned. ... Since she was married to a traitor, insurrectionist, and spy, the Countess of Rochester had great troubles with the Puritan Committee for Compounding, which kept resolving to take all her lands. But by marrying her son Harry off to Ann Danvers, daughter of a prominent Puritan neighbor at Cornbury and Chelsea, and by writing a direct petition to Oliver Cromwell the Lord Protector, the countess managed to snarl matters in so much red tape that she preserved the estates largely intact....
      By 1659 it was obvious to the countess that the Puritan government was adrift, and carefully, through her son Harry, she began to prepare to cut her Puritan ties and resume her close relations with the Stuarts, whose obligations to her dead husband were great. ... Before she could effect her plans, both Harry Lee and his wife died in 1659, he of smallpox and she in childbirth,... The countess was left with two small granddaughters, Ellen and Anne Lee; her second son, Frank Lee, who became the new Baron of Ditchley, and her thirteen-year-old son John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester. Through these progeny and their descendants, the countess maneuvered the family fortunes like a chess master for the next twenty-five years...

      ... Through her family connections with the Apsleys, the St. Johns, the Villierses, the Osborns, and the Howards, the countess showed herself far removed from the fearful, "helpless" young widow of 1640.

      ... five short years, the countess had woven an elaborate web of relationships with the Stuarts, ...


      In 1667 a subtle but severe rift came between the countess and her son Rochester. ... Then, late in 1667, Frank, her remaining Lee son died suddenly. Since he left two infant boys, Edward Henry and Francis, to join as heirs with the countess' other grandchildren, Ellen and Anne Lee, the countess resumed her role as champion of the Lees against the counter-interests of the Wilmots, who were represented by Lord Rochester, then twenty-one years old. The countess retained a special love for the children of her first husband, which the morals and manners of her son Rochester and his wife did little to displace; and though her "love" in time did inestimable damage to the Lees, she always preferred them to the Wilmots.

      In 1673 the opposition between Rochester and his mother reached a crisis when the old lady wanted to marry her granddaughter Ann Lee ("Nan") to a notorious rake and Whig sympathizer, Thomas Wharton, ... Ellen Lee had made a highly suitable marriage, in 1672, to James Bertie, Lord Norrys of Abingdon, .. Rochester was horrified when Nan, perhaps against her own wishes, was wedded to Wharton. A compromise of sorts was worked out, however, in 1674, when Edward Henry Lee was formally betrothed to the Lady Charlotte Fitz-roy, a bastard daughter of Charles II and Lady Castlemain. He was eleven years old and she was ten when the engagement was made formal, and he was created Earl of Lichfield in anticipation of his future as a royal son-in-law. When they reached the ages of puberty, the Lichfields were wed in 1677, but several terrible family wrangles over money and rights preceded that. ...By 1679, when Rochester gained a sweet revenge against the king by helping to impeach his lord treasurer, political and economic conflicts were already threatening to rip the families to bits.

      When Lord Rochester died his repentent, dramatic death in July 1680, his mother the countess extracted every drop of remorse from him for all his past misdeeds. The series of letters written in June and July by her express the countess' passionately sincere belief that her son's torments of agony were caused by the devil's wrestling for his soul; she gloried in the spectacle of her son's spiritual triumph and got him to sign a Remonstrance of Faith, which she witnessed. After he was buried, Anne the dowager countess authorized the publication of the funeral sermon, which called Rochester "the greatest of sinners." After the death of his widow and his son Charles, in 1681, she undertook the raising of Rochester's three daughters, and continued to give orders to the various Lees.


      ..In 1692 the old countess finally relinquished the reins over the yoked families she had controlled for half a century. Leaving Adderbury and Oxfordshire, she settled in London in St. Anne's Soho, where she died in 1696 at the age of eighty-two. She had outlived two husbands, three sons, and many of her grandchildren. ...