Oliver St John (1634-1688) 2nd Earl of Bolingbroke
This portrait of Oliver, 2nd Earl of Bolingbroke, purchased by Swindon Corporation in 1965, will enjoy a makeover this year, thanks to the fund raising efforts of the Friends of Lydiard Park.
Oliver St John was born in 1634, a member of the senior, Bletsoe branch of the family, descended from the eldest son of Lady Margaret Beauchamp and her first husband Oliver St. John. Lady Margaret's second marriage to John Beaufort produced a daughter Margaret, the mother of the first Tudor King Henry VII.
Oliver's wife, Frances Cavendish was one of Royalist William Cavendish 1st Duke of Newcastle and Elizabeth Bassett's three daughters. With her sisters Jane and Elizabeth, Frances grew up at Welbeck Abbey, a former monastery in Nottinghamshire; a home the three women would courageously defend during the English Civil Wars. However, in marriage Frances aligned herself with the Parliamentarian St Johns when she wed Oliver at Pitstone, Buckinghamshire on November 24, 1654.
The couple's marriage settlement included a sum of £7,000 paid as portion and extensive lands in Bedfordshire to be held to the use of the Earl of Bolingbroke for life and afterwards to his new wife Frances for her life to be held in trust for 2,000 years. In default of any male issue, and in case there were daughters of the marriage, the trustees were to raise £60 per annum out of the property for their education and maintenance; if there was one daughter the sum of £7,000 was to be raised and paid at the age of 18 or on marriage and should there be more than one daughter the sum of £10,000 was to be raised and divided equally, payable at the same time. The trust of 2,000 years was to be declared void if there was any male issue of the marriage.
As it turned out Frances and Oliver St John had no children during their 24 years of marriage and on his death in 1688 Oliver’s titles and estate went to his brother Paulet.
The couple lived at Bletsoe Castle in Bedfordshire where Frances died on August 15, 1678. She was buried in the parish church at Bletsoe where Oliver erected this memorial. The tablet on the left side was left blank, presumably for a suitable inscription when Oliver died, but apparently no one ever got around to writing his epitaph.