William Skeffington

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Sir William Skeffington (c. 1465 – 31 December 1535) was an English knight who served as Lord Deputy of Ireland.

Skeffington Hall, Leicestershire

Early life[edit]

William Skeffington was born in Skeffington Hall, Leicestershire, the eldest son of Thomas Skeffington by his wife, Mary.[1] His brother John was the patriarch of the Massareene family. He succeeded his father by 1496.


William was appointed High Sheriff of Leicestershire and Warwickshire for 1508, 1515 and 1521. He was knighted by King Henry VII in 1509 and appointed Master of the Ordnance from 1515 to 1534. He accompanied King Henry VIII together with other knights to the king's iconic meeting in 1520 with King Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.[2] In 1523, he received from Henry VIII property near Tunbridge that had belonged to the executed traitor Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and in 1529 represented Leicestershire as a knight of the shire in the English House of Commons. [2]

He was in 1529 appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland to Henry's son, the duke of Richmond, the nominal Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He crossed over in August 1529, but his power was so circumscribed by instructions from Henry that the head of the Fitzgeralds, Gerald, 9th earl of Kildare, and not Skeffington, was the real governor of Ireland. In May 1531 Skeffington accepted the formal submission of the Gaelic leader Hugh Duff O'Donnell in Drogheda.

This state of affairs lasted for three years and then in 1532 the deputy was recalled. In 1534, Kildare being in prison in England and his son Silken Thomas, being in revolt, Skeffington was again appointed Deputy, at approximately 70 years of age. After some delay he landed at Dublin in October 1534 and marched at once to relieve Drogheda, but further progress in the work of crushing the rebellion was seriously delayed by his illness. However, in the spring of 1535 he was again in the field. He took Maynooth Castle, killing and executing the entire garrison. The heavy artillery used by him on this occasion earning for him his surname of "The Gunner"; he forced some of Kildare's allies to make peace and captured Dungarvan.

He died at Kilmainham, Dublin on 31 December 1535, and was buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.[1][3] There is a monument to him in the parish church at Skeffington.[1][4] He was succeeded by his eldest son, Thomas.


Skeffington married firstly Margaret Digby, daughter of Sir Everard Digby (d.1509) of Tilton, Leicestershire, by whom he had a son and heir, Thomas Skeffington.[1]

He married secondly, Anne Digby, the daughter of Sir John Digby (d. May 1533) of South Luffenham, Rutland, by Katherine (née Griffin), widow of John Bellers (d. 27 January 1476), esquire, and daughter of Nicholas Griffin (d. 6 June 1482), esquire, de jure Baron Latimer, by Katherine Curzon,[5][6] by whom he had several children, including a son Leonard Skeffington 'who served as a Lieutenant of the Tower of London, as a soldier in Ireland, and as a messenger who regularly represented his father at court'.[1][7] Leonard Skeffington is credited with having invented the "Scavenger's Daughter", a torture device used in the Tower during the reign Henry VIII.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e Lyons 2004.
  2. ^ a b "SKEFFINGTON, Sir William (by 1467-1535), of Skeffington and Groby, Leics". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Library Ireland-Sir William Skeffington". Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  4. ^ Archdall 1789, p. 371.
  5. ^ Richardson II 2011, p. 288.
  6. ^ Richardson III 2011, pp. 86, 469.
  7. ^ According to Emerson, Sir William Skeffington's children by Anne Digby were John, Thomas, Catherine, Isabel and Anne, and Leonard was the son of Sir William Skeffington by his first wife, Margaret Digby; A Who’s Who of Tudor Women: D compiled by Kathy Lynn Emerson to Wives and Daughters: The Women of Sixteenth-Century England (1984) Archived 2 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  8. ^ "Scavenger's Daughter" Retrieved 25 March 2011


Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Kildare
Lord Deputy of Ireland
Succeeded by
The Earl of Kildare
Preceded by
The Earl of Kildare
Lord Deputy of Ireland
Succeeded by
The Viscount Grane