SAY, Sir JOHN (d. 1478), speaker of the House of Commons, is doubtfully said to have been the son of John Heron (d. 1468), son of Sir John Heron (d. 1420), nephew and heir of Sir William Heron (d. 1404). The last-named was styled Lord Say in right of his wife Elizabeth, sister and heir of John de Say, baron Say (d. 1382) [see under Say, Geoffrey de]. But this pedigree has been credited with a fatal flaw; for John Heron, who died in 1468, apparently had no children (cp. Clutterbuck, Hertfordshire, iii. 195 and Chauncy, Hertfordshire, i. 342, 8vo ed.). It is nevertheless certain that Say was descended, probably through a female, from the house of Geoffrey de Say, and, if we reject the Heron pedigree, we may assume that his family name was Fienes or Fiennes, as he is called at least once (Paston Letters, ii. 131). He seems to have been closely connected with James Fiennes, lord Say or Saye and Sele [q. v.], who was descended from the marriage of Sir William Fiennes with Joan, third daughter of Geoffrey de Say. It was not unusual in those days for the younger members of a titled family to use the title of the head of their house as a family name (ib. n. 2).
Say first appears as member for the borough of Cambridge in the parliament of February 1447, evidently through the interest of his father-in-law, Lawrence Cheyney, and he again sat for the borough in the parliament of January 1449, of which he was chosen speaker. During Cade’s insurrection in 1450 the rioters cried out to kill both Lord Say and John Say, whom they named as one of Lord Say’s associates (Chronicon Henrici VI), and they were both, with others, indicted of treason in the meeting in the Guildhall on 4 July, but Say escaped the fate of his chief (Will. Worc.)
In the parliament of January 1451 the commons presented Say and others as guilty of misbehaviour, and requested that those so accused might be banished from the court, but nothing came of it. In the parliaments of March 1453, July 1455, April 1463, and June 1467, and probably in all the parliaments during that period, with the exception perhaps of Henry’s parliament in 1470, he sat for his own county, Hertfordshire. He had considerable possessions in Hertfordshire, the manors of Hoddesdon in Broxbourne, where he resided, of Bedwell and of Weston, which last he appears to have purchased in 1452. Probably through the influence of William Fiennes, lord Say (or Say and Sele) (d. 1471), King Edward’s companion in exile, Say soon transferred his allegiance from the Lancastrian court party to the house of York. He was speaker of the parliament sitting from April 1463 to 1465, which strongly upheld Edward’s government, and on 3 May 1465 was, with many others, dubbed a knight of the Bath in honour of the king’s marriage. He was a third time speaker in the parliament which sat from June 1467 to June 1468, in which year he acquired, on the death of another John Say without issue, the manor of ‘Saysbury’ or Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire (Chauncey, u.s.), part of the possessions of Geoffrey de Say [q. v.] His name appears in a commission of 1476 for the conservation of the banks of the river Lea. He died in 1478, and was buried in Broxbourne church, where his tomb, with recumbent effigies of him and his first wife, Elizabeth, stands between the chancel and the south chapel. He married, first, Elizabeth, daughter of Lawrence Cheyney of Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire, who died in 1473, and by whom he had a son, William, who succeeded him, and perhaps two other sons, Leonard, and Thomas who married Joan, daughter of John Cheyney of Liston, Essex; and, secondly, Agnes, daughter of John Danvers of Cothorpe, Oxfordshire, and widow, it is said, of John, lord Wenlock (d. 1471) (Cussans), and of Sir John Fray (d. 1461), chief baron of the exchequer. His eldest son, Sir William Say (d. 1529), married, first, Genevese, daughter of John Hill, and, secondly, Elizabeth, daughter and coheir of Sir John Fray, his stepmother’s husband, and widow of Sir Thomas Waldegrave, by whom he had two daughters, Elizabeth, who married William Blount, fourth lord Mountjoy [q. v.]; and Mary, who married Henry Bourchier, second earl of Essex [q. v.] Sir William and his two wives are buried in Broxbourne church.[Manning’s Lives of the Speakers, pp. 95–9; Will. Worcester’s Annals, pp. 465, 471, 475, 502, 508, ed. Hearne; Three Fifteenth-Cent. Chron. p. 101 (Camden Soc.); Paston Letters, ii. 131, 134, ed. Gairdner; Returns of Members of Parl.; Rolls of Parl. v. 141, 497, 572; Hists. of Hertfordshire by Chauncy, Cussans, and Clutterbuck, passim; Nichols’s Collect. Topogr. and Geneal. iv. 44, 310; Ramsay’s Lanc. and York, ii. 128, 138.]
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 50
Say, John by William Hunt