William Domville ( 1609-1689 ) was a leading Irish politician and barrister of the Restoration era. Due to the great trust which the Crown had in his ability, he remained Attorney General for Ireland throughout the reign of Charles II, and it has been argued that it was in his term of office that the Attorney General emerged as pre-eminent legal adviser to the Crown.
He was born in Dublin to an ancient Cheshire family. His father Gilbert had moved to Ireland and become Clerk of the Crown ; he sat in the Irish House of Commons as member for Kildare County in 1613-1615. William's mother was Margaret Jones, daughter of Thomas Jones, Archbishop of Dublin.
During the English Civil War, Domville's loyalty to the Crown was never questioned, and at the Restoration of Charles II he was knighted and made Attorney General. He was elected to Parliament as member for Dublin City, and was the Crown's choice as Speaker. However he faced opposition from the able and ambitious Prime Serjeant, Sir Audley Mervyn, who, apparently by spreading the story that Domville was sympathetic to Roman Catholics, gained the support of the majority.The King, not anxious for a confrontation, stated that the choice should be that of the M.P.s, and Mervyn was elected.
The next few years saw a struggle between Domville and Mervyn for the role of principal legal adviser to the Crown. Domville emerged as the winner : both the King and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde trusted him, whereas Mervyn had a reputation for corruption and his loyalty to the Crown was suspect. From about 1663 it seems that Ormonde simply ignored Mervyn, taking advice only from Domville. This it has been argued marked the effective end of the Prime Serjeant's role as legal adviser and the supremacy of the Attorney General.
After the death of Charles II, Domville was retained briefly by James II before being replaced by Richard Nagle; given his age it is unlikely that he objected to retirement. He died in July 1689 and was buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Domville married Bridget Lake, daughter of Sir Thomas Lake, Secretary of State to James I. They had four sons and three daughters. Their sons included Sir William Domville junior, member of Parliament for Armagh and Sir Thomas Domvile, the first of the Domvile baronets. The best known of their children is their daughter Lucy, a famous beauty who married the natural philosopher William Molyneux. Tragically Lucy went blind and died young leaving one surviving child, the astronomer Samuel Molyneux.
- Hart A.C. The History of the KIng's Serjeants-at-law in Ireland Four Courts Press Dublin 2000
- Hart History of the King's Serjeants-at-law
- Pine,L.G. The New Extinct Peerage London 1972