Sir William Williams, 1st Baronet, of Gray's Inn

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Sir William Williams
Bt, Kt
Speaker of the House of Commons
In office
1680–1685
Monarch Charles II
Preceded by Sir William Gregory
Succeeded by Sir John Trevor
Solicitor General for England and Wales
In office
1687–1689
Monarch James II & VII
Preceded by Sir Thomas Powis
Succeeded by Sir George Treby
Personal details
Born 1634
Anglesey, Wales
Died 11 July 1700(1700-07-11)
London, England
Resting place Llansilin, Wales
Alma mater Jesus College, Oxford
Profession Lawyer, politician

Sir William Williams, 1st Baronet, Kt (1634 – 11 July 1700) was a Welsh lawyer and politician. He served as a Member of Parliament for Chester and later Beaumaris, and was appointed Speaker for two English Parliaments during the reign of Charles II. He later served as Solicitor General during James II & VII's reign.

Early life[edit]

Williams was born in Anglesey, the second son of Hugh Williams and Emma Dolben. He was educated at Jesus College, Oxford, followed by Gray's Inn, to which he was admitted in 1650.[1]

Parliament[edit]

After unsuccessfully standing for Chester in the 1673 by-election, Williams was elected Member of Parliament for the constituency in the 1675 by-election. His profile grew, and he was elected to become Speaker of the House of Commons, a post which he held during the 3rd (Exclusion Bill Parliament, 1680–1681) and 4th (1681; Oxford Parliament) parliaments of Charles II. He was the first Welsh Speaker.[2]

In June 1684, allegations were made against him that he had libelled the Duke of York (later James II & VII) for authorizing, as Speaker, the publication of Thomas Dangerfield's Information in 1680. Dangerfield, one of the most notorious of the Popish Plot informers, was by now utterly discredited ( he was killed in an argument with a barrister the following year) .To provide the protection of a seat in parliament, Williams stood and was elected for Montgomeryshire in 1685; however his return was cancelled on petition, on the grounds that the contributory boroughs had no opportunity of voting. The prosecution resumed, and he was fined £10,000. He was also fined £20,000 after similar action was instigated by the Earl of Peterborough. Supporters worked on his behalf, including the Earl of Rochester; subsequently, £8,000 was accepted as full payment for the former, and Peterborough accepted a token payment for the latter after persuasion from James, now king.

Previously a critic of James II, Williams entered the king's service in 1687, being appointed Solicitor General. He had been knighted two days previously, and in June 1688 he was created a baronet, of Gray's Inn in Middlesex. He held an important role in the prosecution of the Seven Bishops, although the violent antipathy between himself and the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Wright, who accused him, quite irrelevantly, of taking bribes, probably contributed to the verdict of not guilty.

He represented Beaumaris for the 1689 Convention Parliament, and turned against James after he fled England during the Glorious Revolution. He was placed on the committee appointed to draft the Bill of Rights. William III appointed Sir George Treby to succeed him as Solicitor General in the same year. Williams was made a King's Counsel and appointed Custos Rotulorum of Merionethshire and Denbighshire as consolation. The parliament declared the judgement against him for the publication of Dangerfield's Information illegal. He was not elected to Parliament in 1690, and prepared to stand again for Chester with Roger Whitley in 1695. Whitley was instead returned with Sir Thomas Grosvenor, and Williams was again returned for Beaumaris. He refused to take the new oath declaring William the rightful and lawful king, leading to his dismissal as King's Counsel. He left parliament in 1698.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Williams married Margaret Kyffin on 14 April 1664, and they had four sons and one daughter.

Williams died at his Gray's Inn chambers in 1700 and was buried at Llansilin in Wales. His baronetcy passed to his son William.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of England
Preceded by
Robert Werden
Sir Thomas Smith, Bt
Member of Parliament for Chester
1675–1685
With: Robert Werden 1675–1679
Sir Thomas Grosvenor, Bt 1679–1681
Roger Whitley 1681–1685
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Grosvenor, Bt
Robert Werden
Preceded by
Henry Bulkeley
Member of Parliament for Beaumaris
1689–1690
Succeeded by
Thomas Bulkeley
Preceded by
Thomas Bulkeley
Member of Parliament for Beaumaris
1695–1698
Succeeded by
Owen Hughes
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir William Gregory
Speaker of the House of Commons
1680–1685
Succeeded by
Sir John Trevor
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Powis
Solicitor General for England and Wales
1687–1689
Succeeded by
Sir George Treby
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Robert Cotton
Custos Rotulorum of Denbighshire
1689–1690
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Myddelton
Preceded by
The Marquess of Powis
Custos Rotulorum of Merionethshire
1689–1690
Succeeded by
Sir John Wynn, Bt
Baronetage of England
New creation Baronet
(of Gray's Inn)
1700–1740
Succeeded by
William Williams