Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton

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Thomas Wriothesley
Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, wearing his Garter Star and holding his Staff of Office as Lord High Treasurer. Portrait by School of Sir Peter Lely
Born (1607-03-10)10 March 1607
Died 16 May 1667(1667-05-16) (aged 60)
Title 4th Earl of Southampton
Tenure 1624-1667
Other titles Earl of Chichester
Lord Wriothesley
Nationality English
Offices Lord High Treasurer
Predecessor Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
Spouse(s) Rachel de Massue
Lady Elizabeth Leigh
Frances Seymour
Parents Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
Elizabeth Vernon
Arms of Wriothesley: Azure, a cross or between four hawks close argent

Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, KG (/ˈrəθsli/[1] REYE-əths-lee; 10 March 1607 – 16 May 1667), styled Lord Wriothesley before 1624, was an English statesman, a staunch supporter of King Charles II who after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 rose to the position of Lord High Treasurer, which term began with the assumption of power by the Clarendon Ministry. He "was remarkable for his freedom from any taint of corruption and for his efforts in the interests of economy and financial order," a noble if not completely objective view of his work as the keeper of the nation's finances.[2] He died before the impeachment of Lord Clarendon, after which the Cabal Ministry took over government.


He was the only surviving son of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573-1624) by his wife Elizabeth Vernon (1572-1655), daughter of John Vernon (d.1592) of Hodnet, Shropshire.


He succeeded to the earldom following his father's death in 1624, after which event he attended St. John's College, Cambridge.[3] At first, he sided with the Parliament supporters upon the controversies leading to the English Civil War, but upon his realisation of their propensity to violence, he became a loyal supporter of King Charles I. While remaining very loyal to the deposed monarch, he still worked for peace and represented the king at the peace conferences in 1643 and one at Uxbridge in 1645.[4] He was allowed to remain in England, having paid fines to the Committee for Compounding with Delinquents of more than £6,000.

Several months after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, Lord Southampton was appointed Lord High Treasurer (8 September 1660), a position he occupied until his death. Samuel Pepys admired Southampton's integrity and the stoicism with which he endured his painful last illness, but clearly had doubts about his competence as Treasurer; in particular he recorded Southampton's despairing words to him, having been asked to raise more funds at a Council meeting in April 1665: "Why, what means all this, Mr. Pepys? This is true, you say, but what would you have me do? I have given all I can for my life. Why will not people lend their money?"[5] However Pepys admitted that Sir William Coventry, the colleague he most admired, was himself an admirer of Southampton, whom he described as "a great statesman". Coventry recalled that other ministers would joke that regardless of his complaints that it was "impossible" to find money, Southampton always succeeded in the end. Southampton however once grimly remarked that "Impossible will be found impossible at the last", an accurate prophecy of the crisis of 1672 which led to the Stop of the Exchequer.

Lord Southampton's name lives on in London as both Southampton Row and Southampton Street in Holborn are named after him.

Marriages & progeny[edit]

Portrait c.1638 of Rachel de Massue, Southampton's first wife, by van Dyck

He married three times and had three daughters:


  1. ^ Wells, J. C. Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. 3rd edition. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2008.
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica
  3. ^ "Wriothesley, Thomas (WRTY642T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  4. ^ Per Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. ^ Diary of Samuel Pepys 12 April 1665
  6. ^
  7. ^ Leslie Stephen (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography 38. p. 263. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Portland
The 1st Duke of Richmond
Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire
jointly with The Earl of Portland
The 1st Duke of Richmond

English Interregnum
Preceded by
Sir Henry Wallop
Custos Rotulorum of Hampshire
Preceded by
In Commission
(First Lord: Sir Edward Hyde)
Lord High Treasurer
Succeeded by
In Commission
(First Lord: The Duke of Albemarle)
Honorary titles
English Interregnum Custos Rotulorum of Hampshire
Succeeded by
Lord Percy
Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk
Succeeded by
The Lord Townshend
Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire
Succeeded by
Lord St John
Preceded by
The Duke of Somerset
Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Clarendon
Preceded by
The Lord Windsor
Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire
Succeeded by
The Lord Windsor
Preceded by
The Earl of Winchilsea
Lord Lieutenant of Kent
Succeeded by
The Earl of Winchilsea
The 3rd Duke of Richmond
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Henry Wriothesley
Earl of Southampton
Preceded by
Francis Leigh
Earl of Chichester