Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton

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Thomas Wriothesley
4th Earl of Southampton
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
PredecessorHenry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
Other titlesEarl of Chichester
Lord Wriothesley
Born(1607-03-10)10 March 1607
Died16 May 1667(1667-05-16) (aged 60)
OfficesLord High Treasurer
Spouse(s)Rachel de Massue
Lady Elizabeth Leigh
Frances Seymour
ParentsHenry 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/ RY-əth-slee;[1] 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",[2] a noble if not a completely objective view of his work as the keeper of the nation's finances.[3] 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), a daughter of John Vernon (died 1592) of Hodnet, Shropshire. In 1545 King Henry VIII granted to his ancestor Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, Chancellor of England, the manor of Bloomsbury[4] (now in Central London), which descended by the 4th Earl's second daughter and heiress to the Russell family, and is now part of the Bedford Estate. The Wriothesley family is commemorated today by Southampton Row and Southampton Street in Holborn,[2] within the historic estate.


He succeeded to the earldom following his father's death in 1624, after which event he attended St. John's College, Cambridge.[5] 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.[6] 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?"[7] 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.

Marriages and issue[edit]

Rachel de Massue, first wife of Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, portrait c.1638 by van Dyck

He married thrice and had three daughters:


  1. ^ Wells, J. C. Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. 3rd edition. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Southampton, Earl of" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 489–490.
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ "Bloomsbury's History & Heritage | the Bedford Estates".
  5. ^ "Wriothesley, Thomas (WRTY642T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  6. ^ Per Encyclopædia Britannica
  7. ^ Diary of Samuel Pepys 12 April 1665
  8. ^
  9. ^ Leslie Stephen (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 38. p. 263. Retrieved 2 November 2009.
Political offices
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire
jointly with The Earl of Portland
The 1st Duke of Richmond

English Interregnum
Preceded by Custos Rotulorum of Hampshire
In commission
Sir Edward Hyde as First Lord
Title last held by
The Lord Cottington
Lord High Treasurer
In commission
The Duke of Albemarle as First Lord
Title next held by
The Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
Honorary titles
English Interregnum Custos Rotulorum of Hampshire
Succeeded by
Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk
Succeeded by
Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Kent
Succeeded by
Peerage of England
Preceded by Earl of Southampton
Preceded by Earl of Chichester