William Coxe (historian)

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William Coxe (17 March [O.S. 6 March] 1748 – 8 June 1828) was an English historian and clergyman who served as a traveling companion and tutor to nobility from 1771 to 1786. He wrote numerous historical works and travel chronicles. Ordained a deacon in 1771, he served as a rector and then archdeacon of Bemerton near Salisbury from 1786 until his death.[1]


William Coxe was born on 6 March 1748[2] in Dover Street, Piccadilly, London, the eldest son of William Coxe (c.1710–1760), a physician to the king's household, and his wife, Martha, daughter of Paul D'Aranda.[1] He was the older brother of the writer and poet Peter Coxe (1753?–1844),[1] who wrote the poem "Social Day". Following his father's death in 1760, his mother married John Christopher Smith, who was Handel's amanuensis.

Educated at Marylebone Grammar School (1753–54) and then at Eton College (1754–64), William matriculated to King's College, Cambridge at Easter 1765, receiving is BA in 1769, and his MA in 1772.[1] From 1768 to 1771, he was a fellow of the college. William was ordained deacon in London on 21 December 1771 he was priested on 15 March 1772.

He visited many parts of Europe as tutor and travelling companion to various noblemen and gentlemen, including Lord Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke and Samuel Whitbread of the brewing family.

In 1786 he was appointed vicar of Kingston upon Thames, and in 1788 rector of Fugglestone St Peter-with-Bemerton, Wiltshire. He also held the rectory of Stourton, Wiltshire from 1801 to 1811 and that of Fovant from 1811 until his death. In 1791 he was made prebendary of Salisbury, and in 1804 Archdeacon of Wilts until his death twenty-four years later at age 81.

He married in 1803 Eleanora, daughter of William Shairp, consul-general for Russia, and widow of Thomas Yeldham of St Petersburg.


During a long residence at Bemerton Coxe was mainly occupied in literary work. He wrote a series of works on the 18th century:

Other history:

  • History of the House of Austria (London, 1807, new ed. 1853 and 1873);
  • Memoirs of the Bourbon Kings of Spain (London, 1813).

His other works are mainly accounts of his travels:

  • Sketches of the Natural, Political and Civil State of Switzerland (London, 1779)
  • Account of the Russian Discoveries between Asia and America (London, 1780)
  • Account of Prisons and Hospitals in Russia, Sweden and Denmark (London, 1781)
  • Travels into Poland, Russia, Sweden and Denmark (London, 1784)
  • Travels in Switzerland (London, 1789)
in a series of letters to [the son of] William Melmoth, esq., printed for T. Cadell, London, three volumes.
Dedicated to Henry William Portman,esq., of Bryanston.
  • Letter on Secret Tribunals of Westphalia (London, 1796)
  • Historical Tour in Monmouthshire (London, 1801).

He also edited Gay's Fables, and wrote a Life of John Gay (Salisbury, 1797), Anecdotes of G. F. Handel and J. C. Smith (London, 1798), and a few other works of minor importance. Some of his books have been translated into French, and several have gone through two or more editions.


  1. ^ a b c d Knight, Jeremy (2004). William Coxe (1748–1828). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198613510. 
  2. ^ "William Coxe (CKS765W)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 

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