William Godolphin (diplomat)

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William Godolphin by Peter Lely

Sir William Godolphin (2 February 1635 – 11 July 1696) was an English diplomat for Charles II and Member of Parliament.


Godolphin was third but eldest surviving son of Sir William Godolphin (1605–1663) of Spargor, Cornwall; the eldest son (by Judith Meredith) of John Godolphin (the younger brother of Sir William Godolphin (1567–1613)—and Ruth (died before 1658), daughter of Sir John Lambe of East Coulston, Wiltshire.[1][2]

Godolphin was baptised 2 February 1634,[3] and was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, gaining the degrees of Master of Arts in 1661 and Doctor of Civil Law in 1663. He became a follower of Lord Arlington,[1] and in 1665 he was elected in a by-election to Parliament as member for Camelford, however as he went to Spain early the next year he probably never took up his seat.[4]

In 1667, he took part in the negotiations under Sandwich which resulted in a commercial treaty with Spain. He was knighted in 1668, and in 1669 was sent as Envoy Extraordinary to Madrid, becoming Ambassador in 1672.[1] However, in 1678 he came under suspicion of having been converted to Catholicism, and was recalled; but rather than return to England, he then openly declared his Catholicism, and retired to Spain for the remaining two decades of his life.[1] Shortly before he died, he made a declaration empowering his spiritual advisers, including the procurator-general of the Jesuits, to make his will after his death; an Act of Parliament was passed in 1697[5] to declare this and other posthumous wills invalid and to make his nephew Francis and niece Elizabeth heirs on condition that £1,520 was devoted to charity, a charitable act leading ultimately to the foundation of Godolphin and Latymer School, Hammersmith, London and Godolphin School, Salisbury.[6][7][8][9][10]

Samuel Pepys, who met him in 1668, called Godolphin "a very pretty and able person, a man of very fine parts".[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Leslie 1890, p. 46.
  2. ^ Venning 2008.
  3. ^ Leslie 1890, p. 46 cites Maclean, Trigg Minor, ii. 522
  4. ^ Cruickshanks 1983.
  5. ^ "1697 (9 Will. 3). c. 19 Confirming and establishing the administration of Sir William Godolphin's goods and chattels". legislation.gov.uk. Parliamentary Archives, Houses of Parliament, London. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  6. ^ Leslie 1890, pp. 46–47.
  7. ^ "Schools: Latymer and Godolphin Schools". British History Online. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  8. ^ "House of Lords Journal Volume 16: 1 April 1698 Pages 253-254". British History Online. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  9. ^ "House of Commons Journal Volume 12: 1 April 1698 Pages 188-189". British History Online. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  10. ^ Douglas, A; Ash, R (eds.). "Elizabeth Godolphin's Will". The Godolphin Book 1726 - 1926. Retrieved 15 September 2018.


Parliament of England
Preceded by
Hon. Thomas Coventry
Charles Roscarrock
Member of Parliament for Camelford
With: Hon. Thomas Coventry
Succeeded by
Sir James Smyth
William Harbord