William Godolphin (diplomat)

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For other people named William Godolphin, see William Godolphin (disambiguation).

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 1698 to declare this and other posthumous wills invalid.[5]

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. ^ Leslie 1890, pp. 46–47.


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