Sir William Temple, 1st Baronet

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Sir William Temple shown in an Indian gown[1]
Sir William Temple

Sir William Temple, 1st Baronet (25 April 1628 – 27 January 1699) was an English statesman and essayist.

Biography[edit]

Arms of Temple

William Temple was the son of Sir John Temple of Dublin and nephew of Rev. Dr. Thomas Temple DD.[citation needed] Born in London, and educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge,[2] Temple travelled across Europe, and was for some time a member of the Irish Parliament, employed on various diplomatic missions. During his time as a diplomat, Temple successfully negotiated the marriage of the Prince of Orange and Princess Mary of England, and the Triple Alliance of 1668. On his return he was much consulted by Charles II, but disapproving of the anti-Dutch courses adopted, retired to his house at Sheen.[3]

He was called out of retirement to implement a plan of his design to reform government rule. He was the architect of the Privy Council Ministry, which, though it failed, was an early effort to establish an executive along the lines of what later came to be understood as Cabinet government. Charles II disapproved of the scheme, which in his view took away too much of the Royal Prerogative, although in the exceptional circumstances of the Exclusion Crisis he was willing to give it a brief trial.[4]

Temple later left Sheen and purchased Compton Hall, Farnham. He renamed the house Moor Park after Moor Park, Hertfordshire, a house he much admired and which influenced the formal gardens he built at Farnham. Here the later-famous Jonathan Swift was his secretary for most of the period from 1689 onward.[5] It was here that Swift met Esther Johnson, who became his lifelong companion and whom he immortalised as Stella.[6] Despite rumours that she was Temple's own daughter, the evidence suggests that her widowed mother lived in the house as companion to Temple's sister Martha. Temple installed his family motto "God has given us these opportunities for tranquility" above the door and took great pleasure from this house in his retirement from public life.[7]

He took no part in the Glorious Revolution, but acquiesced to the new regime, and was offered, but refused, a role as Secretary of State.[8]

Temple died in Moor Park, Surrey, England in 1699.[8] His memorial in Westminster Abbey names also his wife Dorothy, and their daughter Diana; in 1722 the name of his sister Martha was added. He was much loved by his friends; Swift wrote that all that was good and amiable in mankind departed with him.[9] The normally cynical Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland, was deeply grieved by his death, writing to Temple's sister Martha that "the chief pleasure I proposed to myself was to see him sometimes".[10]

Marriage and children[edit]

"Dorothy, Lady Temple" by Gaspar Netscher 1671

Temple married Dorothy Osborne (d. 1695), a daughter of Sir Peter Osborne and Dorothy Danvers, in 1654.[11] It was a love marriage and the couple were noted for constancy during their long engagement: Dorothy resisted pressure from her family to accept any of several other more eligible suitors, including Henry Cromwell and her cousin Thomas Osborne, 1st Duke of Leeds. She and William outlived all of their nine children, most of whom died in infancy; the suicide of their adult son John in 1689 was the greatest tragedy of their lives. Dorothy died in 1695 and after her death William's strong-minded sister Martha, Lady Giffard kept house for him. She had married Sir Thomas Giffard in 1662 and been widowed young; she spent many years with William and Dorothy, for both of whom she had a deep affection. In her last years she wrote a short Life of her brother which was published anonymously after her death in 1722. Sir William's children by Dorothy Osborne included:

Funeral hatchment of Nicholas Bacon (1686–1767) of Shrubland Hall, Coddenham, Suffolk, husband of Dorothy Temple, grand-daughter of Sir William Temple. The arms of Temple are shown as an inescutcheon, as appropriate for an heiress
  • John Temple (d. 1689), who "as a compliment to his father"[12] was made Paymaster General and, on 12 April 1689, Secretary at War in succession to William Blathwayt. A few days later, having filled his pockets with stones, he threw himself from a boat into the strong current beneath London Bridge, and was drowned. The suicide, which created the greatest sensation at the time, was probably due to official anxiety, aggravated by the treachery of a confidential agent whom he had recommended to the king.[13] He married Marie du Plessis-Rambouillet, daughter of Paul du Plessis-Rambouillet of France, of a Huguenot family, by whom he left two daughters:[14]
    • Elizabeth Temple of Moor Park, who married her cousin, John Temple (d. 1753), second son of Sir John Temple, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, but left no issue;
    • Dorothy Temple, who married Nicholas Bacon (1686–1767) of Shrubland Hall, Coddenham, Suffolk, and left issue. His funeral hatchment showing the arms of Temple survives in Coddenham Church.

Retirement and death[edit]

Temple saw his retirement from political life to his country estate at Moor Park as following the example of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. In his essay of 1685 "Upon the Gardens of Epicurus" Temple wrote of "the sweetness and satisfaction of this retreat, where since my resolution taken of never entering again into any public employments, I have passed five years without once going to town". As a result of his introducing the term sharawadgi in this essay, Temple is considered the originator of the English landscape garden movement.[15]

Temple died on 27 January 1699. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, but his heart, by his special wish, was placed in a silver casket under the sun-dial at Moor Park, near his favourite window seat. Swift recorded, "He died at one o clock in the morning and with him all that was great and good among men".[16]

Bibliography[edit]

His literary works consist for the most part of essays, which were collected under the title Miscellanea. However, he did write some longer pieces such as Observations upon the United Provinces and Essay on the Original and Nature of Government.[5]

  • Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands, 1673. Republished by Cambridge University Press, with an introduction by G. N. Clark, Cambridge, 2011.
  • Miscellanea: The First Part. (4th ed.). London: Printed For Jacob Tonson. 1705.
  • The Works of Sir William Temple, London, 1720; new. ed. 1757

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The meaning of this painting is explained in Wybe Kuitert "Japanese Robes, Sharawadgi, and the landscape discourse of Sir William Temple and Constantijn Huygens" Garden History, 41, 2: (2013) pp.157-176, Plates II-VI and Garden History, 42, 1: (2014) p.130 ISSN 0307-1243 Online as PDF
  2. ^ "Temple, William (TML644W)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ Prothero 1911, pp. 602–603.
  4. ^ Kenyon, J.P., Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland 1641-1702, Longmans Green, reissued 1992, pp. 23–30
  5. ^ a b Cousin 1910.
  6. ^ Stephen, Leslie (1898). "Swift, Jonathan" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 55. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  7. ^ Venn[full citation needed]
  8. ^ a b Prothero 1911, p. 603.
  9. ^ Stephen p. 208
  10. ^ Kenyon p. 309
  11. ^ Osborne, Dorothy (2002). Parker, Kenneth (ed.). Dorothy Osborne: Letters to Sir William Temple, 1652-54: Observations on Love, Literature, Politics and Religion. Aldershot, Burlington USA, Singapore, Sydney: Ashgate. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0-7546-0382-2.
  12. ^ Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 56, Temple, William (1628-1699) by Thomas Seccombe [1]
  13. ^ See further a contemporary account of the incident A Sad and lamentable account of the strange and unhappy misfortune of Mr. John Temple, the person who leaped out of the boat under London-bridg, and was drowned on Friday the 19th of this instant April. : Together with the manner of finding him, and the circumstances that attended this gentlemans ruine, with an account of the paper left by him in the boat, &c., London,: Printed by W.D. in Bartholomew-Close., 1689.[2]
  14. ^ Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 56, Temple, William (1628-1699) by Thomas Seccombe [3]
  15. ^ See:Geoffrey Jellicoe (ed.) The Oxford Companion to Gardens, Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 513
  16. ^ Stubbs, John, Jonathan Swift: The Reluctant Rebel, p. 176
  17. ^ Hans Speier, "Historical Development of Public Opinion", American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Jan., 1950), pp. 376–388.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Baronetage of England
New creation Baronet
(of Sheen)
1666–1699
Extinct