William Trumbull

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For the diplomat who died in 1635, see William Trumbull (diplomat).
Sir William Trumbull

Sir William Trumbull (8 September 1639 – 14 December 1716) was an English statesman who held high office as a member of the First Whig Junto.


Trumbull was born at Easthampstead Park in Berkshire, the son and heir of William Trumbull (1594–1668) and grandson of William Trumbull the Jacobean period diplomat.[1] He was educated at Wokingham School and St John's College, Oxford. In 1667 he was awarded a Doctorate of Civil Law and elected to a fellowship at All Souls. In the same year he was entered at the Middle Temple, and was admitted an advocate in Doctors' Commons on 28 April 1668. He began practising in the ecclesiastical and admiralty courts.

In 1683 he was appointed Judge Advocate of the Fleet and sailed in Lord Dartmouth's expedition to evacuate the British colony at Tangier, where he was to act as commissioner for settling the leases of the houses between the King and the inhabitants. Samuel Pepys, who was also on the expedition, was unimpressed – "Strange to see how surprised and troubled Dr. Trumbull shows himself at this new work put on him of a judge-advocate; how he cons over the law-martial and what weak questions he asks me about it." Later Pepys calls him "a man of the meanest mind as to courage that ever was born.”

In 1684, the King considered Trumbull as a possible Secretary of State, but he was eventually offered the office of Secretary of War in Ireland, which he turned down. Nevertheless, he was knighted on 21 November 1684, and the following February was made Clerk of the Deliveries of the Ordnance; he entered Parliament as MP for East Looe 1685–1687. However, Charles II died a few days later and Trumbull had to relinquish the clerkship when he was sent by James II, unwillingly, as envoy extraordinary to France. Trumbull was an odd choice for the post, being a zealous opponent of Roman Catholicism, and did much to benefit the condition of the English Protestants in France after Edict of Fontainebleau. In 1686 he was recalled from Paris, but was instead appointed Ambassador at Constantinople, where he remained until 1691. He was also made a Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company.

On 3 May 1694 he was appointed a Commissioner of the Treasury, and a year later was made a Privy Counsellor and appointed Secretary of State for the Northern Department. However, he was unhappy in the post, and resigned it on 2 December 1697. He then retired from public life.

Trumbull was a friend of both John Dryden and Alexander Pope.[2] Dryden records, in the postscript to his translation of Virgil, that "if the last Aeneid shine amongst its fellows, it is owing to the commands of Sir William Trumbull, who recommended it as his favourite to my care." It was Trumbull who, admiring Pope's translation of the "Epistle of Sarpedon" from the Iliad urged him to translate the whole of Homer's works, and Pope's "Spring" was dedicated to him.

In 1670, Trumbull married Elizabeth (or Katherine), daughter of Sir Charles Cotterell,[3] Master of the Ceremonies; she died in 1704, they having had no children. In 1706, he married Judith Alexander, daughter of the Earl of Stirling. They had two children, Judith (1707–1708) and William (1708–1760).

Trumbull died in 1716, and is buried at Easthampstead.

His son William had an only daughter, who became the wife of the Hon. Martin Sandys. She was thus the ancestress of the later marquesses of Downshire.


Many of Trumbull's letters are in the British Library and in the Record Office, London.[4] Trumbull was on friendly terms with Pierre Bayle and was a mentor to the young Henry St. John, later Viscount Bolingbroke, who may have met his great friend, Pope, through Trumbull.[5]


  1. ^  "Trumbull, William (d.1635)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ G. Sherburn, "Letters of Alexander Pope, Chiefly to Sir Wiliam Trumbull," Review of English Studies, 9 (1958), 388–406.
  3. ^ "Elizabeth (or Katherine)" (O'Connor 2009)
  4. ^ Chisholm 1911.
  5. ^ "The Correspondence of Henry St. John and Sir William Trumbull, 1698–1710," ed. Adrian C. Lashmore-Davies, Eighteenth-Century Life 32, no. 3 (2008), 23–179.


Further reading[edit]

Parliament of England
Preceded by
John Kendall
Sir Jonathan Trelawny
Member of Parliament for East Looe
With: Charles Trelawny
Succeeded by
Henry Trelawny
Charles Trelawny
Preceded by
Heneage Finch
Sir Thomas Clarges
Member of Parliament for Oxford University
With: Heneage Finch
Succeeded by
Sir Christopher Musgrave
Sir William Glynne
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
John Churchill, Baron Churchill
English Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
Bevil Skelton
Preceded by
Lord Chandos
English Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire
Succeeded by
Sir William Hussey
Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Gardiner
Clerk of the Deliveries of the Ordnance
Succeeded by
Philip Musgrave
Preceded by
The Duke of Shrewsbury
Secretary of State for the Northern Department
Succeeded by
James Vernon