FITZWILLIAM, William (by 1506-59), of Windsor, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. by 1506, 2nd s. of Thomas Fitzwilliam of Baggotrath, co. Dublin by Eleanor, da. of John Dowdall and coh. to her mother, Margaret, da. and h. to Sir Jenico D’Artois. educ. ?G. Inn, adm. 1531. m. by 1539, Jane, da. and coh. of John Roberts of Cranbrook, Kent, 4da. Kntd. Sept. 1551/May 1552.2
Jt. (with Sir Anthony Browne) bailiff, Byfleet, Surr. 1527-38; clerk of the hanaper [I] 1532; servant of Sir William Fitzwilliam I, later Earl of Southampton, by 1536; chief gent. privy chamber, household of Prince Edward by 1544-7; gent. privy chamber 1547-53 or later; lt. Windsor castle, keeper of Windsor Great Park by 1552; member of council [I] 1554-6; dep. chancellor [I] 1555; commr. loan, Berks. 1557; j.p.q. 1558/59; jt. (with Sir Henry Neville) ld. lt. 1559.3
William Fitzwilliam’s forbears had long resided and held office in Ireland. His father was sheriff of Dublin in 1511, his elder brother Richard a servant of the Earl of Kildare and a gentleman of the bedchamber to Henry VIII, and his younger brother Nicholas was to be treasurer of St. Patrick’s cathedral, Dublin. Thus he had links with the establishment in Ireland and with the English court: he could also probably claim relationship with the Yorkshire Fitzwilliams whose most distinguished member was successively treasurer of the Household, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and lord privy seal.4
It was this Sir William Fitzwilliam, later Earl of Southampton, who first employed his young namesake and who by 1536 considered him a trusted servant and secretary. Fitzwilliam assisted the earl in his examination of prisoners in Surrey in 1538 and in the same year Southampton appointed him the principal feoffee of all his extensive property in Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex. One of Southampton’s servants, Anthony Fenton of St. Clement Danes, bequeathed his chamber in Westminster to William Fitzwilliam ‘of my lord’s house’ and appointed him an executor of his will. Fitzwilliam headed the list of the earl’s household servants which the muster commissioners in Sussex drew up in 1539. Southampton was a frequent visitor to Guildford, where he had a house. In the spring of 1539 he informed Cromwell that he would nominate one of his servants, ‘either Fitzwilliam, or John Bourne my clerk’, to sit for the town in the forthcoming Parliament, if the King approved. In the absence of an indenture for Guildford, it is not known whether Fitzwilliam did sit in that Parliament, but he was returned for the town to its successor of 1542, shortly before his master’s death.5
Fitzwilliam kept in close touch with his friends and relatives in Ireland. He also acquired a lease of the manor of Kildrought in Kildare, but his appointment as a gentleman in Prince Edward’s privy chamber kept him occupied at the English court. He bought the manor of Shere in Surrey in 1544 and in the following year he received the reversion of Hampole priory, Yorkshire, which he then transferred to his nephew Michael Fitzwilliam of Lincoln’s Inn, with a sum of £20 granted to him because he had acted ‘as gentleman usher to the prince for a year and a half without wages’. In 1546 he was granted the next advowson of Harting rectory in Sussex.6
As a member of Prince Edward’s household Fitzwilliam may have sat in the last Parliament of Henry VIII’s reign, for which the returns are incomplete. On Edward’s accession Fitzwilliam transferred to the royal household, and it was presumably as one close to the young King that he was returned for New Shoreham to the Parliament of 1547, with the help of the King’s uncle, Admiral Seymour, who had acquired the borough earlier in the year. Of his part in this Parliament, which saw the attainder of Seymour, nothing has come to light. After Seymour’s death the Protector Somerset promoted Fitzwilliam’s request for a lease of Chertsey abbey, but he did not obtain this until after the Protector’s fall from power. In 1549 he bought the college of St. Mary Northwell in Bedford and sued successfully for an office required by his brother-in-law John Daniel. When a dispute over this office was referred to Cecil, Fitzwilliam wrote from Windsor Great Park to intervene on Daniel’s behalf.7
Although a man known to have been favoured by the Duke of Somerset, Fitzwilliam was to gain more from the Duke of Northumberland. He attended the mission to France in 1551 to confer the Garter upon the French king, and was marked out for special favour on the eve of Somerset’s arrest and execution. In September he received a gift of two Hampshire manors ‘in consideration of service’, and he was knighted about the time of Somerset’s death, although he is not so styled on the list of Members for the last session of the Parliament of 1547. Northumberland appointed him lieutenant of Windsor castle and keeper of the Great Park, and recommended him as one of the knights of the shire for Berkshire in the Parliament of March 1553: he was returned with his friend and colleague in the privy chamber Sir Henry Neville. A month and a half after the dissolution Fitzwilliam received a further gift of land and a licence to retain 20 men. A number of Northumberland’s closest adherents received such gifts and licences in the period shortly before the King’s death, but whether Fitzwilliam was one of these has not transpired. No trace has been found of his part in the succession crisis later that year. As a gentleman of the privy chamber he attended the obsequies for Edward VI.8
Mary sent Fitzwilliam to Ireland, where for two years he was a member of the council. In February 1555 he was designated ‘deputy chancellor’, and five months later he was given temporary custody of the great seal on the recall of Sir Thomas Cusack. It was during the remainder of that year that he made the detailed survey of Irish affairs which exposed the misconduct of the deputy Sir Anthony St. Leger†. In 1558 he received a 21-year lease of the manor of Donaghmore in Ireland, probably in partial recognition of his services there—his nephew Michael was to be granted the same property in 1560 ‘in consideration of the services of his uncle the late Sir William Fitzwilliam’—but he had probably returned to England early in 1556. His Northamptonshire namesake Sir William Fitzwilliam II may have gone there shortly afterwards in the train of the new lord deputy, Lord Fitzwalter, and is he who figures in the Irish records thenceforward. Put on the Berkshire bench by Elizabeth and elected to the first Parliament of her reign, Fitzwilliam died on 3 Oct. 1559 and was buried in St. George’s chapel in Windsor castle.9
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: R. J.W. Swales
- 1. LP Hen. VIII, xiv(1), 520 citing Cott. Cleop. 4, f. 176.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. J. Lodge, Peerage of Ireland, iv. 306-11; LP Hen. VIII, xiv; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxv), 24; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 166, 246.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, xi, xii, xxi; CP and CR Ire. i. 16; E179/69/48; Stowe 571, ff. 7, 59, 59v; LC2/4/7, f. 18; CPR, 1554-5, pp. 103, 344; SP11/11, f. 116v; 12/2, f. 34; NRA 6803 p. 93; information from G. Haslam.
- 4. J. L. J. Hughes, Patentee Officers in Ireland, 1173-1826 (Irish mss comm. 1960), 51.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, xi, xiii, xiv; PCC