FITZWILLIAM, Sir William I (d.1559), of Windsor, Berks.
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Family and Education
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 1531. m. by 1539, Jane or Joan, da. and coh. of John Roberts of Cranbrook, Kent, 4da. Kntd. bet. Sept. 1551 and May 1552.1
Clerk of the hanaper [I] 1532; chief gent. of privy chamber to Prince Edward by 1544; gent. of privy chamber 1547-53; lt. Windsor castle, keeper of Windsor great park by 1552; member of council [I] 1554-6; ?dep. chancellor [I] 1555; commr. for loan, Berks. 1557; j.p.q. and jt. (with Sir Henry Neville I) ld. lt. Berks. 1559.2
The Fitzwilliams had been settled around Dublin and in Meath since the reign of King John, successive members of the family holding local offices, including that of constable of Wicklow castle. Fitzwilliam and his brother Richard sought their fortunes in England, Richard becoming a servant of the Earl of Kildare and a gentleman of the bedchamber to Henry VIII, and Fitzwilliam himself entering the service of his namesake and probable kinsman William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton. In the later part of Henry VIII’s reign he was a member of Prince Edward’s household and enjoyed the patronage of Thomas Seymour†, Lord Seymour and his brother Protector Somerset, and later of John Dudley†, Earl of Warwick. It was Warwick, later Duke of Northumberland, who established him in Berkshire, with the appointments of lieutenant of Windsor castle and keeper of the great park. Though avoiding involvement in Northumberland’s attempt to set Lady Jane Grey upon the throne, Fitzwilliam thought it expedient to retire to Ireland during Mary’s reign, and occupied himself in the administration there for some years.3
When Mary died, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, in his gratuitous ‘advice’ to the new Queen, included Fitzwilliam in a group of six gentlemen meet, in his opinion, to be her vice-chamberlain, but in this as in other respects the ‘advice’ went unheeded and none of the six was appointed. That Fitzwilliam had many protestant friends is clear, among them Sir Henry Neville I and Sir William More I of Loseley, to whom he wrote in December 1558, pleased that the Queen had refused to be present at the elevation of the host during the Christmas festivities at Windsor.4
Fitzwilliam was elected to Elizabeth’s first Parliament as knight of the shire for Berkshire, and, with More’s help, secured the election of his son-in-law Thomas Browne for Surrey. He died 3 Oct. that year, having made his will three years earlier. He had no son and, after making small bequests to his nephews Thomas, Michael and John Fitzwilliam, he left a life interest in his lands to his wife with remainder to his four daughters. The widow, sole executrix, proved the will in November 1559, the overseers being Sir Henry Neville and Fitzwilliam’s two brothers-in-law, John Tey and John Daniel. Fitzwilliam was buried in Sir Reginald Bray’s chapel at Windsor.5