SMITH, William II (c.1550-1626), of Mounthall, Theydon, Essex.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. c.1550, 1st s. of George Smith, mercer of London. educ.?Peterhouse, Camb. 1570. m. Bridget, da. of Thomas Fleetwood of The Vache, Bucks., 3s. 4da. suc. uncle 1577. Kntd. 1603.

Offices Held

J.p. Essex 1590; provost marshal 1601; sheriff, Essex 1619-20, dep. lt.; marshal of the Marshalsea 1616.1


Smith was a nephew of Sir Thomas Smith, whose heir he became. Sir Thomas had received a grant of land in Ireland in 1571, his son had been killed trying to colonize it, and Smith himself, his brothers and their father George—the brother of Sir Thomas—were all involved in further unsuccessful attempts up to 1574. The next attempt was in June 1579, when William Smith landed with 40 men, only to be told that the grant was void because no colony had been established by the end of that March. Smith was again in Ireland in 1580, trying to make good his claim, but by this time he seems to have become less hopeful of colonizing the land, for he and his father alienated a sixth of all the estates in Ireland contained in the 1571 patent, at the annual rent of a boar and a hogshead of claret, or 4os. in lieu. William Smith may or may not have retained an interest in the country, for in 1594 he petitioned Burghley for the office of seneschal of Clanneboy, claiming 24 years’ experience of the state of Ireland in his favour.2

Smith did not enter into all his uncle’s estates immediately on the latter’s death, for the widow, Philippa, who held some of them in jointure, was concerned with getting as much from the estate as possible, while Smith accused the executors of failing to finish the house at Theydon, which Sir Thomas had begun, and of disposing of the furniture after Philippa’s death. Among the executors was Smith’s father, who was accused of prejudicing the inheritance by settling his own pressing debts from it. By a deed of November 1581 the matter was settled by William having all the Essex lands and goods in return for taking over his father’s debts.3

Smith’s name and residence were entered on the 1589 Ripon return in a different hand from the remainder, indicating the intervention of a patron, but who this was has not been determined. The archbishops of York usually nominated there, but the election took place shortly after the death of Archbishop Sandys and before a new appointment had been made. Perhaps it was a government nomination, Lord Burghley acting through the influence of the president of the council in the north.

In Essex Smith became a leading member of the county gentry. As his epitaph states: ‘All offices there, sorted with a man of his quality, he right worshipfully performed, and died one of the deputy lieutenants of the shire; a place of no small trust and credit’. He apparently never gained any office of national importance although he may have been the William Smith who was trying to become surveyor of the ordnance in the Tower in 1601. At the beginning of James I’s reign he accompanied the new English ambassador on his journey to Spain. As a result, according to Strype, he failed to gain James’s ratification of his title to the Irish lands granted to Sir Thomas Smith. He had left his suit in the hands of Sir James Hamilton, and while he was away Hamilton and some Scottish nobles gained a grant of the lands for themselves.4

Smith died in London in his 77th year on 13 Nov. 1626. His will was made on 29 June 1625 and proved on 18 Dec. 1626 by the widow, Bridget. His principal landed estate had already been settled. Thomas, his second son, was to have an annuity of £100 during his mother’s lifetime while she held land that he was to inherit. He was buried, as he had requested, in Theydon church, which he had rebuilt, and where his widow erected a monument ‘to allay her languor and longing after so dear a companion of her life’.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A. M. Mimardière


  • 1. Strype, Sir Thomas Smith, 174; Vis Essex (Harl. Soc. xiv), 710; Hatfield ms 278; APC, xxxi. 164, 188; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 367.
  • 2. D. B. Quinn, ‘Sir Thomas Smith (1513-77) and the beginnings of Eng. colonial theory’, Procs. Am. Phil. Soc. lxxxix(4), pp. 549-50, 558; CSP Ire. 1574-85, pp. 246, 271, 272; 1592-6, p. 211; M. Dewar, ‘Sir Thomas Smith’ (London PhD thesis, 1956), pp. 332, 334.
  • 3. Dewar thesis, 403, 425-6; Dewar, Sir Thomas Smith, 206-8.
  • 4. Strype, 137, 174; HMC Hatfield, xi. 37.
  • 5. PCC 150 Hele; C142/468/81; Strype, 151.