MORGAN, William (c.1600-1649), of Y Dderw, Llyswen, Brec. and the Middle Temple, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

1640 (May)
1640 (Dec.) - June 1649
1644 (Oxf. Parl.)

Family and Education

b. c.1600,2 1st s. of Morgan Llewellyn of Blaentringarth, Ystradfellte, Brec. and Gwladis, da. of David Gwyn Gwalter of Cefn-y-fedw, Brec.3 educ. M. Temple 1616, called 1623.4 m. ?(1) 19 Nov. 1624, Sybilla, da. of Thomas Wayte of London, ?1s. 1da.;5 (2) ?bigamously, aft. 26 Mar. 1633 (with £1,600), Elizabeth (d. 28 June 1638), da. of Sir William Morgan* of Tredegar and Machen, Mon. 1s. 3da.; 2 other ch.6 d. bet. 27/31 May 1649.7 sig. W[illia]m Morgan.

Offices Held

J.p. Brec. 1636-Dec. 1642, Feb. 1643-9; steward, Brecon, Brec. by 1639;8 commr. disarming recusants 1641, ?Poll Tax 1641, assessment 1642, array 1642.9

King’s att., Brec. 1636-?49; recorder, Brecon, Brec. 1637-d.; dep. sol. gen., Council in the Marches by 1639, sol. gen. 1639-41.10

Biography

Morgan was the first of his family to use a settled surname rather than the patronymic style. His father claimed ancestry from the kings of Brecon but was not particularly prominent in Breconshire, and Morgan therefore pursued a legal career rather than settle for a relatively modest inheritance. In 1616 he entered the Middle Temple, soon obtaining a chamber there and establishing an association with Walter Pye I*, which was to prove the most important of his professional life. Pye requested Morgan to stand surety for several new admissions, including the sons of Breconshire gentlemen, Herbert Price† of the Priory and Sir Henry Williams* of Gwernyfed (Morgan shared his chamber with the new arrival).11 As Pye advanced, becoming chief justice of the Brecon circuit and attorney of the Court of Wards, so Morgan prospered. During the mid-1620s Morgan, now a barrister, ‘was much favoured by Sir Walter Pye’, while one Welsh correspondent advised that Morgan be retained as counsel in a wardship case, ‘and his personal assistance purchased at any rate’, as he was Pye’s ‘favourite’ in the Court of Wards.12 His practice in the Wards appears to have been complemented by work on the Western assize circuit.13 Morgan’s legal business prospered, and in 1627 he purchased the capital messuage of Y Dderw in his native Breconshire, and was soon lending money for mortgages.14

Morgan’s wealth allowed him to secure a profitable marriage with the youngest daughter of Sir William Morgan* of Tredegar, one of the most powerful gentlemen in Monmouthshire society.15 This match is generally thought to have been behind his election for Monmouth Boroughs in 1628, but in fact, he did not marry Elizabeth Morgan until 1633. Consequently, it seems more likely that Pye was behind his return. A judge of some standing in south Wales, Pye may have been working on behalf of his patron the duke of Buckingham to secure the return of a sympathetic candidate. In the event Morgan was an inactive Member, whose only committee appointment was to consider a private bill for confirming a Chancery decree involving a Monmouthshire native, (Sir) Arnold Herbert* (23 Feb. 1629). Even so this is uncertain, as the Journal does not distinguish him from Lewis Morgan, Member for Cardiff Boroughs.16

During the 1620s one Sybil Wayte of London tried to prove in the Court of Arches that Morgan had married her in 1624 and that he had also produced a number of children by her, including a son. Morgan later acknowledged that Sybil was his ‘wench’, that they lived in the same house, had an illegitimate daughter and that he supplied her with money, but the case did not proceed to sentence and Morgan, with the backing of Pye, used his ‘eminence’ to silence her.17 Despite this scandal, Morgan went on to achieve a prominent legal position in the Council of the Marches, and was returned for Breconshire to the Short and Long Parliaments. A moderate during the Civil War, he sat in the royalist Oxford Parliament, but later mounted a spirited defence of his position after the Westminster Parliament gained the upper hand in south Wales, as a result of which he retained his local offices until his death.18

In 1648 Sybil Wayte revived the charges against Morgan, encouraged to do so, according to Morgan himself, by ‘the soldiery who have made her more bold and impudent than a preacher to a company of foot’. However, at his death in May 1649, Morgan left nothing to Sybil or his children by her, and though Sybil claimed one-third of the estate as her dower and prosecuted Morgan’s executors in a Chancery suit which dragged on until 1654, a decree was eventually issued on behalf of Morgan’s heir.19 Sybil was not a wealthy figure and her resort to expensive legal actions in several courts over many years suggests that, especially in the 1640s and 1650s, she may have had the backing of some more prominent figure.

In his will of 27 May 1649, Morgan directed that he be buried in Brecon church next to his father. He left his estates to his son, William, and provided for a portion of up to £2,000 for his daughter, Blanche. Morgan entreated his children to be guided by his brother-in-law, Thomas Morgan† of Machen and, mindful of his legal difficulties and earlier indiscretions, advised them that ‘generally the choice of youth in the way of marriage is heady and foreruns hasty, and late repentance which followeth at the heels’.20 Blanche eventually inherited the Dderw estate and married William Morgan of Machen, who represented Monmouthshire in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament and also in the 1660s and 1670s. A portrait of Morgan, painted around 1640, was formerly held at Tredegar Park, Monmouthshire.21

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Lloyd Bowen

Notes

  • 1. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 185.
  • 2. Age calculated from date of admiss. to M. Temple.
  • 3. T. Jones, Hist. Brec. ed. J.R. Bailey, ii. 72; iii. 21; iv. 75.
  • 4. MTR, 604, 682.
  • 5. C10/8/89; NLW, Tredegar Park 138/3, 55.
  • 6. NLW, Tredegar Park 108/17, 109/9, 138/55; Jones, ii. 72; J.A. Bradney, Hist. Mon. ed. M. Gray (S. Wales and Mon. Rec. Soc. viii), 72.
  • 7. PROB 11/210, ff. 120-2; C10/8/89.
  • 8. Add. Ch. 24258.
  • 9. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 269-71; Docquets of Letters Patent, 2-3; HLRO, main pprs. 1 May 1647; LJ, iv. 386a; SR v. 157; CCAM, 588, 1017.
  • 10. JPs in Wales and Monm. 269-71; CSP Dom. 1638-9, pp. 577, 617; BRL, 603183/575; Jones, iv. 308.
  • 11. MTR, 611, 630, 663-4, 668, 676, 867, 869, 881; C54/3251/25.
  • 12. C10/8/89; Cal. Salusbury Corresp. ed. W.J. Smith (Univ. Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studs., Hist. and Law. ser. xiv), 79-80.
  • 13. W.P. Griffith, Learning, Law and Religion, 341.
  • 14. NLW, Tredegar Park 117/55-6, 60-1, 123/39, 45, 48-52, 137/174-5.
  • 15. C10/8/89.
  • 16. CJ, i. 932a.
  • 17. NLW, Tredegar Park 138/55, 39-40.
  • 18. CCAM, 588, 1017; HLRO, main pprs. 1 May 1647; NLW, Tredegar Park 105/150-1; HMC 7th Rep. 34a; CJ, vi. 244b.
  • 19. C10/8/89; C2/Chas.I/M76/11; NLW, Tredegar Park 138/50, 54-5, 32-8, 24.
  • 20. PROB 11/210, ff. 120-2.
  • 21. J. Steegman, Survey of Portraits in Welsh Houses, ii. 162.