ELLYS (ELLIS), William (1607-80), of Grantham and Nocton, Lincs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Apr. 1640
Nov. 1640
25 Feb. - 5 May 1679

Family and Education

bap. 19 July 1607, 2nd s. of Sir Thomas Ellis (d.1627) of Wyham, Lincs. by Jane, da. of Gabriel Armstrong of Wishall, Notts. educ. Christ’s, Camb. 1623, BA 1627; G. Inn 1627, called 1634. unm. Kntd. 30 Apr. 1671.2

Offices Held

Commr. for sewers, Lincs. 1638-9, Lincs. and Northants. 1654; dep. recorder, Boston 1638, recorder 1639-62; dep. lt. Lincs. 1642; commr. for sequestration, Lincs. (Lindsey) 1643, eastern assoc. Lincs. 1643, assessment Lincs. 1644-52, 1657, 1673-d., Yorks. (W. Riding) 1666-9, Mdx. 1673-4, new model ordinance, Lincs. 1645; elder, Serjeants’ Inn classis 1645; commr. for militia, Lincs. 1648, 1659, Mar. 1660; j.p. (Kesteven and Holland) 1650-July 1660, (Kesteven) Sept. 1660-d., commr. for oyer and terminer, Leics., Northants. and Warws. 1653-4; bencher, G. Inn 1654, treas. 1657-66; reader 1664; commr. for statutes, Durham college 1656, sewers, Lincs. Aug. 1660.

Commr. for excise 1645, with Scottish army 1645, for abuses in heraldry 1646, exclusion from sacrament 1646, scandalous offences 1648, obstructions 1651-2; solicitor-gen. 1654-May 1660; serjeant-at-law, 1669, King’s serjeant 1671; j.c.p. 1672-6, 1679-d.3


Ellys’s family had been seated at Wyham since Elizabethan times. His father, a lawyer, sat for the county in 1597. Ellys, also a lawyer, and a strong Presbyterian, was an active supporter of Parliament in the Civil War, and became solicitor-general under the Protectorate. At the general election of 1660 he was involved in a double return at Grantham. He was marked as a friend by Lord Wharton, and named to the committee of elections and privileges. However, he probably never took his seat, and lost his post at the Restoration. He remained a Presbyterian at heart, protecting ejected ministers, but must have conformed when his friend Sir Robert Carr procured the coif for him in 1669. He became a judge three years later, but dissented from the decision in Exchequer chamber on the Suffolk election appeal (see Sir Samuel Barnardiston). At Danby’s insistence, he was removed from the bench in 1676, though ‘the lord treasurer declared he was forced to be unmannerly with the King to out Ellys’.4

At the first general election of 1679, Ellys was returned for Boston. Classed ‘honest’ by Shaftesbury, ‘Serjeant Ellis’ was appointed to eight committees and made 16 speeches, most of them directed at the minister who had secured his dismissal. During the debate on Danby’s pardon on 22 Mar., he said:

Consider whether the chancellor, by the duty and trust of his place, ought not to have acquainted the King with the exorbitancy of this pardon; neither fit for the King to grant nor the treasurer to receive in a ... clandestine manner. I think that you may declare that the chancellor has not done the duty of his place to pass this patent; an illegal patent both in matter and manner. ... I offer it to your consideration whether the pardon is not absolutely void. The King is the fountain of justice and mercy; he may pardon offenders, but some things the King cannot pardon, though the indictment be in the King’s name ... because all the people are concerned in it and it is pro bono publico. ... This impeachment is at the suit of all the Commons of England; neither the King nor the attorney general are parties to it. It is in the nature of an appeal of rape, which the King cannot pardon.

He moved that the Commons should ‘go on to the Lords upon the impeachment and desire that the treasurer may be imprisoned’. He was appointed to the committees to draw up the address and the summons to Danby to surrender himself. On 27 Mar. he called the Lords’ bill for banishing Danby ‘such a precedent to compound for treason as I never yet saw’, but he advised the House not to throw it out, but to continue with their own bill of attainder, for which he was himself appointed to the committee. He urged that the Lords should be told ‘that all this ill consequence is come from not committing him’. He helped to consider further articles against Danby, and on 25 Apr. moved for a committee to inquire into the circumstances under which his pardon was sealed. When it reported three days later he again insisted that the pardon was illegal, claiming that

to pardon before trial, when the King knows not what fact he is to pardon, is a dangerous precedent. A man may destroy the nation, if so, and do what he will. ... The King cannot pardon a man, an impeachment depending.

He insisted that the lords in the Tower should be denied copies of the evidence against them and that the Roman Catholic Lord Belasyse should appear in person at his trial, though crippled by gout. He was among those appointed to draw up reasons for a conference on Danby’s pardon on 5 May, but on the same day he was reappointed to the bench, thereby vacating his seat in the Commons, and depriving the country party of an able debater. There was a rumour in the following February that he might be removed again, but he kept his office until his death on 11 Dec. 1680, leaving an estate of £1,500 p.a. in and around Grantham to his great-nephew, Sir William Ellys.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Paula Watson


  • 1. Did not sit after Pride’s Purge 6 Dec. 1648, readmitted 4 June 1649.
  • 2. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. 1), 325-6.
  • 3. P. Thompson, Hist. Boston, 458; CSP Dom. 1645-7, p. 264; 1655-6, p. 218; HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 273; C181/7/77.
  • 4. Keeler, Long Parl. 164; CJ, vi. 223; Thompson, 542; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxii), 132; CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 249; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 1247; iv. 699, 734-7; vi. 89; State Trials, vi. 1070-74.
  • 5. Grey, vii. 41-2, 61, 95, 114-15, 123-4, 133, 152-3, 154; Her. and Gen. ii. 121.