GODOLPHIN, Sir William (c.1640-1710), of Godolphin, Breage, Cornw. and Suffolk Street, Westminster.

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



30 Oct. 1665
Mar. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1640, 1st s. of Francis Godolphin, and bro. of Charles Godolphin and Sidney Godolphin I. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1655; travelled abroad (Italy) to 1661. unm. cr. Bt. 29 Apr. 1661; suc. fa. 1667.1

Offices Held

Dep. lt. Cornw. 1662-?96, 1702-d., j.p. ?1667-July 1688, Oct. 1688-96, by 1701-d.; receiver, Devon and Cornw. 1667-89; stannator, Penwith and Kerrier 1673; col. of militia ft. Cornw. by 1679-?89.2

Gov. Scilly Is. 1667-81.3


Godolphin’s father obtained a baronetcy for him on his return from his travels; but a bride was not so easily come by, since he was ‘no courtier’ and ‘very modest’. He was defeated by Edward Nosworthy I at a by-election at St. Ives in January 1665; but he was returned unopposed for the family borough of Helston nine months later, while his petition was still pending. An inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to only nine committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in three sessions. In April 1667, only a few days after he succeeded to the estate, the family mansion was burned down and his estate papers destroyed. His brother Sidney, already an accomplished courtier, obtained from the King a promise that he would be allowed to succeed to his father’s offices. His attitude to the fall of Clarendon is not known, but in the following session he was appointed to the committees to inquire into the miscarriages of the war and to consider two drainage bills, one of which was promoted by Sir William Killigrew. He took no further part in legislation, and never spoke, but he was entered as a court dependant in both lists of 1669-71. He received the government whip for the autumn session of 1675, and promised to attend, though not till after 21 Oct. He was marked ‘absent’, and on the working lists it was noted that the King would speak to his brother about him. However, during the recess Sir Richard Wiseman noted that he ‘went very well the last [session]’, and Shaftesbury classed him as ‘thrice vile’ in 1677. It was alleged in A Seasonable Argument that he had ‘£1,200 p.a. out of the fee-farm rents’, besides the governorship of Scilly. ‘A most learned gentleman and an excellent divine’, he was doubtful about the Test Act of 1678, and went to Bishop Gunning ‘to be resolved whether mass were idolatry, as the Test expressed it’. The bishop assured Godolphin that he might take it; but he was absent from the call of the House in the following month.4

Godolphin was re-elected to the first Exclusion Parliament, and marked ‘vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list. He voted against the bill, but was otherwise inactive, and did not seek re-election. He was allowed to transfer the governorship of the Scillies to another member of the family in 1681, and retired from public life. He was absent from the meeting of the Cornish magistracy in 1688 to answer James II’s questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws. At the Revolution he held £1,200 in East India stock. He died on 17 Aug. 1710 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, leaving an estate valued at £4,000 p.a. to his brother Sidney.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Add. 28052, f. 5.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 259; ix. 217; CSP Dom. 1667, pp. 47; 1679-80, p. 61; Add. 6713, f. 327.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1667, pp. 6, 43; 1680-1, p. 205.
  • 4. Add. 28052, f. 5; CJ, viii. 623, 629; ix. 558; CSP Dom. 1667, p. 17; Sir Tresham Lever, Godolphin, 11; Evelyn Diary, v. 159.
  • 5. F. G. Marsh, Godolphin Fam. 8; Add. 22185, f. 14; Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. x), 269; Luttrell, vi. 623.