PIERREPONT, Hon. William (c.1607-78), of Thorsby, Notts.; Tong Castle, Salop and Lincoln's Inn Fields, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c.1607, 2nd s. of Robert Pierrepont, 1st Earl of Kingston-upon-Hull, by Gertrude, da. and coh. of Hon. Henry Talbot of Burton Abbey, Yorks. educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1624; L. Inn 1627. m. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Harries, 1st Bt., of Tong Castle, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 5da.2
Sheriff, Salop 1637-8; j.p. Salop and Notts. 1641-d., Lincs. (Kesteven) 1650-3, July 1660-d., Hunts. 1656-Mar. 1660; commr. for assessment, Salop 1643-4, 1647-52, 1657, Jan. 1660-3, 1664-d., sequestration 1643-50, defence 1643-4, levying of money 1643, northern assoc., Notts. 1645, assessment, Lincs. (Lindsey and Kesteven) 1647-8, Notts. 1647-52, 1657, Jan. 1660-d., Lincs. 1649, 1661-3, 1664-d., militia, Lincs., Notts. and Salop 1648, Mar. 1660, Hunts. Mar. 1660, drainage, great level of the fens 1649; custos rot. Salop Mar.-July 1660; commr. for oyer and terminer, Midland circuit July 1660, sewers, Hatfield chase and Lincs. Aug. 1660.3
Commr. for Westminster Assembly 1643-8; member, committee of Both Kingdoms 1644-8; commr. for Treaty of Uxbridge 1645, New Model Army 1645, abuses in heraldry 1646, exclusion from sacrament 1646, bishops’ lands 1646, indemnity 1647-9, scandalous offences 1648, Treaty of Newport 1648, trade 1655-7, relief of Piedmontese Protestants 1656; councillor of state 23 Feb.-31 May 1660; commr. for Admiralty Mar.-July 1660, public accounts 1667-70.4
Pierrepont’s ancestors had been great landowners in Nottinghamshire since the 13th century, and first represented the county in 1417. His father and elder brothers were somewhat reluctant Royalists in the Civil War, but Pierrepont himself, who had been a ship-money sheriff, remained staunch to Parliament. He withdrew from overt participation in politics after Pride’s Purge, but grew even more influential behind the scenes, especially during the protectorate of Richard Cromwell. He refused to take his seat on the return of the secluded Members, on the grounds that Parliament had been automatically dissolved by the death of Charles I, but some Royalists believed that he was still a Cromwellian, and he attended the meetings of Presbyterians, who were planning a restoration on conditions.5
Pierrepont’s standing in Nottinghamshire in 1660 was so high that he secured not only his own return but that of his son-in-law Lord Houghton (Gilbert Holles) as representatives of the county at the general election. According to Burnet:
He knew the laws and understood the interests and constitution of this nation beyond most I ever knew. He was likewise a man of great form and method, and as to the discreet and cautious part of wisdom I thought him one of the most extraordinary men I ever saw, if he was not too full of jealousy and foresight: he indeed thought that nothing was to be done for mending matters, for the nation could not be rife for that in a whole age, so all that he thought on was how to stop the progress that the crown was like to make at that time.
Pierrepont at once took the lead in the Convention, proposing the Presbyterian Sir Harbottle Grimston as Speaker, though later he criticized his nominee for being too lavish with his tongue when presenting himself to the Lords. A moderately active Member, he made 16 other speeches, and was probably appointed to 36 committees. He was consulted by the serjeant-at-arms over the ballot for the messengers to the King, and took part in drawing up their instructions, the directions for the army, navy and revenue commissioners, the letter of congratulation to the King on his safe arrival, and the petition for a day of public thanksgiving. He helped to manage a conference on the queen mother’s jointure and two on the indemnity bill, and to prepare for conferences on three orders issued by the Lords and on army and navy debts. He spoke on 25 June in favour of the petition from the intruded dons at Oxford. Pierrepont’s mother had been a Roman Catholic, and on 4 July he spoke against the imposition of the oath of supremacy on recusants, a speech which was presumably responsible for the absurd report in 1662 that he was a crypto-Catholic himself. Although he had ceased to hold office with the recall of the Admiralty commission on 2 July, he continued to speak in favour of supply: ‘notwithstanding the Lords’ delay of the indemnity bill, yet we ought not to stop the bill for money, considering the great occasion for money’, he said on 27 July. He was twice sent to accompany the Privy Councillors on messages to the King. He was appointed to the revenue committee on 31 July, and was one of the Members ordered to raise a loan of £100,000 in the City. On 22 Aug. he moved to petition the King to spare the lives of John Lambert and Sir Henry Vane, and it was through him that Thomas Lister was not excepted from the indemnity. But it was his part in the abolition of the court of wards for which he particularly valued himself. Elected chairman of the committee in May, he had already made three reports before he went into the country at the end of August.6
When Parliament reassembled, Pierrepont was named to the committees for the militia bill, which he opposed because it provided for martial law, and for the attainder of his old friend Oliver Cromwell. When the debate on the court of wards was resumed, he spoke in favour of excise rather than a land tax as compensation to the crown, and on 23 Nov. he and Heneage Finch I were given special responsibility for bringing in an excise bill accordingly. He reported amendments to the court of wards bill on 1 Dec., took part in drafting two additional clauses on 11 Dec. and carried both bills to the Lords on 17 Dec. He also served on the committee to consider the Lords’ amendments.7
Pierrepont was defeated by Anthony Eyre at the general election of 1661, but he remained ‘the celebrated sage of that time both in and out of Parliament’. He was recalled from retirement when the Commons chose him as one of the commissioners of public accounts in 1667. It was reported that ‘all means are used to get votes for Mr William Pierrepont’ on Eyre’s death in 1671, but he stood down in favour of Sir Scrope Howe. He died on 17 July 1678, and, his eldest son having predeceased him, was succeeded by his grandson, who became 3rd Earl of Kingston in 1680. Evelyn Pierrepont was another grandson, while his youngest son Gervase Pierrepont stood unsuccessfully for the county in 1679.