WERDEN, Robert (c.1622-90), of Burton Hall, Cheshire.
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Family and Education
b. c.1622, o.s. of John Werden, attorney, of Chester by Katherine, da. of Edward Dutton of Chester. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 30 June 1637, aged 15. m. (1) bef. 1640, Jane, da. of Edward Barnham of Cock Hall, Kent, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 1da.; (2) bef. 1679, Margaret, da. and h. of William Towse of Takeley, Essex, s.p. suc. fa. 1646.1
Col. of horse (royalist) by 1645; lt. Duke of York’s 2 Gds. 1665, maj. 1667, lt.-col. 1672-85; brig. of horse 1675, maj.-gen. 1685; col. of horse (later 4 Dgn. Gds.) 1685-9, lt.-gen. Nov.-Dec. 1688.
Groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of York by 1661-75, comptroller 1675-85; treasurer to Queen Mary of Modena 1685-Dec. 1688.
Freeman, Chester 1671; commr. fair assessment, Chester 1673-9, Cheshire 1677-9; j.p. Chester 1673, alderman 1684-Oct. 1688, dep. recorder Aug.-Oct. 1688.2
Werden’s family had been prominent in the municipal life of Chester since the end of the 16th century. Burton Hall, eight miles from the city, was acquired by his father. Both father and son were Royalists and in 1646 compounded jointly for £600. This modest penalty enraged the county committee, which described Werden as a most violent enemy who ruined many by pillage, ‘administering general astonishment and terror to the whole country’. After involvement in the royalist conspiracy of 1655, he was recruited for the secret service of the Protectorate by Thomas Scott. His activities during this period earned him the lifelong enmity of his fellow Cavalier, Roger Whitley. But Werden considered that he had made amends by taking part in the rising of Sir George Booth in 1659. After the Restoration Booth ‘and the greatest part of the baronets, knights and gentlemen of Cheshire’ petitioned the Privy Council on his behalf, and he was formally vindicated, though Andrew Newport reported that his loyalty was still very much in doubt. The Duke of York took him into his household and obtained for him a commission in the guards, and in 1663 he was granted the forfeited lands of a Pembrokeshire regicide.3
Werden took out the freedom of Chester in 1671 when the health of John Ratcliffe began to fail. On Ratcliffe’s death two years later he was recommended by the Duke of York ‘for his conduct and fervent affection’ towards Chester, and was elected, after a heated contest, with William Williams. An inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he did not speak, and was appointed to only ten committees, of which the most important was for the bill to prevent the growth of Popery (27 May 1675). As comptroller of the Duke’s household, he was listed as a court dependant in that year, and in 1676 Sir Richard Wiseman thought he could manage Thomas Cholmondeley ‘if he makes it his business’. Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’, and the author of A Seasonable Argumentdescribed him as ‘a betrayer of the old Cavaliers’ and ‘the Duke of York’s creature’. In 1678 he was appointed to the committee for the defence estimates and the explanatory bill on the prohibition of French imports. For much of the year he was on active service in Flanders as brigadier of horse, but his name appears on both government and opposition lists of court supporters.4
As one of the ‘unanimous club’, it is improbable that Werden stood for Chester during the exclusion crisis. But he was nominated to the corporation under the new charter of 1684 and presented their congratulatory address to James II on his accession. He regained his seat, apparently without opposition, at the general election of 1685, but he was only moderately active, being named to the committee of elections and privileges and to two others of no political importance. He was made major-general for the campaign against Monmouth, and given a regiment of horse on the resignation of the Earl of Thanet (Thomas Tufton). ‘The beloved major-general’ was removed from the Chester corporation in August 1688, but almost immediately reappointed. On the landing of William of Orange he was reported on his way to the capital ‘with five or six thousand men, to keep all quiet’. But on 11 Dec. he wrote to the Prince from London, expressing his surprise at James’s flight, promising to do what he could to preserve the peace, and placing himself at William’s orders. Nevertheless on 23 Jan. 1689 his regiment, then at Nantwich, was given to Lord Delamer (Henry Booth), and there is no evidence that he accepted the new regime. He died on 23 Jan. 1690, described by Roger North as ‘an incomparable courtier, Cavalier, and a most faithful servant in the royal family’.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: Gillian Hampson / John. P. Ferris / Basil Duke Henning
- 1. DNB; Burke, Commoners, iv. 331; Harl. 2040, f. 214; Morant, Essex, ii. 574; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 505; Cheshire Sheaf (ser. 3), xx. 102; PCC 2 Harvey.
- 2. Mems. Civil War (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. xix), 156; Bodl. Carte 31, f. 138; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 278; Bulstrode Pprs. 314; Secret Service Moneys (Cam. Soc. lii), 2, 114; Chester corp. assembly bk. 2, f. 171v; SP44/70/75; PC2/72/723, 752.
- 3. Ormerod, Cheshire, i. 84; iii. 328; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 148-9, 251, 288-9, 351; CSP Dom. 1659-60, pp. 94, 157; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 524; v. 44, 52; Bodl. Clarendon mss 73, ff. 98, 210; HMC 5th Rep. 156-7; PC2/55/186-7.
- 4. Adm. 2/1746, f. 134.
- 5. London Gazette, 12 Mar. 1685; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 361; CSP Dom. 1687-9, pp. 256, 377; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), 100; HMC Ormonde, n.s. viii. 16-17; North, Lives, i. 374.