WILLOUGHBY, Hon. William (c.1616-73), of Hunsdon, Herts. and Charterhouse Yard, London.

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



Family and Education

b. c.1616, 3rd s. of William Willoughby, 3rd Baron Willoughby of Parham, (d.1617) by Lady Frances Manners, da. of John, 4th Earl of Rutland. educ. Eton 1623-4; travelled abroad (Italy) 1636; M. Temple 1652. m. by 1637, Anne (bur. 12 Jan. 1672), da. of Sir Philip Carey of Aldenham, Herts. and London, 8s. (3 d.v.p.) 6da. suc. bro. as 6th Baron 23/24 July 1666.1

Offices Held

Jt. keeper of Bestwood Park, Notts. 1638-49, ?May 1660-72; commr. for militia, Herts. and Notts. Mar. 1660, assessment, Herts. Aug. 1660-6, Lincs. Sept. 1660-1, 1664-6, (Lindsey) 1663-4, Notts. 1661-6; j.p. Herts. Mar. 1660-d., Notts. 1666-d.; col. of militia ft. Herts. Apr. 1660, dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-d., commr. for loyal and indigent officers 1662.2

Commr. for plantations Dec. 1660-7; gov. of Barbados 1667-d.


Willoughby’s ancestors had held land in Lincolnshire since the reign of Richard I, and were first summoned to the House of Lords in 1313. This peerage passed through an heiress to the Berties, but Sir William Willoughby, who sat for Lincolnshire in 1545, was created Lord Willoughby of Parham two years later. Willoughby’s elder brother, the fifth lord, fought for Parliament in the first Civil War, but as a leader of the Presbyterians he was impeached by the army in 1647, and fled to Holland in the following year. He was appointed governor of Barbados by Charles II, but was obliged to capitulate to the commonwealth forces in 1652. Willoughby himself claimed shortly before his death to have served Charles II and his father ‘with all faithfulness and much danger’, though under the Rump he described himself as ‘in every way a person well-affected and no way obnoxious to the displeasure of Parliament for any delinquency’. The compounding commissioners allowed him a part of his brother’s estate in satisfaction of his claims under his father’s will. He was also awarded part of the Earl of Cleveland’s estates by the trustees for the sale of delinquents’ lands, from the proceeds of which he was able in 1653 to purchase Hunsdon from Lord Dover, a very distant cousin of his wife. This favourable treatment he doubtless owed to his brother-in-law, Bulstrode Whitelocke. His elder brother had remained an active conspirator since his return to England in 1652, assuming increasing importance as Mordaunt’s chief contact among the Presbyterian peers, but Willoughby himself is not mentioned by the royalist agents until 1658. It was to Hunsdon that Whitelocke fled on the collapse of the military regime at the end of 1659.3

No direct connexion has been traced between Willoughby and the Midhurst constituency, except that he may have been at school with Lord Montagu, and it seems to have been the practice for Roman Catholic patrons to choose Presbyterians for their boroughs at the general election of 1660. Marked as a friend on Lord Wharton’s list, he was moderately active in the Convention. He was named to 17 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges, and acted as teller in six divisions. He favoured excepting William Sydenham and William Lenthall from the benefits of the bill of indemnity and oblivion; but he successfully canvassed support for Whitelocke, and his only recorded speech was in his defence. He was added to the committees appointed to satisfy his brother’s claims for his services to Parliament in the Civil War and to prepare an establishment for Dunkirk, and named to the inquiry into unauthorized Anglican publications. He was teller against resuming the debate on the customs on 16 July, presumably to enable (Sir) Edward Turnor to present his report on Lord Willoughby’s claim. On 5 Sept. he was added to the committee on the Lords’ bill to restore the royalist Marquess of Newcastle’s estate, presenting a report on the following day. After the recess he acted as teller for the second reading of the bill to prevent marital separations.4

Willoughby apparently did not stand in 1661. He retired to his Hertfordshire estate, and presumably conformed to the Church of England, for on 29 Apr. 1663 Sir Thomas Fanshawe I read to the House a letter from him and other gentlemen of the county ‘complaining of the frequent and numerous conventions of Quakers, Anabaptists, and other dissenters’, which prompted the appointment of a committee to consider whether the Act of 1593 against sectaries was defective, and to provide further remedies. His brother’s finances were so involved that he ‘parted with all to William Willoughby, his brother, under value, who hath got an estate of £3,000 p.a.’, and became governor of Barbados. When he was lost in a hurricane, Willoughby succeeded him in this office and pursued a successful policy of aggression against the French and Dutch. He revisited England from time to time and retained local office, but died at his post on 10 Apr. 1673. His body was brought back to Lincolnshire to be buried with his ancestors at Knaith. None of his descendants sat in the Commons, and many of his successors failed even to take their seats in the Lords, either through poverty or nonconformity.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / B. M. Crook / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. The Gen. n.s. xxiii. 204.
  • 2. Parl. Intell. 16 Apr. 1660.
  • 3. Copinger, Suff. Manors, v. 153; SP23/131, ff. 127, 136; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1838-40; Econ. Hist. Rev. (ser. 2), v. 197; Eg. 2395, f. 485; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 20, 662; R. Spalding, Improbable Puritan, 221.
  • 4. Spalding, 226-7; Bowman diary, f. 7; CJ, viii. 61, 63, 155, 181.
  • 5. CJ, viii. 473; V. L. Oliver, Antigua, iii. 245-8; The Gen. n.s. ii. 119; Spalding, 243; PCC 141 Pye.