WINDHAM, Ashe (1673-1749), of Felbrigg, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 17 Feb. 1673, 1st s. of William Windham of Felbrigg by Katherine, da. of Sir Joseph Ashe, 1st Bt.†, of Twickenham, Mdx., sis of Sir James Ashe, 2nd Bt.*; bro. of William Windham† and Joseph Windham Ashe†. educ. Eton c.1685–91; King’s, Camb. 1691–3; travelled abroad (Italy) 1693–6. m. c.Aug. 1709, Elizabeth, da. and h. of William Dobyns of Lincoln’s Inn, 1s.; 1da. illegit. suc. fa. 1689.1
A prominent Norfolk family, the Windhams had been seated at Felbrigg ever since the mid-15th century, though none had previously sat in Parliament. In 1708 Windham was said to possess ‘as great estate as any commoner in the county’. His immediate family background was Parliamentarian and Whig, and his father had unsuccessfully contested Norfolk as a Whig in 1679. Included in the county lieutenancy by March 1696, Windham was first thought of by the Norfolk Whigs as a possible candidate for knight of the shire in 1699, at which time Humphrey Prideaux described him sourly as
a young gentleman of a very considerable estate in this country, but, having had an Italian education, is all over Italiz’d, that is an Italian as to religion, I mean a downright atheist; an Italian in politics, that is a Commonwealthsman; and an Italian I doubt in his morals, for he cannot be persuaded to marry. He is . . . of a tolerable good understanding and an estate of £4,000 per annum.
It was not until 1705 that Windham was willing to stand. In that year he performed some preliminary canvassing, only to step down eventually in favour of his cousin and friend, Hon. Roger Townshend*, whose brother Lord Townshend, also Windham’s close friend, headed the Whig interest in Norfolk. At the next election Windham was invited to take the place of Roger Townshend, who was ailing, and came in unopposed.2
Classed as a Whig in a list of the 1708 Parliament, Windham soon attracted notice, being one of the prime movers on 25 Jan. 1709 of an address to the Queen requesting her to ‘entertain thoughts of a second marriage’, a proposition known to be repugnant to her. He was appointed to prepare this address. One observer commented that the motion had given rise to ‘a world of discourse’.
The persons that move it help out the jest. Mr Watson . . . was the first, little Lord Lumley [Henry] was the second, Ashe Windham the third, a young spark not less comical than either of the other two – as I am told, for I don’t know him by sight. The House came into it very unanimously, but I have heard gentlemen of both parties laughed at it, some Tories pretend to say the Whigs have so[me] deep design in it.
On 29 Jan. Windham acted as a teller against adjourning the hearing of a disputed election for Orford which was then decided in favour of the Whig candidate. He also told on 10 Feb., with (Sir) Charles Turner, against the House receiving a petition from some merchants, requesting encouragement to be given to the American colonial trade; and on 8 Apr., again on the Whig side, in favour of passing a supply bill. He voted for the naturalization of the Palatines. In the summer of 1709 he married a wealthy heiress, only a year after the tragic death of his former fiancée. In 1710 he voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.3
Windham entered keenly into Whig preparations for the 1710 general election in Norfolk, putting up for the county with Robert Walpole II* but incurring defeat in a contest influenced by the issue of Sacheverell’s impeachment. In 1713 he declined to stand, possibly for health reasons, despite local pressure. He did not put up in the more favourable political climate of 1715; nor ever again. His marriage failed, and after the birth of their son in 1717 he and his wife parted, he retiring to Felbrigg to devote himself to the education of his heir and the regulation of his estates. For the rest of his life he remained simply a country gentleman, even known among his family as ‘the Squire’. He died on 4 Apr. 1749 at Felbrigg, and was buried there.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
Unless otherwise stated this biography is based on the account of Windham and his family in R. W. Ketton-Cremer, Felbrigg.
- 1. Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 471.
- 2. Bodl. Ballard 4, ff. 89–90; Norf. Rec. Soc. xxx. 135; Prideaux Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. xv), 193; Camb. Univ. Lib. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, Sir Charles Turner to Robert Walpole II, 7 May 1702; Norf. RO, Ketton-Cremer mss, Katherine to Ashe Windham, 2 Mar. 1704[–5].
- 3. Wentworth Pprs. 75; Add. 70420, Dyer’s newsletter 9 Aug. 1709.
- 4. Norf. RO, Bradfer-Lawrence mss, Ashe Windham to [Ld. Townshend], 8 June 1710; Ketton-Cremer mss, Katherine to Ashe Windham, n.d. ; Add. 38507, f. 79.