WILLIAMS WYNN, Henry Watkin (1783-1856), of Llanforda, Salop.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



26 Jan. 1807 - 1807

Family and Education

b. 16 Mar. 1783, 3rd s. of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, 4th Bt., of Wynnstay, Denb., and bro. of Charles Watkin Williams Wynn* and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, 5th Bt.* educ. by tutor at Chiswick; Harrow 1796-8. m. 30 Sept. 1813, Hon. Hester Frances Smith, da. of Robert Smith*, 1st Baron Carrington, 3s. 4da. GCH 1831; KCB 1 Mar. 1851.

Offices Held

Clerk, Foreign Office Apr. 1799-Feb. 1801; private sec. to Thomas Grenville*, Berlin mission 1799-1801, to sec. of state for Foreign affairs 1-20 Feb. 1801; précis writer 20 Feb. 1801-Apr. 1803; envoy extraordinary to Saxony June 1803-Oct. 1806, to Switzerland Feb. 1822-1823, to Württemberg Feb. 1823-1824, to Denmark Sept. 1824-1853; PC 30 Sept. 1825.

2nd lt. Ruabon vols. 1799; vol. London and Westminster light horse 1800; capt. N. Salop yeoman cav. 1820.

Mayor, Oswestry 1819.


Williams Wynn, a ‘goose-ish young man’, had to be provided for because his mother was a Grenville, but even she thought him ‘much too scatter brained’ as a schoolboy. As an élève diplomatique in wartime, he came perilously close to the action. His uncle Lord Grenville sent him from under his aegis at the Foreign Office to Berlin with his uncle Thomas Grenville in 1799 and they narrowly escaped shipwreck. On his return he was for three weeks private secretary to Lord Grenville (before he resigned office) but allowed to retain his position as précis writer until 1803, when Lord Hawkesbury got rid of him (to accommodate his brother Cecil) by sending him as envoy to Saxony. He was still under age and looked it. In October 1806, while still at Dresden, he had to make his retreat from the advancing French via Töplitz, Vienna and Königsberg and was again saved from shipwreck. He arrived home, secure of a pension of £1,500 p.a., and was propelled into Parliament by Grenville’s friend Lord Carrington. He made no mark there, though there were reports in March 1807 that his pension would be coming under attack in the House.1 He voted against the Duke of Portland’s ministry, 9 Apr. 1807, but was listed a defaulter next day. His parliamentary career ended at the dissolution, its only obvious consequence being his marriage to Carrington’s daughter. As an afterthought he had joined Brooks’s Club, 12 July 1807.

All this was an anti-climax to Williams Wynn’s great expectations. He had hoped to become private secretary to Lord Grenville on his return to office. His other uncle the Marquess of Buckingham was to have secured his return to Parliament, or failing that, his brother Watkin was to have brought him in for Wenlock. There was also a family notion of making him under-secretary at the Foreign Office, if his uncle Thomas had become Foreign secretary.2 Further disappointment was to follow. With his family in opposition he could not expect a diplomatic appointment, though he now inherited his patrimony. In August 1808 they encouraged him to go privately to the Peninsula and Lord Grenville sought Canning’s consent at the Foreign Office, but it was refused. Grenville wrote of an ‘ungenerous abuse of power, dictated probably by very unworthy suspicions’. The suspicions were, according to Lord Granville Leveson Gower*, that the opposition meant ‘to send some person to Spain to give them information’ and that ‘Wynn’s authority was to be set up in the House of Commons against Frere’s’. Canning himself alleged that as England had as yet no public emissary at Madrid, Williams Wynn might have the appearance of an official representative, rather than a private visitor.3 His uncles decided not to quarrel with Canning, so he had to wait until no such objection was possible, went to Spain without visiting Madrid and then proceeded aimlessly to the Near East.4 His brother Charles informed him that there was no prospect of his becoming under-secretary at the Foreign Office if the Whigs were restored to power in 1811. In July 1815 he went to Paris and asked Castlereagh for employment, but without success, and in 1816 he lost his Saxon half-pay. Not until his family formed a junction with the Liverpool administration in 1821 did he obtain a mission—and that was sharply criticized in both Houses. He subsequently served with ‘great tact and ability’ at Copenhagen for nearly 30 years, and died on 28 Mar. 1856 at the Shropshire house placed at his disposal by his eldest brother.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Letters of Lady Harriet Cavendish, 13; Corresp. of Lady Williams Wynn, 17, 42, 104, 118; NLS mss 11083, f. 12; Add. 51736, Caroline Fox to Holland, 13 June [1803]; Jackson Diaries, i. 164; ii. 94; Fortescue mss, Williams Wynn to Grenville, 30 Mar. 1807.
  • 2. NLW mss 2790, H. to Lady Williams Wynn, 20 Feb., Lady to H. Williams Wynn, 19 Oct. [1806]; see WENLOCK.
  • 3. Corresp. of Lady Williams Wynn, 124-6, 128; NLW mss 2790, T. Grenville to H. Williams Wynn, 19 Aug., 5 Sept., Ld Grenville to same, 20 Aug., 7 Sept., 3 Nov., Buckingham to same, 14 Sept., 8 Nov. 1808; Add. 41852, f. 358; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 247; Leveson Gower, ii. 339; Fremantle mss, Grenville to Fremantle, 9 Sept. 1808.
  • 4. NLW mss 2791, passim.
  • 5. Ibid. C. to H. Williams Wynn, 9 Jan. 1811; 2792, H. Williams Wynn to his wife, 26 July 1815; Parl. Deb. (n.s.), vi. 1287; vii. 624; Corresp. of Lady Williams Wynn, 164; Gent. Mag. (1856), i. 516.