MAURICE, William (1542-1622), of Clenennau, Caern.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1542, 1st s. of Maurice ap Eliza of Clenennau by Elin, da. of (Sir) John Puleston of Bersham and Caernarvon. m. (1) Sept. 1556, Margaret (d.1572), da. and h. of John Wynn Lacon of Llangollen, 10ch. inc. 3s. 2da.; (2) 1576, Elin, da. of Hugh ap Llywelyn ap Meredydd, wid. of John Lewis of Chwaen Wen, s.p.; (3) 1605, Jane, da. and h. of Rowland Puleston of Caernarvon, wid. of Sir Thomas Jones of Abermarlais, Carm., s.p. suc. fa. 1575. Kntd. 1603.

Offices Held

J.p. Caern. from c.1575, Anglesey, Merion. by 1592; escheator, Caern. 1583-4, sheriff 1581-2, 1595-6; sheriff, Merion. 1590-1, 1605-6; dep. lt. Caern. 1587, custos rot. by 1593; dep. v.-adm. N. Wales prob. by 1590; prob. constable Harlech castle.1


By the time Maurice succeeded his father the consolidation of the Clenennau estates was complete and the family surpassed in landed property every house in Lleyn and Eifionydd. Subsequently, most additions to their income came from tithes. From about 1580 Maurice drew over £100 p.a. from Holyhead rectory, while the annuity of £320 that he received with his third wife was mainly a charge on the rectories of Llanbeblig, Caernarvonshire and Llanbadarn Fawr, Cardiganshire. His subsidy assessment of 1597-8 (£10 in lands), was one of the three highest in the county. He kept detailed accounts (which have survived) of the expenditure of the Clenennau household. As befitted his position, he was from an early age actively involved in county administration, holding office in all three Gwynedd shires. His most onerous duties in the later part of the reign were perhaps his responsibilities, as deputy lieutenant, for the military defence of Caernarvonshire, though his zeal, it appears, did not always fulfill the expectations of the lord lieutenant, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke. His colleague as deputy lieutenant was for many years John Wynn of Gwydir, to whose support he doubtless owed his election to the 1593 Parliament. As knight for Caernarvonshire he was entitled to attend the subsidy committee and a legal committee appointed on 24 Feb. and 9 Mar. 1593. A temporary estrangement over the musters divisions occurred in 1596, and Maurice did not sit in the next Parliament. In 1601 he turned to the borough of Beaumaris, in which Wynn sometimes showed an interest. On 20 Nov. he informed the House that

as he was coming up to London, on his way his man was arrested at Shrewsbury: whereupon he told the serjeant that he was of the Parliament house, and therefore wished him to discharge his servant. The serjeant said, he could not discharge him, but he would go to the bailiff with him. To whom, when he came, he likewise declared, he was of the Parliament house, and therefore required his servant. To whom the bailiff answered, he could not discharge him without the consent of him that procured the arrest. To whom he also went, and he answered the serjeant and him, keep him fast, I will not release him until I be satisfied. Then he told the creditor that he was of the Parliament house, and therefore his servant was privileged. Whereunto the creditor made this answer: I care not for that, keep him fast, I will be your warrant. I thought good to move the House herein, referring it to your consideration. And because I am willing that the privileges of the House may be known as well afar off as here at hand, I thought good to move the same.

The House was indignant at this breach of privilege crying ‘To the Tower, to the Tower with them! Send for them! Send for them!’ It was decided that the serjeant-at-arms should go to Shrewsbury and fetch the offenders back to London. However, seven days later the matter was raised again by Thomas Holcroft II who claimed that ‘nothing was done therein’. Maurice also claimed that he did not know of any further developments. When questioned, the serjeant reported

that he was with Mr. Maurice and that he offered him to send one of his men, but because he was in doubt of finding him, he desired some part of his fees, or money for his charges or horses, or else he would find horses, and get one of his fellow serjeants to go because he could not well be spared from his service. If not, he would for his more expedition procure a pursuivant to go with a warrant under Mr. Speaker’s hand, and some of the honourable of the council in this House for the more speedy passage. All which causes Mr. Maurice rejected. And I hope the House meant not I should go or send on my own purse, or hazard the charge myself. And therefore I hope this will be sufficient for my discharge.

The House sympathized with the serjeant, and the matter was ‘shuffled up’. Maurice is not known to have taken any further part in the 1601 proceedings.2

For over 30 years Maurice was engaged in a disastrous struggle for control of lands at Gest, Eifionydd, from Owen Ellis of Ystumllyn; he had a long legal duel with his stepson Sir Harry Jones (or Johnes) over Rowland Puleston’s property; and to some of his neighbours he was known as a ‘turbulent and contentious man ... carrying a greedy mind unlawfully to enrich himself’. Forced entry, unlawful assembly, forcible ouster and assault lay to his charge in the Star Chamber. Still, another contemporary spoke of ‘the more than vulgar affection which always you have borne unto learning and the professions thereof, and he is reported as giving strong encouragement to native culture at a time when old bardic traditions were beginning to decline for want of patronage. He was quick to expostulate with one he suspected of detraction of your own country and countrymen. Foul is fowl that [de]files his own nest’. Again, he was careful to keep on good terms with the Earl of Leicester’s agents. He died 10 Aug. 1622.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: H.G.O.


  • 1. E. N. Williams, ‘Sir William Maurice of Clenennau’, Trans Caern. Hist. Soc. xxiv. 78-97; Clenennau Letters and Pprs. pp. xviii, xix; Griffith, Peds. 218; Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, 133; APC, xxiii. 261; Cal. Wynn Pprs. 112; St. Ch. 5/G21/7; HMC Hatfield, vii. 486; W. R. Williams, Parl. Hist. Wales, 59.
  • 2. Clenennau Pprs. pp. xvii-xviii, 4, 31; Bull. Bd. Celtic Studies 1937, p. 336; Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xxiv, 4, 31; Bull. Bd. Celtic Studies 1937, p. 336; Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xxiv. 79, 89; Cal. Wynn Pprs. 33; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 229, 255-6; D’Ewes, 474, 496, 643-4, 655.
  • 3. Clenennau Pprs. 61-2; Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xxiv. passim.