MORGAN, Sir William (c.1542-83), of Langstone and Pencoed, Llanmartin, Mon.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
J.p. Mon. from c.1570; marshal, Munster 1573; commr. musters, Mon. 1574; v.-adm. S. Wales 1574-8; constable, Dungarvan castle, co. Waterford 1579-82; chief commr. Munster 1580; gov. Youghal 1580.3
The Morgans of Langstone and Pencoed were a branch of the Morgans of Tredegar, founded in the fourteenth century when Morgan ap Llywelyn of Tredegar bought the manor of Langstone. In 1566 William Morgan succeeded to a cluster of estates and manors lying between the Usk and the Bristol Channel, encumbered, however, to the point where he was unwilling or unable to live on them. Either from family tradition, or from protestant zeal or simply in the hope of balancing his budget, he spent most of his life in the religious wars of the age. Three years after coming into his inheritance he fought in the Huguenot wars in France, returning to England in 1570, if, as seems likely (for he sometimes acted for the Earl in land transactions) he was the William Morgan who was standard bearer at the 1st Earl of Pembroke’s funeral. In France he met Louis of Nassau, who persuaded him to fight in the Netherlands wars. He saw service at Valenciennes and Mons in 1572, and accompanied William the Silent into the northern provinces. Returning home in 1573, he volunteered in the expedition of the 1st Earl of Essex for the conquest and resettlement of Antrim, where he was appointed marshal on the retirement of Sir Peter Carew, and was allotted a castle and lands as an ‘adventurer’. It was no doubt Essex’s warm commendation that won Morgan a knighthood on his return in 1574.4
The death of Moore Powell earlier that year left a vacancy in the representation of Monmouth Boroughs, and the newly dubbed knight was elected in his place, but Parliament did not meet again till 1576. In that session of Parliament Morgan sat on the subsidy committee, 10 Feb. In the meantime he had been appointed vice-admiral for South Wales, discharging the duties by deputy—his kinsman and namesake of Liantarnam—while he himself lived at Abergavenny. He did not, however, escape aspersions of at least indirect collusion with the pirates who were infesting the coasts under his vice-admiralty about the years 1576-7, and there were Privy Council investigations. In the summer of 1577 he was reported to be preparing ships at Newport to go to sea ‘in a warlike manner’, and was forbidden to leave port; but on his promise to desist from any voyage ‘which might have bred offences to neighbouring states’ the ban was lifted, the Council placing on record that Morgan was well thought of by the Queen, and denouncing any who should spread abroad ‘lewd bruits’ of his having been lodged in the Tower.5
In the end he did not sail, but a month later instructions from Ireland were sent by Sir Henry Sidney (combining the offices of lord deputy of Ireland and lord president of Wales) for mobilising 1,000 Welsh levies in readiness for the Irish service, Morgan being put in charge of 200 from south-east Wales. The Queen, however, was now anxious to divert some of the treasure Sidney was lavishing on Ireland to the more urgent theatre of the Netherlands, and the orders were countermanded. Another mysterious episode in Morgan’s life followed in 1578, when he was accused of intriguing with the French ambassador in London, on which Burghley interrogated the watermen who conveyed them.6
By 1579 Morgan was again in Ireland. Soon after the landing of the papal force at Smerwick, he was put in charge of 100 light horsemen raised in the north of England. After the usual vacillations he was in action in Munster by the end of the year, with a much increased company of both horse and foot. The next year he was sent home to review 800 recruits for Ireland levied in Wales, of whom he took 100 across. His repeated pleas for recall, on the ground of shattered health, from early in 1581, fell on deaf ears: he was still soldiering during the next parliamentary session, and when at last his request was granted in 1582, he had only a short time to live, dying 9 Oct. 1583.7
Having no children, Morgan made his younger brother Henry his heir, but to a much diminished estate. Only five years after inheriting, he had begun, but never completed, negotiations for the sale of his manor of St. Brides. Langstone, which had been in the family for 200 years, was disposed of in 1577, and there was small hope of repairing his fortunes in the Ireland of that day. From 1579 onwards there was constant bickering and cheese-paring over his pay. In the end, the Exchequer declared that he had died in debt to the government to the extent of 2,000 marks, and seized his estate, allowing Sir Walter Montagu of Boughton, who had married Anne, his brother’s daughter and heiress, to farm the demesne lands of Pencoed until the debt had been cleared. The estate eventually passed to the kindred house of Morgan of Llantarnam.8
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 2. G. B. Morgan, Mems. Morgan Fam. ii. 217-38; Clark, Limbus, 320.
- 3. CPR, 1569-72, p. 77; CSP Ire. 1509-73, pp. 526-7; 1574-85, pp. 210, 370; EHR, xxiii. 757; APC, xi. 280-1; xii. 101-2.
- 4. DNB; Wilts. Mag. xviii. 128; Star Chamber, ed. Edwards (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. i), 97; Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors, ii. 243; Lansd. 56, f. 168; CSP Ire. 1509-73, pp. 526-7.
- 5. D’Ewes, 247; Arch. Camb. (ser. 5), xiv. 318; xv. 310; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 532; APC, ix. 269, 383-4, 389; x. 5, 19.
- 6. Sidney Letters, ed. Collins, i. 213; APC, x. 3, 30; Bagwell, ii. 346; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 595.
- 7. APC, xi. 595; xii. 66, 78, 86, 93; CSP Ire. 1574-85, p. 288; G. B. Morgan, loc. cit.
- 8. Exchequer, ed. E. G. Jones (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. iv), 258-9, 261, 264; Clark, Limbus, 320; APC, xi. 280-1; xii. 101-2, 122, 223.