MORGAN, Sir William (1567-1652), of Tredegar and Machen, Mon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 1567,1 1st s. of Thomas Morgan II† of Machen and Tredegar, Mon. and Elizabeth, da. of Roger Bodenham of Rotherwas, Herefs. educ. Hart Hall, Oxf. 1583, Staple Inn by 1585.2 m. (1) by c.1588,3 Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Wynter† of Lydney, Glos. 5s. 4/5da.; (2) settlement 10 Feb. 1610, Bridget (d. 27 Feb. 1611), da. of Anthony Morgan of Heyford, Northants., wid. of Anthony Morgan of Llanfihangel Crucorney, Mon., 1s.4 kntd. 23 July 1603.5 suc. fa. aft. 1604;6 d. by 29 May 1652.7 sig. Will[ia]m Morgan.

Offices Held

J.p. Mon. 1597/8-c.1645 (dep. custos rot. 1630);8 ?alderman, Newport, Mon. 1607;9 commr. sewers, Mon. 1607-1639, River Wye 1621,10 subsidy, Mon. 1608, 1611, 1621-2, 1624, 1641,11 aid 1609,12 sheriff 1611-12,13 collector, Privy Seal loan 1611-12,14 commr. Palatine Benevolence 1622;15 steward, Abergavenny, Mon. by 1623-at least 1638, Caerleon, Mon. 1626;16 commr. oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1625-30,17 public money retained in private hands, Mon. 1626,18 Forced Loan 1626-7,19 charitable uses 1629;20 commr. and collector, knighthood fines 1630-5;21 dep. lt. 1634-42;22 commr. repair of St. Paul’s cathedral 1635-8,23 wages for master of house of correction 1640,24 Poll Tax 1641, Irish aid 1641,25 disarming recusants 1641,26 array 1642, assessment (roy.), Glam. 1643, impressment (roy.), Mon. 1643.27

Capt. militia, Wentlooge and Usk, Mon. by 1642;28 gov. (roy.), Newport, Mon. c.1643.29


The Morgans claimed descent from Cadifor Fawr, an eleventh-century prince of Dyfed. Central in establishing their fortunes was the marriage in the early fourteenth century of Sir Llewellyn ab Ifor with Angharad, heiress to Sir Morgan ap Maredudd, lord of Tredegar.30 The family’s support for the Lancastrian cause during the Wars of the Roses gained them lands and offices in Gwent and at Court. Their cadet branches included one at Machen, Monmouthshire, of which the Member’s father, Thomas Morgan II†, was head. In 1578, the death of Miles Morgan brought the Tredegar estate to the Machen branch of the family, which thereafter enjoyed a formidable landed presence in the south-west of the county.31

After attending university and the inns of court, William Morgan returned home to a place on the Monmouthshire bench, where he became involved in some violent disputes at the end of the sixteenth century. Around 1598/9 ‘great quarrels and jars began to grow’ between Morgan and his kinsman Henry Morgan II† of Penllwyn Sarth.32 Quarter sessions became flashpoints where Morgan and his father assembled up to 300 retainers, in an effort to overawe potential opponents. On one occasion William addressed his assembled supporters, saying ‘stand by me and I will stand by you; I have money sufficient to defray your charges’.33 Further disputes occurred in the days following James’s accession, when religion seems to have been a particularly divisive issue. The trouble centred on the recusant Morgans of Llantarnam, who removed weaponry from the county armoury at Caerleon to their own house, amid rumours that the authority of deputy lieutenants had ceased upon the queen’s demise. The Morgans of Tredegar mobilized their numerous dependants against this perceived Catholic threat, provoking a bitter and protracted feud.34

The quarrel began in 1604, when Sir William (knighted at the Coronation) brought an action in Star Chamber which stressed his credentials as a bulwark against recusancy. He claimed that 60 recusants were sheltered at Llantarnam, and insisted that the presence of 500-600 Catholics in the surrounding area meant that mass had become more common than divine service, ‘to the great terror, offence and grief of the Protestant’. Morgan’s adversaries retorted that he ‘taketh pride’ that ‘no man ... is able to make his part good against him when he shall be disposed to assemble and gather together that multitude of riotous and quarrelling people that do depend upon him’, and also declared that his intention in bringing the action was ‘to make proof of his greatness’. Morgan was fined £40 for his misdemeanours, while his sons were fined £400 upon their conviction for assault.35 Morgan evidently moderated his unruly impulses shortly after he became head of his family around 1604, but he remained concerned about the activities of Monmouthshire Catholics. In December 1623 he complained to Star Chamber of Henry Morgan’s violent behaviour during Abergavenny’s municipal elections, and emphasized that the latter and his followers were convicted recusants who were attempting to increase the influence of their ‘faction’ in the town.36

Tensions with Llantarnam may explain why Morgan stood for election to Parliament in 1624 and 1625, when the prospect of war with Spain and enforcement of recusancy legislation topped the political agenda. His papers contain copies of the king’s answer to the Commons’ recusancy petition of 1624, and the 1625 Protestation against the increase in the number of papists.37 In his only recorded speech, on 27 Apr. 1624, he presented the names of recusants holding office in Monmouthshire. Unlike the Warwickshire and Yorkshire knights, he was careful not to present the 4th earl of Worcester, who was too powerful a figure to alienate. However, he did mention that Worcester’s son, Lord Herbert of Raglan, was suspected of favouring popery. Several other county gentlemen were mentioned, mainly in connection with their recusant wives. Perhaps more significantly, Morgan took the opportunity to present the ‘infinite number of people of all sorts’ who did not attend church in Monmouthshire. Claiming that there were more than 700 such people living in the county, he maintained that Catholic recusants had increased greatly, both in numbers and audacity, during recent years. He also mentioned an assault on an Abergavenny minister by recusants, a matter which had been raised in Parliament in 1621. He went on to claim that no other county was so troubled with Jesuits.38

Morgan was named to just two committees in 1624. One dealt with the modification of the Welsh Union legislation (6 Mar.) while the other was a private bill for ‘Mr. Morgan’, perhaps a kinsman (1 May). As Member for Monmouthshire, Morgan was also eligible to attend the committee to consider the bill to remove weirs from the River Wey (3 April).39 He was also among those who subscribed a petition to Prince Charles against the farming of the Welsh greenwax fines to (Sir) Richard Wynn*.40 His only mention in the records of the 1625 Parliament was a nomination to the committee for privileges (21 June).41 He continued to demonstrate an interest in parliamentary proceedings after this date, however, as his papers include copies of the impeachment charges brought against Buckingham by the 1st earl of Bristol (Sir John Digby*) in 1626.42

Morgan was involved in local industry, smelting ore at a forge near Machen and supplying coal to his neighbours.43 The increasing tensions in Monmouthshire between 1640-2 placed him in a difficult position. He was naturally allied with the county’s Protestant gentry, being named to the 1641 commission for disarming recusants, and opposed the removal of the county magazine to Monmouth (where the earl of Worcester had extensive influence) in 1642. Nevertheless, it was hazardous to cross Worcester, an ardent royalist, who addressed Morgan as ‘my loving cousin’.44 In August 1642 Morgan was chosen as a deputy to Parliament’s nominee as lord lieutenant, the 4th earl of Pembroke (Sir Philip Herbert*). However, the influence of Raglan appears to have been too strong for him to resist, for after meeting Worcester’s son he assisted in the billeting of royalist soldiers.45 The alliance with a Catholic magnate was not a natural one, however, and reports indicate that Morgan’s royalism was shaky.46 Indeed, although he received Charles at Tredegar in July 1645, his son was ordered to be arrested on 11 Sept. as a hinderer of the king. These doubts about his loyalty, and his eminence among the Protestant gentry of Monmouthshire, probably allowed him to avoid sequestration.47

Sir William made his will on 15 Jan. 1651, in which he directed that numerous trusts be surrendered to his eldest son, Thomas†, whom he constituted his executor. Following his death, the precise date of which is unknown, a dispute arose between Thomas and Sir Anthony Morgan, the Member’s only child by his second wife, who received nothing from the will. A commission for administering the estate was granted to Thomas in May 1652, who defeated his half-brother’s challenge, allowing the will to be proved in Sept. 1653.48 Thomas represented Monmouthshire in the Short and first Protectorate Parliaments. Morgan’s portrait, painted around 1650, is held at Tredegar House, and hints at the approaching mortality of the aged Member, by including a skull on his left hand.49

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Lloyd Bowen


  • 1. STAC 8/207/28, f. 5. This agrees with his age at matriculation rather than the date given in a later portrait: J. Steegman, Survey of Portraits in Welsh Houses, ii. 161.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; NLW, Tredegar Park 25/146.
  • 3. Estimated from probable date of son’s birth.
  • 4. J.A. Bradney, Hist. Mon. ed. M. Gray (S. Wales and Mon. Rec. Soc. viii), 69; G.T. Clark, Limbus Patrum Morganiae et Glamorganiae, 312; PCC Admons. v. 1609-19 ed. M. Fitch (Brit. Rec. Soc. lxxxiii), 89; NLW, Tredegar Park 30/1, 27/39, 22/4; C142/427/126.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 126.
  • 6. Thomas Morgan II† was party to a deed of 16 May 1604: NLW, Tredegar Park 91/95.
  • 7. PROB 6/27, f. 83v.
  • 8. STAC 8/207/28, f. 22; JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 349-59; NLW, Tredegar Park 102/5.
  • 9. B.P. Jones, Eliz. to Victoria: Govt. of Newport (Mon.), 195.
  • 10. C181/2, f. 92v; 181/5, f. 156; E178/4248; NLW, Tredegar Park 59/5-6.
  • 11. SP14/31/1; E115/270/83; C212/22/21, 23; SR v. 64, 79.
  • 12. E179/283.
  • 13. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 83.
  • 14. E403/2732, f. 61.
  • 15. SP14/134/12.
  • 16. STAC 8/207/32, f. 19; E112/107/89; Gwent RO, D583.153; MAN B/15/6; Bradney, i. 153.
  • 17. C181/3, f. 179; 181/4, f. 43v.
  • 18. APC, 1626, pp. 113-14.
  • 19. C193/12/2, f. 36.
  • 20. C93/11/20.
  • 21. E178/5512; 198/4/32, f. 2v; NLW, Tredegar ms 39.
  • 22. NLW, Tredegar Park 63/2, 102/9.
  • 23. GL, ms 25475/1, ff. 58v, 104; NLW, Tredegar Park 64/7; HEHL, EL7420.
  • 24. HMC 7th Rep. 689a.
  • 25. SR v. 141, 153.
  • 26. LJ, iv. 386a.
  • 27. CCAM, 977; NLW, Tredegar Park 93/1.
  • 28. HEHL, EL7443.
  • 29. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 49, 110; CCAM, 977.
  • 30. Bradney, 66-72; J.G. Jones, Morgan Fam. of Tredegar, unpag.
  • 31. DWB (Morgan of Tredegar); NLW, Tredegar Park 58/20-3, 25/146, 69/119; Mon. Wills 1560-1601 ed. J. Jones (S. Wales Rec. Soc. xii), 110-12.
  • 32. STAC 5/T27/28.
  • 33. STAC 5/M46/13, 5/P46/16, 5/T27/28.
  • 34. STAC 8/207/28, ff. 19, 21r-v; 8/207/30, ff. 140-1; 8/207/31, f. 25.
  • 35. STAC 8/207/24, 28-31; Les Reportes Del Cases in Camera Stellata, 1593-1609 ed. W.P. Baildon, 312-15.
  • 36. STAC 8/207/32.
  • 37. NLW, Tredegar Park 105/141, 23.
  • 38. NLW, Tredegar Park 93/51; CJ, i. 776b; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 163v. Morgan was named to the cttee. considering the recusancy certificates: CJ, i. 692a.
  • 39. CJ, i. 730a, 696a, 753a.
  • 40. NLW, 9059E/1217, 1228.
  • 41. CJ, i. 799b.
  • 42. NLW, Tredegar Park 105/142-3.
  • 43. C106/101, (pt. 2), unfol.; NLW, Tredegar mss 729, 740; Soc. Antiq. 790/49/2, bdle. C.
  • 44. NLW, Tredegar ms 748; LJ, iv. 386a; Bodl., Tanner 66, f. 295.
  • 45. NLW, Tredegar ms 911.
  • 46. E. Walker, Hist. Discourses (1705), p. 130; Perfect Diurnall, xliv. 10-17 Apr. 1643.
  • 47. Symonds Diary ed. C.E. Long (Cam. Soc. lxxiv), 209-10, 238.
  • 48. PROB 11/228, ff. 341v-42; 6/27, f. 83v.
  • 49. Steegman, ii. 161.