HALE, William (c.1632-88), of King's Walden, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



11 Nov. 1669
Mar. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1632, o.s. of Rowland Hale of King’s Walden by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Henry Garway, Draper, of Broad Street, London, ld. mayor 1639-40. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1649; G. Inn 1651. m. by 1659, Mary (d. 18 July 1712), da. of Jeremy Elwes of Broxbourne, Herts., 10s. (5 d.v.p.) 4da. suc. fa. 1669.1

Offices Held

Commr. for militia, Herts. Mar. 1660, capt. of militia ft. Apr. 1660, maj. by 1677, lt.-col. by 1680, commr. for assessment Aug. 1660-74, 1679-80, j.p. 1661-83, ?1687-d., dep. lt. 1671-83, 1687-d.2


Hale was the great-grandson of a London Grocer who bought the manor of King’s Walden in 1576. His mother was the daughter of a prominent City Royalist, but his father, apart from serving as sheriff in 1647-8, played no part in public life. Hale himself, according to his contemporary Chauncy,

was endowed with excellent parts, great integrity and general learning; he was a good philosopher, a great historian, and used an excellent style in writing. [He] was firm to the established Church of England, a kind husband, a provident father, prudent in his house, and very faithful and steadfast to the interests of his country.

He was returned for the county at a by-election soon after succeeding to the estate, and was doubtless reckoned from the first as one of the country party. But he was not active in the Cavalier Parliament, being appointed to only 15 committees, acting as teller in three divisions, and making 16 recorded speeches. In his second session he was involved in a case of some constitutional importance, concerning the jurisdiction of the Lords over Members of the Commons. After successfully defending a suit brought against him in Chancery by Henry Slingsby of Kippax, the master of the Mint, Hale was formally notified that an appeal had been lodged with the Upper House. This apparently unprecedented situation was debated on 4 Mar. 1670, and the Lords were warned to have regard to the Commons’ privileges; but a direct confrontation between the two Houses, such as was to occur over Shirley v. Fagg five years later, was averted when Slingsby discovered that action in Chancery was still open to him and withdrew his appeal. During the summer Hale and a neighbouring justice were severely reproved by the Treasury for issuing their own certificates of exemption from hearth-tax instead of using the printed forms emanating from the Government. ‘We are likewise informed that you intend at the next quarter sessions to move the bench that the form of a certificate by you now allowed may be there agreed to be universally used in your county. It is advisable that you consider well before you propose it.’ No reference to this matter appears in the county records. On 12 Dec. he was teller for adjourning rather than discussing supply. Hale seconded the motion of his neighbour (Sir) John Monson on 10 Jan. 1671 for a bill to banish the assailants of Sir John Coventry. ‘If a man must be thus assaulted by ruffianly fellows’, he said, ‘we must go to bed by sunset, like the birds. ... Would have them hanged, if they could be caught.’3

Hale took an interest in the bill of ease for Protestant dissenters in 1673. He suggested that the first step should be to discover what their complaints were, ‘but it did not please the House’. He believed that ‘we cannot better express our duty to the King than in coming as near to the Declaration [of Indulgence] as we can’. Hence he would leave the licensing of chapels to the crown, and spoke against clauses to exclude dissenters from the House and to require the renunciation of the Covenant. He helped to draw up the address on the state of Ireland. When he took his son over to France he was shocked at the heavy casualties sustained by English troops in the French service, ‘and ’tis said in France they set the crown upon the King of France’s head’. He was naturally appointed to the committees to search for precedents for Shirley v. Fagg, and to inspect the Lords’ Journals about the Ouse navigation bill after they had summoned Sir John Napier as a witness. He favoured the proposal of Henry Eyre for no further supply bills, in view of the thinness of the House. ‘If a motion should be put for a million of money’, he said, ‘there would be few to maintain the battle.’ He was for sending the Four Lawyers to the Tower ‘to avoid confusion’. Sir Richard Wiseman described him as ‘a discreet gentleman, too much governed by his uncle’, William Garway. When Parliament reassembled after the long recess in 1677, he acted as teller against the naming of grand committees, and urged that a resolution should be put to the House on the validity of the prorogation. Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice worthy’. He returned to the question of English forces in the French service, moving that those who had assisted in recruiting them should be declared enemies to the King and kingdom. ‘They cannot be little ones about the King that suffer these things’, he said. ‘How can we think of securing Flanders whilst we are false to ourselves?’ He ridiculed the Lords bill for educating the children of the royal family as Protestants:

If ever we be so unhappy as to have a Popish prince, we must have recourse to our prayers and not contend with the crown for religion’s sake. ... He is against this bill, which is like empty casks for whales to play with, and rattles for children to keep them quiet.

He was outraged by the misuse of protections by Thomas Wanklyn and moved for his expulsion from the House.4

Hale had ‘so gained the hearts of the people that ... the freeholders would choose him contrary to his inclinations’ at the first general election of 1679, though he desired to be excused for reasons of health. He was marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list and voted for exclusion. He was named to no committees, but when (Sir) Stephen Fox produced the list of excise pensioners, he expressed the hope that they would clear themselves of receiving rewards for their votes. Hale refused all solicitation to stand for re-election in the autumn, but after nomination both by the exclusionist peers and the gentry consented to serve in 1681. He played no known part in the Oxford Parliament, but was removed from local office as a Whig two years later.5

Hale was a personal friend of Richard Hoare, the banker, and a cheque, or ‘drawn note’, of his is the earliest remaining in the archives of Hoare’s Bank. He also became the principal partner in the Friendly Society, a mutual fire insurance fund, which competed with the Fire Office, founded by Nicholas Barbon. James II sought to prevent competition between the two by giving each the exclusive right to issue new policies in alternate years. Hale was restored to the lieutenancy at the end of 1687 and may have been reckoned a Whig collaborator. But he died on 25 May 1688, aged 56, and was buried at King’s Walden. His will suggests liquid assets predominating over his landed estates. He bequeathed to his younger sons and daughters legacies totalling £16,000 and annuities of £400 p.a. His eldest son died in the following year, but his grandson sat for Bramber and St. Albans as a Whig.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: E. R. Edwards


  • 1. Clutterbuck, Herts, iii. 132-3; Misc. Gen. et Her (ser. 1), iv. 134; PCC 94 Exton.
  • 2. Parl. Intell. 16 Apr. 1660; Herts. Recs. i. 213; CSP Dom. 1671-2, p. 53; CJ, ix. 284.
  • 3. Clutterbuck, iii. 132; Chauncy, Herts. ii. 207; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), p. 140; Grey, i. 223-5, 334; CJ, ix. 132; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 605-6.
  • 4. Grey, ii. 38, 71, 93-94, 117; iii. 121-2, 160, 249; iv. 89, 255-6, 294; v. 51; Dering, 122; CSP Dom. 1673-5, p. 610.
  • 5. Chauncy, ii. 207; Bodl. Carte 228, f. 134; Grey, vii. 331.
  • 6. Gent. Mag. vii. 294-5; Sel. Charters (Selden Soc. xxviii), 208-10; Clutterbuck, iii. 135; PCC 94 Exton.