NICHOLAS, Oliver (1651-1716), of Aldbourne, Wilts.

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




Family and Education

bap. 7 June 1651, 1st s. of Oliver Nicholas of Aldbourne by Frances, da. of John Reeve, Apothecary, of St. Clement Danes, Mdx. m. 18 June 1688, Alice, da. of Sir Thomas Cotton, 2nd Bt., of Conington, Hunts., wid. of Sir Humphrey Monoux, 2nd Bt., of Wootton, Beds. suc. fa. 1682.1

Offices Held

Ensign, Admiralty Regt. midshipman, RN 1672, capt. Earl of Peterborough’s Ft. 1673-4, lt.-col. Duke of York’s Ft. 1684 (Prince George’s Ft. 1685-Nov. 1688); dep. to the lt. of the Tower 1684; col. (later 9 Ft.) Nov.-Dec. 1688.2

Freeman, Portsmouth 1678, Wilton 1685.3

Groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of York (later James II) by 1679-Dec. 1688, to the Old Pretender 1702.4


Nicholas came from a cadet branch of an old Wiltshire family, which had held land in the county since at least 1361, though they had never achieved magnate status, and since the Restoration had been overshadowed by their namesakes of Winterbourne Earls. Nicholas’s father served with some distinction in the parliamentary army in the Civil Wars, and later in the garrison of Dunkirk; he resigned his commission in 1662, but remained on the commission of the peace till 1670, though his income was estimated at only £300 p.a. Reinstated in 1671, he gave proof of his churchmanship by raiding a conventicle in the village, and imposing heavy fines on two of the ministers. He was reemployed in the army and died lieutenant-colonel of the Duke of York’s regiment and deputy to George Legge as governor of Portsmouth.5

Nicholas no doubt owed his rapid promotion in part to his father’s services, though it is not always possible to distinguish the two. He seems to have acted as a courier during York’s exile in Brussels, earning his employer’s commendation for his speed. He never held local office in Wiltshire, and it was doubtless at the King’s request that he was returned for Wilton on the Pembroke interest in when he presented the corporation with a silver-gilt mace. He was not an active Member of James II’s Parliament, though he may have served as ‘Nicholls’ on the committee for the relief of poor prisoners. Lord Pembroke (Thomas Herbert) was prepared to recommend him to the electors of Wilton in 1688, but the new corporation, it was reported by the King’s agents, had no inclination to him and he was ordered to stand for Bath instead. In the summer, Nicholas married a wealthy widow, and was able to follow the dictates of his conscience by refusing the oaths to William III. For some years he lived in great style, but the marriage broke up after he had spoiled and wasted the Wootton estate, pawned the Monoux family plate and sold his wife’s jewellery, or so his step-son, Sir Philip Monoux, alleged. He was at St. Germains in 1702, when he was sworn of the Old Pretender’s Household, but he must have returned to England before his death on 11 Mar. 1716, as he was buried at Aldbourne four days later. He was the only member of the family to sit in Parliament.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Coll. Top. et Gen. vi. 385-8; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 975; PCC 21 Evelyn; SP23/113/313; C9/453/122.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1683-4, p. 394; Adm. 1746/119v.
  • 3. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 363; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 99.
  • 4. HMC Dartmouth, i. 37; HMC Stuart, i. 171.
  • 5. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv), 140; CSP Dom. 1644-5, pp. 384, 394; 1659-60, p. 151; 1661-2, p. 435; 1680-1, p. 235; Cal. Comm. Adv. Money, 828; Firth and Davies, Reg. Hist. 672; Repertorium Wiltonense, 17; HMC Var. i. 152.
  • 6. HMC Dartmouth, i. 37; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xviii. 57; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 276; C9/453/122.