CECIL, Hon. William (bef.1682-1715), of Snape Hall, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1698 - 1705

Family and Education

b. bef. 1682, 2nd s. of John Cecil†, 5th Earl of Exeter; bro. of Hon. Charles* and John Cecil*, Ld. Burghley.  educ. privately (Matthew Prior*); travelled abroad (Holland, France) 1692–3, (France, Italy) 1698, 1699–1700; ?Padua, ?1696.  unm.1

Offices Held


Cecil, who had earlier accompanied his father and brothers to Europe, may have been on the Continent again in 1696 when a ‘William Cecil’ is listed as attending the University in Padua. He was returned for Stamford in 1698 on the family interest. At the time of his election he was once more in France, where his old tutor, Matthew Prior, held a diplomatic post. Prior reported to the Earl of Portland that an acquaintance, the Duc de Lauzun, proposed to present Cecil to Louis XIV at Versailles, but Prior had thought this improper, ‘considering my Lord Exeter’s character in relation to his Majesty’s government’ and had made Cecil ‘excuse himself . . . on pretence of his small stay here’. Prior added that he had given Cecil ‘the best notions I could, and will recommend him by letter to Mr [Charles*] Montagu, so that I hope the gentleman may prove a good subject and be right to his Majesty and his country’s interest’. Little is known of Cecil’s parliamentary career in his first session. His name appears on what was probably a forecast of those likely to oppose a standing army in the 1698–9 session, which is consistent with his classification as a supporter of the Country party in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments in about September 1698.2

In the autumn of the following year, William accompanied his family abroad to attend the Pope’s jubilee in Rome, passing through France and perhaps visiting Fontainebleau, where the exiled James II was in residence. From Italy, Cecil went on a tour to Malta. On the family’s return through France, the English ambassador reported that Exeter intended to see Versailles and ‘I believe he will not come to me and I know it is expected he will go elsewhere; but it may be he will deceive them’. Before they could return to England, Exeter died near Paris, in August 1700.3

Re-elected for Stamford in January 1701, Cecil was listed the following month among those thought likely to side with the Court in agreeing with the committee of supply’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’, but was ‘blacklisted’ for opposing preparations for war with France in a list published to influence the second election of 1701. Returned nevertheless, Cecil supported the resolution vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachment of William III’s ministers, 26 Feb. 1702. Returned again in the 1702 election, on 13 Feb. 1703 he voted against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for extending the time for taking the oath of abjuration and in mid-March 1704 was forecast by the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) as a government supporter over the ‘Scotch Plot’ investigations. Cecil was forecast as likely to support the Tack on two lists of 1704, and on 28 Nov. 1704 voted for it, thus earning the designation ‘True Church’ in a published list of MPs in 1705, and also a minor political martyrdom as one of the Tackers defeated at the general election of that year. He did not stand again, giving way to his younger brother, Charles.

A trustee under his late father’s will, Cecil consented to a bill passed in May 1702 enabling the sale of certain lands to pay his father’s debts and secured a further Act in March 1709 to sell more of the estate in order to pay off a mortgage of £10,500 raised on the Yorkshire lands. Cecil, who had himself settled on one of the family’s outlying properties in Yorkshire, was appointed a deputy-lieutenant for the North Riding in 1712. He died on 6 May 1715 and was buried in the parish church of Well, near Snape.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. VCH Northants. Fams. i. 34–35; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 308; 1693, p. 229; 1696, p. 180; 1699–1700, p. 259.
  • 2. HMC Bath, iii. 252–3.
  • 3. G. R. Dennis, House of Cecil, 137; travel diary of Maj. Richard Creed (ex inf. Prof. J. M. Black); Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 564, 569; C. Cole, Mems. 183.
  • 4. PCC 62 Dyer; HMC Lords, n.s. v. 32–33; NRA Rep. 6666, Exeter mss 52/5, deputation, North Riding, 1712; W. D. Whitaker, Richmondshire, ii. 81.