ETTRICK, William (1651-1716), of Holt Lodge, Dorset, and the Middle Temple

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



1685 - 1687
1689 - 4 Dec. 1716

Family and Education

b. 15 Nov. 1651, 1st s. of Anthony Ettrick† of Holt Lodge by Anne, da. of Edward Davenant, DD, vicar of Gillingham, Dorset.  educ. Trinity, Oxf. 1667; M. Temple 1669, called 1675, bencher 1699, treasurer 1711.  m. (1) Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Edmund Bacon, 4th Bt.*, 1da.; (2) Frances, da. of Thomas Wyndham† of Witham Friary, Som., 1da.  suc. fa. 1703.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Poole 1684.2

Attorney to Prince George by 1692–1708; commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696; counsel to Admiralty 1711–14.3


A Tory who had voted in 1689 against the transfer of the crown, Ettrick successfully contested Christchurch in 1690 on the Hyde interest and represented the borough for the rest of this period. At the beginning of the new Parliament, Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classed him in several lists as a Court supporter and also on one list as a Tory. Indeed, throughout his subsequent career, various analyses of the House affirmed his unwavering Toryism. At this time the most important influence in his career was his connexion with Carmarthen, to whom he at times acted as a legal adviser and for whom he was sometimes spokesman in the Lower House. The first such instance occurred on 27 Mar. 1690, when he strongly urged that the regular revenue should be settled on the King for life, saying: ‘I cannot, in justice and gratitude, do less for him than his predecessors. In King Charles I’s time, the not settling the revenue upon him for life drew on us all the mischiefs that followed.’ He pressed the point again when the debate was resumed the following day, saying: ‘the question is whether you will show that countenance to the government, as to support the King, or keep him as it were at board wages’. Ettrick continued to assist the Court over supply. Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II, speaking for the Treasury, had recommended a grant of £1,500,000, but when the much lower figure of £700,000 was mentioned, Ettrick on 1 Apr. moved for a compromise figure of £1,200,000, which was eventually accepted. On 24 Apr. he opposed a motion by Hon. Sir Henry Capel, an old rival, to widen the terms of a proposed address thanking the King for his care of the Church of England, as evinced by his recent changes to the London lieutenancy. He opposed Hon. Thomas Wharton’s abjuration bill on 26 Apr., saying that it ‘is intended not to distinguish who are Churchmen or for this government, but who are of a party, and I like this the worse because it comes from the other side of the House’. He spoke again on 28 Apr. against the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, a move he had also opposed in the Convention. On 14 May 1690, when the Whigs tried to move for an address requesting the removal of Carmarthen, Ettrick warmly defended his patron, saying:

I am sorry that, without doors, we are divided into parties. What can be a greater punishment to a man of honour, than to have an old impeachment revived, and an address to the King against him as unfit to be near him, and to remove him?

In the 1690–1 session Carmarthen listed Ettrick in November 1690 as a ‘manager of the King’s directions’, noting him as one of the ‘gentlemen that can and have given very great satisfaction to the King’s affairs’, and in December as a probable supporter in the Commons if there was a further attack on Carmarthen’s position. On 13 Mar. 1691 Carmarthen recommended Ettrick to the King to be appointed a baron of the Exchequer, writing that Ettrick ‘is a very able lawyer and [has] long practised in that court; he is a Parliament-man and has constantly served you well there’. The suggestion was ignored. Robert Harley’s* list of April 1691 queried Ettrick as a Court supporter.4

In the third session Ettrick spoke for the East India Company on 18 Dec. 1691, and on 12 Jan. 1692 supported a motion to set up a committee to consider the proposal of the bankers to advance an immediate sum of £100,000 at 5 per cent return for the establishment of a reliable fund to pay interest on the debt owed to them by the crown. On 4 Feb. 1692 he presented a clause on behalf of a fellow Member, Thomas Preston, to the bill vesting forfeited estates in the King and Queen. In the next session, he spoke on 27 Feb. 1693 for the bill to indemnify those who had acted for their Majesties’ service in defence of the kingdom, and on 6 Mar. in favour of a bill relating to the estates of the Earl of Pembroke (Thomas Herbert†).5

Ettrick was much less prominent in the last two sessions, particularly after the political eclipse of Carmarthen, now Duke of Leeds, in 1694. Ill-health seems to have been a factor, as Ettrick was granted leave of absence on 27 Feb. 1694 and on 22 Feb. 1695, both times for his health. By the beginning of the next Parliament he was in opposition. He was forecast in January 1696 as likely to vote against the Court on the proposed council of trade, though he signed the Association promptly. He was given leave of absence on 27 Feb. for 21 days, but was back in the House in March in time to divide against the government on fixing the price of guineas at 22s. although this meant separating from Leeds himself and most of his followers. Indeed from this time onwards he seems to have followed the lead of Robert Harley, rather than his former patron. In the next session he voted on 25 Nov. against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. He was once more given leave of absence on 3 Mar. 1697 to recover his health. Although still a Court placeman and being classed as such in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments in about September 1698, he remained in opposition, being queried as likely to oppose a standing army, and not being listed as voting against the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699. On 18 Mar. 1699 he was given leave from the House for a week. In the Parliament of February 1701, the changes in government brought him back to the Court, and he was listed as likely to support the Court in agreeing with the committee of supply’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’, and was blacklisted as having opposed the preparations for war. Classed as a Tory by Harley in December 1701, Ettrick supported the resolution on 22 Feb. 1702 vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of William’s Whig ministers. On 28 Feb. he spoke in the debate on a petition concerning plantations in the Leeward Islands. In March he reported and conveyed to the Upper House the Lords’ bill for explaining the Act for the better security of the monarch’s person and government. A rumour in May that he would be made lord chancellor of Ireland proved unfounded. He still retained connexions with the Duke of Leeds and acted as counsel for him in the summer of 1702 when Leeds tried to recover the office of auditor of the receipt then held by Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*).6

After the accession of Queen Anne Ettrick featured as a Court Tory. For some years he had held the office of attorney-at-law in the household of Prince George of Denmark, with a salary of £20 p.a., but when the Prince became lord high admiral his salary was increased to £400 p.a. He was forecast in March 1704 as a supporter of the government’s actions over the Scotch Plot, was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack and did not vote for it in the division on 28 Nov. 1704. In 1705 he was named on a list of placemen and was also classed as a ‘Churchman’ in a list of about June. In the next Parliament he voted on 25 Oct. 1705 in favour of the Court candidate for Speaker, and on 18 Feb. 1706 he supported the Court on the ‘place clause’ in the regency bill, although two days earlier he was one of Harley’s followers who had voted against the Whigs on the Bewdley election. Ettrick reverted to opposition on the fall of Harley. This did not prevent him in February, in the pre-election manoeuvres at Shaftesbury, from recommending to his brother-in-law, Edward Nicholas*, that he join with the Court candidate, Sir John Cropley, 2nd Bt.* Ettrick himself was returned as usual at Christchurch and was again classed as a Tory in a list of 1708 with the returns added. He voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell in 1710.7

In June 1711, under the Harley administration Ettrick was given another legal post, that of counsel-at-law to the Admiralty commission. He was listed as a ‘Tory patriot’ who opposed the continuance of the war in 1711, and as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who ‘detected the mismanagements of the late ministry’ in the first session of the Parliament, and he voted on 18 June 1713 for the French commerce bill. After George I’s accession he continued to sit for Christchurch as a Tory until his death on 4 Dec. 1716.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xcii), 61; Aubrey, Brief Lives, i. 250.
  • 2. Poole archives B17.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiii. 222–3; CJ, xii. 509; Boyer, Pol. State, i–ii. 381; iv. 58.
  • 4. A. Browning, Danby, i. 366, 468; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 557–9, 569–70, 602, 610, 647; Grey, x. 73; Bodl. Rawl. A.79, f. 77; CSP Dom. 1695, p. 168; SP 8/8/118.
  • 5. Luttrell Diary, 88, 124, 170, 450, 469.
  • 6. Cocks Diary, 229; Surr. RO, Midleton mss, 2, ff. 63–64, Alan Brodrick† to St. John Brodrick, 19 May 1702; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 51.
  • 7. Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 343; Bull. IHR, xlv. 48; PRO 31/24/21/9.
  • 8. Vis. London, 61.