GRIFFITH, William (c.1687-1715), of Cefnamlwch, Penllech, Caern.
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Family and Education
b. c.1687, 1st s. of John Griffith† of Cefnamlwch by Elizabeth, da. of Robert Bulkeley†, 2nd Visct. Bulkeley of Cashel [I], sis. of Richard*, 3rd Visct. and Hon. Robert Bulkeley*. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 8 June 1703, aged 16; I. Temple 1703. m. Mary, da. of Thomas Lake of Bishop’s Norton, Lincs., s.p. suc. fa. 1687.1
The Griffith family’s presence in their county was formidable enough for William to be referred to jocularly as ‘Prince Griffith’ or ‘the Prince’, echoing the nickname previously given to his notorious great-uncle, rake, rapist and murderer, who had died in exile in France in about 1650. In 1708, in the first election for which he was eligible, Griffith was returned for the borough constituency as part of an agreement between the major Tory interests in Caernarvonshire, including his cousin Lord Bulkeley (Richard Bulkeley*, 4th Visct.). He soon showed himself to be a Tory in the tradition of his father and grandfather, and in 1709 was admitted to the club presided over by the Duke of Beaufort, the ‘Board of Brothers’. He voted the following year against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, and after re-election was classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’. Listed among the ‘Tory patriots’ who voted for peace, and the ‘worthy patriots’ who in this first session exposed the mismanagements of the old ministry, he was a member of the October Club. Twice he acted as a teller on behalf of the Tory side in election cases: for John Boteler at Hythe (27 Jan. 1711), and against William Wallis at Steyning (8 May 1712). He was one of several Members thanked on 25 Jan. 1712 by the ‘Board of Brothers’ for their ‘good attendance and service’, the day after the censure of the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) had been carried in the Commons. On 10 June 1712 he again served as a Tory teller, this time in favour of the motion condemning as ‘malicious and factious’ the preface to the bishop of St. Asaph’s Four Sermons.2
As late as January 1713 Griffith was still taking an active part in the proceedings of the ‘Board of Brothers’, but he had already changed tack in Caernarvonshire politics. Despite being ‘baited’ by fellow Tories he completed the volte-face in the 1713 general election when he abandoned Tory friends and Bulkeley relations to join forces with the emergent Whig interest headed by Thomas Wynn* of Glynnllivon. It has been suggested that Griffith’s Whiggish younger brother John† may have influenced him, but more probably he was motivated by simple ambition to represent the county, from which the 1708 agreement seemed to exclude him, and by resentment at his failure to obtain the constableship of Caernarvon Castle, granted instead to Lord Bulkeley. He won a spectacular victory in the contest for the county seat over his Tory rival and kinsman Sir Roger Mostyn, 3rd Bt.*, but little is known of his conduct in the ensuing Parliament other than that he was a teller for his local Whig ally William Owen over the Caernarvon Boroughs election, in a division that otherwise appears to have been a strictly party cause. He was still classified as a Tory in the Worsley list and in one of the lists of Members re-elected in 1715, though in the other (which presumably took greater account of the changed configuration of Caernarvonshire politics) he was marked as a Whig. Chosen once more in 1715, Griffith died before the Parliament met, on 10 Mar. of that year, aged only 28. He was succeeded in the county representation by his brother John.3
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. J. E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 169; Arch. Camb. xcvi. 200; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. li), 577.
- 2. UCNW, Baron Hill mss 6772, [?] to Ld. Bulkeley, 23 Oct. 1712; John Rylands Univ. Lib. Manchester, Legh of Lyme mss, corresp., John Ward III* to Peter Legh†, 1 Sept. 1713 (Speck trans.); The Commons 1660–90, ii. 445; Evelyn Diary, iii. 7; Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xix. 43; NLW, mss 1548F, p. 57; Add. 49360, ff. 3, 100; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 297.
- 3. Baron Hill mss 6772, [?] to Ld. Bulkeley, 23 Oct. 1712; Add. 49360, f. 90; Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xix. 44–46; Griffith, 169.