NASSAU DE ZUYLESTEIN, William, Visct. Tunbridge (1682-1710).

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



3 May - 2 July 1708

Family and Education

bap. 9 July 1682, 1st s. of William Henry Nassau de Zuylestein, 1st Earl of Rochford, by Jane, da. of Sir Henry Wroth of Durrants, Enfield, Mdx. unmStyled Visct. Tunbridge 1695–1708; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Rochford 2 July 1708.

Offices Held

Brevet col. 1704; a.d.c. to Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) 1704; lt.-col. William Stewart’s Ft. Gds. 1705–6; col. of ft. 1706–7, drag. 1707–d.; brig.-gen. 1710.1

MP [I] 1705–d.


Lord Tunbridge’s grandfather was the illegitimate son of Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, and consequently an uncle of William III. His father was a close friend and companion of William, and came over to England with him in 1688. He was made master of the robes in 1689, accompanied the King on his Irish campaign, was elevated to the peerage in 1695, and was granted a pension of £1,000 and over 30,000 acres of Irish forfeited lands in 1698, though afterwards lived mainly in Holland and became much less influential at court. In 1702 the younger Nassau embarked on a military career, accompanying the expedition to Cadiz as a volunteer, but was unable to obtain a permanent army commission at that time, possibly because of animosity towards his father on the part of the new Tory administration. At the beginning of 1703 he petitioned the Commons on his father’s behalf that his grant of Irish lands might not be prejudiced by legislation for the resumption of grants.2

Tunbridge’s military career appears to have taken him as a volunteer to the campaign in Flanders in 1703, and on 1 Jan. 1704 he was given a brevet as colonel on the Irish establishment, largely through the offices of the Duke of Ormond, the lord lieutenant, with whom he was serving in Ireland. In May 1704, however, he returned to Flanders, writing to Ormond on 19 May:

It was impossible for me to write to your Grace before now, for my father hurried me into the field as soon as I came over. I hope your Grace will not take it ill that I make the campaign, for it is with no other design than to render myself capable to be fit for the post your Grace has been pleased to give me. I can assure you that it is not to get preferment, for I expect nor desire any but your [Grace], to whose service I have devoted myself. I will come to Ireland the moment the campaign is done, if your Grace will give me leave to stay from my post so long.

Meanwhile his father was busy interceding on his behalf with the Duke of Marlborough, who was persuaded to appoint him an aide-de-camp and, again in response to his father’s pleas, to send him to London with one of the despatches announcing the victory at Blenheim. Tunbridge arrived on 13 Aug. and was rewarded with a gift of £1,000. After the summer campaign he began soliciting Ormond for promotion, abetted by his father. He returned to England and remained in London through the winter, claiming that ill-health was preventing his returning to Ireland. At the end of December Ormond finally obtained a lieutenant-colonelcy for him in a newly raised regiment of foot guards. Once having obtained his commission, Tunbridge dropped any idea of going to Ireland, writing to Ormond on 24 Feb. 1705 that he hoped to see him in London shortly, as he had ‘met with but little encouragement from other people’. He obtained the colonelcy of a new foot regiment in April 1706, which he exchanged a year later for a dragoon regiment. He remained on active service, having been elected to the Irish parliament for Ormond’s borough of Kilkenny.3

In May 1708 Tunbridge successfully contested Steyning, whereupon he was classed as a Whig and by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) as a gain for the party, but his father’s death barely two months later removed him to the Lords. He wrote to Marlborough on 12 July

to beseech your Grace to intercede with her Majesty to continue the pension to me of a thousand pounds a year out of the Post Office, which her Majesty was graciously pleased to confirm to him [his father], it being granted to him by the late King to support his title. I should not presume to desire your Grace’s favour in this did I not flatter myself that your Grace and all the world are satisfied I have shown as much zeal for her Majesty’s service as in me lay.

He wrote to Ormond to the same effect. Marlborough gave a somewhat non-committal reply, writing on 21 July:

I hope you have already reason to believe the Queen is not insensible of your zeal for her service, which as I am persuaded her Majesty will continue to encourage, so I shall be always glad to contribute all in my power to your service and satisfaction.

In fact the pension was not continued.4

The new Lord Rochford took his seat in the House of Lords on 16 Nov. 1708, and on 22 June 1710 James Stanhope* wrote to Robert Walpole II*, the secretary at war: ‘my Lord Rochford, I believe, I need not recommend, when you remember that he has a voice in the House of Lords which I venture to promise will be as you and I think right.’ He remained on active service and was killed on 27 July 1710 fighting with his regiment at the battle of Almenara in Spain.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. HMC Ormonde, n.s. viii. 134; Daily Courant, 5 Feb. 1705.
  • 2. CJ, xi. 464, 555; Burnet, i. 502; iii. 259–60, 352; J. G. Simms, Williamite Confiscation in Ire. 88.
  • 3. Evelyn Diary, v. 574; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 457, 516; vi. 6, 138; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 361; HMC Ormonde, n.s. viii. 58, 74, 117, 119, 121, 125, 128, 134, 141, 179, 190, 261; Add. 61292, ff. 104–9; Post Man, 12–15 Aug. 1704; Marlborough Letters and Despatches ed. Murray, i. 392, 413, 445; Hayton thesis, 345.
  • 4. Add. 61292, ff. 112, 114; 61366, f. 62; HMC Ormonde, n.s. viii. 315.
  • 5. HMC Townshend, 64; Daily Courant, 9 May 1710; Camb. Univ. Lib. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss 615, Stanhope to Walpole, 22 June 1710.