VILLIERS, Sir William, 3rd Bt. (1645-1712), of Brooksby Hall, Leics.

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 - Nov. 1701

Family and Education

bap. 9 Jan. 1645, o. s. of Sir George Villiers, 2nd Bt., of Goadby Marwood and Brooksby by Margaret, da. of Sir George Dynham of Boarstall, Bucks.  m. 16 Apr. 1668, Anne (d. 1711), da. and h. of Charles Potts of Mannington, Norf., s.psuc. fa. as 3rd Bt. 1682.

Offices Held

Clerk in ordinary of the stables c.1685–8.1

Capt. Queen Dowager’s Regt. of Horse Nov. 1687; lt.-col. 2 marine regt. Jan. 1690–June 1691.


Though details of Villiers’ career are sketchy, he trod a more respectable path than his father. According to Nichols, the county historian, the roguish 2nd baronet, son of an elder half-brother of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, saved himself the trouble of regular correspondence with his wife once he was in London by writing all his letters to her before actually departing for town. The dupe was revealed, however, by a confusion in the sequence of despatch. Sir William’s responsibilities for supplying James II’s stables involved him in expense which he was still endeavouring to recover from the Treasury ten years after the Revolution. His petition for reimbursement of £1,875 considered in December 1698 carefully drew attention to the fact that some of the outlay in 1688 had in fact benefited ‘his present Majesty’s service, since his happy arrival’. During the remodelling of Leicester’s corporation in 1688 Villiers, along with the former Member Sir Henry Beaumont, 2nd Bt.†, were earmarked as the most suitable parliamentary candidates available to the Court, but once the old charter was restored in October, he did not seek election to the Convention. Despite his past associations with King James, Villiers briefly held a commission in a marine regiment from January 1690, and in October that year was appointed a deputy-lieutenant. He was one of the deputy-lieutenants and militia officers who signed the Association at Leicester in March 1696.2

In 1698 Villiers was elected at Leicester, a short distance from his seat at Brooksby Hall. Initially considered as of the ‘Country party’ in an analysis of the new Parliament of about September 1698, he appeared as a Court supporter on 18 Jan. 1699 in favour of the standing army when the House divided on the disbanding bill. Against his name on one of the lists on this issue is the additional comment, ‘£2,000 given him’, and it is probable that this was the money long owed to him and recently paid by the Treasury. He was briefly involved in the passage of a private bill in March 1700. In November it was reported that he was out of favour in Leicester, having probably fallen victim to the corporation’s steady drift towards a more thoroughly Tory outlook. In September 1701 he made a gift of £20 to the poor of Leicester, which the corporation ordered to be distributed in bread, and may suggest that he was seeking re-adoption in the approaching general election. He stood aside, however, when a Tory candidate, James Winstanley*, was produced. Nothing further is known of him until 1711. The possibility that he may in the interim have changed his political colours is suggested by his signature of circular letters in company with leading county Tories soliciting votes for the Tory Sir Thomas Cave, 3rd Bt.*, in the Leicestershire by-election of that year.3

Villiers died on 27 Feb. 1712 when the baronetcy became extinct. His funerary monument at Brooksby, while briefly noting his public qualities, fulsomely laments the passing of a county dynasty. Brooksby Hall was shortly afterwards purchased by the successful lawyer Sir Nathan Wright, an ex-recorder of Leicester, lord keeper 1700–5, and a second cousin of Sir William’s wife. Eventually, Brooksby became the home of another Leicester MP, Wright’s grandson George†, who sat from 1727 to 1766.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. IGI, Leics.; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 377, 2098.
  • 2. Nichols, Leics. iii. 194; HMC Rutland, ii. 114; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 139; 1698, p. 433; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiv. 83; The Commons 1660–90, i. 297; Rutland mss at Belvoir Castle, letters and pprs. 21, Ambrose Phillipps et al. to Ld. Rutland (John Manners†), 17 Feb. 1697.
  • 3. Huntington Lib. HA 6107, Huntingdon to Palmer, 1 June 1698; Magdalene Coll. Camb. Pepys Lib. PL 2179, pp. 71–74; Leics. RO, hall pprs. BRII/18/39, f. 31; Leics. RO, Braye mss 2846, 2848, 2849, 2854–7 [circular letters, 1711]; BL, Lothian mss, Robert Hardinge to Thomas Coke*, 6 Nov. 1700.
  • 4. Nichols, iii. 196.