VILLIERS, William, Visct. Villiers (1682-1721), of Squerryes, nr. Westerham, Kent, and Golden Square, London
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Family and Education
b. 1682, 1st s. of Edward Villiers, 1st Earl of Jersey by Barbara, da. of William Chiffinch of Fibbers, Bray, Berks., keeper of Royal Closet. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1699, MA 1700; ?travelled abroad (France) 1700. m. 22 Mar. 1705, Judith, da. and h. of Frederick Herne*, 2s. 1da. Styled Lord Villiers 1697–1711; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Jersey 25 Aug. 1711.[footnote]
Teller of Exchequer 1701–2.1
Freeman, Rochester 1705.2
Villiers came from a family strongly orientated towards the Stuart court. His branch of the family was descended from Sir Edward Villiers, second son of George Villiers (d. 1606), and a half-brother of the 1st Duke of Buckingham. Of his five sons, three became successive Viscounts Grandison; the fifth, another Sir Edward, was this Member’s grandfather. Sir Edward’s heir was yet another Edward Villiers, successively Viscount Villiers and, from 1697, Earl of Jersey. Most of Jersey’s sisters married into the court circle, and one, Lady Elizabeth Villiers (later Lady Orkney), was reputed to be the Prince of Orange’s mistress; another married the Prince’s favourite, the future Earl of Portland. After graduating from Cambridge, the young Lord Villiers may have spent some time on the Continent where his father was ambassador in Paris. He seemed set fair to take up a courtier’s life when he was awarded a tellership of the Exchequer in 1701, despite being under age. He appointed Sir John Stanley, 1st Bt., ‘to officiate for him’, but at the accession of Anne had to relinquish this sinecure in return for a pension. In March 1705 Villiers made a lucrative marriage with the heiress of Frederick Herne, a wealthy London merchant, receiving a portion reported by some to be as much as £40,000 and by Luttrell as ‘above £30,000’. Two months later he was elected knight of the shire for Kent.3
On an analysis of the 1705 Parliament Villiers was classed as a ‘Churchman’, and he voted on 25 Oct. 1705 against the Court candidate as Speaker. He made little impact on the Commons, undertaking no important duties. He remained a Tory, being classed as such on two lists of the House early in 1708. His failure to contest the 1708 election may have been a consequence of the dissatisfaction with his performance as shire representative which surfaced at a county meeting in August 1707, when an attempt was made to drop him in favour of Percival Hart*. By 1710 both Villiers and his wife had attained a certain notoriety, with the former reputed to be having an affair with the Duchess of Montagu. He succeeded his father in August 1711, supported Lord Treasurer Oxford’s (Robert Harley*) ministry in the Lords and remained a Tory after 1715. He died at Castle Thorp, Buckinghamshire, on 13 July 1721, and was buried at Westerham.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Cal. Treas. Bks. xvi. 77; HMC Portland, iv. 39.
- 2. Info. from Medway Area Archs.
- 3. Collins, Peerage, iii. 785–7, 790–6; M. E. Jersey, Recs. Fam. of Villiers, 10–11; R. O. Bucholz, Augustan Ct., 112, 307; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 28; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 67, 187, 532; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/5, James Lowther* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 25 June 1702; Wentworth Pprs. 149.
- 4. Add. 61496, ff. 92–93; Wentworth Pprs. 197.