WEMYSS, William (1760-1822), of Wemyss, Fife.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1784 - July 1787
6 July 1787 - 1796
1807 - 1820

Family and Education

b. 9 Apr. 1760, 1st surv. s. of Hon. James Wemyss.  educ. Edinburgh h.s.; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1776-7.  m. 16 Sept. 1788, Frances, da. of Sir William Erskine, 1st Bt., of Torrie, Fife, 4s. 1da.  suc. fa. 10 May 1786.

Offices Held

Ensign 2 Ft. Gds. 1777; col. Sutherland Fencibles Feb. 1779-83; capt. army 1781; dep. adjutant gen. for Scotland with rank of maj. 1786; lt.col. 1791; col. Sutherland Fencibles 1793; col. army 1795; maj.-gen. 1798; col. 93 Ft. 1800; lt.-gen. 1805; gen. 1814.


William Wemyss’s career in the Guards was checked when in February 1779, at his father’s request, he took command of the Sutherland Fencibles, for which he is said to have raised 1,000 men within 12 days. His father had been promoting the regiment since 1777 when a proposal made by him and the young Countess of Sutherland to offer the colonelcy to Alexander Mackay had been vetoed by clan jealousy. The family lawyer wrote, 29 Dec. 1777:1

If General Mackay is commanding officer of the Sutherland regiment ... it will give such éclat in the eyes of the Administration and the whole country as will weaken and hurt the political influence of the Sutherland family ... I consider the Mackay family to be the natural, inveterate rivals of the Sutherland family.

And so, to safeguard the family interest, Wemyss, though only 18, was appointed. When the regiment was disbanded in 1783 Wemyss went on an extensive tour of France and Switzerland and was unwilling to accede to his father’s requests that he return and either enter Parliament or marry. Nevertheless when his father stood down in 1784 Wemyss was returned for Sutherland, probably in absentia. He supported Pitt throughout the Parliament, and on 18 Apr. 1785 voted in favour of his parliamentary reform proposals. On the death of Robert Skene in May 1787 he vacated his Sutherland seat and contested Fife, his native county. Despite the claim of his opponent, Sir John Henderson, that the office of deputy adjutant general was a disqualification, Wemyss was returned. He is not known to have spoken in the House.

He died 4 Feb. 1822.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Mems. Fam. of Wemyss, i. 383-4.