MONSON, Sir William (1600-1672), of Reigate, Surr. and Chelsea, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1640 (Nov.)

Family and Education

b. 2 Feb. 1600,1 2nd s. of Sir William Monson† (d.1643) of South Carlton, Lincs. and Kinnersley, Surr. and Dorothy, da. of Richard Wallop of Bugbrooke, Northants., wid. of Richard Smith of Shelford, Warws.2 educ. sch., Calais; acad., Brussels by 1613-16; G. Inn 1633.3 m. (1) by 19 Oct. 1625, Margaret (d. 4 Aug. 1639), da. of James, 2nd earl of Moray [S], wid. of Charles Howard†, 1st earl of Nottingham, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) settlement 1 May 1646, Frances (d. Nov. 1650), da. of Thomas Alston of Polstead, Suff., 1s. 1da. (d.v.p.); (3) 14 Feb. 1651, Elizabeth (d. 26 Dec. 1695), da. of Sir George Reresby of Thrybergh, Yorks., wid. of Sir Francis Foljambe, 1st bt.*, of Aldwark, Yorks. and Edward Horner of Mells, Som., 1da.4 kntd. 12 Feb. 1623;5 cr. Visct. Monson of Castlemain [I] 23 Aug. 1628, degraded 12 July 1661.6 bur. 29 Feb. 1672.7

Offices Held

Page to Margaret Howard, countess of Nottingham.8

Recvr. duchy of Lancaster estates, Lincs. 1628-32; constable, Bolingbroke castle, Lincs. ?1628-32;9 commr. subsidy, Surr. 1641-2,10 defence of Surr. 1643-5,11 j.p. Surr. by 1644-53, 1660, Mdx. and Westminster 1647-53, Kent, Lincs. (Lindsey), and Northants. by 1650-3, custos rot. Surr. by 1650-3;12 commr. assessment Surr. 1644-52, Southwark 1647-52, Lincs. (Lindsey) 1648, Kent, Leics., Lincs., Mdx., Northants. and Westminster 1649-52, Kent, Northants., and Surr. 1660;13 dep. lt. Surr. 1644;14 commr. oyer and terminer 1644, gaol delivery 1644,15 New Model Ordinance 1645,16 sewers, Surr. and Kent 1645, Lincs. and Notts. 1654-6,17 militia, Surr. 1648, 1659, Westminster 1649, Northants. 1659.18

Commr. for indemnity 1647; member, High Ct. of Justice 1649,19 Derby House cttee. 1649; commr. army 1649-53, compounding 1649, advance of money 1649, removing obstructions to sale of ecclesiastical lands 1649-53.20


Monson is to be distinguished from a first cousin who entered Gray’s Inn in 1617.21 His father, a younger brother of Sir Thomas Monson*, was a prominent naval officer who sat for Malmesbury in 1601. Closely connected to the powerful Howard family, Admiral Monson subsequently settled at Kinnersley in Surrey, three miles from the home of the lord admiral, Charles 1st earl of Nottingham (Charles Howard†) at Reigate. In 1613 he married his eldest daughter to Nottingham’s nephew, Sir Francis Howard*, and at an unknown date his second son, this Member, served as a page to the countess of Nottingham, a cousin of James I.22

Monson’s father had been raised a Catholic and probably remained sympathetic to that faith in adult life. His elder brother John became a recusant and it was alleged that Monson himself was educated in the Catholic faith. He certainly seems to have been educated in Catholic countries: in 1616 his father noted that he had ‘had his first breeding’ at Calais, and by 1613 he was attending an academy at Brussels. By early 1615 Sir Ralph Winwood* wondered ‘whether he be not wholly popish’. In 1615 his uncle, Sir Thomas Monson, was prosecuted as an accomplice to the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury. The following year his father was disgraced and briefly imprisoned after it was revealed that he had received money from the Spanish crown.23

The family fortunes were thus at a low ebb when the 17-year-old Monson was selected early in 1618 by the Howard faction as a rival to the rising favourite George Villiers, subsequently duke of Buckingham. Monson tried too hard, and in February of that year Chamberlain reported that the lord chamberlain, William, 3rd earl of Pembroke, ‘by express order’ had told Monson

that the king did not like of his forwardness and presenting himself continually about him; that his father and uncle were not long since called in question for matters of no small moment; that his own education had been in such places and with such persons as was not to be allowed of, wherefore His Majesty willed him from henceforth to forbear his presence ...

Chamberlain described this as a ‘crossblow’ to the Howards, who had sought to benefit ‘by setting up this new idol’ and taken ‘great pains in tricking and pranking him up, besides washing his face every day with posset-curd’.24

Monson, or his backers, did not give up immediately, and within a week Chamberlain reported that he had ostentatiously taken communion, ‘which he thinks will wash away all imputations and give him free passage’. He made little further progress and in April asked leave to travel abroad. However, permission was withheld until May 1623, by which time Buckingham was in Spain with Prince Charles. As Buckingham procured a knighthood for Monson shortly before his departure it seems likely that his intention was to ensure that his old rival would not supplant him in his absence.25

Monson’s licence to travel was for three years, but (assuming he made use of it) he was home by October 1625, when he married his former employer, the widowed countess of Nottingham. Reporting the marriage, a correspondent of Sir John Scudamore’s* described Monson as ‘a handsome and silly gentleman’, and, according to Sir Thomas Bludder*, the countess made ‘more than ordinary visits to her neighbours’ to show him off.26 The means she brought to the match included her jointure, a moiety of Reigate manor, the manor of Chelsea, and a pension of £1,000, half of which was payable out of the revenues of the duchy of Lancaster.27 Monson was accordingly rated at £60 for the 1625 Privy Seal loan, higher than any other Surrey gentleman.28

Monson was able to use his wife’s interest at Reigate to secure his return in 1626. He was named to only one committee, to consider a bill to safeguard the rights of ecclesiastical patrons on 14 Feb., and was granted privilege for a servant on 1 March. On 22 Apr. he was one of the Members instructed to attend the committee that was gathering evidence against Buckingham but, on being found to be absent at Chelsea, he had to be sent for. On 2 May John Glanville reported that Monson had heard from his wife that in 1618/19 Nottingham had agreed to relinquish the Admiralty to Buckingham in return for £3,000 in hand, a pension of £1,000 a year and the precedence of the medieval Mowbray earls of Nottingham. This evidence formed part of the impeachment charges against the duke presented to the Lords at the conference on 8 May.29

On 10 Aug. 1626 the Privy Council ordered Monson’s arrest for defaulting at musters but he was discharged four days later.30 The following year his brother-in-law Sir Francis Stewart* and other trustees appointed by the late earl of Nottingham brought a Chancery suit against Monson to protect the family silver, which had been settled on his wife, with remainder to her children by the earl.31 He is not known to have sought election to the third Caroline Parliament. In August 1628, on the same day that Buckingham was assassinated, he was made an Irish viscount. He presumably purchased the title, having no connection with Ireland. During the dispute over precedence between the newly created Irish peers and the sons of English noblemen the following March he challenged Viscount Mandeville (Edward Montagu*), the son of the earl of Manchester (Sir Henry Montagu*), to a duel. The dispute with Mandeville was patched up when the two men met at Lambeth and Monson decided to challenge ‘Lord Paulet’ (presumably Lord Henry Paulet*) instead; a royal servant arrived to forbid the duel.32

Monson was brought into Star Chamber in 1635 for remaining in London over Christmas, and defaulted on Ship Money in 1638.33 Re-elected for Reigate to the Long Parliament, he opposed the king in the Civil War after some hesitation. He was appointed to the court which tried the king and initially attended its proceedings, but did not sign the death warrant. Embroiled in financial troubles during the 1640s, he was reputedly imprisoned for debt after the dissolution of the Rump. His incarceration may have come as something as a relief if the allegations that his third wife and her maidservants tied him to the bedpost and whipped him were true. As a regicide, Monson was exempted from the Act of Pardon, and in 1661 he was degraded and sentenced to life imprisonment, the loss of his estate, and to be carried each 27 Jan. on a sledge, with a rope about his neck, from the Tower to Tyburn. He died in the Fleet prison and was buried at St. Bride’s, Fleet Street, on 29 Feb. 1672. No will or grant of administration has been found. His only surviving son never sat in Parliament and died in 1675 without issue.34

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. Naval Tracts of Sir William Monson ed. M. Oppenheim (Navy Recs. Soc. xxii), p. xxxvii.
  • 2. CP, ix. 67; Oxford DNB sub Monson, Sir William.
  • 3. HMC Downshire, iv. 223; v. 454-5; SP77/11, f. 25; GI Admiss.
  • 4. C115/108/8632; Linc. Peds. (Harl. Soc. li), 683; C5/24/28; 5/388/97.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 181.
  • 6. CP, ix. 67-8.
  • 7. W.H. Challen, ‘Suss. Entries in London Par. Registers’, Suss. N and Q, x. 18.
  • 8. Naval Tracts of Sir William Monson, p. xxxvi.
  • 9. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 189; G. Holles, Lincs. Church Notes ed. R.E.G. Cole (Lincs. Rec. Soc. i), 126.
  • 10. SR, v. 88, 155.
  • 11. A. and O. i. 335, 731.
  • 12. ASSI 35/84/4; C231/5, pp. 94, 261; Names of Justices of the Peace (1650), pp. 28, 33, 40, 54, 74; C193/13/4, ff. 47, 57, 59, 96, 127v; Perfect List of all such Persons as by Commn. under the Gt. Seal of Eng. are now Confirmed to be Custos Rot., Justices of Oyer and Terminer, Justices of the Peace and Quorum (1660), p. 54.
  • 13. A. and O. i. 451, 541, 636, 976, 1093, 1112; ii. 36-9, 44, 300-4, 309, 468, 470-2, 478, 665, 667-9, 676, 1370, 1375, 1379.
  • 14. CJ, iii. 376.
  • 15. C181/5, ff. 238v, 239v.
  • 16. A. and O. i. 624.
  • 17. C181/5, f. 263v; 181/6, ff. 37, 203.
  • 18. A. and O. i. 1243; ii. 20, 1329, 1333.
  • 19. Ibid. i. 937, 1253.
  • 20. CJ. vi. 113; A. and O. ii. 63, 152, 562, 689.
  • 21. G.E.C. ‘Monson, Viscount Castlemaine, the Regicide’, N and Q (ser. 10), vii. 381.
  • 22. VCH Surr. iii. 203.
  • 23. Oxford DNB sub Monson, Sir William; Spain and the Jacobean Catholics, II: 1613-1624 ed. A.J. Loomie, (Cath. Rec. Soc. lxviii) 105; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 587; HMC Downshire, v. 144; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 500; VCH Surr. i. 386.
  • 24. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 127, 144.
  • 25. Ibid. 147, 156, 479; APC, 1621-3, p. 491.
  • 26. C115/108/8632; HMC 4th Rep. 306.
  • 27. Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 278; T. Faulkner, Hist. and Top. Description of Chelsea, i. 325; Holles, 126.
  • 28. A.R. Bax, ‘Names of those persons in the County of Surr. who contributed to the Loan to King Charles I’, Surr. Arch. Colls. xvii. 80.
  • 29. Procs. 1626, i. 413; ii. 34, 163; iii. 47, 51, 123, 129, 133.
  • 30. APC, 1626, pp. 172, 183.
  • 31. C78/433/3.
  • 32. C115/99/7241.
  • 33. Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, ii. 290; CSP Dom. 1637-8, p. 198.
  • 34. CSP Dom. 1654, p. 143; 1673, p. 134; Oxford DNB; Mems. of Sir John Reresby ed. A. Browning, 24-5; Challen, 18.