WYNN, Richard (c.1588-1649), of Brentford House, Isleworth, Mdx.; The Strand, Westminster and Gwydir, Caern.
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Family and Education
b. c.1588, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir John Wynn† of Gwydir and Sydney, da. of Sir William Gerard† of Downshire, ld. chan. [I] 1576-81;2 bro. of Henry* and William*. educ. L. Inn 1606-8.3 m. settlement 10 Sept. 1618 (with £4,000) Anne (d.1668), da. and coh. of Sir Francis Darcy* of Isleworth, Mdx.4 kntd. 16 June 1616.5 suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 1 Mar. 1627.6 d. 19 July 1649.7 sig. Richard Wynn.
Servant to Thomas Howard, 1st earl of Suffolk 1608-17;8 gent. Privy Chamber, Prince Charles’s Household 1617-25, king’s Household 1625-42;9 recvr.-gen. and treas. to Queen Henrietta Maria 1629-d.;10 trustee, lands to increase queen’s jointure 1629;11 member, duchy of Cornwall Council 1637.12
Commr. oyer and terminer, Wales and Marches 1617-40, London 1622-d., Mdx. 1622-41, the Verge 1626-7, gaol delivery, Newgate 1622-d.;13 j.p. Mdx. 1622-d., Westminster 1626-40, Caern. (and custos rot.) 1627-d., Denb. 1646-d.;14 commr. subsidy, Mdx. 1624, Westminster and Caern. 1641, sewers, Herts. and Mdx. 1625, subsidy arrears, Caern. 1626, inquiry, Mdx. 1630;15 collector, knighthood fines, Mdx. 1630-6;16 member, Council in Marches of Wales 1633-41;17 farmer greenwax fines, Cheshire and Flint. 1637;18 commr. repair of St. Paul’s cathedral, Mdx. 1635, shipwrecks, duchy of Cornwall 1637, alehouses, Covent Garden 1639, survey, bailiwick of St. James, Mdx. 1640,19 poll tax, Caern. 1641, assessment, 1642, 1647-8, Mdx. and Westminster 1645, 1647-8, Irish aid, Westminster and Caern. 1642, New Model ordinance, Mdx. and Westminster 1645, N. Wales Assoc. 1648, militia, Caern., Mdx. and Surr. 1648.20
Commr. audit piracy Benevolence 1627-8, poor laws 1632, exacted fees 1637, abuses of Crown recvrs. 1639.21
The Wynns, who traced their ancestry to the twelfth century Prince Owain Gwynedd, originally settled in Eifionydd, but in the reign of Henry VII they moved to Gwydir, on the eastern slopes of Snowdon, where they built a stone manor house and rapidly expanded their estates.22 John Wyn ap Meredydd† was probably the first MP returned for Caernarvonshire at its enfranchisement in 1542, but it was his grandson Sir John Wynn (shire knight in 1586) who inaugurated Gwydir’s ‘golden age’ at the end of Elizabeth’s reign. Sir John’s aggressive pursuit of land, administrative power and electoral influence gave the family what has been described as ‘unquestionable supremacy’ among the county gentry. With an estate of 100,000 acres, and an income estimated at £4,000 p.a. in 1616, the Wynns were certainly one of the wealthiest families in North Wales, although developments in the 1620s suggest that their local pre-eminence had fragile foundations.23
As a second son, Richard Wynn was expected to support himself, and in 1607, while he was studying at Lincoln’s Inn, his father was advised that he had grown into ‘a very handsome and honest gentleman’ and should seek preferment at Court. He joined the household of the lord chamberlain, Thomas, 1st earl of Suffolk, and quickly rendered himself useful to his father by handling purchases of Crown lands and procuring grants of local office for allies of the Gwydir interest.24 It was apparently at his own suggestion that Wynn stood for election in Caernarvonshire in 1614, although it was his father who canvassed the shire; once it was established that neither William Jones I* nor the gentry from the Llŷn peninsula had any plans to stand, his return was a formality. He was named to a single committee, for the bill ‘for the speedy recovery of small debts’ (11 May), which another Welsh MP had urged should be extended to Wales. Wynn’s father had hoped to have his charitable foundations at Llanrwst, Denbighshire confirmed by statute, but no action was taken. However, Wynn did send home a narrative of the opening days of the session, detailing the election of Speaker Crewe and the king’s speech outlining the grace bills he was prepared to concede. As a Welsh MP, Wynn was entitled to attend the committee for one of these bills, to repeal a clause of the 1536 Act of Union allowing the king to legislate for Wales by Proclamation.25
In 1615 Wynn’s elder brother, the apple of his father’s eye, died in Italy. While Wynn now stood to inherit, he resented the fact that his father was less indulgent towards him, as became clear during four years of negotiations for his marriage. The first prospect, a daughter of Sir Richard Molyneux I*, was far too young, but after his brother’s death Wynn came under pressure to make a swift match. Sir John held that ‘a Welsh woman is fittest for this country’, but conceded that ‘you shall be welcome where so you make suit’, while hinting that ‘a good woman is as soon found having a great estate as a small’. He was subsequently alarmed by reports that Wynn was courting one of the countess of Suffolk’s gentlewomen: ‘deal plainly with me as you respect my favour’. Wynn angrily denied these rumours, but asked that he might have ‘some time to settle my mind to that course of life’. Sir John, however, approached Sir Thomas Myddelton I*, Sir Edward Lewis, Sir John Trevor I* and Sir Henry Bayntun*, but broke off with the last two because they offered inadequate dowries. This upset Wynn, who noted gossip among London Welshmen ‘that you would sell me in the market for who gave most’; yet he in turn rejected Myddelton’s daughter as socially inferior, and Lady Suffolk’s niece as temperamentally unsuitable.26 Father and son finally agreed upon a match with the co-heir of Sir Francis Darcy*, a Yorkshire landowner who lived at Brentford, Middlesex. This was a convenient base for Wynn’s Court career, but Sir John feared (correctly) that such a match would seduce him away from Wales: ‘you are in a way to consume that estate which I and your ancestors have gathered ... seldom do courtiers prosper ... I would to God you had taken or would take the course of country life, which is a sure course to do well’.27
When another Parliament was summoned in November 1620, Wynn, by then a member of Prince Charles’s Household, proposed to seek re-election for Caernarvonshire. He first approached (Sir) William Jones I, who declined to stand and offered his ‘goodwill and assent’. He then urged his father to ascertain whether Sir William Maurice* wished to represent the shire again, in which case he proposed to settle for the borough seat. Maurice, almost 80 years old, had no such ambition, but Wynn quickly learned that another London Welshman, John Griffith III*, a member of the Llŷn faction, proposed to stand against him. While their supporters canvassed energetically in the provinces, the rival candidates jockeyed for advantage in the metropolis: Wynn’s letters to Wales were intercepted; while both sides lobbied lord chancellor St. Alban (Sir Francis Bacon*) for custody of the writ, in order to gain control of the timing and venue of the election. John Williams, dean of Westminster (a family friend) assured Sir John Wynn that his son ‘hath omitted no understanding course beseeming a gentleman of his rank (whom tricks and gambles do no way become) in the managing of this business’. However, amid the tumult Wynn forgot to countermand earlier arrangements to excuse his brother-in-law, Sir John Bodvel, from nomination as sheriff, an appointment which went instead to a supporter of the Llŷn faction; Wynn could only delay the appointment, ensuring that the election was supervised by the outgoing sheriff, Robert Wynn of Glascoed, whom he believed would be impartial.28
At the election on 27 Dec. panic among Wynn’s supporters led to the abandonment of his candidacy altogether, but by then, clearly contemplating defeat, he had made overtures to Prince Charles for a borough seat. Duchy of Cornwall patronage had already been settled, but the enfranchisement of several boroughs at the start of the session gave Wynn fresh hopes. At the end of March 1621 he approached Sir Thomas Wentworth* for a nomination at Pontefract.29 While unsuccessful there, during the Easter recess he was returned for Ilchester, Somerset, a borough enfranchised at the behest of Sir Robert Phelips*. Historians have speculated that Wynn may have been sponsored by Williams or the 3rd earl of Pembroke, but it is more likely that he was recommended by Nathaniel Tomkins*, a colleague in the prince’s service and Phelips’s principal Court contact.30
While the Caernarvonshire fiasco provoked several acrimonious exchanges between Wynn and his father, relations improved after the Ilchester election. In a newsletter, Wynn discussed the impeachment proceedings against Bacon and Sir John Bennet*, and foreign affairs:
The king and queen of Bohemia are now come into the Low Countries where they mean to abide until the king mediate their business for the restoration of the Palatinate (which I fear will not be in haste) ... the princes of the Union have all made their peace with the emperor. The States since their truce was out have as yet done nothing.
Wynn left little trace on the parliamentary record, being named to a single committee, preparing for a conference with the Lords about the Sabbath bill and the bill to restrict the use of writs of certiorari. (24 May). Moreover, while he assisted his father’s plans to bring a lawsuit against the Llŷn faction for its conduct at the Caernarvonshire election, the action was largely promoted by his brother Owen.31 However, following the appointment of John Williams as lord keeper in July 1621, Wynn, ‘in very great favour’, offered the family’s congratulations and placed his brother William* and his nephew John Mostyn* in his new patron’s service. He also plotted to frustrate the appointment of John Griffith’s brother as attorney-general of the Marches, in favour of Ellis Lloyd*, a relation by marriage.32
Wynn’s inactivity in the Commons belies an active interest in foreign policy, which was clearly revealed in his correspondence. In June 1621 he was troubled by the abrupt adjournment of the session, ‘without the effecting of any of our business’, although he believed the king regretted this decision. He also feared that the Protestant cause was suffering from English inattention: ‘our religion was never so like to be banished out of France ... All the princes of Christendom are arming. Yet we are not moved with all this. I pray God keep us, for we were never in more need of his help’. The recall of Parliament in November raised his hopes for action over the Palatinate, which he believed ‘will be either won or lost this winter, for there’s no hope of recovery of it by mediation’.33 He doubtless supported the vote of an additional subsidy on 28 Nov., the success of which persuaded the Commons to petition the king to end negotiations for the Spanish Match and resume the enforcement of the recusancy laws, a copy of which appeal found its way to Gwydir. James refused to read the petition, and an acrimonious dissolution followed. News of the detention of Phelips and Sir Edward Coke* dismayed Wynn, who acquired a copy of a widely distributed petition for Phelips’s release. His continuing sympathies for the Protestant cause were illustrated by his assumption that the king’s plan to raise a Benevolence in lieu of parliamentary supply ‘will amount but to small sums’, and his approval of subsequent attempts to relieve the beleaguered garrisons of the Palatinate.34
Prince Charles’s departure for Spain early in 1623 placed Wynn in a quandary, as in March he had what he described as the ‘ill fortune’ to be among those sent to join his master in Madrid. He left an account of his journey, which included many unflattering references to his hosts and their religious practices, among them a preacher who not only denounced the Church of England for denying the real presence, but also assured his flock that Charles had come to Spain to convert to Catholicism. His obvious distaste for Spanish hospitality led the duke of Buckingham to give him permission to return home early.35
Wynn’s behaviour might have harmed his prospects at Court, but for the fact that Charles and the favourite had come to share his distrust of Spain by the time of their return in October. The duke indicated his respects by procuring a knighthood for Wynn’s nephew Thomas Mostyn, and Wynn was once again returned for Ilchester at the election which followed in the New Year. He enthusiastically promoted the return of various relatives for Welsh constituencies, and at the outset of the session he excitedly informed his father
I know you expect no other news now, but such as is in agitation in Parliament, which is enough to fill this and other kingdoms. The king has commended both Houses to take into consideration whether they think fit for His Majesty to hold on to both the treaties of the Palatinate and the Match, which upon long debate they resolved to break both ... I sent you here ... the relation made by the prince and the duke of Buckingham upon which they grounded their debate, out of the notes I took.36
He subsequently recorded James’s acceptance of a grant of three subsidies and three fifteenths in return for the repudiation of the Spanish Match, and the public celebrations which followed, although he cautiously noted that ‘this is the beginning, and I pray God the end give us just cause of rejoicing’. The Commons probed the king’s commitment to anti-Catholic policies after the Easter recess, when Wynn was one of those ordered to confer with the Lords about a joint petition for the removal of recusant officeholders (3 April).37
Wynn was also involved with Welsh affairs during the 1624 session, being named to the committee for the bill to repeal the clause of the 1536 Act of Union ‘for the making of what law the king pleased for the governance of Wales’ (6 Mar.), the success of which he later noted with approval. He also welcomed the passage of the Welsh cottons bill, an abstract of which was sent to Gwydir, and considered that these two measures, together with the bill forbidding the import of Irish cattle, comprised ‘as much as we could desire at this time’.38 Significantly, he did not welcome a petition to Prince Charles, promoted by Sir Eubule Thelwall* and signed by a majority of Welsh MPs, which opposed his own quest for a farm of Welsh greenwax fines. He had begun lobbying for this grant in January 1623, but the matter had been left undecided at his departure for Madrid, and was only revived a year later. The petitioners of May 1624 protested that the farm would deny Welshmen ‘such moderation and mercies as their causes shall require’, but the response Wynn drafted suggests that his enemies may have been more concerned about his claim to collect arrears dating back to 1616. The patent was stayed by the duchy Council, and Wynn probably abandoned the project thereafter.39
Charles’s accession as king in March 1625 improved Wynn’s prospects at Court, and he accompanied his master to Dover to meet the latter’s French bride, Henrietta Maria. Hopes of preferment made Wynn particularly keen to procure a seat in the Parliament which followed in June, and when Williams’s patronage failed to secure him a seat, he turned to Phelips once more. Wynn left no trace upon the records of the Commons’ debates and, with his brother Henry* providing a weekly digest of parliamentary news, he had no need to correspond with his father about the session. The plague drove him and his brother out of London in early July, but they attended the Oxford sitting, sharing lodgings with Darcy and Tomkins. On 15 Aug. he reported that the session was ‘now dissolved for refusing to give’, despite which he noted that ‘the fleet goes forth ... with a resolution to invade some part of the king of Spain’s dominions. I pray God bless their success’.40
Wynn’s standing at Court rose further at the Coronation in February 1626, when he and Sir George Goring* carried the robes of state. However, he apparently chose not to stand for Parliament in 1626: Williams’s dismissal in November 1625 had deprived him of his chief patron, and a fresh resort to Phelips for electoral patronage was unlikely to recommend him to Buckingham. Wynn may now have been regarded as a threat by the latter, for although King Charles had apparently promised him the receivership of the queen’s revenues, his appointment was blocked, presumably by the favourite. In May 1626, at the height of the duke’s impeachment proceedings, Wynn confessed his relief that he was not in the Commons, ‘considering how dangerous ways they now run, things being come to that height between the king and them’.41 Nor did he stand in 1628, after inheriting his Welsh patrimony. However, in August 1628, immediately after Buckingham’s assassination, he attempted to come in at a by-election at Hertford. His Middlesex neighbour Algernon, Lord Percy* reminded the borough’s patron, William (Cecil*), 2nd earl of Salisbury of an earlier promise for a nomination, and Wynn secured control of the writ in October. However, in January 1629 there were complaints in the Commons that the Speaker should have issued the writ; an investigation was ordered, and while no report was made before the dissolution, the vacancy was filled by John Carey*, Lord Rochford.42
In March 1629 Wynn was finally appointed receiver-general to the queen, a lucrative position he held for the rest of his life. A Middlesex resident, his detachment from Welsh politics was underlined in 1640, when John Griffith, his old rival’s son, canvassed him for the Caernarvonshire seat. He wryly commented that ‘for these twenty years I had reason to believe I was no freeholder there, for my voice (it seems) was not worth the desiring’.43 Wynn was returned to the Short Parliament for three boroughs, and represented Liverpool in the Long Parliament. A Parliamentarian during the Civil War, his house at Isleworth was damaged in 1642, whereupon he moved to the queen’s house at Wimbledon, managing her estate there; he was excluded from the Commons at Pride’s Purge.44 Despite advancing large sums to Parliament in the early 1640s, he was able to leave cash bequests of £1,500 in his will. After his death on 19 July 1649, his widow held a life interest in his properties in Isleworth and the Strand, which subsequently passed to his brother Maurice, while his Welsh patrimony and the baronetcy went to his brother Owen. The latter’s son Richard was returned for Caernarvonshire in 1647, and represented the shire intermittently until his death in 1675, whereupon the Gwydir estate passed out of the family.45
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: George Yerby / Simon Healy
- 1. Secluded 6 Dec. 1648.
- 2. J.E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 281.
- 3. LI Admiss.
- 4. NLW, 9056E/788; Dwnn, Vis. Wales ed. S.R. Meyrick, ii. 159; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 102.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 158.
- 6. C142/562/82.
- 7. Keeler, 102.
- 8. NLW, 9053E/485, 487.
- 9. NLW, 9056E/786; SP16/2, f. 118.
- 10. LR5/57, ff. 30v-31; CSP Dom. 1641-3, p. 126.
- 11. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 513.
- 12. Ibid. 1637, p. 489.
- 13. C181/2, f. 299; 181/3, ff. 75-7, 198, 217; 181/5, ff. 184, 213, 264.
- 14. C231/4, f. 134; SP16/405, ff. 43, 85; E163/18/12, f. 104; JPs of Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 28-30, 76.
- 15. E115/65/13; SR, v. 64, 67, 90; C181/3, f. 184; 181/4, f. 45; E179/224/598.
- 16. E178/7163, f. 5; E198/4/32, f. 2v.
- 17. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 4, p. 6.
- 18. CSP Dom. 1637-8, p. 441.
- 19. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 61; CSP Dom. 1637, p. 489; 1639, p. 110; 1640-1, p. 208.
- 20. SR, v. 90, 107, 141, 157; A. and O. i. 622, 636, 970, 978, 1087, 1183, 1239, 1243, 1246.
- 21. Rymer, vii. pt. 2, pp. 233, 256; Essex RO, D/Y 2/7/253; PC2/42, f. 54; CSP Dom. 1637-8, p. 77; 1638-9, p. 617.
- 22. J. Wynn, Hist. of Gwydir Fam. 15, 54; Dwnn, ii. 159; J. Gwynfor Jones, Wynn Fam. of Gwydir, 7-34.
- 23. C142/562/82; NLW, Wynnstay 67/251; E.G. Jones, ‘Caern. Squires 1588- 1625’, (Univ. of Wales MA thesis, 1936), pp. 5, 8; A.H. Dodd, Studies in Stuart Wales, 179; J.K. Gruenfelder, ‘Wynns of Gwydir and Elections in Wales 1604-40’, WHR, ix. 122-3.
- 24. NLW, 9053E/464, 485, 487, 530, 649, 652, 661, 665.
- 25. NLW, 466E/644-5, 647, 651; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 206; A.H. Dodd, ‘Wales’s Parlty. Apprenticeship’, Trans. Cymmrodorion Soc. (1942), pp. 35-6.
- 26. NLW, 466E/578, 638, 642; 9055E/684, 686, 694, 699; 9056E/776, 786; 9061E/1453; Denb. RO, DD/WY/6627; NLW, Wynnstay C3; Gwynfor Jones, 125-6.
- 27. NLW, 9056E/776, 788, 792, 795, 806, 814; NLW, Panton Deeds 78; NLW, 12404E/14; Gwynfor Jones, 126-7.
- 28. NLW, 9057E/915-16, 923, 926, 933, 952; NLW, Clenennau 399; CAERNARVONSHIRE; List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 248.
- 29. NLW, 9057E/933; 466E/940, 1000; DCO, Letters and Patents 1620-1, f. 39v; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 14.
- 30. J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 75, 180-1n; Dodd, ‘Parlty. Apprenticeship’, 68; NATHANIEL TOMKINS.
- 31. NLW, 9057E/947; 9058E/1004; CJ, i. 626a; CAERNARVONSHIRE
- 32. NLW, 9057E/962, 966, 971, 975.
- 33. Ibid. 959, 989.
- 34. Ibid. 992; 9058E/1002, 1015; 1461E/1437.
- 35. NLW, 9058E/1073, 1118; Autobiog. of Sir Simonds D’Ewes ed. J.O. Halliwell, ii. 430-2.
- 36. NLW, 9058E/1071 [redated to 1623/4]; 9059E/1165, 1177, 1185, 1187, 1190.
- 37. NLW, 9059E/1203; CJ, i. 854a.
- 38. CJ, i. 730a; NLW, 9058E/1096 [redated to 1624]; 9059E/1182.
- 39. NLW, 9058E/1062, 1070; 9059E/1206, 1217-18; 466E/1235; 9060E/1276.
- 40. NLW, 9060E/1337, 1347-8, 1358, 1362; Som. RO, DD/PH/219/64.
- 41. NLW, 9061E/1389, 1405.
- 42. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 246; CJ, i. 921a.
- 43. Dodd, Stuart Wales, 179.
- 44. LR5/57, f. 51; D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 390.
- 45. Keeler, 102; PROB 11/210, f. 36.