VAUGHAN, Richard I (c.1655-1724), of Cwrt Derllys, Merthyr, Carm. and Gray’s Inn

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



1685 - 1687
1689 - 27 Oct. 1724

Family and Education

b. c.1655, 1st s. of John Vaughan of Cwrt Derllys by Rachel, da. and h. of Sir Henry Vaughan† of Derwydd, Carm.  educ. Jesus, Oxf. matric. 23 May 1672, aged 16; Merton, Oxf. BA 1675; G. Inn 1673, called 1680, ancient 1692, 1702, bencher 1706, treasurer 1716–18.  m. lic. 12 July 1692, Arabella, da. of Sir Erasmus Philipps, 3rd Bt.†, of Picton Castle, Pemb., sis. of Sir John Philipps, 4th Bt.*, s.psuc. fa. 1684.1

Offices Held

Recorder, Carmarthen 1683–Mar. 1686, Oct. 1688–1722, dep. recorder Aug. 1686–Oct. 1688, common councilman 1686–Aug. 1688, mayor 1711.2

C.j. South Wales circuit 1715–d.3


Vaughan began his career as a Tory loyalist. In 1684, as recorder of Carmarthen, a borough whose politics he was later to dominate, he welcomed the Duke of Beaufort (Henry Somerset†) with a speech of impeccably Cavalier sentiments, expressing horror at the revelation of the Rye House Plot and extolling that ‘principle of loyalty which was an antidote against the poison and infection of those treasonable doctrines and practices which in the late dismal times of rebellion . . . overspread the land round about us’. He was subsequently nominated as a common councilman in the remodelled corporation of 1686, and served as Beaufort’s deputy in the recordership from 1686 to 1688. When questioned on the proposed repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act, he answered that he was ‘doubtful till he sees an equivalent security for the Protestant religion’ and was promptly removed from the county lieutenancy and commission of the peace. Recovering his place as recorder of Carmarthen in October 1688, he seems to have reoriented himself quietly during the Revolution. No speeches or controversial votes are recorded for him in the Convention, and by May 1689 he had been reappointed deputy-lieutenant. Most probably he had severed connexions with Beaufort, and re-entered the Whiggish orbit of the Vaughans of Golden Grove, the senior branch of his family, putting himself under the protection of John Vaughan†, Earl of Carbery. In Lord Carmarthen’s (Sir Thomas Osborne†) list of March 1690 he was already classified as a Whig, and by July of the following year was being recommended to Queen Mary for the vacant auditorship of Wales by Rachel, Lady Russell, Carbery’s sister-in-law by her first marriage.4

Vaughan was slow to impress himself on post-Revolution Parliaments. Either he or Edward Vaughan* successfully proposed a clause in February 1693 to be added to the forfeited estates bill, on behalf of one Adam Colclough. It was certainly Richard who during the 1694–5 session was included in Henry Guy’s* list of ‘friends’, probably in connexion with the Commons’ attack on Guy for corruption. By early 1696, while still a Whig, he was showing signs of a maverick independence on major issues, possibly to be explained by an attachment to Country principles. He had been marked out as an opponent of the Court as early as Robert Harley’s* list of April 1691, and in 1696, although he readily subscribed the Association, he was forecast as a probable opposition voter in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 on the projected council of trade. He voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. and, on 25 Nov. 1696, against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†, over which as a student of the law he may have harboured scruples. A member of the Country party in 1698, according to an analysis of the general election results, he was neither forecast as likely to support, nor blacklisted as having opposed, the disbanding bill in January 1699. A Vaughan had served on the committee of 17 Dec. 1698 appointed to bring in this bill. The presence of other Vaughans in the House, even another Richard Vaughan from 1701 onwards, precludes certainty in any of this evidence of parliamentary activity. Professional eminence as a lawyer, however, and political prominence as a ‘Country Whig’, makes the Carmarthen Member a likely candidate for identification in many cases. It should also be noted that in 1700 Vaughan had been appointed a lay correspondent of the SPCK.5

In February 1701 Vaughan was included in the list of those thought likely to support the Court in agreeing with the supply committee’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’, and he may have been the Mr Vaughan who on 21 Mar. presented a private bill. He was certainly classed, like others of his political kidney, as a Whig in Harley’s list of the second Parliament. He may have introduced a bill for the qualification of j.p.s, an instance of a ‘Country’-inspired measure, on 21 Feb. 1702. Considered a probable enemy of the Tack, he was almost certainly a teller twice early in 1705, on the Court side: on 22 Feb., in favour of the wine duty bill, and on 12 Mar., to agree with a Lords amendment to the land tax bill. In the division on the Speakership, 25 Oct. 1705, he voted for the Court candidate. A Mr Vaughan managed a private bill in November and December 1705, and reported on another such measure on 25 Feb. 1706. Meanwhile ‘Richard Vaughan’ had been granted leave of absence for a month on 8 Jan. 1706, a fact which may explain the Member’s absence from the ranks of Court voters in the division list on the regency bill. A similar grant of leave on 10 Jan. 1709, this time without limit, should most probably be applied to his namesake, the knight of the shire for Merioneth, for a Mr Vaughan was subsequently appointed on 5 Feb. 1709 to the committee to consider ways of putting into execution more effectively the laws against placemen, an obsessive ‘Country’ concern. Vaughan, who had been described as ‘Low Church’ and as a Whig in lists of 1705 and 1708 respectively, displayed his party colours in dividing in 1710 for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. His voting record was, however, sufficiently confusing to induce the compiler of the ‘Hanover list’ of 1710 to class him as a Whig, and for the published division list on the French commerce bill in 1713 to gloss his vote against the treaty as ‘whimsical’. The Worsley list, on the other hand, pronounced him unequivocally a Whig. He was much less visible in the two Tory-led Parliaments after 1710. The name Richard Vaughan appears significantly in the Journals only in the context of grants of leave of absence: for six weeks on 1 Apr. 1712, for a further month on 17 May following, and for another month on 22 May 1714.

Vaughan retained his seat in 1715 without opposition, as indeed seems to have been the case at every election after 1685. He was advanced to a Welsh judgeship in the reign of George I, partly, perhaps, because of a dearth of suitable lawyers who were both Welsh and Whig, but he proved scarcely more amenable than he had in the past. He died, aged 71, on 27 Oct. 1724, ‘suddenly, at his house in Holborn Row’. His monument, in St. Peter’s church, Carmarthen, praised his knowledge of the law, his humanity, his irreproachable impartiality on the bench, and recorded that ‘during six successive Parliaments, to his own immortal fame and that of his constituents, he was never once opposed. So long and so faithfully to defend the liberties of his country, was a happiness which few . . . have ever deserved.’6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. W. R. Williams, Gt. Sess. Wales, 181.
  • 2. Ibid.; CSP Dom. 1686–7, p. 43.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxix. 827.
  • 4. Acct. of the . . . Progress of . . . the First Duke of Beaufort through Wales in 1684 (1888), 234–7; A. H. Dodd, Studies in Stuart Wales, 176; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiii. 97; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, Rachel, Lady Russell to [Queen Mary], 24 July 1691.
  • 5. Luttrell Diary, 182; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 222; Chapter in Eng. Church Hist. ed. McClure, 78, 224–5.
  • 6. The Gen. n.s. vi. 106; T. Phillipps, Carm. Mons. p. xx.