FITZWILLIAM, William, 3rd Baron Fitzwilliam of Lifford [I] (1643-1719), of Milton, Northants.
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Family and Education
b. 22 Apr. 1643, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of William Fitzwilliam, 2nd Baron Fitzwilliam, 2nd bro. of Hon. Charles Fitzwilliam. m. 10 May 1669, Anne (d. 14 Feb. 1717), da. and h. of Edmund Cremer of Setchley, Norf., 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 6da. suc. fa. 21 Feb. 1659; cr. Earl Fitzwilliam [I] 21 July 1716.
Commr. for assessment, Northants. 1664-80, 1689, Norf. 1673-80; dep. lt. Northants 1666-78, 1715-d.; j.p. Peterborough 1668-d., Norf. 1669-Feb. 1688, Northants. 1676-Feb. 1688, 1689-d., custos rot. Peterborough 1715-d.1
Fitzwilliam was descended from a London alderman who bought Milton, three miles from Peterborough, and other property in the Soke in 1502. The family frequently provided Members for the city from 1553. Fitzwilliam’s father represented it in the Long Parliament until Pride’s Purge; a tepid Parliamentarian, he continued to hold local office under the Commonwealth. When Fitzwilliam came of age, the estate (which had been saved from complete ruin by his father’s prudent marriage) was valued at £3,000 p.a. He contested the Peterborough by-election of 1666 with Edward Palmer and Sir Vere Fane; although he received most votes he was defrauded of election by chicanery with the scot and lot rolls, but he was successful on petition. He was not an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was named to 34 committees, none of them after 1675. He was appointed to the parliamentary committee to take the accounts of poll tax and assessments on 21 Feb. 1668, and to that for the conventicles bill. He acted as teller against the alnage bill, and was among those ordered to attend the King with the resolutions of both Houses for wearing clothes of English manufacture. Sir Thomas Osborne included him among those who had usually voted for supply.2
Like his father, Fitzwilliam married prudently, securing a Norfolk heiress ‘worth £1,200 p.a. [in] lands of inheritance, and a good personal estate besides’. He was named to the committees for the second conventicles bill, for the extension of habeas corpus, and for the estate bill promoted on behalf of his friend Henry Williams. He continued to show concern over the liberty of the subject, and in 1674 was appointed to a committee for the relief of those under writs of habeas corpus. Although clearly in opposition to the administration of Osborne (now Earl of Danby), he did not sever all ties with the Court, prevailing on (Sir) Joseph Williamson to act as godfather to his eldest daughter. His last important committee was for preventing the growth of Popery in the spring session of 1675. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’ in 1677, and again when he was re-elected to the first Exclusion Parliament. In this Parliament he was again inactive. He was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges and that for expiring laws, but he voted for the bill. At the August election he lost his seat to Charles Orme, but he regained it in 1681, though he left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament. He was included in the list of Northamptonshire Whigs about 1682, with an estate that had increased to £3,500 p.a., but he seems to have remained on the commission of the peace, perhaps on condition of renouncing political activities. The family interest at Peterborough in the next two elections was represented by his brother. He gave negative replies on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, and was removed from local office. Although he doubtless welcomed the Revolution, he does not seem to have returned to politics, and the Irish earldom he received from George I was probably intended more as a reward for his son, Whig MP for Peterborough from 1710 to 1728.3
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: E. R. Edwards / John. P. Ferris
- 1. Northants. RO, F(M) 2101-3 (lieutenancy commissions).
- 2. M. W. Finch, Five Northants. Fams. (Northants. Rec. Soc. xix), 101; Keeler, Long Parl. 177-8; Bodl. Carte 46, f. 437; Northants. RO, F(M) C412, Henry Williams to Fitzwilliam, 18 Apr. 1666.
- 3. HMC 6th Rep. 487; CSP Dom. 1673-5, p. 463; SP29/421/216.