GWYNNE, Rowland (c.1658-1726), of Llanelwedd, Rad.
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Family and Education
b. c.1658, 1st s. of George Gwynne. educ. St. John’s, Oxf. matric. 16 July 1674, aged 15; G. Inn 1679. m. Mary, da. and h. of William Bassett, DCL, of Broviscan, Glam., s.p. suc. fa. c.1673; kntd. 28 May 1680.1
Commr. for assessment, Mon. and Rad. 1677-80, Brec. 1679-80, Mon., Brec., Brecon, Glam. and Rad. 1689-90; sheriff, Brec. Jan.-July 1688; steward of crown manors Rad. 1689-91; custos rot. Rad. 1689-1702, Brec. May-Oct. 1689; j.p. and dep. lt. Brec., Glam. and Rad. 1689-1710.2
Treasurer of the chamber 1689-92.3
Gwynne succeeded to a fine estate, and married an heiress. His income was computed at £1,000 p.a. but according to Lord Ailesbury (Thomas Bruce) he ‘spent all in a few years by eating and rioting’. He was returned for Radnorshire to all three Exclusion Parliaments, the sitting Member, Richard Williams, making way for him by migrating to Breconshire. Marked ‘honest’ on Shaftesbury’s list, he voted for exclusion, and served on the committees for the better attendance of Members, and for the encouragement of cloth exports to Turkey and of woollen manufactures. He can hardly have been prominent in opposition, for he received the honour of knighthood in the following year, probably to encourage him to attack the Harley interest in the borough seat. But in the second Exclusion Parliament he was very active, serving on 19 committees, the most important of which were for the address demanding the removal of Lord Halifax, the inquiry into the proclamation against petitioning and the bill for security against arbitrary power. On 7 Jan. 1681, in his maiden speech, he violently attacked the Marquess of Worcester (Henry Somerset):
’Tis known what intimacy between him and the Duke of York. Fawns upon the Duke. Goes to him every morning before he goes to the King. If his parts were equal to his power his oppressions would be as great as the worst of them.
He concluded by moving for an address for Worcester’s removal, and later ‘aggravated’ the motion against the Earl of Clarendon (Henry Hyde). He was re-elected to the Oxford Parliament, but nothing is known of his activity there except that he was named to the committee of elections and privileges.4
On 8 Sept. 1683 Gwynne, accompanied by Lord Mordaunt, an equally ardent Whig, obtained a pass for Holland, and he spent the next five years in exile, though according to his sister Lady Hartstonge he was in London in the summer of 1686. Mordaunt wrote to William of Orange on 4 Sept. 1687: ‘I am informed they are sending a privy seal for Sir Rowland Gwynne. As he loves talking of business, I fear he may have been indiscreet, or else it is to endeavour to frighten him from coming into England to stand for Parliament.’ Mordaunt’s information was correct, if somewhat premature; Gwynne was one of the Welsh opponents of James II’s religious policy pricked for sheriff in January 1688, and on 30 Apr. he was summoned to return from the Continent on pain of outlawry. As he was still overseas in July the quarter sessions could not be held; he was fined £300 for neglect. He was exempted from the general pardon in September and his lands were seized. He came over with William in November and was reported, apparently by a fellow-countryman, to be going into Wales ‘to make disturbances’, despite his lack of military experience. On 26 Dec. 1688 he was one of the three Members of Charles II’s Parliaments sent to ask William when it would be convenient for him to receive an address.5
Gwynne regained the Radnorshire seat at the general election, and became a moderately active Member of the Convention, acting as teller in four divisions, though he was named to only ten committees. He urged that the grand committee on the state of the nation should report without delay that the throne was vacant. On 21 Feb. 1689 he was sent with Lord Wiltshire (Charles Powlett II) to desire the King to bestow a donative on his foreign troops. He was refused the mastership of the Household, and had to be content with the lesser post of treasurer of the chamber. He was among those ordered to inquire into the authors and advisers of grievances and to consider new oaths of supremacy and allegiance. On 9 Mar. he rebuked the House for minding little things and not great. ‘I desire the King’s speech may be read’, he said, ‘that we mind what we ought.’ He was teller for adjourning the debate on imposing a sacramental test on corporations on 1 Apr., and on 31 May he was instructed to inform the Upper House that their amendments to the poll bill had been rejected. On 18 July he was added to the committee of inquiry into the delay in relieving Londonderry. After the recess he helped to draft the address inquiring who had recommended Commissary Shales. In the debate, he accused the privy councillors of misrepresenting the Commons to the King, remarking ‘If you had taken more care in other messages, we might have fared better in the answers (the case of religion, the laws and the government)’. He was teller against the adjournment on restoring corporations on 2 Jan. 1690, and supported the disabling clause.6
Gwynne lost his post at Court in 1692 when his charges of corruption against Henry Sidney were adjudged unfounded, but he remained a court Whig under William III, proposing the Association in 1696. Subsequently he withdrew to Hanover, only returning with George I in 1714, but his efforts to ingratiate himself with the new King were unsuccessful and he died a prisoner for debt on 24 Jan. 1726. The greater part of his estates seem to have passed to the senior branch of the family, one of whom sat for Radnorshire from 1755 to 1761.7
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. W. R. Williams, Old Wales, i. 250, 379; G. T. Clark, Genealogies of Glam. 354.
- 2. Jones, Brec. i. 131; Arch. Camb. (ser. 3), iii. 189; CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 89.
- 3. CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 68; 1691-2, p. 255; LS13/231/16.
- 4. NLW Jnl. xxi. 161; Ailesbury Mems. 554-5; HMC 12th Rep. IX, 114, 115.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1683-4, p. 193; 1687-9, pp. 176, 185, 354; HMC Downshire, i. 286; Dalrymple Mems. ii. bk. 5, p. 77; Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 319; Bodl. Fleming newsletter 20 Nov. 1688; Ellis Corresp. ii. 305-6.
- 6. Hardwicke SP, ii. 412; Foxcroft, Halifax, ii. 213; Grey, ix. 147, 458.
- 7. Ailesbury Mems. 555; The Gen. n.s. vii. 42.