LEGGE, William II (c.1650-c.1697).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1650, 2nd s. of William Legge I, and bro. of George Legge. m. Mary, da. of one Poole, wid. of one Townshend, s.p.1

Offices Held

Lt. of ft. Admiralty Regt. 1666-7; ensign, Barbados Ft. 1667; cornet, R. Horse Gds. (The Blues) 1674, capt. 1676-85; lt.-col. Queen’s Horse 1685-Dec. 1688; gov. Kinsale 1686-91.2

Page of honour 1668-76; groom of the bedchamber (supernumerary) 1676-85; envoy to Brussels and Cassel 1680; superintendent of royal parks 1685-90.3

Freeman, Portsmouth 1675; j.p. Hants and Suss. 1687-9.4


A murderer while still in his teens and ‘a profane, wild creature’ of whom the decorous Evelyn could say little good, Legge held various employments in the army and at Court. His brother nominated him as court candidate for Ludgershall in February 1679, but the King ordered him to resign his interest to Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones). In 1680 he was sent on a complimentary mission to the governor of the Spanish Netherlands and the landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. In the following year he paid his addresses to the young widow of a successful lawyer, Thomas Syderfin of the Middle Temple; but she was abducted from her coach and taken to France by a rival. Diplomatic representatives secured her return, and in July 1682 it was reported that Legge had married her; but this is not confirmed by the family pedigree. On the execution of Sir Thomas Armstrong he was granted the personal estate, later valued at £12,700, but it is doubtful whether this ever took effect.5

At the general election of 1685 Legge was returned for Portsmouth, where his brother had served as governor from 1673-82. An inactive Member of James II’s Parliament, he was appointed only to the committees for a naturalization bill and for the improvement of tillage. His appointment as governor of Kinsale in 1686 was warmly welcomed by Lord Rochester (Laurence Hyde), but by the spring of 1688 he had returned to Hampshire, replying in the affirmative to the three questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws. He was approved as court candidate, but on 13 Dec. Lady Dartmouth wrote to her husband: ‘Your brother Will went with his regiment to the Prince of Orange upon the first news of the King’s absenting’. Roger Morrice believed that his purpose was to resign his commission, ‘having in a good measure had his education and rise from his Majesty’. A false report of his suicide in 1694 was widely credited because he had ‘as good reason to be discontented as any man I know’. He died in Dublin some time before 28 June 1698, aged 47.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Collins, Peerage, iv. 115.
  • 2. HMC Downshire, i. 135.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1668-9, p. 60; 1676-7, p. 70; Cal. Treas. Bks. vi. 748; vii. 486; viii. 171, 1712; ix. 1329, 1599.
  • 4. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 362.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1666-7, p. 527; Evelyn Diary, v. 182; HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 317; HMC 7th Rep. 353, 497; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 1308, 1373.
  • 6. Clarendon Corresp. i. 326; HMC Ormonde, n.s. vii. 416; HMC Dartmouth, i. 234; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 430; A. Boyer, Wm. III, i. 310; HMC Portland, iii. 551; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 831.