NAPIER, Sir Nathaniel, 2nd Bt. (c.1636-1709), of More Crichel, Dorset.

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



12 Apr. 1679
Oct. 1679
9 Feb. 1689
4 Feb. 1702

Family and Education

b. c.1636, 1st s. of Sir Gerard Napier, 1st Bt., of More Crichel by Margaret, da. and coh. of John Colles of Barton Grange, Pitminster, Som. educ. Oriel, Oxf. 1654. m. (1) 20 Dec. 1657, Blanche (d. 1 Apr. 1695), da. and coh. of Sir Hugh Wyndham, j.c.p. 1673-84, of Silton, Dorset, 5s. (4 d.v.p.) 4da.; (2) 9 Mar. 1697 (with £400), Susanna Guise, s.p. Kntd. 16 Jan. 1662; suc. fa. 14 May 1673.

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Dorset 1661-80, 1689-90; dep. lt. 1674-May 1688, 1689-?d., j.p. 1680-June 1688, Nov. 1688-d.; freeman, Poole Dec. 1688.1

Attaché, The Hague 1667; gent. of the privy chamber 1702-d.2


Napier’s great-grandfather, Member for Bridport in 1601, was the real founder of the Dorset family. The 1st baronet took his seat as Member for Weymouth at the Oxford session in 1644, an untypically incautious act which might well have earned him a heavier fine than £3,514, but for his timely change of side. Thenceforward during the Interregnum he concentrated on improving his rent-roll, which for all his ‘loyal sufferings’ rose from £1,211 in 1640 to £2,068 in 1653, and after the Restoration on local affairs.3

Napier was distinguished among Dorset landowners of his day by his fondness for foreign travel and his artistic and literary accomplishments. He accompanied his uncle, Henry Coventry, to Holland for the Peace of Breda, and in 1671-2 visited France, subsequently writing accounts of both countries. There was talk of Napier’s standing for the county in the 1675 by-election, but he stood down in favour of his wife’s brother-in-law, John Digby, Lord Digby. When Digby succeeded to the peerage two years later, Napier came forward again as a court candidate. After a desperately close battle with Thomas Browne and a double return, which was declared void by the House on 15 Feb. 1678, Napier declined a second poll, and the country candidate walked over.4

The decline from an almost successful county candidature in 1675 to a return on petition for the minute borough of Corfe Castle in 1679 is steep, and suggests that neither Napier’s virtuosity nor his court connexions, still less the ‘extreme levity’ and parsimony of which his son-in-law complained, were of service to him with a large electorate. Had his opponent at Corfe been any other than Danby’s son (Peregrine Osborne) he might have suffered another rebuff from the Commons. So far was Napier from enjoying his long deferred entry to the House, however, that he was absent from the division on the first exclusion bill, and in the second Exclusion Parliament he was one of the defaulters sent for in custody on 4 Jan. 1681. He favoured exclusion in the Oxford Parliament, but signed the Dorset address against it a few months later.5

In James II’s Parliament, Napier did slightly better, actually being named to the committee for the suppression of pedlars (11 June 1685), but perhaps this was a joke aimed at his own peregrinations. Although his answers on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws were negative and he was removed from county office, the King’s electoral agents supposed him right in 1688 and regarded him as sure of re-election. But the corporation, probably under the influence of Thomas Erle, preferred Richard Fownes, and Napier transferred his candidature to Poole. He took out his freedom, settled £15 a year on the school, and pursued the dwindling Court to Salisbury to extract a new charter from the unhappy King, whom he terrified with stories about Monmouth’s followers seeking revenge for the Bloody Assizes. On 18 Dec. he appeared triumphant in his new constituency with the charter. At the poll a month later he had a majority among the freemen, but Thomas Chafin, another friend of Erle’s, had the popular vote. There was a double return, but the House, against the recommendations of the elections committee, upheld the narrower franchise, though not until after the vital division on the vacancy of the throne. Apart from obtaining leave for three weeks on 18 Nov. 1689 to attend his son’s funeral Napier left no other trace on the records of the Convention. He was generally to be found in the Tory ranks in later Parliaments, though he signed the Association in 1696. He died on 21 Jan. 1709, aged 72, and was buried at Minterne Magna. His only surviving son, the 3rd baronet, sat for Dorchester as a Tory in every Parliament except one from 1695 to 1722.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. CSP Dom. 1673-5, p. 427; Poole archives B17.
  • 2. Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 213.
  • 3. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 784; iii. 123-4; Brunton and Pennington, 161-2; SP23/3/10, 23/229/223; Dorset RO, D84 (rentals).
  • 4. Wotton, Baronetage, ii. 161-3.
  • 5. Guise Memoirs (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xxviii), 141-2; CJ, ix. 594; Somers Tracts, viii. 321.
  • 6. PCC 128 Pye; Add. 28053, f. 359; CJ, ix. 13, 24; Churchill Coll., Cambridge, Erle-Drax mss.; Hutchins, iv. 483.