BROWNLOW, William (1665-1701), of Humby, Lincs. and Arlington Street, Westminster, Mdx.

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



28 Dec. 1689 - 1698
1698 - 3 Feb. 1700

Family and Education

b. 5 Nov. 1665, 2nd s. of Sir Richard Brownlow, 2nd Bt.; bro. of Sir John Brownlow, 3rd Bt.*  educ. Sidney Sussex, Camb. 1680; I. Temple 1684.  m. (1) lic. 27 July 1688 (with £10,000), Dorothy (d. 1700), da. and coh. of Sir Richard Mason† of Bishop’s Castle, Salop and Sutton, Surr., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.; (2) 21 Dec. 1700, Henrietta, da. of Henry Brett† of Down Hatherley, Glos. and sis. of Henry Brett*, s.psuc. bro. as 4th Bt. 16 July 1697.1

Offices Held


Although a younger son, Brownlow had a large income of about £3,000 p.a. from estates in Huntingdonshire and Somerset, together with personal property of £10,000 left to him by his great-uncle, Sir John Brownlow, 1st Bt., in 1679. In 1690 he was returned for Peterborough, which he had first represented for a short time in the Convention as a Whig. The borough was only one mile from his estate at Stanground in Huntingdonshire, which presumably gave him an interest. Classed as a Whig in Lord Carmarthen’s (Sir Thomas Osborne†) list of the new Parliament, he was on 31 Oct. among the appointees to draft a bill suspending part of the Navigation Act to permit the employment of foreign seamen during the war with France. In April 1691 he was classed as a Country party supporter in Robert Harley’s* list. On 4 Jan. 1692 he acted as a teller for Hon. John Granville’s motion in favour of a supply of £6,000 for army hospitals, rather than the larger sum of £8,000 desired by the Court. Brownlow seems to have been a supporter of the government’s bill ‘for the preservation of their Majesties’ persons and government’ as, when a motion was proposed on 14 Dec. 1692 to reject the bill, he, no doubt ironically, ‘stood up and desired instead of that they would put the question for rejecting King William and Queen Mary’. A few days later, the House refused him leave to go into the country, after which Brownlow contributed little further to this Parliament. In the spring of 1693 he was noted by Grascome as a government supporter. In 1694 he was listed as having subscribed between £4,000 and £10,000 to the Bank of England, and on 18 Dec. he was given leave of absence for 21 days to attend his brother, who was very ill.2

Brownlow was returned again for Peterborough in 1695, when he confirmed Grascome’s earlier classification, being forecast as likely to support the Court in the division on 31 Jan. 1696 over the council of trade. On 1 Feb. he received a derisory two votes in the ballot for commissioners of public accounts. He was an early signatory of the Association, voting with the government in March for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. and in the following November for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. In June 1697 Brownlow succeeded his brother to the baronetcy, but to little else since the main family seat at Belton had been settled on the widow for her life and the rest of his brother’s large fortune was divided among Sir John’s daughters. In 1698 he abandoned his Peterborough seat to contest Bishop’s Castle on the interest of his mother-in-law, Lady Mason. As the opposing interest at Bishop’s Castle was headed by the 2nd Earl of Macclesfield (Charles Gerard*), the contest was doubtless embittered by the friendly relations between the Brownlows and Macclesfield’s recently divorced wife, Lady Brownlow’s sister. Lady Macclesfield had been a frequent visitor to the house in Arlington Street during her estrangement from Macclesfield and the Brownlows probably knew of her attachment to the 4th Earl Rivers (Richard Savage*). With the help of a section of the Mason family and some Tory support, Brownlow was successful. In the dispute over the election which followed, Lady Brownlow endeavoured to gain the support of James Vernon I*, who readily gave it, writing to the Duke of Shrewsbury, ‘Sir William Brownlow has behaved himself so harmlessly, and is so right in voting that I do not think the House will or ought to part with him’.3

Listed again as a Court supporter in about September 1698 in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments, Brownlow was then marked as a query in October on what was probably a list of those likely to oppose the standing army, but on 18 Jan. 1699 voted against disbanding. He subsequently caused comment, however, by his behaviour in the House on 18 Mar. during the reading of a message from the King, suggesting the House might consider the possibility of retaining his Dutch guards. An observer wrote, ‘when it was read, all the House except the King of Bantam (Sir William Brownlow), sat uncovered, but he gave his brother audience with his hat on’. Apart from apparently showing disrespect for the King, the significance of his action, as well as the nickname, is unclear. Brownlow’s election at Bishop’s Castle was declared void on 3 Feb. 1700 on the grounds of bribery and no new writ was issued. In December that year he married Henrietta Brett. Her brother, Henry, had recently married Brownlow’s sister-in-law, the former Countess of Macclesfield, and was to represent Bishop’s Castle in the next two Parliaments. Brownlow unsuccessfully contested the borough in February 1701 in alliance with a Tory candidate but, although his petition was successful, he had died on 6 Mar. 1701, before the hearing could take place. He made no will, leaving his affairs in considerable confusion. Eventually letters of administration were taken out by his mother-in-law, Lady Mason.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Sonya Wynne


  • 1. E. Cust, Recs. Cust Fam. ii. 72, 171–5.
  • 2. Ibid. 171–2; Luttrell Diary, 108, 320, 327; Add. 42593, f. 40.
  • 3. Cust, 146–7, 179; Add. 40771, ff. 300, 313; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 468; ii. 146.
  • 4. Recs. Cust Fam. ii. 171–84; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 145; Bodl. Tanner 22, f. 6; HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 58.