WILLIAMS, Sir Edward (1659-1721), of Gwernyfed, Aberllynfi, Brec.

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



17 Feb. 1697 - 1698
1705 - 28 July 1721

Family and Education

bap. 6 Nov. 1659, 2nd s. of Sir Thomas Williams, 1st Bt.†, of Elham, Kent by his 1st w. Anne, da. of John Hogbeane of Elham; bro. of Sir John Williams*.  m. lic. 9 July 1675, Elizabeth (d. c.1705), da. and coh. of Sir Henry Williams, 2nd Bt.† (d. 1666), of Gwernyfed, 4s. 3da.  Kntd. by 1675.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Brec. 1698–9.


Married off at a tender age to an heiress, Williams found himself the possessor of a Breconshire estate that was not only modest in size (valued at a mere £700 a year) but ‘very much’ encumbered. Indeed, he was still trying to clear his father-in-law’s debts as late as 1703, when he obtained a private Act for the purpose. He was included in the Breconshire lieutenancy in 1688 on the recommendation of the Duke of Beaufort (Henry Somerset†) and as a ‘Catholic’, though no evidence has come to light to corroborate this description of him. If, like his father, he professed himself a Catholic at this time, he conformed subsequently.2

Williams came into Parliament at a by-election in 1697, and showed himself to be not only a High Tory but politically indiscreet, joining Thomas Brotherton* and only one other Member on 6 Jan. 1698 in dividing against the bill for the continued imprisonment of the conspirators in the Assassination Plot. He made little other contribution to this Parliament, being granted a leave of absence on 2 Apr. 1698, and did not put up at the general election the following year, being listed as a supporter of the Country party ‘left out’ of the new Parliament. He intended to stand for Breconshire in January 1701, when his preparations show him to have been on good terms with the Harleys and Foleys, but it was not until 1705 that he was returned again, this time after a contest. It may be that the renewal of his candidature was a response to the difficulties he had encountered in the previous Parliament over private legislation affecting his interests: his Act in 1703 had included a saving clause inserted on the petition of a great-nephew; and his petition, presented to the Commons on 5 Dec. 1704, to secure a similar safeguard for his wife in another private bill seems to have failed.3

Classed as a ‘Churchman’ in an analysis of the new Parliament in 1705, though Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) could only consider him ‘doubtful’, Williams voted against the Court candidate in the division on the Speakership on 25 Oct. 1705, and by 1708 could be listed as a Tory. He was not, however, a particularly active Member. He was given leave of absence on 31 Jan. 1706 on account of his wife’s death. Re-elected without opposition in 1708 and at the three succeeding general elections, he voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, and after being classified as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament was included among the ‘worthy patriots’ who in the first session exposed the mismanagements of the previous ministry. He was also a member of the October Club. Further leave of absence was granted him on 9 Apr. 1711 for health reasons. He may not have been a very frequent attender, but he was placed firmly in the Tory camp by the compilers of the Worsley list and two lists of the outgoing Members returned in 1715. Surprisingly, he later voted for the septennial bill and was regarded by Sunderland as a possible supporter of the peerage bill. Williams died on 28 July 1721, and was buried at Aberllynfi.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. CJ, xv. 121; HMC Lords, n.s. v. 188.
  • 2. Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 273; CSP Dom. 1687–9, p. 152.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1698, p. 19; Add. 70020, f. 350; Poole, Brec. 398; HMC Lords, n.s. v. 188.
  • 4. Hist. Reg. Chron. 1721, p. 32; Old Wales, iii. 202.