Goodwin Wharton

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Goodwin Wharton (8 March 1653—28 October 1704) was a Whig politician and autobiographer.

Early life

Goodwin Wharton was the third and youngest son out of the seven children of Philip Wharton, 4th Baron Wharton and Jane Goodwin, daughter of Arthur Goodwin (died 1643), of Upper Winchendon, Buckinghamshire. He was privately educated in France and attended a Protestant academy in Caen in 1663–4. In public and family life he was overshadowed by his forceful older brother, Thomas Wharton, 1st Marquess of Wharton and Malmesbury.

Elected a member of Parliament for East Grinstead in 1680, he made a hot-headed speech in favour of excluding the Duke of York (later James II) from the throne and had to go into hiding for a time.[1]

Fairies and visions

An avid mystic, alchemist and treasure hunter, Wharton sent two expeditions to Tobermory to try to raise a galleon from the Spanish Armada wrecked there. Some of his singularly unsuccessful treasure-hunting was done on the advice of a lover, the self-professed medium Mary Parish, who claimed to have placed him in contact with fairies. The soldier-politician John Wildman also became fascinated by Parish's predictions in 1684.

In the following year, Wharton began to receive messages that ostensibly came directly from God and several of his angels. Many of these concerned the prospect of seducing a number of women, including his stepmother, Anne Carr Popham. He claimed to have had an affair with his sister-in-law, the poet Anne Wharton, in the early 1680s. He never married, but he was persuaded by Parish that Hezekiah Knowles, the son of an associate of hers, was his illegitimate son.[2]

Admiralty lord

Wharton's mental instability seems to have gone unnoticed outside his family circle, but he was out of favour under James II for his pronounced Whiggery, despite making representations to his consort, Mary of Modena (and fantasizing about having an affair with her). With the Glorious Revolution he rose to some eminence and was commissioned a lieutenant colonel of cavalry.

Wharton inherited Buckinghamshire estates on his father's death in 1696. He had been elected to Parliament again in 1690, and sat successively for Westmoreland, Malmesbury, Cockermouth, and the shire of Buckinghamshire until his death. He was one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in 1697–9. He suffered a stroke in 1698, which ended his public career.[3]


  1. ODNB: Retrieved 25 December 2010. Subscription required.
  2. ODNB entry; J. Kent Clark: Goodwin Wharton (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1984).
  3. J. Kent Clark...; ODNB entry. Wharton's unpublished manuscript autobiography is in the British Library. According to Roy Porter in the ODNB, it "ranks high in the annals of psychopathology."
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Thomas Pelham
Sir Thomas Littleton, Bt
Member for East Grinstead
with William Jephson

Succeeded by
Sir Cyril Wyche
Henry Powle
Preceded by
Sir John Lowther, Bt
Henry Wharton
Member for Westmorland
with Sir John Lowther, Bt

Succeeded by
Sir John Lowther, Bt
Sir Christopher Musgrave, Bt
Preceded by
Thomas Tollemache
Charles Godfrey
Member for Malmesbury
with Sir James Long 1690–1692
George Booth 1692–1695
Craven Howard 1695–1696

Succeeded by
Craven Howard
Sir Thomas Skipwith, Bt
Preceded by
Sir Orlando Gee
Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Bt
Member for Cockermouth
with Sir Charles Gerard, Bt

Succeeded by
William Seymour
George Fletcher
Preceded by
The Viscount Newhaven
Henry Neale
Member for Buckinghamshire
with The Viscount Newhaven 1698–1701, 1702–1704
Robert Dormer 1701–1702

Succeeded by
The Viscount Newhaven
Sir Richard Temple, Bt