Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Baronet

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The Right Honourable
Sir William Wyndham, Bt
File:Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Bt by Jonathan Richardson.jpg
Sir William Wyndham, 1713 portrait by Jonathon Richardson, National Portrait Gallery, London
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
Preceded by Sir Robert Benson
Succeeded by Sir Richard Onslow
Secretary at War
In office
Preceded by George Granville
Succeeded by Francis Gwyn
Arms of Wyndham: Azure, a chevron between three lion's heads erased or

Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Baronet (c.1688 – 17 June 1740),[1] of Orchard Wyndham in Somerset, was an English Tory statesman, who served as Secretary at War in 1712 and Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1713 during the reign of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne (1702-1714). He was a Jacobite leader firmly opposed to the Hanoverian succession and was leader of the Tory opposition in the House of Commons during the reign of King George I (1714-1727) and during the early years of King George II (1727-1760). His first wife was Lady Catherine Seymour, the younger of the two daughters of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset (d.1748), and in her progeny by Wyndham heiress to half of the vast estates, including Petworth House in Sussex and Egremont Castle in Cumberland, formerly held by the extinct Percy family, Earls of Northumberland. As a result of this complex inheritance his eldest son became the 2nd Earl of Egremont. Both his sons became earls and his daughter Elizabeth Wyndham was both the wife and mother of Prime Ministers, namely George Grenville and William Wyndham Grenville respectively. He built the pier at Watchet harbour, near Orchard Wyndham.[2]


He was the son and heir of Sir Edward Wyndham, 2nd Baronet (c.1667-1695) of Orchard Wyndham, thrice Member of Parliament for Ilchester, Somerset, by his wife Katherine Leveson-Gower, eldest daughter of Sir William Leveson-Gower, 4th Baronet.


Coat of arms of King George I, with the white horse of Hanover shown in the 4th quarter

He was educated at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford. As a young man while at Rome on his Grand Tour he was approached by a fortune teller who warned him to "beware of a white horse". A similar prophecy was made to him later in England. He later surmised that the white horse in question represented the Saxon Steed in the coat of arms of the King of Hanover, King George I of England, shown in the 4th quarter of the royal arms of England, his opposition to whom would later cause him much trouble.[3]

He entered parliament in 1710 and became Secretary at War in the Tory ministry in 1712 and Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1713. He was closely associated with the radical Tory leader Lord Bolingbroke and was privy to the attempts made to bring about a Jacobite restoration on the death of Queen Anne (1702-1714). On the failure of the plot he was dismissed from office[4] and in 1714 was briefly imprisoned.

Leader of Jacobites

At the start of the reign of the Hanoverian King George I (1714-1727) Bolingbroke fled into exile in France to join the court of the Old Pretender, and Wyndham took his place in England as the leader of the Jacobites. A rebellion to oust King George was planned for the summer of 1715, and Wyndham sent a message to the Pretender in July "not to lose a day in going over".[5] However, the rebellion was discovered and Wyndham's role was laid before the cabinet, attended by both the king and the 6th Duke of Somerset, Wyndham's father-in-law, who although a member of the Whig government and a firm supporter of the Hanoverian Succession, wanted to protect his son-in-law from arrest, and thus volunteered to "be responsible for him". Most ministers were inclined to agree to this for fear of offending a person of such consequence, yet Lord Townshend, Secretary of State for the Northern Department, in the belief that the government needed to show firmness, moved the motion to have him arrested. Ten minutes of silence ensued while the other ministers considered their own responses, and finally two or three others seconded the motion and the arrest was decreed by the king, who on retiring to his closet took Townshend's hand and told him: "you have done me a great service today".[6] Lord Stanhope brought down to the Commons a message from the King, desiring their consent for apprehending six members of their House on a charge of "being engaged in a design to support the intended invasion of the kingdom",[7] namely[8] Sir William Wyndham, Sir John Pakington, 4th Baronet, Edward Harvey (MP for Clitheroe),[9] Thomas Forster, John Anstis, and Corbet Kynaston. Consent was granted. Harvey and Anstis were in London, and were at once taken. Harvey stabbed himself in the breast in two or three places but his wounds were not mortal. Forster escaped and served as General of the Jacobite army in the 1715 Uprising. Accordingly Colonel John Huske of the "foot-guards" (i.e. Coldstream Guards), at about this time an aide-de-camp to William Cadogan, 1st Earl Cadogan, was sent to arrest Wyndham at home at Orchard Wyndham. The story is related in detail by the contemporary commentator Boyer (1716).[10] He was awoken at 5 in the morning and on searching his bedroom the colonel found incriminating papers in his waistcoat pocket, which listed his co-conspirators who planned to invade England and place the Old Pretender on the throne. The colonel had orders to "use him with decorum" and trusted Wyndham when he gave his word that at 7 am, having dressed and said goodbye to his pregnant wife, he would be dressed and ready to depart as the colonel's prisoner, and would even lay on his own coach and six horses for the purpose. Wyndham however escaped by the third unguarded door of his chamber and fled,[11] it is said by having jumped out of a window onto a waiting horse.[2] This caused the king to circulate a hand-bill headed "Proclamation for apprehending Sir William Wyndham, Baronett", dated 23 September 1715, which offered a huge reward of £1,000 for his capture, as follows:

File:RoyalProclamation 1715 ForArrestOf SirWilliamWyndham 3rdBaronet.JPG
Handbill publishing the Royal Proclamation, dated 23 September 1715, for the "discovery and apprehension of Sir William Wyndham, Baronet"
"A proclamation for apprehending Sir William Wyndham, Baronett. George R.
Whereas Sir William Wyndham Baronet has been lately apprehended and seized by virtue of a warrant of one of our Principal Secretaries of State on suspicion of high treason and on the perusal of papers found in the custody of the said Sir William Wyndham at the time he was apprehended as aforesaid it manifestly appears that he has entred (sic) into a most horrid and traiterous conspiracy not only for the encouragement of the rebellion now carrying on in Our Kingdoms in favour of the Pretender, but also for the abetting and promoting an intended invasion of Our Kingdoms. And whereas the said Sir William Wyndham has made his escape and is fled from justice, we therefore have thought fit by the advice of our Privy Council, to issue this our Royal Proclamation, hereby requiring and commanding all our Loving Subjects whatsoever to discover and apprehend and cause the said Sir William Wyndham to be apprehended and discovered and to carry him before some of our Justices of the Peace or Chief Magistrates of the county, town or place where he shall be apprehended, who are respectively required to secure him and thereof to give speedy notice unto our Privy Council or one of our Principal Secretaries of State to the end that he may be forth coming and be dealt withal and proceeded against according to law. And whosoever shall apprehend or discover the said Sir William Wyndham and bring him before such Justice of the Peace or Chief Magistrate, shall receive for reward the sum of one thousand punds, which said sum of one thousand pounds the Lords Commissioners of Our Treasury are hereby required and directed to pay accordingly. Given at Our Court of St James's the twenty third day of September 1715 in the second year of our reign. God Save the King.
London, printed by John Baskett, printer to the King's most Excellent Majesty, and by the assigns of Thomas Newcomb and Henry Hills, deceas'd, 1715.”

Seeing that his case was hopeless, having for a while disguised himself as a clergyman, he visited his father-in-law the Duke of Somerset at his seat of Syon House, near London. From there he went to London and surrendered himself to the Duke's son and his brother-in-law the Earl of Hertford, a captain in the King's Lifeguards, and was taken into custody[11] in the Tower of London. The 6th Duke of Somerset offered bail to the council for Wyndham's liberty, which was refused. It was soon after having made that offer that the king dismissed him from the high office of Master of the Horse.[12]

Under King George I (1714-1727) and during the early years of King George II (1727-1760) Wyndham was the leader of the Tory opposition in the House of Commons and fought for his High Church and Tory principles against Sir Robert Walpole. He was in constant communication with the exiled Bolingbroke and after 1723 was actively associated with him in abortive plans for the overthrow of Walpole.[4]

"Gumdahm" pseudonym

He appears as "Gumdahm" in the parliamentary reports published from 1738 onwards under the title of the "Debates in the Senate of Magna Lilliputia" in the Gentleman's Magazine, in which to circumvent the prohibition of the publication of parliamentary debates the real names of the various debaters were replaced by pseudonyms and anagrams[13] and the debates reported were stated to have been "those of that country which Gulliver had so lately rendered illustrious, and which untimely death had prevented that enterprising traveller from publishing himself", that is to say works of fiction in the style of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. The published speeches, including some of those of William Pitt, were in fact often literary masterpieces wholly invented by the magazine's contributors, including William Guthrie and Samuel Johnson.[14][15]

Foundling Hospital

Despite these various enmities, Wyndham was a respected participant in public life in London. He was one of the founding governors of the Foundling Hospital, as recorded in that charity's royal charter of 1739. This was perhaps due to the fact that his father-in-law the 6th Duke of Somerset became a founding governor after his second wife, Charlotte Finch (1711-1773), became the first to sign the petition to King George II of its founder Captain Thomas Coram. This institution, the country's first and only children's home for foundlings, was then London's most fashionable charity and Wyndham served as a governor with such other notables as Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, James Waldegrave, 1st Earl Waldegrave, Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington, Henry Pelham, Arthur Onslow, Horatio Walpole, 1st Baron Walpole of Wolterton and even Sir Robert Walpole himself.[4]

Marriages & progeny

Wyndham married twice:

Shortly before his death in 1748 the 6th Duke of Somerset foresaw that his own line of the Seymour family was about to die out in the male line and that as was said of the 9th Duke of Norfolk (d.1777) "the honours of his family were about to pass away from his own line to settle on that of a distant relative".[16] His son and heir apparent Algernon Seymour, Earl of Hertford (1684-1749) had produced a son of his own, Lord Beauchamp (d.1744), who had predeceased him without progeny, and thus he had only a daughter and sole heiress Lady Elizabeth Seymour, who in 1740 had married Sir Hugh Smithson, 4th Baronet. Before the death of the 6th duke in 1748, it had thus become apparent that the dukedom of Somerset would devolve by law onto an extremely distant cousin and heir male, the 6th duke's 6th cousin Sir Edward Seymour, 6th Baronet (1695-1757) of Berry Pomeroy in Devon and of Maiden Bradley in Wiltshire, who in fact represented the senior line of the Seymour family, descended from the first marriage of the 1st Duke, but who had been excluded from the direct succession to the dukedom and placed in remainder only, due to the suspected adultery of the 1st duke's first wife. Moreover, it was apparent that all the combined estates of the Seymours of Trowbridge and the incomparably greater inherited Percy estates were unentailed and would not devolve the same way, but could be bequeathed as the 6th duke pleased. He "conceived a violent dislike for Smithson",[17] whom he considered insufficiently aristocratic to inherit the ancient estates of the Percy family; his son disagreed, and wanted to include his son-in-law Smithson in the inheritance. The 6th Duke had included King George II in his plan to exclude Smithson from the inheritance, yet the King had received proposals in opposition from his son and Smithson himself. The 6th Duke died before his plan was put into effect, yet nevertheless the 7th Duke and King George II created an arrangement which did not entirely dismiss his wishes: the Percy estates would be split between Smithson and the 6th duke's favoured eldest grandson, Sir Charles Wyndham, 4th Baronet (1710-1763). Smithson would receive Alnwick Castle and Syon House, while Wyndham would receive Egremont Castle and the 6th Duke's beloved Petworth. It was deemed appropriate and necessary by all parties concerned, including the King, that heirs to such families and estates as the Percys and Seymours should be elevated to the peerage. This was done in the following manner: Following the 6th duke's death in 1748, in 1749 King George II created four new titles for the 7th duke, each with special remainders in anticipation that he would die without having produced a male heir, which death in fact occurred the next year in 1750. He was created Baron Warkworth of Warkworth Castle and Earl of Northumberland, both with special remainder to Smithson; and was created at the same time Baron Cockermouth and Earl of Egremont, with special remainder to Wyndham.[18] (It has always been customary on the creation of a greater peerage title to create at the same time a barony, to be used as a courtesy title for the eldest son).
By his wife Lady Catherine Seymour he had two sons and three daughters including:

Death & burial

He died at Wells, Somerset, on 17 June 1740, after having fallen from his horse ("white of course"[3]), whilst out hunting.[19]


Portraits of Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Baronet, survive at Orchard Wyndham, Petworth House[20] and in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Further reading


  1. Stephen W. Baskerville, ‘Wyndham, Sir William, third baronet (c.1688–1740)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Emeny, Richard, A Description of Orchard Wyndham, 2000, p.3 (guide-booklet available at Orchard Wyndham)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Emeny, p.3
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Cruickshanks
  6. Cobbet, William, Cobbett's Parliamentary History of England, Volume 7, London, 1811, pp.218-9, quoting "Cox's Walpole"[1]
  8. Names listed in: "The Publication of Our County Records" (Sussex?), "Notes and Queries", p.235 [2]
  10. Boyer, Abel, Political State of Great Britain, Volume X, London, 1716, pp.330-6 [3]
  11. 11.0 11.1 Boyer, 1716
  12. Cobbet, William, Cobbett's Parliamentary History of England, Volume 7, London, 1811, pp.218-9
  13. For example Sholmlng for Cholmondeley and Ptit for Pitt
  14. Graham, Harry, The Mother of Parliaments, Boston USA, 1911, pp.279-80 [4]
  15. Emeny, p.3, appears to have understood erroneously that "Gumdahm" was a character in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels
  16. Tierney, M.A., History and Antiquities of Arundel, 1833, Chapter 6, p.565, note 4,
  17. Cruickshanks, Eveline, biography of Smithson, Sir Hugh, 4th Bt. (1715-86), of Stanwick, Yorks. and Tottenham, Mdx., published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970 [5]
  18. Debretts peerage, 1968, p.411, Baron Leconfield and Egremont
  19. Emeny, p.3, referring to the warning he had received as a young man in Rome "Beware of a white horse"
  20. see [6], screen 6, image of portrait "Sir William Wyndham (1687–1740), 3rd Bt, MP, on Horseback by John Wootton and Michael Dahl I; Date painted: c.1712/1714" not currently available

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Seymour Portman
John Prowse
Member of Parliament for Somerset
With: Henry Seymour Portman 1710
Sir Thomas Wroth 1710–13
Thomas Hormer, 1713–15
William Helyar 1715–1722
Edward Phelips 1722–27
Thomas Horner 1727–40
Succeeded by
Thomas Horner
Thomas Prowse
Political offices
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Walter Chetwynd
Master of the Buckhounds
Succeeded by
The Earl of Cardigan
Preceded by
Sir Robert Benson
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Onslow
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Francis Warre
Vice-Admiral of Somerset
Succeeded by
George Dodington
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
Edward Wyndham
(of Orchard, Somerset)
Succeeded by
Charles Wyndham