GWYN, Francis (c.1648-1734), of Llansannor, Glam. and Scotland Yard, Westminster.

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



1 Feb. - 6 Feb. 1673
11 Feb. 1673
11 Jan. 1699
Feb. 1701
Dec. 1701
9 Mar. 1717

Family and Education

b. c.1648, 1st s. of Edward Gwyn of Llansannor by Eleanor, da. of Sir Francis Popham of Houndstreet, Som. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1666; M. Temple 1667. m. 18 Dec. 1690, Margaret (d.1709), da. and coh. of Edmund Prideaux of Forde Abbey, Devon, 4s. 3da. suc. fa. bef. 1667.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Glam. 1673-9, 1689-90, Westminster 1677-80, 1689; protonotary and clerk of the crown, Brecon circuit 1677-d.; j.p. Glam. 1680-5, Brec., Glam. and Rad. 1687-?d., Devon by 1700-?d.; chamberlain, Brecon 1681-90; freeman, Portsmouth 1682; recorder, Totnes 1708-d.; mayor, Christchurch 1719-20.2

Commr. for revenue [I] 1676-81; clerk of PC 1679-85; under-sec. of state (north) 1681-3; groom of the bedchamber 1683-5; jt. sec. to the Treasury 1685-6; commr. of public accounts 1696-7; sec. to ld. lt. [I] 1701-3; PC [I] 1703; ld. of trade 1711-13; sec. at war 1713-14.3


Gwyn’s ancestors had been seated at Llansannor since the early 16th century. Though well-connected and claiming a descent from the Herberts, they seem to have played little part in Welsh politics. Gwyn’s father avoided commitment in the Civil War, despite his marriage to the sister of the parliamentary colonel Alexander Popham. Gwyn was first returned for Chippenham on the Popham interest on 1 Feb. 1673, but the election was disallowed because the writ had been issued by Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury during the recess. Ten days later he became the first of his family to enter Parliament by defeating the court lawyer, Vere Bertie, the return being upheld by the House against the recommendation of the elections committee under Sir Thomas Meres. He was a moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was appointed to 34 committees, and acted as teller in three divisions, but made no speeches. Although he had entered the House under the auspices of the country party, Ormonde described him as ‘a man thoroughly devoted to the crown’, and he was immediately added to the committee on the bill for the better observance of Charles I’s martyrdom. His strong churchmanship led him into the following of Bertie’s brother-in-law, Lord Treasurer Danby, though he was also often to be seen with Edward Seymour. He was appointed to the committee to prevent the growth of Popery in 1675, and with (Sir) Edmund Jennings he acted as teller for the motion to send Sir John Churchill to the Tower on 4 June. In 1676 he was rewarded with a seat on the Irish revenue board, and included in Danby’s list of servants and officers. His name also appears on the working lists and in Wiseman’s account. He was made protonotary of the local circuit in 1677, and marked ‘thrice vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list. In this session he was appointed to another committee against Popery and also to consider an estate bill promoted by (Sir) Edward Hungerford. He was on both lists of the court party in 1678, but was appointed to the small committee entrusted with the examination of the Roman Catholic conspirator Coleman.4

Gwyn ‘had behaved himself very dutifully’ in the eyes of the Government and was naturally blacklisted in the ‘unanimous club’. Defeated at both elections of 1679, he bought a clerkship of the Privy Council from Sir Robert Southwell for £2,500, and became under-secretary to Lord Conway. In searching Shaftesbury’s papers in 1681, he found the ‘Association’; but when he gave evidence ‘the jury asked him how it came there and who writ it’. It was reported that he also found a list of Whigs and Tories, the latter distinguished as ‘men worthy’, i.e. to be hanged; but this allegation depends upon the recollections of Lord Ailesbury (Thomas Bruce). When he went out of office with Conway in 1683, a Glamorgan neighbour wrote:

There’s Frank, who of late Knew secrets of state, Though now he’s turned out of employment. Since that he finds time To ply women and wine, Which will prove a more lasting enjoyment.

On 10 Jan. 1685 he sold his Privy Council office to Philip Musgrave, and became secretary to the Earl of Rochester (Laurence Hyde), who created for him a post at the Treasury with special responsibility for Irish finances. He remained attached to the Hyde interest for the rest of his political career.5

At the general election of 1685 Gwyn was recommended by his countryman, Sir Leoline Jenkins, for Cardiff Boroughs. ‘I dare take it upon me that he will serve our gracious King with all duty, and that poor country (as far as it shall come in his way) with great zeal.’ Llansannor is two miles from Cowbridge, one of the more important contributory boroughs, and as a friend of Thomas Mansel II he probably enjoyed the support of the leading family in the county. He was again moderately active in James II’s Parliament, being named to seven committees, including those to inspect the disbandment accounts and to recommend expunctions from the Journals. A mature but hopeful bachelor, he acted as teller against the first reading of the clandestine marriages bill, but was appointed to the committee. He remained a government supporter in the second session, acting as teller for proceeding with supply before the King’s message on the Roman Catholic army officers. But he lost his place at the same time as his patron at the end of 1686. Nevertheless he was approved as court candidate for Cardiff in 1688.6

Gwyn was an eye-witness of events at Salisbury during the Revolution, but returned to London after five days, and was given ‘a very wholesome employment ... that is like to be a very short one, which is secretary to the lords spiritual and temporal’, who had assumed the government on James’s collapse. On 25 Dec. he wrote to Lord Dartmouth (George Legge) that:

the poor King ... has acted so quite contrary to his interests that one would think his design was to spend the rest of his days in a cloister ... and this second time of his going from Rochester was the day the Lords were to meet, and a great part of them would have been for an application to him in relation to a Parliament. But it is now all over. Neither he nor his (if the child be so) are like ever to set foot here again.

He asked for the admiral’s interest at Portsmouth; but Richard Norton had a superior claim, and Gwyn was returned for Christchurch on the Hyde interest.7

Gwyn was a very active Member of the Convention. He was named to 84 committees, in three of which he took the chair, and acted as teller in seven divisions, including that of 5 Feb. 1689 for agreeing with the Lords that the throne was not vacant. He was named to the committees to consider alterations in the coronation oath, to inquire into the authors and advisers of grievances, to approve the new oaths of allegiance and supremacy, to consider the bill of rights, to repeal the Corporations Act, and to draw up an address assuring the King of support for a war against France. He was chairman of the committee on the bill for the abolition of the court of the marches, which he carried to the Lords on 29 Apr. and again in its amended form two months later, telling them that ‘all the gentlemen of his county have sent to desire this bill may pass’. On 1 May he reported on the claim of his future father-in-law Prideaux on the estate of Judge Jeffreys. He was appointed to the committees for restoring corporations and to inquire into the delays in relieving Londonderry. His only recorded speech was to defend Rochester’s conduct in the debate on the indemnity bill of 1 July. He took the chair for the Lords bill to regulate the oaths taken by army officers, and was appointed to the committee on the attainder bill. On 23 July he acted as teller for an amendment to the bill for restoring corporations. He helped to prepare reasons for a conference on tithes on 19 Aug., but the measure was killed in a division on the same day, Gwyn acting as teller for the minority. In the second session he was somewhat less active. He was appointed to the committees to inquire into the expenses and miscarriages of the war, and acted as teller for the Tories against asking the King who was responsible for recommending Commissary Shales, and in one of the divisions that led to the defeat of the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations.8

Gwyn remained a Tory under William III and Anne, signing the Association in 1696 only after his election as commissioner of public accounts. He lost both his office and his seat on the Hanoverian succession, and after his return to the House in 1717 took little active part in politics, spending much of his time in antiquarian studies. His elder son sat for Christchurch from 1724 to 1727, and then succeeded him at Wells. He died on 14 June 1734, aged 86, and was buried in the chapel of Forde Abbey, which he had inherited in the right of his wife.9

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. G. T. Clark, Limbus Patrum, 271; Hutchins, Dorset, iv. 528; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 1317.
  • 2. W. R. Williams, Great Sessions in Wales, 156-7; J. P. Matthews, Cardiff Recs. v. 495-6; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 366; PC2/78/63; Trans. Devon Assoc. lvi. 222.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 180; HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 565; CSP Dom. 1684-5, pp. 281-2.
  • 4. Clark, 270; CJ, ix. 260-1, 533; HMC 6th Rep. 724; HMC Ormonde, n.s. vi. 737; Browning, Danby, i. 364.
  • 5. HMC 6th Rep. 724; CSP Dom. 1679-80, pp. 90, 197; 1684-5, pp. 281-2; HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 565; State Trials, viii. 780-1; Luttrell, i. 146; Ailesbury Mems. i. 64; NLW Jnl. xxi. 172.
  • 6. Carte 234, ff. 126-7; G. Holmes, British Politics in the Age of Anne, 261; CJ, ix. 740, 757; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 276.
  • 7. Fortnightly Rev. xl. 358-64; HMC Dartmouth, iii. 139, 141-2.
  • 8. CJ, x. 103, 216, 296, 329; Grey, ix. 380; HMC Lords, ii. 107.
  • 9. Luttrell, iv. 74; Hearne’s Colls. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xliii), 194; (lxxii), 359; HMC Popham, 254-6.