HARBORD (HERBERT), William (1635-92), of the Middle Temple and Grafton Park, Northants.

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



Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
1690 - 31 July 1692

Family and Education

b. 25 Apr. 1635, 2nd s. of Sir Charles Harbord by 2nd w. educ. Leyden 1651; M. Temple 1655; travelled abroad (the Levant) 1656. m. (1) lic. 26 July 1661, Mary, da. and coh. of Arthur Duck, DCL, of North Cadbury, Som., 3da.; (2) 21 Feb. 1678, Catherine, da. of Hon. Edward Russell of Corney House, Chiswick, Mdx., 1da.1

Offices Held

Commr. for sewers, Hatfield chase Aug. 1660, assessment, Som. 1661-9, 1677-80, Notts. 1663-4, Herts. 1664-9, Westminster 1664-79, Northants. 1673-9, Norf. and Thetford 1679-80, Som. and Thetford 1689, pre-emption of tin, Devon and Cornw. 1662; j.p. Herts. and St. Albans liberty 1668-80, Northants. 1689-d.; commr. for inquiry, Kingswood chase, Windsor and Richmond Park 1671, Whittlewood and Salcey Forests and Forest of Dean 1679, 1691; ranger, St. James’s Park 1690-d.2

Auditor, duchy of Cornw. 1661-d.; trustee for sale of fee-farm rents (supernumerary) 1670-3; sec. to ld. lt. [I] 1673-7; PC [I] 1673; surveyor-gen. 1679-d.; commissary gen. Nov.-Dec. 1688; v.-treas. [I] 1689-d.; paymaster of the forces [I] 1689-90, PC 8 Mar. 1689-d.; commr. for reforming abuses in the army 1689, preventing exports of wool 1689-d.; ambassador to Turkey 1691-d.3

Capt. indep. tp. 1689-90.4


Harbord’s elder brother married a Norfolk heiress, but although he also made a good match he seems, as ‘own son to the old Volpone’, to have been intended by his father for an official career at the Restoration. He was returned for Dartmouth at the general election of 1661 on the government interest. He succeeded Thomas Gewen as auditor of the duchy of Cornwall and was granted the reversion of the office of surveyor-general after his father, who had thwarted a rival applicant by declaring that it was ‘not a place to be granted in reversion’. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he acted as teller in, probably, 23 divisions, made 29 recorded speeches, and was appointed to about a hundred committees, including those in the first session for restoring the bishops to the House of Lords, the corporations and uniformity bills, and the bill for the execution of those under attainder. His father delegated to him the care of the crown woods and forests, in particular his lifelong efforts to improve the Forest of Dean. On 12 May 1662 Harbord, with the Hon. Edward Montagu, Giles Hungerford and John Bulkeley, was sent to ask the lord treasurer to deposit with the clerk of the Commons the return of a survey of the forest undertaken at the request of the House. In the 1663 session his committees included those to consider the staple bill, to provide an income for the Duke of York, and to inquire into the conduct of Sir Richard Temple. Though Harbord later claimed to be well-known on the bench as ‘a severe enemy to fanatics’ he was probably more sympathetic to the dissenters than his father. In the debate on the bill to prevent sectaries’ meetings he was teller for a narrowly successful proviso against requiring those who refused the sacramental test to accept public office. He also acted as teller on the second reading of the bill to preserve the timber of the Forest of Dean and advance the revenue. Listed as a court dependant in 1664, he was appointed to the committee for the additional corporations bill and added to that for the Forest of Dean. He was twice teller against the adjournment in December 1666, and in the following month opposed hearing the report on the hemp and flax bill, perhaps because it might delay the proceedings against Mordaunt.5

Harbord became more prominent after the dismissal of Clarendon, helping to draft the address of thanks and to consider the additional charges against Mordaunt. He may also have been teller for the second reading of the bill for the creditors of the navy. He was among those ordered to bring in a bill for supply of timber, and on 29 Oct. 1667 he was added to the committee to consider the petition of Sir John Winter (with whom part of his mother’s fortune had once been invested) and to inquire into the causes of the waste of timber in the Forest of Dean. On his voluminous report of 12 Feb. 1668 the House agreed that Winter, the queen mother’s secretary, ‘since his Majesty’s happy restoration hath been the sole occasion of the waste and destruction of the timber’. Harbord was appointed to the committees to take the accounts of the taxes voted for the second Dutch war and to consider the bill to prevent abuses in the collection of the hearth-tax. On 2 Apr. he reported another bill for the preservation of the timber in the Forest of Dean, but after some debate one of the amendments concerning the disposal of coppice wood was re-committed, and it was Sir Baynham Throckmorton who succeeded in completing the passage of the bill through the Commons. In November 1669 he was appointed to the committees to extend the Conventicles Act and to receive information about conventicles. He was teller for convicting Sir George Carteret on the first observation from the public accounts commission. He took the chair for the bill to enable (Sir) Ralph Bankes to sell his Welsh estate, and carried it to the Lords on 1 Mar. 1670. He was appointed to the committee on the bill to provide for the sale of the fee-farm rents, and was named as an additional trustee, though without salary. Though he may have been teller for the bill to prevent transportation, the Opposition reckoned him among the court party at this time, describing him as ‘under-surveyor, and a court contriver to cheat the King of his lands’.6

On 14 Feb. 1673 Harbord was teller for seeking the concurrence of the Lords to an address against the suspending power, and, in what appears to have been his maiden speech, declared that ‘in this he takes the liberty rather to displease the King than to undo him’. The words gave offence to the Commons, and after some debate he was allowed to explain that ‘he intended no reflection on the King’. The lesson was well-digested, and Harbord was henceforward careful to exonerate the King from his attacks on the Government. In the autumn session he told Edward Seymour that his way of life disqualified him from the Speaker’s chair: ‘you expose the honour of the House in resorting to gaming-houses, with foreigners as well as Englishmen’. Although he helped to draw up the address against the Duke of York’s second marriage, he was appointed secretary to the new lord lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Essex, with a pension of £500 p.a. during pleasure. He probably owed his post to the recommendation of Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet), and returned to Westminster for the 1674 session to act as teller against a motion for his patron’s dismissal, being later added to the impeachment committee. He was probably teller for the second reading of a bill to reform the trial of peers. Essex told Lord Conway, who was concerned at Harbord’s dependence on Arlington at this time:

I take Will Harbord to be a very quick man for dispatch of business, and, having experience of his integrity towards me upon other occasions, I am confident he will be a very useful servant to me.

In September Essex assured Arlington that Harbord was ready to attend the King’s service again in the next session. More sceptically, Conway wrote to Danby on 13 Mar. 1675 that Harbord

desired me to acquaint your lordship with the great professions he made to serve you. He swore he would stick as close to your interests and concerns as your own lady and children should do, and that he would sooner abandon his own family than neglect his obligations to your lordship.

Sir John Coventry expected Harbord to prove the charge against Danby of usurping the management of Irish affairs; but he told the House that he knew nothing of it, and defended the lord treasurer with the confident assertion that none of his predecessors had received less from the crown. The reverse side of these dutiful speeches is to be found in his letter to Essex of 1 May:

I am even weary of my life, to sit daily seven or eight hours in the House, and at last vote against my reason or steal away; and if that be found out, it gives offence also.

A more congenial task to one of Harbord’s temperament was to act as teller for proceeding with the charges against Lauderdale. Later in the session he helped to prepare reasons for a conference on Shirley v. Fagg and to consider a bill to prevent the growth of Popery. In the autumn session he spoke and voted against supply, neatly reversing his father’s appeal to Members to put their hands on their purses. He was marked ‘bad’ on the list of officials in the House, and Sir Richard Wiseman reported bluntly: ‘Mr Harbord disserves the King’.7

Harbord lost his Irish post on the recall of Essex, and was marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list of 1677. His speeches in this session were principally directed against France. He quoted his brother’s chief patron in the navy, Lord Sandwich (Edward Montagu I), as saying to him: ‘Will, if you will defend me against the French at Whitehall, I’ll defend you against the King of France’.

The King as to himself was the best man living, and the furthest from Popery. ... He had in one of his speeches declared that there could not be a greater scandal laid upon him than to be reputed popishly affected. ... We might address to the King that that person whoever, and how great soever he be, that was so reputed might for the satisfaction of the world make some public demonstration to the contrary.

This daring proposal, obviously aimed at the Duke of York, found no seconder. With regard to finance, Harbord said: ‘Let us vote to supply the King from year to year, according to the emergencies that shall happen in case a war follows; but I doubt we shall not be so happy’. When French tariffs were mentioned in the committee of grievances he burst out:

He is so transported with the French thus using us that it breaks his sleep. ... He will not say that country gentlemen are able to judge of peace and war, but fundamentals can never vary, and one man may judge of them as well as another. The true balance of France and the house of Austria is our interest.

He helped to prepare an address for a speedy and strict alliance against the French, and acted as teller for a perpetual ban on cattle imports from Ireland, though as Norfolk landowners his father and two of his brothers would have benefited from the trade. On 25 May he said:

England is not safe but by alliance with Holland. ... Make a law to prohibit French trade. You need no wine, and few of his commodities; and France will grow poor, and we shall grow rich.

He was named to the committee to draft the address for reducing France to her 1659 frontiers; but renewed demands for supply found him in a quandary. ‘A negative in this matter’, he said on 5 Feb. 1678, ‘would be of fatal consequence, I think as fatal as an affirmative. ... I will never put a great sum of money in the ministers’ hands till the King has need of it.’ He seconded the motion of (Sir) John Holman for a severance of diplomatic relations with France: ‘I never hope we shall have a war whilst we have a French ambassador in England’, he said. He was twice teller for the address for the removal of counsellors. ‘Though for the people’s sake I would have these men out of the ministry’, he said, ‘yet `tis principally for the King’s sake. ... If I saw hands that must manage the money that I durst trust, I would give the King carte blanche; he might ask what he pleased.’ He was appointed to the committee to enable the King to lease out duchy of Cornwall property, and helped to prepare reasons for a conference on burial in woollen. He was teller against accepting any obligation to repay the King £200,000 charged on the credit of the additional excise, and was named to the committee on the bill for hindering Papists from sitting in either House of Parliament. He warmly supported the test against corruption:

I would have every gentleman of the House come to the table and protest that he has received no reward for anything he has done in Parliament, or for giving his vote. Or if any gentleman be in employment in the government and has been put out of his place for giving his vote here according to his conscience, or has been threatened, this is a great crime.8

Despite Harbord’s ostentatious Gallophobia, his enmity to Danby and his eagerness to disband the army put him in touch with the French embassy, which promised him financial support. He assisted Ralph Montagu* in his election at Northampton. After the Popish Plot he was named to the committee to prepare the impeachment of Lord Arundell of Wardour. ‘I profess I never go to bed’, he said ‘but I expect the next morning to hear of the King’s being killed. There is nothing so necessary to you as the care of the King’s person. I have not the honour to see the King often, and I know not what care is taken of him.’ He urged that (Sir) Joseph Williamson, whom he hoped to supplant at Thetford, should be expelled the House for countersigning commissions for Roman Catholic officers. He was among those ordered to prepare instructions for disbandment, speaking so strongly of the army that he had to apologize to those officers who were Members. He was even more useful to the French in securing the fall of Danby. As chairman of the committee to fetch Montagu’s papers he produced the damning letters authorizing the ambassador to treat for peace and a French subsidy at a time when the Government was demanding supply for a war. He declared triumphantly:

I hope now gentlemen’s eyes were opened by the design on foot to destroy the government and our liberties. I believe, if the House will command Mr Montagu, he will tell you more now. But I would not press it now upon him, because poisoning and stabbing are in use.

He was appointed to the committee to prepare Danby’s impeachment, and given 500 guineas by Barillon as a reward for his services.9

Harbord was never remarkable for courage, and on the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament he took to flight. Unable to find a ship at Yarmouth, he concealed himself in the house of his youngest brother John at Gunton, though their political principles were different. In his absence he was defeated at Dartmouth; but he was returned with his rival Williamson for Thetford, and also on the duchy interest at Camelford. Marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list, he was a very active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament, with 19 committee appointments and 15 recorded speeches. He defended the royal prerogative of denying approbation to the Commons choice of Speaker, attempting to divert the debate to the less controversial matter of the Popish Plot, but was called to order by Sir Harbottle Grimston. He was named to the committee to draw up a state of the matters undetermined in the last Parliament, and stridently attacked the refusal of the Upper House to commit Danby: ‘The Parliament has impeached the treasurer, and the Lords deny us justice, which their ancestors ever did us’. The awkward fact that Montagu’s letters were countersigned by the King he brazenly dismissed:

I believe the King will never allow those letters to have been by his own order, but that the treasurer has been well paid for it by somebody. I can never believe that the King is so ill a man that, when a war was depending, etc., he should order those letters to bargain for a peace.

He helped to manage a conference, to draw up the address protesting against Danby’s pardon, and to consider the bill summoning the fallen minister to give himself up. During the debate, it was alleged, he remained at the door of the House, only allowing those believed to favour the Court to leave; ‘the others he kept back almost by force’. He told the Commons on 27 Apr. that nothing had contributed more to the foiling of plots against the Protectorate than the banishment of Cavaliers from London; ‘though it is not always convenient to take precedents from ill times’, he proposed a similar measure against Roman Catholics. He wanted Lauderdale extradited to Scotland to face trial there, and helped to prepare an address for his removal from Court. On 13 May he was added to the committee to draft another address promising revenge on the Papists if the King should come to any violent death; but he voted against the first exclusion bill, probably in the Orange interest. As chairman for the inquiry into the navy, he adjourned it into the City without informing court supporters such as (Sir) John Talbot, although the House had refused his demand for a secret committee. He was thus able to report that Samuel Pepys and Sir Anthony Deane had betrayed naval secrets to the French. Of Pepys, whose place as secretary of the Admiralty he may have coveted, he said: ‘By collateral proof I shall much convince the House that he is not of our religion; I am sorry I must say it of a man I have lived well withal’. They were sent to the Tower on 22 May, and Harbord was ordered to transmit the evidence against them to the attorney-general (Sir William Jones). In the debate on corruption of Members in the previous Parliament he exclaimed indignantly: ‘If a pensioner went not well, slash! He was put out of his pension’.10

After the prorogation Harbord told Henry Sidney that ‘the only thing that could be done for the good of this notion was to declare and make the Prince of Orange protector in case the succession fell into the hands of a Roman Catholic prince’. His re-election at Thetford in the autumn was assured by a bequest from his father to the poor, despite an attempt by Williamson to replace him by Sir John Bennet. He also hoped to be returned for Launceston in case Sidney or Sir William Temple should need a seat. Barillon acknowledged Harbord’s outstanding services in driving Danby from office and his credit in the provinces, but thought that

it would be difficult to employ him at present. ... He would be more fit if a minister was to be attacked than he will be to speak in Parliament against an alliance which the Court would make and the other party hinder. ... Mr Harbord ... is a friend of Mr Montagu, but has not the same connexions with the Duke of Monmouth; on the contrary, he appears to be in the Prince of Orange’s interest. ... He is an active, vigilant man from whom I have very good informations, and who has a great desire to make his fortune by means of France.

When the second Exclusion Parliament met he was even more active, with 28 committee appointments, two tellerships, and over 50 speeches. As chairman for the address for preserving the Protestant religion at home and abroad, he was condemned by Barillon for presenting a report at variance with French interests. One of the few old Members to command a hearing in this Parliament, he had become a vociferous convert to exclusion. Though he was obliged to withdraw his absurd charge that the Duke of York had betrayed the English fleet at Sole Bay in 1672, when his brother Charles was killed, he built up a formidable indictment on other grounds. How could the vagaries of foreign policy, he asked, or the failure to complete the discovery of the Popish Plot be ascribed to the influence of any lesser man than the Duke of York? ‘From what cause can such strange, unheard of effects proceed but from the power and influence of a Popish successor?’ A member of the committee for the second exclusion bill, he moved on the report stage an additional clause that no King should marry a Popish queen:

I have been told that we owe our misfortune of the Duke’s being perverted by his mother; from her we derive that wound. If this bill should exclude the Duke’s children from the crown that are Protestant, I am against it; it is unjust. I would not have them suffer for their father’s fault.

As chairman of a committee to examine a priest who had taken the oath of allegiance, he urged ‘that this man may have some encouragement’. He was among those instructed to draw up a reply to a message from the King urging the House to expedite matters concerning Popery and Plot, which he likened to Pharaoh’s command to the Israelites to make bricks without straw:

I am sorry I was forced to make use of that comparison, but, when all is at stake, no consideration can tie up a man’s mouth in this place. I confess I am naturally warm, and I cannot but speak warmly in the matter.

A further remark ‘that ladies do endeavour to subvert the government’ helped to frighten the Duchess of Portsmouth into the exclusionist camp. On Tangier, he said that he would regret its abandonment to the French or the Moors, but at present it was a seminary for Popish priests and soldiers, and the safety of England was more important. When Montagu attacked Lord Halifax (Sir George Savile), he said:

I am satisfied in my conscience that I know he dissolved the last Parliament, and I can prove it. ... I am ashamed to see this man have advocates; whoever is so, deserves to appear at the bar.

Although this last expression was condemned by the veteran country Member John Birch, Harbord helped to draw up two more addresses rejecting supply for Tangier and desiring the removal of Halifax. He urged the House to punish the most notorious offenders on the Somerset grand jury that had presented an abhorring address. One of the committee for Seymour’s impeachment, he spoke so frequently, so bitterly, and so irrelevantly that he had to deny that he coveted his victim’s place as treasurer of the navy. In the interest of the republican Algernon Sidney, he acted as teller for the narrow franchise at Amersham. He urged the abolition of scandalum magnatum, which protected bishops and judges, and was named to the committee to insert a clause to this effect in the bill to regulate the trial of peers. He helped to prepare the address of 20 Dec. insisting on exclusion. ‘For the matter of supply he would be tender’, though he told Barillon that a bill would be introduced to prohibit the raising of government loans on the London money market, and undertook to oppose any expression of support for an alliance against France. ‘A true friend of the Church’, by his own account, he attacked the clergy for preaching against exclusion, and urged the repeal of the Corporations Act. With less wit than Silius Titus, he sought to stifle charges of place-hunting:

So many artifices are used to asperse your Members against the public good that I move that no person may have any place during the Parliament without leave of the House, or else that he be incapable of being a Parliament man if he accept of it.

While professing great esteem for Laurence Hyde he urged his dismissal, and when ‘Sir George Downing speaks well for him, Mr Harbord falls into a rage’. When the session ended without any supply, Barillon again rewarded him, as promised, with 500 guineas.11

With this handsome addition to his electoral resources, Harbord was returned for both Launceston and Thetford in 1681. After the Rye House Plot one of the Thetford corporation deposed to hearing Harbord declare that

he was engaged with as many of the two Houses and persons of quality as were worth £500,000 a year, who were all resolved to stand by one another, and to go well-armed to Oxford, where he believed they should have a skirmish with the King and his guards, for they were resolved now to know what the King would be at, and, if they were forced to buy their liberties and religion of him, they would have better security than his word, for he had broken it so often that they would not take it for a groat. As to the exclusion bill, he foresaw it would not do their work, if it passed, and therefore they were resolved to seize the King and make him sign a warrant to take off the Duke of York, for that, if ever he should come to be King, he himself was sure to be hanged, and that the Duke was the right heir to the crown, but it was better for him to suffer than a great part of the kingdom.

In the Oxford Parliament Harbord was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges and to those to inspect the Journals relative to the proceedings against Danby and to prepare the impeachment of Fitzharris. He moved successfully that the Speaker (William Williams) should be entrusted with publishing the resolutions of the Commons, and spoke twice against the expedients proposed to avoid exclusion, telling the House that ‘the danger is not from Popery, but from the King’s being encompassed with the Duke’s creatures’. In a list of Northamptonshire Whigs drawn up in the following year, Harbord was described as a violent man and credited with an income of £3,000 p.a. Although he still officiated as surveyor-general, he was apparently unaware of the flourishing state of government finances, believing that ‘the King must and would call a Parliament when poverty knocked at Whitehall gate a little harder, and then he should have a Parliament that would humble him’. He was among the ‘dissatisfied and dangerous’ gentlemen presented by the Northamptonshire grand jury at the summer assizes of 1683, and his arms were removed from Grafton Park by the deputy lieutenants, but restored to him on the orders of Sir Leoline Jenkins. On the accession of James II he fled to Holland, but was ordered to return by privy seal in January 1686. He is said to have obeyed, but his salary was stopped in the following month, though the work of both his offices continued to be performed by his deputies, and in the summer he was present at the siege of Buda by the imperial army. Danby listed him among the eminent Members of Parliament, considerable for parts, but not to be trusted. Again summoned by privy seal in April 1688, he came over with William of Orange and was appointed commissary-general during the Revolution. He told the second Earl of Clarendon (Henry Hyde) on 7 Dec. that, although ‘he had drawn his sword against the King, ... he had no need of his pardon; but they would bring the King to ask pardon of them for the wrongs he had done’. Evidence was later given to a Commons committee that Harbord was chiefly responsible for the delay in sending the Prince`s declaration to Ireland.12

Harbord was particularly anxious that James’s election writs should be superseded, since otherwise the exiles would be handicapped by lack of time to canvass their former constituencies. However the general election of 1689 was held on the Prince’s writs, and Harbord’s interest ultimately carried both seats at Launceston and at Thetford. He was also returned for Scarborough on the Thompson interest, no doubt with the assistance of Sir John Hotham, 2nd Bt.. The Thetford return was challenged by Williamson, and Harbord chose to sit for his Cornish constituency with his brother-in-law Edward Russell. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he was appointed to 26 committees, in two of which he took the chair. He carried two bills to the Lords, twice acted as teller, and made 33 recorded speeches. He would not hear any question made of Parliament’s power of deposition, which might tend to calling James back again, ‘and then we are all ruined’. He helped to draw up the list of the essentials for securing law, liberty and religion, although he doubted the wisdom of giving it priority:

You have an infallible security for the administration of the government; all the revenue is in your hands, which fell with the last King, and you may keep that back. Can he whom you place on the throne support the government without the revenue? Can he do good or harm without it? ’Tis reasonable that you should be redressed by laws; but unless you preserve your government, your papers cannot protect you. Without your sword, how will you be secured from the dangers from Ireland, and the mutiny of the army? All may be lost, whilst you are considering.

He helped to prepare reasons for insisting that the throne was vacant, and, drawing the attention of the House to the imminent French mobilization, acted as teller against yielding to the Lords. He became a Privy Councillor under the new regime, much to the alarm of the Tories, who feared that he would persuade the King that ‘the faction are everything in this kingdom’. In this capacity he informed the House of the Ipswich mutiny, helped to prepare the address asking the King to suppress it, and took the chair for the first mutiny bill. He assured the supply committee that times had changed: ‘The money you give will not be spent in debauchery and lewdness, but employed as you would have it’. On 21 Mar. he condemned as totally inadequate the motion of William Garway to support the war in Ireland by a grant of £300,000 for six months. ‘Persons have been sent into the north of Ireland, and there are not oats for your horses, only grass. ... Money must be spent in bread, barley and beef. What with the levy-money and the arms, you will not have one shilling to keep them the rest of the time.’ During his residence in Holland he had become intimate with Schomberg; he took the chair for his naturalization bill and carried it to the Lords; but his proposal to reward the veteran marshal out of the estates of those who had been ‘the occasion of your misfortunes’ found no support. He helped to draft the addresses thanking the King for his declaration to maintain the Church as by law established and offering assistance for a war with France. His name heads the list of the committee for the relief of distressed Irish Protestants. On 7 May the House took note of some hot words exchanged with Henry Bertie about the Westbury election. Harbord had reflected on Bertie as a pensioner, being secured from the usual consequences by the consideration that ‘the gentleman is of too much honour to engage one that has not the use of either of his hands’; but both had to promise the Speaker not to prosecute the quarrel. On the following day he acted as teller for the Whigs on a proviso to the bill of rights concerning the succession. He returned the toleration bill to the Lords on 22 May. Harbord had been the first to urge the punishment of the ‘great offenders’, by which he meant those who had changed their religion or given their opinion for the dispensing power. ‘I am for catching the great fishes’, he said; ‘to catch little rogues is not worth your while.’ He took a prominent part in the debates on the indemnity bill, moving that two of the judges should be hanged at the gate of Westminster Hall. He also thirsted for the blood of (Sir) Robert Sawyer as counsel for the prosecution at the trial of Sir Thomas Armstrong, ‘a most barbarous thing’ which had shocked ‘all foreign nations where I have been’. When (Sir) Thomas Clarges asserted that the timely despatch of a small force would have saved Ireland, Harbord retorted: ‘I would ask that gentleman what 3,000 men he would have sent over. To send our own was not safe, and not fit to part with the Dutch.’ He was appointed to the committee of inquiry into the delay in relieving Londonderry. His defence of the committal of Peregrine Osborne by Lord Nottingham (David Finch) was interrupted, and he declared ‘something in passion’: ‘I speak my mind, and I care not two pence for those who interrupt me, be they who they will’. William had first taken Harbord for ‘an extraordinary man of business’, but he was now undeceived, according to Halifax. When Harbord complained of ‘a false and scandalous report’ that he had fraudulently converted to his own use ‘great sums of money’ raised during the Revolution, William commented privately that he himself could be the best witness of his guilt. A committee of inquiry was ordered by the Commons, but never reported. Harbord was more fortunate with the Londonderry committee; on 29 July Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt. reported that ‘no reflection whatsoever did rest upon him’, and the House resolved to agree with the committee by 75 votes to 29.13

This whitewashing exercise may have been necessitated by Harbord’s appointment as purveyor and paymaster of the forces in Ireland. He arrived in September, but owing to the gout was unable to attend his duties for a fortnight. Schomberg was soon as disillusioned over his capacity and integrity as the King, and obliged him to hand over the purveyance to Commissary Shales. ‘Mr Harbord makes great profit out of the musters, the hospital, the artillery, and the payment of the troops’, he wrote on 14 Nov., and he later recounted with ill-concealed delight how the paymaster fell off his horse, whereupon ‘five or six Enniskillen troopers began to strip and rob him, though he said who he was’. Perhaps it was this incident that determined him to throw up his duties: ‘really winter campaigns will be too hard for me’, he wrote to the King. He started for England without orders on 10 Dec. leaving the troops unpaid, for which, the King commented, ‘in another country he would be hanged’. There is no evidence that he appeared again at Westminster, though he was listed among the supporters of the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations. He was re-elected in 1690, but dismissed as paymaster as soon as Parliament adjourned. Rather than face an inquiry into his accounts, which showed a deficiency of £406,000, he obtained an appointment as ambassador to the Sublime Porte. He died ‘of a malignant fever’ at Belgrade on 31 July 1692 on his way to take up his duties, the last of his family to sit in Parliament. But his sister Catherine married William Cropley of Thetford, and their son, who took the name of Harbord on succeeding to the Gunton estate, sat for Norfolk as a government supporter from 1728 to 1734.14

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Soc. of Genealogists, R. P. Harbord, ‘Hist. Harbord Fam.’; CSP Dom. 1651, p. 529; 1656, p. 583; Grey, v. 41; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 621; Knightsbridge Chapel Reg. 75.
  • 2. C181/7/21; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 411; iii. 911, 923, 1161; v. 184, 196; ix. 1156, 1605, 1869; Northants. RO, FH 2226; CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 82.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 233; iii. 431; ix. 213, 678, 1366; CSP Dom. 1673-5, pp. 55, 66; 1689-90, p. 97.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 186, 1476; CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 93.
  • 5. Harl. 7020, f. 43; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 233, 630; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 206; 1661-2, pp. 303, 420; CJ, viii. 509, 528, 659, 668, 688; Exact Coll. Debates, 162.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1639, p. 420; CJ, ix. 22, 108, 128, 142; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 431; Harl. 7020, f. 43.
  • 7. Grey, ii. 76, 77, 188; iii. 91, 93; Essex Pprs.(Cam. Soc. n.s. xlvii), 143-4, 258, 322; Eg. 3329, f. 12; Stowe 207, ff. 362-3; CSP Dom. 1673-5, pp. 55, 66, 228, 354; HMC Hastings, ii. 383; Burnet, ii. 86-87.
  • 8. Grey, iv. 176-7, 198-9, 387-8; v. 91-92, 241, 353; vi. 104-5; CJ, ix. 408, 477, 479, 492; Eg. 3345, f. 38v; Add. 28091, ff. 39v-40.
  • 9. PRO 31/3, bdle. 141, ff. 28v, 35, 96; Grey, vi. 205, 224, 345, 349; CJ, ix. 559; Dalrymple, Mems. i. 381.
  • 10. HMC 6th Rep. 389; Grey, vi. 428-9; vii. 23-24, 137-8, 194, 304, 331; CJ, ix. 574, 613, 626, 628; PRO 31/3, bdle. 146, f. 85v; Pepys Naval Mins. (Navy Rec. Soc. lx), 43; HMC 7th Rep. 472.
  • 11. Sidney Diary, i. 8, 78-79; A. L. Hunt, Capital of East Anglia, 138-9; Dalrymple, i. 338, 358; PRO 31/3, bdle. 147, ff. 13, 75v, 86; bdle. 148, f. 45; HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 467; CJ, ix. 642, 645, 646, 650, 655, 664, 677, 681; Exact Coll. Debates, 25, 74, 112, 162; Grey, vii. 397, 403, 417, 427, 439-40; viii. 7-8, 24, 26, 34, 93, 175, 222; HMC 12th Rep. IX, 99, 104, 113; HMC Finch, ii. 99.
  • 12. CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, p. 276; July-Sept. 1683, pp. 281, 292; 1683-4, pp. 236-7; 1686-7, p. 9; 1687-9, p. 192; SP29/421/216; Somers Tracts, viii. 409; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 509; HMC 7th Rep. 500; Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 236; Clarendon Corresp. ii. 217, 219, 239; CJ, x. 243-4.
  • 13. Clarendon Corresp. ii. 219; Grey, ix. 12, 36, 54, 164-5, 178, 184, 187, 227, 234-6, 246, 256, 269-70, 316, 331, 372, 379; CJ, x. 20, 49, 67, 83, 84, 124, 210, 243-4; Simpson thesis, 307; Foxcroft, Halifax, ii. 225, 226.
  • 14. CSP Dom. 1689-90, pp. 264, 276, 300, 320, 351, 372; Kennett, Hist. iii. 542; Foxcroft, ii. 242; Luttrell, ii. 24, 551; Add. 51335.