WENTWORTH, Sir William (c.1636-92), of Wakefield, Yorks. and Whitehall.

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



30 Oct. 1673

Family and Education

b. c.1636, o.s. of Sir William Wentworth of Ashby Puerorum, Lincs. by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Thomas Savile of Northgate Head, Wakefield, Yorks. educ. I. Temple, entered 1649; travelled abroad (France) 1656-7. m. lic. 9 Feb. 1667, aged 30, Isabella, da. of Sir Allen Apsley of Westminster, 5s. 6da. suc. fa. 1644; kntd. by 1671.1

Offices Held

J.p. Lincs. (Lindsey) July 1660-?86, Yorks. (N. and W. Ridings) 1672-?86; commr. for Sewers, Lincs. Aug. 1660, 1664-74, (W. Riding) 1673-80; sheriff, Yorks. 1671-2; commr. for recusants (N. and W. Ridings) 1675.

PC [I] 1686-Dec. 1688.2

?MP [I] 1665.


Wentworth’s father, a younger brother of the first Earl of Strafford, took up arms for the King in the Civil War and was killed at Marston Moor. Wentworth himself married into a family prominent at the Restoration Court. He inherited property in Yorkshire from his mother, and first came forward as a candidate for Thirsk on Lord Derby’s interest in 1671. He desisted in favour of Sir William Frankland on a promise of an unopposed return at the next vacancy. The next by-election was held shortly before the House reassembled on 5 Feb. 1673, when all the elections held on ‘my Lord Shaftesbury’s writ’ were declared void. There followed a double return with a country candidate, Robert Wharton. Wentworth was seated on the merits of the return on 30 Oct., but on 20 May 1675 the elections committee recommended that this election should also be declared void on grounds of corruption. The House, however, found the evidence inadequate and refused to unseat him.3

A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, Wentworth twice acted as teller and was named to 27 committees. These included the committee of elections and privileges in three sessions, and four committees directed against Popery, despite his wife’s position in the duchess of York’s service. He spoke twice in the autumn session of 1675, urging that a land-tax should be imposed only as a last resort, and defending the summoning of justices to appear before the Council on complaint from the excisemen. His name appeared on Danby’s working-lists and on a list of government supporters compiled by Sir Richard Wiseman. Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’ in 1677, while in A Seasonable Argument he was described as ‘much in debt; his wife has a place under the duchess of York, he a pension of £500; in boons £3,000’. He was appointed to the committee on the bill for the recall of British subjects from the French service in this session. He was on both lists of the court party in 1678, when he was among those ordered to prepare reasons for a conference on the growth of Popery on 27 Mar. and to devise remedies for it a month later. His cousin John Wentworth of Woolley, who had acquired an interest at Aldeburgh, was attempting to unseat Sir John Reresby, a court supporter. Wentworth introduced his petition on 30 May and acted as one of the tellers for reading it. Thereupon the Duke of York sent for him and told him,

‘You abuse both the King and me by giving this gentleman [Reresby] all this trouble contrary to your engagement; but let him be quiet or look me not in the face, nor will the King ever forget it’. Sir William would have said something in excuse of himself. The Duke would not hear him, but parting from him in anger told him he was governed by a company of knaves and was himself a fool.

Reresby wrote that Wentworth had

managed this matter so very foolishly, both with the King and Parliament, that he became the contempt of both; and his father [-in-law], Sir Allen Apsley, and some other relations, were no less angry with him than others, one that married his sister saying openly one day that though the King should pardon him he was lost for ever to the world.

Frightened by this hostility he did eventually persuade John Wentworth to accept a temporary compromise, but in the autumn the attack on Reresby was resumed and was only ended by the dissolution of Parliament.4

Wentworth was denied Derby’s interest in 1679 and as one of the ‘unanimous club’ never stood again. He went to Ireland in 1681, and his wife’s continued favour with Mary of Modena, whom she served as woman of the bedchamber after she became queen, secured a portion of £3,000 for their daughter from James II when she married an Irish Roman Catholic peer. Wentworth himself was appointed to the Privy Council in Ireland, but returned to England after the Revolution. He was resident in Whitehall with his wife and four children in 1689, and died of apoplexy in June 1692. His son, a distinguished soldier and diplomat, succeeded his cousin as 3rd Lord Raby in 1695 and married the daughter of Sir Henry Johnson; but none of his descendants sat in the Commons.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: P. A. Bolton / Paula Watson


  • 1. Foster, Yorks. Peds.; Add. 34015, f. 115; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1438.
  • 2. Clarendon Corresp. i. 442.
  • 3. Wentworth Pprs. ed. Cartwright, 2, 4; HMC 5th Rep. 197; Dering, 79, 88.
  • 4. Add. 30170; f. 33; Grey, iii. 427, 439, 440; Reresby Mems. 138, 140, 144-6; Leeds Central Lib., Hexborough mss 616, 6/23.
  • 5. HMC Astley, 39; HMC Var. ii. 396; HMC Lords, i. 193; Wentworth Pprs. 4; LS13/231/43; Luttrell, ii. 495.