WERDEN, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1640-1716), of Cholmeaton, Cheshire and Whitehall.
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Family and Education
b. 25 Mar. 1640, 1st s. of Robert Werden. educ. M. Temple, entered 1653, called 1660. m. (1) 22 Oct. 1672, Lucy (bur. 7 Feb. 1679), da. of Gilbert Osborne, rector of Withington, Glos., s.p.; (2) Mary (bur. 22 Aug. 1683), da. of William Osborne of Kennford, Devon, 1s. 2da. cr. Bt. 28 Nov. 1672; suc. fa. 1690.1
Baron of the Exchequer, Chester 1664-d.; j.p. Essex, Hants, Kent, Mdx., Suff., Surr. and Suss. 1672-80; freeman, Portsmouth 1675; dep. lt. London 1687-9.2
Sec. of embassy to Spain and Portugal 1667-8, 1669-70; envoy extraordinary to Sweden 1670-2, sec. of Admiralty 1672-3, to Duke of York 1673-85, commr. of the navy 1673-80; trustee for Prince George of Denmark 1684-1702; commr. of customs 1685-94, 1703-15; surveyor-gen. to Queen Mary of Modena 1687-Dec. 1688.3
Werden was given a sinecure office in his native county at the age of 24, and held several minor diplomatic appointments. His father was a firm favourite of the Duke of York, and at the outbreak of the third Dutch war Werden himself, though totally destitute of naval experience, was made secretary of the Admiralty. His incompetence aroused the ire of Prince Rupert, who forwarded one of his ‘mystical’ and contradictory orders to the secretary of state, Lord Arlington. Nevertheless Werden was created a baronet in his father’s lifetime, though qualified for the dignity neither by birth nor estate, and returned for Reigate on the Duke’s interest. The election was declared void because the writ had been issued to Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury during the recess, but Werden was promptly re-elected. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was named to 37 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in five sessions. When the Duke was forced out of the Admiralty under the Test Act, he took Werden with him as private secretary, thereby making way for Samuel Pepys. On 20 Jan. 1674 Werden was added to the committee to consider the charges against Arlington, and at the end of that session to that appointed to report on the condition of Ireland. In the next session he was named to the committees for the explanatory bill to prevent the growth of Popery and for the bill appropriating the customs to the use of the navy. His name naturally appeared on the Paston list and the list of King’s servants in the Commons. On 20 Oct. 1675 he was appointed to the committee to bring in the declaratory bill against altering or suspending the established religion. In 1677 Shaftesbury listed him as ‘thrice vile’, but on 8 Mar. he was appointed to consider the bill for the growth of Popery and on 7 May 1678 helped to draw up the address for the removal of counsellors. In the last session of the Cavalier Parliament he was named to the committee to inquire into the Popish Plot and added to that appointed to translate Coleman’s letters. He was entered on both lists of court supporters, and described in A Seasonable Argument as ‘a favourer of Popery’.4
Werden was defeated at Reigate in the first general election of 1679, ‘not that they had any dislike of him, but because he ... voted in the last Parliament for his master’s continuance in the Lords’ House’. He accompanied the Duke to Brussels in March, and, as one of the ‘unanimous club’, it is unlikely that he stood for the second or third Exclusion Parliaments. When the Duke succeeded to the throne he was made commissioner of customs at £1,200 p.a., and returned unopposed for Reigate. Again a moderately active Member of James II’s Parliament, he was named to the elections committee and five others, including that to recommend expunctions from the Journals. A speech in the supply debate sometimes ascribed to Werden was more probably delivered by (Sir) Joseph Williamson. In 1688 the King’s agents expected him to stand successfully for re-election, though he was not recommended as court candidate for Reigate. His parliamentary career was at an end, but unlike his father, he accepted the new regime and was confirmed in office, probably owing to the protection of Sidney Godolphin I. But in 1694 John Somers reported that Werden showed
great partiality in preferring officers who are disaffected to the Government, and is not free from corruption, and his experience is a disservice to you, for rather than vary from the old course he will defend all the frauds and abuses which are occasioned thereby.
Godolphin’s opinion differed, but he was unable to save Werden from dismissal. He regained the post on the accession of Anne, holding it until her death. He died on 29 Oct. 1716 and was buried near his two wives in St. Martin in the Fields, the last member of his family to enter Parliament.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: J. S. Crossette / Basil Duke Henning
- 1. Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. x.), 8; PCC 144 Ruthven.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1664-5, p. 73; 1687-9, p. 62; Ormerod, Cheshire, i. 89; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 361; HMC Lords, iii. 46.
- 3. Sandwich mss, letters from foreign ambassadors, f. 23; letters to ministers, f. 83; CSP Dom. 1670, pp. 330, 378; 1672, p. 597; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 1123; x. 739; xvii. 179; xviii. 315.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1672, p. 303; 1673, pp. 174, 211, 222.
- 5. BL, M636/32, John to Sir Ralph Verney, 17 Feb. 1679; A. Bryant, Pepys, the Years of Peril, 272; CSP Dom. 1694-5, p. 179.