HARBORD, William (1635-92), of St. James’s Park, Westminster and Grafton Park, Northants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1661 - Jan. 1679
Mar. 1679 - Mar. 1681
1689 - 31 July 1692

Family and Education

b. 25 Apr. 1635, 2nd s. of Sir Charles Harbord†, of Charing Cross, Westminster and Stanninghall, Norf. by 2nd w. Mary, da. of Jan van Aelst of Sandwich, Kent.  educ. Leyden 1651; M. Temple 1655; travelled abroad (Levant) 1656.  m. (1) lic. 26 July 1661, Mary, da. and coh. of Arthur Duck†, DCL, of North Cadbury, Som. and Grafton Park, 3da.; (2) 21 Feb. 1678, Catherine (d. 1702), da. of Hon. Edward Russell of Corney House, Chiswick, Mdx. 1da.1

Offices Held

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 forces [I] 1689–May 1690; PC 8 Mar. 1689–d.; commr. reforming abuses in army 1689, preventing exports of wool 1689–d.; ambassador to Holland July–Aug. 1690, Turkey Nov. 1691–d.2

Commr. pre-emption of tin, Devon and Cornw. 1662, for inquiry into Kingswood Chase, Windsor and Richmond Park 1671, Whittlewood and Salcey Forests and Forest of Dean 1679, 1691; ranger, St. James’s Park 1690–d.3

Capt. indep. tp. 1689–90.4


Harbord had been an important exile during James II’s reign and was rewarded with office at the Revolution. Following his re-election in 1690 he was classed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). He was in action early in the new Parliament when, on 27 Mar., he supported the question for a supply rather than the grant of the hereditary revenues of the crown for life which the main Court spokesmen proposed. With much of the debate on supply revolving around the need to reduce Ireland, on 3 Apr. Harbord linked the two by suggesting the wholesale confiscation of land, much as Oliver Cromwell† had done. During the debate on 24 Apr. on the need for an abjuration bill, he offered the opinion that ‘they that will not make renunciation of King James’s title shall not have the benefit of the Habeas Corpus Act, nor be capable to bear any office’, and that ecclesiastical offices be encompassed within the terms of the bill. On 1 May he revealed that the Irish situation was desperate: ‘if they have not suddenly £200,000 in Ireland, nothing can be done there. If you do nothing now, it will be too late to think on it.’ On the following day he condemned the publication of the ‘black list’ denoting the voting of Members on the question of the vacancy of the throne. Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., then accused him of breaking his oath as a Privy Councillor by revealing what had been discussed there, an allegation which he refuted. On 5 May Harbord advised adjourning the debate on the regency bill by acknowledging the difficulties of defining where sovereignty lay. Another intervention saw him criticize the actions of the Lords and Secretary Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) in particular for calling the King ‘de facto only’. The following day he was ordered to decide whether he wished to sit for Thetford or Launceston and on the 7th chose the latter. On the 14th he entered into the quarrel between the Granvilles and Carmarthen, pointing out that ‘the King’s enemies will be glad to hear of the divisions among us’, and defending Carmarthen’s conduct. James Vernon I* described Harbord’s defence as coming from where it was ‘scarce expected’. On the 17th he was ordered to draft a bill restoring ancient rights to corporations and on the same day acted as a teller for the Court candidates in the New Windsor election. After Parliament rose in May he was removed from his post as paymaster of the army in Ireland.5

Harbord’s experience of Dutch affairs proved invaluable to Queen Mary in June following the naval engagement at Beachy Head. He was ‘sent to Holland for speedy succours from the States-General’, in case the French attempted an invasion. More important, he carried a letter from the Queen promising action against Lord Torrington (Arthur Herbert†) for his conduct of the battle which saw the Dutch bear the brunt of the losses. He returned to England on 16 Aug. accompanied by four Dutch naval captains. No doubt his usefulness in such missions fuelled rumours of a return to favour and his reappointment as Irish paymaster. In November 1690 Lord Sydney (Hon. Henry Sidney†) wrote to Portland that ‘my brother justice [Thomas Coningsby*] is in some trouble for he hears that his place of paymaster to the army is to be taken from him and given again to Mr Harbord; you know him as well as I and therefore I need not say much of him nor desire you to be kind to him’. Sydney was again offering Coningsby reassurance in March 1691: ‘Mr Harbord is at this time not much to be apprehended, for he is almost blind, and his interest is very indifferent.’ In the event Harbord was not reappointed, possibly because there were suspicions that he was appropriating funds that passed through his hands (and he had certainly received money for a non-existent troop of horse).6

In the preparations for the 1690–1 session Harbord was named as a ‘Privy Councillor that ought to assist’ in a list compiled with a view to co-ordinating ministerial support in Parliament. However, his parliamentary interventions seem to have been limited, as no recorded speeches have survived for this session. He was named to the committee drafting the bill to attaint rebels in England and Ireland (22 Oct.), and presented his army accounts to the House (10 Nov.). Acting as a Privy Councillor he informed the House of the royal reply to an address about embargoes (3 Dec.). His final nomination was to a conference on the mutiny bill (17 Dec.). In April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter.

On 6 Nov., shortly after the beginning of the 1691–2 session, Harbord asked leave of the House for a clause to be added to the bill establishing new oaths in Ireland to allow him more time to take the relevant oaths. The matter was urgent as he was about to embark on an embassy to Turkey and might not be back within the proposed time limit. The clause was duly offered on the 10th and incorporated into the bill. On that day Richard Warre reported that ‘Mr Harbord went hence at noon for Holland, from whence he will proceed to Vienna, and having conferred with the Emperor’s ministers about the peace [with Turkey], he will proceed thence with all speed to Constantinople’. During his absence his name was mentioned on 3 Dec. in a debate on the public accounts: he was accused of having ‘£180,000 for provisions for the army’, yet only accounting for £4–5,000. However, any future repercussions of his financial mismanagement were made irrelevant when, after a journey punctuated by bouts of ill-health, Harbord died on 31 July 1692 in Belgrade. In his will he added to his wife’s jointure the manor of Stoughton Magna, Huntingdonshire which he had leased from the crown for 99 years. Rumours of his wealth abounded, leading to reports of portions for his unmarried daughter of £40,000 in 1700 and £30,000 two years later.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. Soc. of Geneal. R. P. Harbord, ‘Hist. Harbord Fam.’; CSP Dom. 1651, p. 529; 1655–6, p. 583; Grey, v. 41; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 621; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 208.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 233, 431; vi. 48; ix. 213, 678, 1817, 1939; CSP Dom. 1673–5, pp. 55, 66; 1689–90, p. 97.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 411; iii. 911, 923, 1161; vi. 184, 196; ix. 1156, 1869; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 82.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 186, 1476.
  • 5. Grey, x. 12, 40, 74, 107, 110–11, 125, 145; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/053/1, Vernon to Alexander Stanhope, 27 May 1690; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 678.
  • 6. Bodl. ms Don. c.39, f. 329; ms Don. c.40, f. 16; S. B. Baxter, William III, 267–8; Add. 34340, ff. 65–67; 42592, f. 118, Luttrell, ii. 70, 79; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 1330, Sydney to Portland, 7 Nov. 1690; PRO NI De Ros mss D638/14/3, same to Coningsby, 19 Mar. 1690–1.
  • 7. Luttrell Diary, 3, 11, 59; Trinity, Dublin, Clarke mss 749/13/1328, Warre to George Clarke*, 10 Nov. 1691; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 721; v. 338.