EDWARDES, William (c.1712-1801), of Johnston, Pemb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1747 - 1784
6 Feb. 1786 - 13 Dec. 1801

Family and Education

b. c.1712, 3rd s. of Francis Edwardes of Johnston, M.P. for Haverfordwest, by Lady Elizabeth Rich, da. of Robert, 5th Earl of Warwick, 2nd Earl Holland and Baron Kensington, aunt and h. of Edward, 7th Earl of Warwick. m. (1) his cos. Rachel (d. 14 Aug. 1760), da. of Owen Edwardes; (2) 10 June 1762, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of William Warren of Longridge, Pemb., 1s. suc. bro. Edward Henry in Warwick estates inc. considerable property in Kensington 18 Mar. 1738;  cr. Baron Kensington [I] 28 July 1776.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Pemb. 1747-8.


Edwardes was returned to nine Parliaments without a poll; sat in the House 52 years and not a single speech by him is recorded; after 1760 he is not known ever to have voted against any Government; but, as he put it in a ‘Memorial’ to Lord Sandwich in October 1779, he ‘never asked or received place, pension or any other emolument for himself’.1

In 1754 Edwardes had the best interest at Haverfordwest; the next best interest was in Sir John Philipps of Picton Castle. Before the general election there was a danger of a clash between them,2 but the matter must have been accommodated, and subsequently while Edwardes supported the Philippses in the county, they supported him in the borough. When Richard Philipps was returned for Pembrokeshire on his father’s death, ‘I congratulate you’, wrote George Grenville to Edwardes, 23 Feb. 1764, ‘on an event which must be so agreeable to you.’3

Henry Fox leased from Edwardes Holland House 1745-68, when he bought it;4 and when asking in June 1753 for some patronage on Edwardes’s behalf, wrote that he, ‘I make no doubt, may be brought to oppose Sir John Philipps’ principles everywhere’.5 Still, in 1754 he was classed as a Tory by Dupplin, and in February-March 1755 even by Fox himself;6 and in 1760 was a member of the Society of Sea Serjeants, a club of Tory gentry in south-west Wales.7 In 1761, however, Newcastle treated him as one of Fox’s group; sent him the parliamentary whip in October 1761 through Fox; and wrote him off as ‘contra’ in November 1762. Edwardes’s support was secured by Fox for the peace preliminaries, and next for the Grenville Administration.8 Rockingham, both in 1765 and in 1766, and Townshend in January 1767, listed Edwardes as ‘doubtful’; and Newcastle in March as ‘Administration’. During the years 1765-79 his attendance in Parliament seems to have been rather poor: even though fewer division lists name those voting on the Government side than on the Opposition side, there are ten, of which only one names Edwardes. Besides, in Robinson’s survey on the royal marriage bill, March 1772, he is listed as ‘pro, present’, and on the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779, as ‘pro, out of town’. Still, when applying for a British peerage, Edwardes wrote to Sandwich, 12 Oct. 1779:9

I have worn out near five Parliaments in the service of Government under a laborious and expensive attendance, but particularly since the time of general warrants and through the whole of Lord North’s Administration, I have attended his Lordship late and early in his minorities as well as in his majorities with warmth and zeal upon all occasions, and I believe I can say that during the whole time, till last winter, there was not a division happened in the house that concerned Administration, at which I was not present, and then I was prevented by Lady Kensington’s health and my own, in return for which his Lordship, contrary to my repeated request to put me upon the list of English peers or to leave me remain in my then situation, his Lordship popped me off at the fag end of the Irish, I demurred ... an indignity to the family set and a disadvantage to myself.

Unwearied attendance was with Edwardes much more of a forecast for the future: between 21 Feb. 1780 and 15 Mar. 1782 his name appears in 10 out of 11 division lists, always on the Government side; and there he remained however much Governments changed: he voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries; for Fox’s East India bill; and next he adhered to Pitt’s Government.

In 1780 Robinson wrote about Haverfordwest: ‘The same again. A contest started but compromised.’ And in December 1783 about Edwardes: ‘Against now, but may with civility perhaps be classed hopeful. He was entangled with some securities to the customs.’10 But at the general election Edwardes stood down for Richard Philipps, now Lord Milford; and only resumed his seat when it was vacated by Milford in January 1786.

In 1794 and 1796 he again applied for a British peerage but died a commoner in England, 13 Dec. 1801.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Sandwich mss.
  • 2. H. Fox to Pelham, 12 June 1753, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
  • 3. Grenville letter bk.
  • 4. Ilchester, Hen. Fox, i. 141; ii. 326.
  • 5. Newcastle mss.
  • 6. Add. 33002, f. 438.
  • 7. R. Fenton, Hist. Tour through Pemb. 255.
  • 8. Sandwich to Fox, 26 Sept. 1763, Hen. Fox mss; Fox to Sandwich, 2 Oct., Sandwich mss.
  • 9. Sandwich mss.
  • 10. Laprade, 97.