TRUMBULL, Sir William (1639-1716), of Easthampstead Park, Berks.

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



Family and Education

b. 12 Aug. 1639, 1st s. of William Trumbull of Easthampstead Park, clerk of the signet 1661-78, by 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of George Rudolph Weckherlin, Latin sec. to Charles I. educ. Wokingham 1649-55; St. John’s, Oxf. 1655, BCL 1659, DCL 1667; M. Temple 1657; travelled abroad (France, Italy) 1664-6; advocate, Doctors’ Commons 1668. m. (1) 24 Nov. 1670, Katherine (d. 8 July 1704), da. of Sir Charles Cotterell of Westminster, s.p.; (2) Oct. 1706, Lady Judith Alexander, da. of Henry, 4th Earl of Stirling [S], 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1678; kntd. 1 Nov. 1684.1

Offices Held

Fellow of All Souls 1657-?70; chancellor, Rochester dioc. 1671-87; commr. for assessment, Kent 1673-4, Berks. and London 1679-80; freeman, Portsmouth 1683; commr. for rebuilding of St. Paul’s 1692; j.p. and dep. lt. Berks. by 1701-d.; verderer, Windsor forest by 1704-?d.2

Clerk of the signet 1683-d.; judge-advocate of the fleet 1683; clerk of deliveries, Ordnance Feb.-Nov. 1685; ambassador to France 1685-6, Turkey 1687-91; ld. of Treasury 1694-5; PC 3 May 1695; sec. of state (north) 1695-7; gov. of Hudson’s Bay Co. 1696-1700, Levant Co. 1696-1710.3

FRS 1692.


Trumbull was the grandson of the Jacobean diplomat who sat for Downton in 1626 and was rewarded for his services with the grant of Easthampstead Park in 1628. His father was a parliamentary supporter in the Civil War, and as MP for Berkshire in 1656 voted in favour of offering the crown to the Protector; nevertheless at the Restoration he was allowed to take up his reversion as clerk of the signet. After reading civil law at Oxford, Trumbull travelled on the Continent and formed a useful friendship with the Earl of Sunderland. On his return to England he began to practice in the vice-chancellor’s court at Oxford. ‘A learned, a virtuous, and a diligent man’, according to Burnet, he became the most eminent civilian of his day, and ‘by much the best pleader in those courts’. The Easthampstead estate was worth only £500 p.a., but he doubled his income from his practice. He became clerk of the signet in his turn in 1683, and went to Tangier as judge-advocate of the fleet with Lord Dartmouth (George Legge), who recommended him temperately to the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch) as ‘worth your acquaintance’ and ‘a useful man in the world’, though Samuel Pepys ridiculed his timidity. Despite his old friendship with Sunderland he was careful not to offend his rival, the Earl of Rochester (Laurence Hyde), and in 1684 he was considered a possible successor to Sidney Godolphin I as secretary of state. But for the present he had to be satisfied with a post at the Ordnance under Dartmouth worth £500 p.a.4

Returned for East Looe in 1685 on the Trelawny interest, Trumbull was an active Member of James II’s Parliament. He was appointed to fourteen committees, including those for the provision of carriages for the navy and ordnance, the prevention of the clandestine marriages of minors, and the general naturalization of Huguenot refugees. He took the chair for the bill to prohibit the import of gunpowder and small arms, and on 25 June he carried a naturalization bill to the Lords. In August he was appointed envoy to France on the recommendation of Rochester, much against his own inclination and Sunderland’s wishes. Dartmouth insisted that he should give up his post in the Ordnance to Philip Musgrave, but he was compensated with a pension of £200.5

As Trumbull left for France at the beginning of November, the two speeches sometimes attributed to him in the second session must have been made by Sir William Twysden. His embassy was not a success, since his efforts to help English residents persecuted after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes were resented at Versailles, and he was accused of helping Huguenots to escape. His strongly worded memorials on French incursions into the principality of Orange drew on him a reprimand from James II. In July 1686 he was informed that the French servants of the embassy who were Protestants would be denied diplomatic immunity to practice their faith, and the King directed him to return on leave, bringing them with him. A few days later Sunderland informed him that he had been appointed ambassador to Turkey.6

Trumbull was in Constantinople during the Revolution, and was confirmed in office by William, who had reason to be grateful for his attempt to preserve Orange in 1686. Recalled at his own request in 1691, he held high office at the Treasury and as secretary of state. He was returned for Hedon and Oxford University in 1695, but retired from politics after his defeat at the next election, and became a notable patron of literature. He died on 14 Dec. 1716 and was buried at Easthampstead, the last of the family to sit in Parliament.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: Paula Watson / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. DNB; CSP Dom. 1678, p. 61.
  • 2. Arch. Cant. xxiv. 169-70; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 367; CSP Dom. 1691-2, p. 247; 1702-3, p. 313; Pope’s Poems ed. Audra and Williams, i. 125-6.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 245; 1661-2, p. 67; Jan.-June 1683, p. 16; 1684-5, p. 304; 1685, pp. 311, 379; 1686-7, p. 382; 1689-90, p. 138; 1694-5, pp. 118, 453; 1695, p. 351; Pepys Jnls. ed. Smith, i. 325-6, 423; A. C. Wood, Hist. Levant Co. 130-1, 255; E. E. Rich, Hudson’s Bay Co. (Hudson’s Bay Rec. Soc. xxi), 340, 375.
  • 4. DNB; Stoye, Eng. Travellers Abroad, 239; J. P. Kenyon, Sunderland, 7, 108; Burnet ed. Routh, iii. 290; Pepys Journals, i. 393; HMC Finch, ii. 187.
  • 5. CJ, ix. 741; Add. 52279, ff. 2-3; Kenyon, 120-1.
  • 6. HMC Downshire, i. 45-46; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 378; R. E. Clark, Sir William Trumbull in Paris, 20, 77-78, 81-82, 85, 106, 139, 166.
  • 7. HMC Downshire, i. 317; DNB.