NORRIS, Sir WILLIAM (1657–1702), British envoy to India, born in 1657, was the second son of Thomas Norris of Speke Hall, Lancashire, by Katherine, daughter of Sir Henry Garraway [q. v.] [Some of his ancestors and kinsmen are noticed under Henry Norris, d. 1536, and under Henry Norris, Baron Norris of Rycote, ad fin.] The father, like his brother Edward, had taken the king's side in the war with the parliament. The family consisted of seven sons and four daughters; the eldest son, Thomas Norris (1653-1700), was M.P. for Liverpool, 1688- 1690 and 1690-5, and procured the charter for the town in the latter year. He was a whig, and in 1696 served as high sheriff of Lancashire. He died in June 1700, and was buried at Childwall, near Speke, having married Magdalene, second daughter of Sir Willoughby Aston; his only child, Mary, became heiress of the whole Speke property about 1736, and married Lord Sidney Beauclerc, fifth son of the first Duke of St. Albans. The third son, Sir John Norris (1660?-1749), admiral, and the fifth son, Edward Norris (1663-1726), are separately noticed. The sixth son, Richard (b. 1670), was bailiff in Liverpool 1695, mayor 1700, and M.P. 1708-1710; he was sheriff of Lancashire in 1718, and was alive in 1730.
William succeeded his eldest brother, Thomas, as member for Liverpool in 1695, and held the seat till 1701, being so much esteemed that he was re-elected during his absence in India, but unseated on petition. In 1698 the new General Society or English Company obtained an act of parliament and letters patent from the crown for the purpose of trading to the East Indies, and in order to obtain the necessary privileges from the mogul emperor, Sir William Norris, specially created a baronet for the mission, was sent out to India as king's commissioner in a ship of war, at a salary of 2,000l. a year, paid by the company.
Norris's task was from the first almost hopeless. He was expected to obtain the protection and privileges of the mogul authorities in favour of a new and unknown company, in face of the determined opposition of the officers of the old or 'London' East India Company, which had been the accredited representative of British commerce in India for a century, and which was armed not only with royal charters and grants of territory from the crown of England, but with firmans from the mogul emperors conferring special privileges of trading. In endeavouring to supersede the old company, the English company had undertaken a task beyond its resources, and parliament and king had entered upon a noxious policy in encouraging a struggle which seemed likely to end in the destruction of the commercial position which a century of persistent effort had Avon in the East Indies. To the native authorities the distinction between the two companies, both trading under authority from the king of England, was a point too fine to be easily explained.
The mogul emperor was not indisposed to recognise any company which was prepared to contribute handsomely to his exchequer; but even his recognition would not give the new company the position which long occupation had secured for the old. The matter was complicated by the precipitate action of Sir Nicholas Waite, the English company's representative at Súrat, who had written to the mogul emperor, Aurangzíb, before Norris's arrival, to request firmans of privileges, and offering to suppress piracy on the Indian seas in return for such favour, an offer which the English company was wholly incompetent to carry into effect. Norris landed on 25 Sept. 1699 at Masulipatam, where he found Consul Pitt of the English company expecting him. The consul had procured the services of 'Nicolao Manuchi' (Manucci, the authority for Catrou's 'Histoire de l'empire du Mogol,' who, however, shortly begged to be excused on the ground of his 'age, blindness, and other infirmities') as interpreter, but had prepared no 'equipage' for the ambassador's journey inland to the camp of Aurangzib. After waiting many months, and quarrelling with Consul Pitt, as well as with the officers of the rival company, Norris assented to the representations of Sir Nicholas Waite, and resolved to make his journey from Surat on the other side of the peninsula, a much easier route to the quarters then occupied by the emperor. He accordingly sailed from Masulipatam on 23 Aug. 1700, after reporting Pitt's conduct to the directors, and reached Swally on 10 Dec. Here fresh difficulties arose, partly from the intemperate conduct of the ambassador and Sir Nicholas Waite, who both treated the London company's agents as positive enemies, forcibly hauled down their ships' flags, and imprisoned their servants. The old company met force by force, ran the flags up again, and refused to recognise the king's ambassador in any way. They had their own royal letters patent, and possessed, what Norris lacked, the formal concessions of the native authorities, and they defied his excellency to interfere with them. In order to emphasise his official dignity, Norris, who seems to have been very tenacious of his own importance, made a state entry into Surat, after paying for the permission eighteen hun-