Portman, William (1641?-1690) (DNB00)

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PORTMAN, Sir WILLIAM (1641?–1690), captor of the Duke of Monmouth, the descendant of an old Somerset family, was eldest son of Sir William Portman (1610–1648) of Orchard Portman, fifth baronet, by Anna, daughter and coheiress of John Colles of Barton. The father was returned for Taunton to both the Short and Long parliaments of 1640, but was disabled, as a royalist, to sit on 5 Feb. 1643–4. On his death in 1648, William succeeded him as sixth baronet. He matriculated from All Souls' College, Oxford, 26 April 1659, and at the Restoration was made a knight of the Bath. He represented Taunton in parliament from 1661 until 1679, and from 1685 till his death. From 1679 to 1681 he sat for the county of Somerset. Putting aside Sir Edward Seymour [q. v.], he was accounted as influential a tory as any in the west of England. He was a strong ‘abhorrer’ during the crisis in Charles II's reign, and while attending parliament in May 1685 he received a mysterious warning of Monmouth's impending insurrection in the west. He directed the search of post-coaches in the neighbourhood of Taunton, in the hope of intercepting treasonable correspondence, and took an active part in investigating the causes of disaffection, and later on in organising the militia. After the battle of Sedgmoor (6 July 1685) Portman, with the Somerset militia, formed a chain of posts from Poole to the northern extremity of Dorset, with a view to preventing Monmouth's escape. On 8 July he and Lord Lumley captured the fugitive near Ringwood in the New Forest, and did not trust him out of their sight until he was delivered safe at Whitehall.

Three years later Portman's affection for the English church proved stronger than his devotion to James, and in November 1688 he joined the Prince of Orange at Exeter with a large following. William is said to have intended him for high promotion, but he died at his seat of Orchard Portman, near Taunton, on 20 March 1689–90 (Luttrell). Sir William was elected F.R.S. on 28 Dec. 1664. He married thrice, but had no issue. He left ‘an estate of 8,000l. a year’ to his nephew, Henry Seymour (d. 1728), a brother of Sir Edward, who assumed the name and arms of Portman. William Henry Portman, a descendant from a collateral branch, gave his name to Portman Square (begun in 1764), and was ancestor of Edward Berkeley Portman, viscount Portman [q. v.] Bryanston Square is named after the seat and estate purchased by Sir William in Dorset shortly before his death.

[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Burke's Peerage, s.v. ‘Portman;’ Roberts's Life of Monmouth, i. 213, 215, ii. 105, 110, 122, sq. 314; Macaulay's Hist. 1886, i. 301, 577; Luttrell's Diary, i. 478, ii. 23; Collins's Peerage, i. 195; Eachard's History, bk. iii. p. 770; Burnet's Own Time, i. 664; London Gazette; Wheatley and Cunningham's London, ii. 110; Walford's Old and New London, iv. 412.]

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