Wynn, Watkin Williams (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 63
Wynn, Watkin Williams

by Daniel Lleufer Thomas
1904 Errata appended.

WYNN, Sir WATKIN WILLIAMS, third baronet (1692–1749), whose original surname was Williams, was the grandson of Sir William Williams [q. v.], being the eldest son of Sir William Williams, the second baronet, of Llanforda, near Oswestry, by his first wife, Jane, daughter and sole heiress of Edward Thelwall of Plasyward, near Ruthin, Denbighshire. This lady, his mother, was a great-granddaughter of Sir John Wynn [q. v.] of Gwydir, whose grandson, also named Sir John Wynn, of Watstay (which he changed into Wynnstay), died without issue on 7 Jan. 1719, leaving his estates to his kinsman, Watkin Williams, who thereupon assumed the arms and the additional name of Wynn, and became the real founder of the great house of Wynnstay. Wynn (as he therefore came to be called) was born in 1692, and was educated at Oxford, where he matriculated as a fellow-commoner of Jesus College on 18 Dec. 1710, and was created D.C.L. on 17 Aug. 1732 (Foster, Alumni Oxon.) He was mayor of Oswestry for 1728, and of Chester for 1732; he was also M.P. for Denbighshire from 1716 till his death, though in the election of 1741, which was ‘one of the great contests of the county,’ John Myddelton was first declared elected, but Wynn regained the seat on petition. In the House of Commons, where he was regarded as ‘a brave open hospitable gentleman’ (Smollett, Hist. of England, ed. 1793, ii. 505), he was a frequent debater. He voted for the reduction of the standing army in 1731, and against the excise bill, the Septennial Act in 1734, and the convention in 1739. Speaker Onslow referred to him as ‘a man of great note among the most disaffected to the present government, and much known upon that account’ (note to Burnet, Hist. of his own Time, ed. 1823, iii. 222). Next to Sir John Hynde Cotton [q. v.] and Sir William Wyndham [q. v.], he was probably the most active and influential Jacobite in parliament, while owing to his large estates he was at the head of all the tory squires of North Wales, where he was long known as ‘the Great Sir Watkin.’ He was one of the original members of a Jacobite club, called the Cycle, founded at Wrexham in 1723 (Cambrian Quarterly Magazine, 1829, i. 212–13; Cambrian Journal, viii. 304–309). In March 1740 he was described by Lord Temple as ‘hearty’ in his support of the Pretender, and ‘certainly to be depended upon’ (Mahon, Hist. of England, 2nd edit. iii. 43, cf. App. pp. lxxv and lxxvi), and, together with Cotton and Lord Barrymore, he appears to have repeated his assurances of support to Lord Traquair during the latter's visit to London in the summer of 1743 (Howell, State Trials, vol. xviii. cols. 655–656; Ewald, Life of Prince Charles Stuart, i. 80).

Meanwhile Wynn and his associates lost no opportunity for harassing the government and attacking Walpole in the House of Commons (Mahon, vol. iii. App. p. v, cf. pp. 108, 172); and even after the earlier attempts to impeach Walpole had failed, Wynn seconded a motion on 1 Dec. 1743 to renew the inquiry into the conduct of the fallen minister, but the proposal was defeated by large numbers (ib. p. 214; Coxe, Memoirs of Walpole, 1816, iv. 322). On 23 Jan. 1745 Wynn supported the motion for continuing the English troops in Flanders for that year, saying that he agreed with the court for the first time in his life, his object probably being to secure their absence from England in case a Jacobite rising were decided upon. For this apparent inconsistency Wynn was attacked in ‘An Expostulatory Epistle to the Welsh Knight on the late Revolution in Politics and the Extraordinary Conduct of himself and his Associates,’ which was immediately answered in ‘An Apology for the Welsh Knight.’ Soon after Prince Charles had landed in Scotland, Wynn put himself in communication with the leading citizens of London, and received their promises of support (Ewald, i. 302; Mahon, iii. 413). A letter, written by Charles from Preston, conveying information of his entry into England, is supposed to have been addressed to Wynn (Ewald, i. 277; cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. p. 255); but, owing to the rapid marches of the highlanders, it was not till two days after their retreat had commenced that a messenger from Wynn and Lord Barrymore arrived at Derby to assure the prince ‘in the name of many friends that they were ready to join in what manner he pleased, either in the capital or every one in his own country’ (Mahon, iii. 415; Chambers, Hist. of the Rebellion, Pop. edit. p. 197).

The complicity of Wynn and his associates in the matter of the rebellion was disclosed by Murray of Broughton in his evidence both against Lord Lovat (State Trials, loc. cit.) and before the secret committee of the House of Commons (Mahon, iii. 478, and App. pp. lxxii et seq.), and ‘the tories seemed very angry’ with the court ‘for letting the names of Sir Watkin, &c., slip out of Murray's mouth;’ but the government showed no wish for their impeachment.

After this Wynn took a much less active part in politics, though he was elected a steward of the anniversary dinner for 1746 of the Westminster electors. He was a trustee under the will of John Radcliffe (1650–1714) [q. v.], and as such was present at the opening of the Radcliffe Library at Oxford on 15 April 1749. He died on 26 Sept. 1749 in consequence of a fall from his horse while returning from hunting, and was buried on 3 Oct. at Ruabon church, where a monument by Rysbrack, with a Latin inscription by William King (1685–1763) [q. v.], was erected to his memory. An elegy to him by Richard Rolt [q. v.] was published in 1749, and reprinted in ‘Bye-Gones’ for 3 July 1889. He was also eulogised in a poem written in 1751 by the first Lord Kenyon, who was then a clerk in a solicitor's office at Nantwich (see Cambrian Quarterly Magazine, ii. 223–5; Campbell, Chief Justices, iii. 4). The publication of an elegy in Welsh is also recorded (Bye-Gones, 1899–1900, p. 39). The only blot on his memory among Welshmen was that he took part in the persecution of the North Wales methodists about 1748, and once caused the pious Peter Williams [q. v.] to be imprisoned in his dog-kennel (Williams, Welsh Calvinistic Methodism, pp. 47, 86; Hughes, Methodistiaeth Cymru, i. 149). His death was regarded by a few as an act of divine interposition for the protection of the persecuted.

Wynn was twice married. His first wife (who died without issue on 24 May 1748) was Ann, heiress of Edward Vaughan, M.P. for Montgomeryshire from 1678–9 till his death in 1718, and owner of the Glanllyn, Llwydiarth, and Llangedwin estates, which ever since his daughter's marriage have formed part of the Wynnstay estate. His second wife, whom he married on 16 July 1748, ‘at the request of his late lady under her hand’ (Gent. Mag.), was Frances (d. 19 April 1803), daughter of George Shakerley of Hulme, Cheshire. By her he had two sons, of whom the eldest, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn (1749–1789), succeeded his father as fourth baronet. He in turn became the father of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, the fifth baronet (1772–1840), of Charles Watkin Williams Wynn [q. v.], and of Sir Henry Watkin Williams Wynn [q. v.]

There are two portraits of Wynn at Wynnstay, one of them being by Allan Ramsay. There is another portrait of him, by Hudson, preserved at Peniarth (Bye-Gones, October 1876, p. 131). There are also at Wynnstay two rings which, according to family tradition, were given to him by Prince Charles (ib. p. 145). In a picture at Badminton Wynn and the fourth Duke of Beaufort are represented as inspecting a racehorse (Baily's Magazine, 1863).

[In addition to authorities cited, see Askew Roberts's Wynnstay and the Wynns, Oswestry, 1876, 4to, and his edition of Wynn's History of the Gwydir Family, Oswestry, 1878. Nicholas's County Families of Wales; Burke's Peerage and Baronetage; Yorke's Royal Tribes of Wales, ed. 1887, pp. 83, 104, 133; Williams's Parl. Hist. of Wales, p. 76; Wales, January 1895 pp. 17–25, October 1896 p. 435.]

D. Ll. T.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.286
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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260 ii 22 Wynn, Sir Watkin W.: for 1660 read 1678-9