Zuylestein, William Henry (1645-1709) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 63
Zuylestein, William Henry (1645-1709)

by Thomas Seccombe
1904 Errata appended.
Contains subarticles Frederick Nassau de Zuylestein (1608–1672), William Nassau de Zuylestein (1681–1710), & Frederick Nassau de Zuylestein (1682–1738).

ZUYLESTEIN or ZULESTEIN, WILLIAM HENRY, first Earl of Rochford (1645–1709), born at the Schloss of Zuylenstein or Zuylestein, about a mile from the city of Utrecht, in May 1645, was the eldest son of Frederick Nassau de Zuylestein, who married, as his first wife, in 1644, Mary, eldest daughter of Sir William Killigrew, bart., and first cousin of Charles II's daughter, the Countess of Yarmouth. This Mary Killigrew went over to Holland, aged barely seventeen, as a maid of honour to Mary, princess royal of England and princess of Orange, in February 1644.

William Henry's father, Frederick Nassau de Zuylestein (1608–1672), was a natural son, by the daughter of a burgomaster of Emmerich, of Henry Frederick, prince of Orange. He was a faithful henchman to his half-brother, William II, until that prince's sudden death in 1650, and a few years later it was agreed between the Princess Mary and the Princess Dowager Amalia that he should act as governor to his ‘nephew’ (afterwards William III). In 1659, against the young prince's own inclination, Zuylestein was supplanted in this influential position by Johan van Ghent, a partisan of the grand pensionary John de Witt (Pontalis, De Witt, i. 476). He nevertheless accompanied William to England in the winter of 1670. Burnet relates that Charles spoke to the prince in private of the factious character inherent in a protestant people. ‘The prince told all this to his natural uncle (and to no one else until after Charles's death), and they were both amazed’ at such a frank expression of religious opinion. John Evelyn supped with him during his stay in England on 15 Dec. 1670. Zuylestein was appointed a general of foot in the Dutch army in February 1672, and shared with his nephew the prince and Count Horn in the attack on Woerden, a town in South Holland, held by one of Louis XIV's garrisons. Zuylestein repulsed an attack by a relieving force, and the town sent a message with a view to capitulation, but on that same night, 12 Oct. 1672, Zuylestein was slain in an attack upon his quarters led in person by the French general Luxembourg. He was wounded in eighteen places, and his body was almost hacked to pieces, a circumstance which Le Clerc regarded as a just retribution for the prominent part that Zuylestein had taken in planning, if not in executing, the cruel murder of the De Witts (Hist. des Provinces-Unies, 1738, iii. 312).

William Henry entered the Dutch cavalry in 1672, but as a young man appears to have been best known at The Hague for his gallantry and his good looks, and as a companion of the prince's pleasures. He was greatly trusted by William, and acquitted himself so well on a mission of observation to England in August 1687, the nominal purpose being to condole with the queen-consort upon the death of her mother, the Dowager Duchess Laura of Modena, that he was named envoy upon a much more important occasion in the summer of the following year. His avowed purpose was now to felicitate Mary Beatrice upon the birth of a prince, his real object to inform himself of the temper of the nation and to gauge the probability of James's summoning a parliament and adopting a more rational and conciliatory policy. For this purpose it was thought that an envoy with the frank and martial exterior of a cavalry colonel, such as Zuylestein, would be able to operate with much greater freedom than a recognised diplomat of such known astuteness as Dykvelt. But beneath the brave carriage of the dragoon there lurked in Zuylestein no ordinary power of dissimulation. He was received by the queen at St. James's on 28 June 1688 (London Gazette, 30 June), and the cordiality of his messages inspired Mary Beatrice to write a letter of playful affection to her ‘dear lemon’ (the Princess of Orange); but he wrote at once an account of the sceptical manner in which the birth was received in London, and intrigued expeditiously and effectively with all the prominent malcontents. Clarendon records a number of his movements during July. He returned with Sidney to The Hague early in August, taking with him letters to William from Nottingham, Churchill, Herbert, Bishop Compton, Sunderland, and others. On his return he was promoted a major-general in the Dutch army. On 16 Oct. he embarked on the same ship with William at Helvoetsluys. On 15 Dec. he was sent by William from Windsor with a message urging James to stay at Rochester and not on any account return to London. He found on his arrival that James had already returned to Whitehall, whither Zulestein promptly followed him (Hatton Corresp. ii. 127; London Gazette, No. 2410). In response to William's blunt message, James expressed a hope that the prince might be induced to meet him at Whitehall. Zuylestein was ready with an uncompromising answer to the effect that the prince would not enter London while any royal troops remained in it. This had the desired effect of scaring James from the palace.

Zuylestein was naturalised in England on 11 May 1689, and was appointed master of the robes to the king on 23 May, holding the post down to 1695. His regiment was retained for service in the north of England; in May 1691 it was at Durham (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1690–1, p. 265). He accompanied William to Ireland, but in August 1690 left the campaign there on a mission to Whitehall, where his tanned face ‘frighted’ the queen, though she regarded him as the harbinger of her husband's return (ib. Dom. 1690, p. 97). On 12 Sept. 1690 he was promoted a lieutenant-general in the English army. In a list of this date (Commons' Journals, xii. 635) he is mentioned as an English subject with the rank of lieutenant-general and pay of 1,460l. per annum. In January 1691 he accompanied William to Holland, and had a perilous adventure in a small boat in a premature attempt to land (Luttrell, ii. 165). In July 1693, in the sanguinary battle of Neerwinden, after distinguishing himself and, it is said, rescuing William from a position of great danger, Zuylestein was slightly wounded and taken to Namur; he was exchanged and returned to the camp on 8 Aug. In November 1693 his regiment was again ordered to Flanders.

On 10 May 1695 Zuylestein was created Baron Enfield, Viscount Tunbridge, and Earl of Rochford, and received a grant of part of the Marquis of Powis's estates (Rawlinson MS. A 289); he took his seat on 20 Feb. 1696 (Lords' Journ. xv. 675). On 25 Dec. 1695 he received a pension of 1,000l. per annum (Rawlinson MS. A 241). In the report presented to parliament in 1699 it was shown that he had received grants of land in Ireland amounting to 30,512 acres (Rapin, iii. 399). His later years were passed in comparative seclusion for the most part in Holland, where William visited him in 1697, and he died at his estate of Zuylenstein in the province of Utrecht in January 1708–9. He had married, on 25 Jan. 1681, Jane, daughter of Sir Henry Wroth of Durrants, Enfield, and of Loughton House in Essex [see under Wroth, Sir Robert]. She went over as maid of honour to Mary, princess of Orange (afterwards Mary II). Zuylestein seduced her, and then refused the promised marriage, being strongly encouraged in this course of conduct by William. Ken, however, at Mary's instance, wrought upon the count to marry the lady, and performed the ceremony secretly in Mary's chapel while the prince was absent hunting. William was excessively angry, and Ken had temporarily to withdraw from The Hague (cf. Spence, Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 329; Newman, Tracts for the Times, No. 75).

The eldest son, William Nassau de Zuylestein or Zulestein, second Earl of Rochford (1681–1710), was born in 1681, and after 1695 was styled Viscount Tunbridge. He was returned to the Irish parliament for Kilkenny in 1705. In the meantime he had gone out to the seat of war in Flanders, and was appointed one of Marlborough's aides-de-camp early in 1704. Marlborough wrote of him to his father on 1 Sept. 1704 as a young seigneur who promised well, and he was selected for the honour of bearing the despatch of the victory of Blenheim from the generalissimo to the queen. The ‘M. Lulestein’ mentioned in the same letter (as printed by Murray) is evidently a misprint for Zulestein, and probably refers to Tunbridge's second brother, Maurice. Tunbridge arrived in London with his despatches on 15 Aug. In January 1706 he was promoted lieutenant-colonel of the 32nd regiment of foot, and on 1 Feb. 1707 colonel of the 3rd dragoons. On 3 May 1708 he entered the English parliament in the dominant whig interest for Steyning borough, Sussex. Next year (having succeeded as second Earl of Rochford in January 1708–1709) he was sent out with his regiment under the command of General Wills to Spain, arriving off Lisbon in October 1709. On New Year's day 1710 he was promoted brigadier-general. At the battle of Almenara (not Almanza, as stated by Collins and Burke) he fought with the utmost gallantry at the head of his dragoons on the extreme left, under Stanhope and Carpenter. His regiment bore the brunt of the fighting, and he was killed by a sword-cut in the hour of victory, 27 July 1710. Stanhope speaks of him as a young officer of much promise (History, 1870, p. 433). Being unmarried, he was succeeded in the earldom by his brother,

Frederick Nassau de Zuylestein, third Earl of Rochford (1682–1738), who had been brought up in Holland as a noble of the province of Utrecht. He joined the powerful whig opposition (1710–14) in the House of Lords, and took part in the protest against the stifling of the Assiento inquiry in 1713 (Rogers, Protests of the Lords, i. 224). He died on 14 June 1738 at his house in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and was buried at Easton in Suffolk, where his younger brother, Henry (d. 1741), who had been a lieutenant-colonel in a dragoon regiment, was seated. His own country residence was St. Osyth Priory, the fine old Essex mansion (partly renovated about 1715) which came to him through his marriage in 1701 to Bessy (d. 23 June 1746), illegitimate daughter by Elizabeth Culleton of Richard Savage, fourth earl Rivers [q. v.] By her he was father of William Henry Nassau de Zuylestein, fourth earl of Rochford [q. v.], and Richard Savage Nassau de Zuylestein (1723–1780), M.P. for Colchester (1747–54) and for Malden (1774–80), and one of the clerks of the board of green cloth. This Richard Savage married, on 24 Dec. 1751, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Edward Spencer of Rendlesham, Suffolk, and the widow of James Douglas, fifth duke of Hamilton; by her (she died on 9 March 1771) he was father of William Henry, fifth and last earl of Rochford.

Of the first earl's daughters, Anne died unmarried and was buried in St. Nicholas's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, on 15 Feb. 1701 (Chester, Reg. p. 248); Mary married the Heer Harvelt or Harrevel, one of the chief nobles of the province of Guelderland and second son of Godert de Ginkel, first earl of Athlone [q. v.]; and Henrietta married Frederick Christian Ginkel, second earl of Athlone (1668–1719), the elder brother of Mary's husband [see under Ginkel, Godert de].

[Collins's Peerage, 1812, iii. 721; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage; Burke's Extinct Peerage, s.v. ‘Nassau;’ Huebner's Genealogische Tabellen, iv. 1272; Zedler's Universal Lexicon, 1750, lxiv. 956–8; Essex Arch. Soc. Trans. 1873, v. 45; Playfair's Family Antiquity, 1809, i. 363–5; Luttrell's Brief Hist. Relation, i. 488, ii. 165, 199, 230, 318, 369, iii. 146, 150, 157, 225, 467, iv. 20, 305, 320, v. 455; Burnet's Own Time, 1857, i. 185, 479, 506; Boyer's William III, 1703, pp. 22, 130, 159, 161, 200, 408, 415; Boyer's Queen Anne, 1735, pp. 200, 394, 450, 461; Mulgrave's Account of the Revolution; Evelyn's Diary, ii. 57; Rapin and Tindal's Hist. of England, xvii. 286; Dalrymple's Memoirs of Great Britain, 1790, bk. v. and appendix containing packet of letters from Mary of Modena, Mordaunt, Danby, Halifax, Compton, and others to William, prince of Orange, in which reference is made to Zuylestein as the prince's emissary; Corresp. of Henry Hyde, earl of Clarendon, 1828, i. 165, ii. 178–182, 226, 229; Clarke's James II, 1816, ii. 262, 266; Despatches of Marlborough, ed. Murray, i. 392, 445; Dalton's English Army Lists, iv. 217; Coxe's Marlborough, iii. 153; Wolseley's Life of Marlborough, i. 383; Parnell's War in Spain, pp. 270, 276–7; Mackintosh's Hist. of the Revolution, 1834, pp. 392, 411, 415, 544; Macaulay's History, 1883, i. 455, 508, 611, 667, ii. 240; Mazure's Hist. de la Révolution, 1825, iii. 263; Ralph's Hist. of England, pp. 999, 1066; Ranke's Hist. of England, iv. 398; Wilson's James II and Duke of Berwick, pp. 71–2; Noble's Contin. of Granger, iii. 442; Plumptre's Life of Ken, 1888, i. 55, 136, 144, 145, ii. 21, 23, 270; Strickland's Queens of England, vi. 199, 200, 226, 229, 285, vii. 73–4, 185, 302–3, 331; Klopp's Fall des Hauses Stuart, 1870, iii. 379, iv. 64, 67, 71; Foxcroft's Life of Halifax, 1898, i. 484, ii. 38–42; Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. App. p. 316, 8th Rep. App. pp. 17, 36–7, 11th Rep. App. iv. 64, 67, 71; Official Return of Members of Parliament, Index, s.v. ‘Yulestein.’]

T. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.287
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
430 i 34 Zuylestein, William H., 4th Earl of Rochford: for In December of this year Rochford showed read In December 1770 Rochford, though still nominally under Weymouth's direction, showed
ii 41  for a master read master