Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lawrence, William (1611?-1681)

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LAWRENCE, WILLIAM (1611?–1681), lawyer, born in 1611 or 1612, was eldest son of William Lawrence (1579-1640) of Wraxhall, Dorset, by Elizabeth (d. 1672), sister of Gregory Gibbes (will of W. Lawrence the elder, registered in P. C. C. 152, Coventry). In 1631 he became a gentleman-commoner of Trinity College, Oxford, and was subsequently called to the bar at the Middle Temple. He rose to considerable eminence in his profession. In November 1653 he was appointed a commissioner for administration of justice in Scotland (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1653-4, p. 273). By the interest of Colonel William Sydenham, his brother-in-law, he was elected, on 26 Nov. 1656, M.P. for the Isle of Wight, on Sydenham's choosing to serve for Dorset, and on 11 Jan. 1658-9 he was returned for Newtown, in the same place (Members of Parliament, Official Return Dom. 1653-4, pt. i. pp. 505, 509). At the Restoration he returned to England, resumed his practice at the bar, and professed great loyalty. He died on 18 March 1680-1, aged 69, and was buried in Wraxhall churchyard. A memorial to him in the church contains a curious poetical epitaph of his own composition. In 1649 he married Martha (b. 1622), third daughter of William Sydenham of Winford Eagle, Dorset, by whom he had a son, William (will registered in P. C. C. 36, Drax). Lawrence wrote: 1. 'Marriage by the Morall Law of God vindicated against all Ceremonial Laws of Popes and Bishops destructive to Filiation, Aliment, and Succession, and the Government of Familyes and Kingdomes,' 2 pts. 4to, London, 1680, which he was compelled to leave unfinished on account of 'disturbances at the press.' Wood alleges that Lawrence wrote the book 'upon a discontent arising from his wife, whom he esteemed dishonest to him.' 2. 'The Right of Primogeniture in Succession to the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.' 4to, London, 1681, in which he learnedly argues in support of the Duke of Monmouth's succession. 3. 'The two great Questions, whereon in this present Juncture of Affairs the Peace and Safety of his Maiesties Person, and of his Protestant Subjects next under God depend, stated, debated, and humbly submitted to the consideration of Supreme Authority, as resolved by Christ,' 4to, London, 1681, a supplement to the foregoing. Lawrence also translated from the Italian of F. Pallavicino 'The Heavenly Divorce; or, our Saviour divorced from the Church of Rome his Spouse.' 12mo, London, 1679. He was fond of writing poetry, and introduced several pieces in which are not without merit.

'Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 62, where the place and date of Lawrence's death are wrongly given; Hutchins's Dorset, 3rd ed. ii. 201-3.]

G. G.