Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Villiers, Edward (1585?-1626)

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VILLIERS, Sir EDWARD (1585?–1626), president of Munster, born about 1585, was the second son of Sir George Villiers, by his first wife, Audrey, daughter of William Saunders of Harrington, Northamptonshire. His father, Sir George Villiers (d. 1606), came of a family which claimed descent from a companion of William the Conqueror, and had long been settled at Brooksby in Leicestershire (Collins, Peerage, iv. 172-7, s.v. 'Jersey, Earl of '). He served as sheriff of Leicestershire in 1591, was knighted, and died on 4 Jan. 1605-6. By his first wife, Audrey (d. 1587), he had issue, besides Sir Edward and three daughters, Sir William, who was sheriff of Leicestershire in 1608-9, and was created a baronet on 19 July 1619, an honour which became extinct on the death of his grandson, Sir William, on 27 Feb. 1711-12. Sir George married, secondly, Mary, daughter of Anthony Beaumont of Glenfield, Leicestershire, and by her had issue John Villiers, viscount Purbeck [q. v.]; George Villiers, first duke of Buckingham [q. v.]; Christopher Villiers, first earl of Anglesey [q. v.]; and Susan, who married William Feilding, first earl of Denbigh [q. v.], and is noticed under her husband. Sir George's widow was on 1 July 1618 created Countess of Buckingham for life, and married, secondly, Sir William Rayner, and, thirdly, Sir Thomas Compton. She died on 19 April 1632 in the sixty-third year of her age, and was buried in St. Edmund's Chapel, Westminster Abbey.

Edward, being only half-brother to the favourite, George, duke of Buckingham, depended for his advancement more on his own abilities. He was knighted on 7 Sept. 1616, and in October 1617 succeeded Sir Richard Martin as master of the mint, and in November 1618 became comptroller of the court of wards. On 30 Dec. 1620 he was returned to parliament as member for Westminster, but was in the same month sent to the Elector Frederick to say that assistance would be rendered him, but only on condition that he entered into an agreement to relinquish the crown of Bohemia (Gardiner, iii. 386, iv. 178, 181). He returned before May and took his seat in parliament, but was in that month temporarily excluded from the house for attempting to speak on the question of a patent in which he was personally interested (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1619-23). This was apparently the famous gold and silver patent in which Villiers had invested 4,000l. in 1617, and from which he derived an income of 500l. annually. His conduct in this business was vindicated in the inquiry by the House of Lords in June, and Villiers was allowed to resume his seat in the commons (ib. p. 264; Gardiner, iv. 12, 17, 116). In the following September he was again sent to the Elector Frederick, then serving with the Dutch army, to persuade him to withdraw from it and submit to the emperor. On 23 Sept. 1622 he was granted a lease of the customs and subsidies on gold and silver thread on condition of surrendering the mastership of the mint, but the latter office was restored to him in July 1624. He was re-elected for Westminster on 22 Jan. 1623-1624, and on 25 April 1625; in August of the latter year he asked the commons to prevent a dissolution by desisting from their attack on Buckingham.

Meanwhile James I, in January 1624-5, appointed Villiers president of Munster; the appointment was confirmed by Charles I on 6 May following, and in August Villiers went over to assume his duties. He held the post little over a year, and was absent for several months during that period; but he created a very favourable impression by his tenure of the office. He died in the college of Youghal, which he made his official residence, on 7 Sept. 1626, 'as much to the grief of the whole province as ever any governor died' (Wotton, Remains, Letter 8). He was buried at the east end of the Cork transept of St. Mary's, Youghal, and his tomb, which is still in good preservation, bears an epitaph in verse, which is also an epigram, and is said to resemble those written by Ben Jonson (Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland, p. 150).

Villiers married Barbara, eldest daughter of Sir John St. John and niece of Oliver St. John, viscount Grandison [q. v.], whose viscountcy was specially entailed upon his niece's issue. Consequently her eldest son by Sir Edward Villiers, William, succeeded St. John as second Viscount Grandison in 1630; he was father of Barbara Villiers [q. v.], duchess of Cleveland. Sir Edward's second and third sons, George and John, succeeded as third and fourth viscounts Grandison; the fourth son, Sir Edward (1620- 1689), was father of Edward Villiers, first earl of Jersey [q. v.]

[Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611-26, passim, Ireland, 1615-25, pp. 271, 568; Morrin's Cal. Patent and Close Rolls, Ireland, Charles I, passim; Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. pt. iii. vol. iv. pp. 159, 254, 258, 269, 430; Official Return Members of Parl.; Lascelles's Liber Muner. Hibernicorum; Lismore Papers, ed. Grosart, 1st ser. ii. 366-8, 382; Lords' and Commons' Journals; Spedding's Bacon; Gardiner's Hist. vols. iii-v. passim; Collins and Burke's Extinct and Extant and G. E. C[okayne]'s Peerages.]

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