Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Widdrington, William (1610-1651)

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WIDDRINGTON, WILLIAM, first Baron Widdrington (1610–1651), was the only son of Sir Henry Widdrington of Swinburne and Widdrington, Northumberland, by his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Henry Curwen of Workington in Cumberland. At the time of his father's death, 4 Sept. 1623, he was thirteen years, one month, and twenty-four days old; he must therefore have been born on 11 July 1610 (Record Office, Court of Wards, Inquis. post mortem, bundle 39, No. 186). He was knighted at Newmarket on 18 March 1642 (Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 191). From 1635 to 1640 he took an active part in the administrative work of the county, of which he was sheriff 1636–7, and which he represented in both parliaments of 1640 (Cal. State Papers, Dom.; Hutchinson, View of Northumberland, ii. 461; Members of Parliament, i. 482, 491). He had to apologise to the house on 10 Nov. 1640 for applying the term ‘invading rebels’ in debate to the Scots, whose depredations in the northern counties formed the subject of a petition presented by him on 15 March 1641 to the commissioners for the Scottish treaty (Commons' Journals, ii. 25; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. p. 57). He was one of the fifty-six members whose names were posted as ‘betrayers of their country’ for voting against the attainder of Strafford (Parl. Hist. ii. 756). On 9 June 1641 he was sent to the Tower by the House of Commons for bringing in candles on the previous night without authority, but was released on the 14th (ib. ii. 818; Commons' Journals, ii. 171, 173, 175).

At the outbreak of the civil war he took up arms for the king, and was in consequence expelled from parliament on 26 Aug. 1642 (Commons' Journals, ii. 738). He is said to have been made a baronet on 9 July (Wotton, English Baronetage, iv. 274; Dugdale, Baronage, ii. 471; but see G. E. C[ockayne], Complete Peerage, viii. 135); on the 14th he was in Newcastle apparently raising forces (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. App. p. 37). In an army list of 1642 he appears as major of Sir Lewis Dives's regiment (Masson, Life of Milton, ii. 442). The Duchess of Newcastle says that he was ‘president of the council of war, and commander-in-chief of the three counties of Lincoln, Rutland, and Nottingham’ (Life of William, Duke of Newcastle, ed. 1886, p. 166); but this must have been later, probably towards the end of 1643 (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1641–3, p. 482). Dugdale enumerates the places, in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Lincolnshire, ‘but chiefly at Bradford,’ where he fought with distinction under Newcastle, to whom he attached himself closely [see Cavendish, William, Duke of Newcastle]. In August 1643 he was put in command of the garrison at Lincoln (Life of Newcastle, p. 56), and he was one of the leaders in the royalist defeat at Horncastle on 11 Oct. (his letter to Newcastle, describing the battle, was intercepted, and is printed in Rushworth, iii. ii. 282, also in a pamphlet entitled A True and Exact Relation of the Great Victories obtained by the Earl of Manchester, 1643, Brit. Museum, E. 71, 22). On 2 Nov. he was created Baron Widdrington of Blankney, Lincolnshire (Deputy-Keeper of Publ. Rec. 47th Rep. App. p. 121), and he was one of the royalist noblemen who wrote shortly afterwards to the Scottish privy council (Clarendon, History, ed. 1888, iii. 288; Rushworth, iii. ii. 563). He assisted in the defence of York in June 1644 (Markham, Life of Fairfax, p. 146; Whitelocke, p. 90).

After the battle of Marston Moor Widdrington accompanied Newcastle to Hamburg, and eventually to Paris. He stayed in France until the summer of 1648, returning then to the Low Countries, where he joined Prince Charles (Life of Newcastle, pp. 84–94; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1645–7, p. 61; Addit. MS. 23206, f. 24; Clarendon State Papers, ed. 1872, i. 323, 438). He was proscribed by parliament on 14 March 1649, and his estates were confiscated; on 17 July his wife was granted a pass to go beyond sea (Commons' Journals, vi. 164; Whitelocke, p. 406; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–50, pp. 39, 541). He crossed over to Scotland with Charles in June 1650; the committee of estates regarded him as ‘wrong principled,’ and ordered him repeatedly to quit the kingdom, but eventually (28 Dec.) gave him leave to stay (Balfour, Historical Works, iv. 64–65, 109–10, 121, 225; Gardiner, Commonwealth, i. 264; Clarendon State Papers, ii. 69). He followed Charles into England in 1651, but was left in Lancashire with Derby [see Stanley, James, seventh Earl of Derby], while the main army moved south. Derby's force was routed near Wigan by Robert Lilburne [q. v.] on 25 Aug., after a sharp fight. Widdrington was wounded mortally and died a day or two later (Ormerod, Civil War Tracts, pp. 298–305).

Widdrington married, in 1629, Mary, daughter and heiress of Sir Anthony Thorold of Blankney, and had by her eight sons and two daughters. He was succeeded by his eldest son, William. His daughter Jane married Sir Charles Stanley, K.B., nephew of the Lord Derby mentioned above (Hodgson, Hist. of Northumberland, ii. ii. 238; Stanley Papers, Chetham Soc. iii. i. clxxxvi). Clarendon describes him as ‘one of the most goodly persons of that age, being near the head higher than most tall men,’ and speaks of his courage in very high terms (History, v. 183, 185–6). Portraits by Van Dyck and Van Loo are at Towneley (Stanley Papers; Cat. Third Loan Exhib. Nos. 692, 763).

[Hodgson's Hist. of Northumberland, ii. ii. 226, 237; authorities cited.]

J. A. H-t.