Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Widdrington, William (1678-1743)

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WIDDRINGTON, WILLIAM, fourth Baron Widdrington (1678–1743), great-grandson of William Widdrington, first baron Widdrington [q. v.], was the eldest son of William, third baron Widdrington, by his wife Alathea, daughter and heiress of Charles Fairfax, fifth viscount Fairfax of Emley. He was educated at Morpeth grammar school, and succeeded his father on 10 Feb. 1695. He joined the Jacobite rising under Thomas Forster (1675?–1738) [q. v.] and the Earl of Derwentwater [see Radcliffe, James, third Earl] at Warkworth on 7 Oct. 1715, the day after the Plainfield meeting. It was at his instance that the rebel army entered Lancashire, where he counted on support from his relatives the Towneleys and others of the gentry (Ware, Lancashire Memorials of the Rebellion of 1715, ii. 27, 61, Chetham Soc.) He took no part in the fighting at Preston on 12 Nov., and was one of the first to urge Forster next day to surrender. He was brought to London with the other prisoners, and was attainted of high treason on 9 Feb. 1716. He pleaded guilty at his trial, but appealed for mercy on the ground that ‘as he was the last who took up arms, so he was the first who procured a meeting of the chief persons among them, in order to lay them down.’ He was sentenced to death, but was reprieved, and was admitted on 22 Nov. 1717 to the benefit of the act of pardon so far as life and liberty were concerned (Lords' Journals, xx. 557). A petition which he presented on 17 Feb. 1719 for an allowance from his late wife's property to support himself and ‘his distressed family’ was negatived by the House of Commons; but a later petition for the removal of his disabilities was granted, and an act to that effect was passed on 17 May 1733 (Commons' Journals, xix. 103–4, xxii. 62, 154). He died at Bath on 19 April 1743, aged 65, and was buried at Nunnington in Yorkshire, where his second wife had inherited an estate (Gent. Mag. 1743, p. 218; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ix. 550). Patten speaks with contempt of his conduct as a military leader, a role for which he was unfitted by temperament (Hist. of the late Rebellion, 2nd edit. 1717, pp. 125, &c.). Roger Gale described him in 1728 as ‘an infirm sort of a gentleman and a perfect valetudinarian’ (Stukeley, Memoirs, i. 200, Surtees Soc.) He married, first, in 1700, Jane, daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Tempest, bart. of Stella, co. Durham, and had by her (who died on 9 Sept. 1714) three sons and five daughters. He married, secondly, about July 1718, Catherine, daughter (and coheiress in 1739) of Richard Graham, viscount Preston [q. v.]; she survived him, without children, dying in 1757 (Douglas, Peerage of Scotland, ed. Wood, ii. 375). After his death his eldest son, Henry Francis, was commonly called Lord Widdrington, and, dying at Turnham Green in 1774, was confused with his father in obituaries (see Gent. Mag. 1774, p. 446; Ann. Reg. 1774, p. 196).

[Hodgson's Hist. of Northumb. ii. ii. 227–9, 238, 255–7, 402; Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. iv. 169–72; Lady Cowper's Diary, ed. 1865, pp. 72, 85, 186; Howell's State Trials, xv. 761–806; G. E. C[okayne's] Complete Peerage, viii. 135.]

J. A. H-t.