Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Waller, William (d.1699)

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WALLER, Sir WILLIAM (d. 1699), informer, son of Sir William Waller (1597?–1668) [q. v.] by his second wife, Anne Finch, distinguished himself during the period of the popish plot by his activity as a Middlesex justice in catching priests, burning Roman catholic books and vestments, and getting up evidence. He was the discoverer of the meal-tub plot and one of the witnesses against Fitzharris (North, Examen, pp. 262, 277, 290; Luttrell, Diary, i. 7, 29, 69). In April 1680 the king put him out of the commission of the peace (ib. i. 39). Waller represented Westminster in the parliaments of 1679 and 1681. During the reaction which followed he fled to Amsterdam, of which city he was admitted a burgher (Christie, Life of Shaftesbury, ii. 452, 455). In 1683 and the following year he was at Bremen, of which place Lord Preston, the English ambassador at Paris, describes him as governor. Other political exiles gathered round him, and it became the nest of all the persons accused of the last conspiracy, i.e. the Rye House plot. ‘They style Waller, by way of commendation, a second Cromwell,’ adds Preston (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. pp. 296, 311, 347, 386). When the prince of Orange invaded England Waller accompanied him, and he was with the prince at Exeter (ib. pp. 417, 423; Reresby, Diary, p. 410). William, however, would give him no employment (Foxcroft, Life of Halifax, ii. 215, 224). He died in July 1699 (Luttrell, iv. 538).

Waller is satirised as ‘Industrious Arod’ in the second part of ‘Absalom and Achitophel’ (ll. 534–55):

    The labours of this midnight magistrate
    Might vie with Corah's to preserve the State.

He is very often introduced in the ballads and caricatures of the exclusion bill and popish plot times (see Catalogue of Satirical Prints in the British Museum, i. 609, 643, 650; Roxburghe Ballads, ed. Ballad Society, iv. 155, 177, 181; Loyal Poems collected by Nat Thompson, 1685, p. 117). Waller was the author of an anti-catholic pamphlet, ‘The Tragical History of Jetzer,’ 1685, fol.

[Wood's Athenæ, iii. 817; other authorities mentioned in the article.]

C. H. F.