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|Born||(1607-03-10)10 March 1607|
|Died||16 May 1667(1667-05-16) (aged 60)|
|Title||4th Earl of Southampton|
|Other titles||Earl of Chichester
|Offices||Lord High Treasurer|
|Predecessor||Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton|
|Spouse(s)||Rachel de Massue
Lady Elizabeth Leigh
|Parents||Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, KG (/ˈraɪəθsli/ REYE-əths-lee; 10 March 1607 – 16 May 1667), styled Lord Wriothesley before 1624, was an English statesman, a staunch supporter of King Charles II who after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 rose to the position of Lord High Treasurer, which term began with the assumption of power by the Clarendon Ministry. He "was remarkable for his freedom from any taint of corruption and for his efforts in the interests of economy and financial order," a noble if not completely objective view of his work as the keeper of the nation's finances. He died before the impeachment of Lord Clarendon, after which the Cabal Ministry took over government.
He succeeded to the earldom following his father's death in 1624, after which event he attended St. John's College, Cambridge. At first, he sided with the Parliament supporters upon the controversies leading to the English Civil War, but upon his realisation of their propensity to violence, he became a loyal supporter of King Charles I. While remaining very loyal to the deposed monarch, he still worked for peace and represented the king at the peace conferences in 1643 and one at Uxbridge in 1645. He was allowed to remain in England, having paid fines to the Committee for Compounding with Delinquents of more than £6,000.
Several months after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, Lord Southampton was appointed Lord High Treasurer (8 September 1660), a position he occupied until his death. Samuel Pepys admired Southampton's integrity and the stoicism with which he endured his painful last illness, but clearly had doubts about his competence as Treasurer; in particular he recorded Southampton's despairing words to him, having been asked to raise more funds at a Council meeting in April 1665: "Why, what means all this, Mr. Pepys? This is true, you say, but what would you have me do? I have given all I can for my life. Why will not people lend their money?" However Pepys admitted that Sir William Coventry, the colleague he most admired, was himself an admirer of Southampton, whom he described as "a great statesman". Coventry recalled that other ministers would joke that regardless of his complaints that it was "impossible" to find money, Southampton always succeeded in the end. Southampton however once grimly remarked that "Impossible will be found impossible at the last", an accurate prophecy of the crisis of 1672 which led to the Stop of the Exchequer.
Marriages and children
He married three times and had three daughters:
- His first marriage was to Rachel de Massue (1603- 16 February 1640), a French Huguenot and an aunt of Henri de Massue, Marquis de Ruvigny, 1st Viscount Galway. By Rachel he had children two daughters and co-heiresses:
- Elizabeth Wriothesley, Viscountess Campden, wife of Edward Noel, 1st Earl of Gainsborough
- Rachel Wriothesley, wife of William Russell, Lord Russell (1639–1683), the third son of William Russell, 5th Earl of Bedford, later created Duke of Bedford. The eventual heir to all the estates of her father Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, was her only son Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford (1680–1711).
- Secondly he married Lady Elizabeth Leigh, daughter of Francis Leigh, 1st Earl of Chichester from whom he inherited the title Earl of Chichester. By Elizabeth Leigh he had a further daughter:
- Lady Elizabeth Wriothesley (1646–1690) who married twice, firstly to Joceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland (1644–1670), whom she bore an only daughter and sole heiress to the vast Percy estates, Lady Elizabeth Percy (1667–1722), wife of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset (1662–1748); and secondly she married Ralph Montagu, 1st Duke of Montagu.
- Thirdly he married (as her second of three husbands) Lady Frances Seymour, the daughter of William Seymour, 2nd Duke of Somerset (1587–1660) (the 6th Duke's father's first cousin) by his second wife Lady Frances Devereux. They had no children.
- Wells, J. C. Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. 3rd edition. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2008.
- Encyclopædia Britannica
- "Wriothesley, Thomas (WRTY642T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Per Encyclopædia Britannica
- Diary of Samuel Pepys 12 April 1665
- Leslie Stephen (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 38. p. 263. Retrieved 2009-11-02.