1893 text

William Coventry, to whom Pepys became so warmly attached afterwards, was the fourth son of Thomas, first Lord Coventry, the Lord Keeper. He was born in 1628, and entered at Queen’s College, Oxford, in 1642; after the Restoration he became private secretary to the Duke of York, his commission as Secretary to the Lord High Admiral not being conferred until 1664; elected M.P. for Great Yarmouth in 1661. In 1662 he was appointed an extra Commissioner of the Navy, an office he held until 1667; in 1665, knighted and sworn a Privy Councillor, and, in 1667, constituted a Commissioner of the Treasury; but, having been forbid the court on account of his challenging the Duke of Buckingham, he retired into the country, nor could he subsequently be prevailed upon to accept of any official employment. Burnet calls Sir William Coventry the best speaker in the House of Commons, and “a man of the finest and best temper that belonged to the court,” and Pepys never omits an opportunity of paying a tribute to his public and private worth. He died, 1686, of gout in the stomach.

10 Annotations

vincent   Link to this

NO adequate life of Sir William Coventry has been written; the most satisfactory appreciation of his character and abilities is to be found in the several passages relating to him see
and..* /co/Coverdale .htm
read the father too THOMAS COVENTRY, 1ST BARON (1578-1640),

a little aside involving a plot of murder
Two days after this had been made public, a man named William Bedlow put himself in communication with Sir William Coventry, Secretary of State, declaring he had a certain knowledge of the murder in question.


Cumgranissalis   Link to this

1660 July Coventry, Hon. W.

Between 1660 and 1664 the Secretary was entirely dependent on fees for his remuneration. In the latter year a salary of

Cumgranissalis   Link to this

He was made Extra Commissioner in June 62 ; Having the Ear of Prince James, Coventry as his secretary of the Navy, changed and charged the atmosphere in the Diary. Cat amongst the pigeons,
many references in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, he being an active person.

Barbara Hewitt   Link to this

"Sent to Coventry", which Lord was this associated with? His address, is this now known as "The Old Ship Inn, Mere in Wiltshire? Where can I find details of the Deed in which Lord Coventry handed over the House to the Town?

Pedro   Link to this

A part of Coventry's income?

Warrant, by the Duke of Ormond, made in pursuance of the King's letter of 16 December preceding

Written from: Dublin Castle Date: 21 January 1663

Shelfmark: MS. Carte 165, fol(s). 69
Document type: Copy

Warrant, by the Duke of Ormond, made in pursuance of the King's letter of 16 December 1662 [see MS. Carte 43, fols. 62-63], for the grant in due form of law to William Coventry, and William Legg, esquires, of certain profits accruing to the Crown by virtue of a proviso in the 'Act of Settlement', concerning the deduction of "fractions of odd pounds, shillings, and pence in the stating of sums of money, debentures, &c.", and also concerning deduction of "fractions of odd acres, roods, & perches, in the ascertaining of the respective proportions of lands, which shall be settled or granted in satisafction of" (certain) "particular interests" ...; reserving to the Crown certain yearly rents from the grantees aforesaid, ... "that is to say, for every acre of the said fractions of land that shall happen to be struck off and deducted in the Province of Leinster, three pence; ... for the like in Munster, twopence farthing; for the like in Connaught, one penny and one halfpenny; and for the like in Ulster, one penny"; the said reserved rents to be paid yearly into the Receipt of the Exchequer in Ireland, "by two even and equal payments". ...

CGS   Link to this

summary in
Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: volume 1 (1769)

Sir Wm. Coventry, (the youngest son of Lord Keeper Coventry) was a man of the finest and best temper that belonged to the Court. The Duke of Buckingham and he fell out, and a challenge passed between them, upon which Coventry was forbid the Court. He was offered after that the best posts in the Court oftner than once; but he would never engage again. He saw what was at bottom, and was resolved not to go through with it, and so continued to his death in a retired course of life. Burnet. A very different character is given of him by Lord Clarendon, whom he constantly opposed, being, as he says, "a declared enemy to all Lawyers and to the Law itself." See Lord Clarendon's life, p. 183 and 300.


Christopher Squire   Link to this

‘ . . He died [aged 59] unmarried at Somerhill, near Tunbridge Wells, on 23 June 1686 . . [his] political views are best known from their affectionate portrayal in The Character of a Trimmer, which came out in 1688 with a title-page ascribing it to ‘the Honourable Sir W. C.’. It was printed from a copy found among Coventry's papers, but the author was George Savile, marquess of Halifax, Coventry's nephew.

This is a vindication of the presence of a middle political party, unconnected with either of the two recognized parties in parliamentary warfare. During his life Coventry admitted himself to be a trimmer, a title which he defines as ‘one who would sit upright and not overturn the boat by swaying too much on either side’ [DNB]

cum salis grano   Link to this

Sir William was the original Trimmer [see wiki]

The Character of a Trimmer,

"The 'trimmer' is one who disposes his weight so as to keep the ship upon an even keel. And our inspection of his conduct reveals certain general ideas at work...Being concerned to prevent politics from running to extremes, he believes that there is a time for everything and that everything has its time -- not providentially, but empirically. He will be found facing in whatever direction the occasion seems to require if the boat is to go even."


cum salis grano   Link to this

OED trimmer
5. One who trims between opposing parties in politics, etc.; hence, one who inclines to each of two opposite sides as interest dictates.

Applied orig. in this sense to Lord Halifax and those associated with him (1680-90), but by him accepted in the sense ‘one who keeps even the ship of state’; hence ‘one who changes sides to balance parties’ (J.).

1682 DRYDEN Dk. Guise Epil. 33, 38 We Trimmers are for holding all things even.{em}Yes{em}just like him that hung 'twixt Hell and Heaven... You Trimmers shou'd, to poize it, hang on t'other.
1682 Character of a Trimmer 2 A Trimmer, one neither Whigg nor Tory, is a Hater of Anti-christ, an Abominator of Enthusiasm.
1685 EVELYN Mem. 7 May, Those whom (by way of hateful distinction) they call'd Whiggs and Trimmers.
1704 Faction Displ. xiv, The Patriot's Soul disdains the Trimmer's Art.

Bill   Link to this

COVENTRY, Sir WILLIAM (1628?-1686) politician: a younger son of Thomas, first baron Coventry; entered Queen's College, Oxford, 1642; captain of foot in Charles I's service; withdrew to France; secretary to the Duke of York, 1660-7; M.P., Great Yarmouth, 1661-1679; commissioner of the navy, 1662, and so friend of Samuel Pepys; knighted, 1605; spoke against Clarendon, 1667; quarrelled with Buckingham; Imprisoned, 1668; published pamphlets, 1673 and 1685; reputed author of 'Character of a Trimmer,' published 1688.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

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