Major John Wildman earns biographies in the British Civil War Project
as well as the House of Commons
and features in an article about the hiding of Cavalier estates during the Interregnum
Wildman was called ‘a scholar of Cambridge’ by Clarendon, but he never matriculated at the university. He picked up enough knowledge of the law to practice as an attorney, first achieving political prominence as spokesman for democratic republicanism in the Putney Debates of 1647.
He abandoned the Levellers in 1649, and became a successful land-jobber and ‘manager of Papists’ interests’. But he was openly hostile to the Protectorate, and was not allowed to take his Parliamentary seat in 1654. About this time he bought a Wiltshire estate, worth over £1,500 p.a., so he was making good money.
In 1655 he was arrested in the act of dictating a proclamation against Cromwell. He was accused of complicity in the Penruddock Rising which followed. But his contacts with the Royalists were few, apart from his position as man of business to George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham.
Wildman was released in 1656, probably on condition of becoming an informer, and resumed his career of intrigue.
Major John Wildman's seizure of Windsor Castle from Gen. Lambert’s supporters in December 1659 stood him in good stead at the Restoration, and for a few months he was the power behind the scenes at the Post Office. ‘As subtle a person as any of his quality in England’, commented a rival.
But in November 1661 he was rounded up with the other leading republicans, and imprison until the fall of Clarendon in 1667.
It was Buckingham who procured Wildman's release, and proposed him unsuccessfully for the commission of public accounts as ‘the wisest statesman in England’.
Wildman went abroad in 1670, but returned before the third Anglo-Dutch war, and took no part in du Moulin’s activities.
[Pierre du Moulin was the person responsible for both the writing and the distribution of William of Orange’s propaganda in England, and also for the organization of a Dutch spy network in England during the third Anglo-Dutch war from 1672-74.]
John Hawles many years later deposed that ‘John Wildman never was more quiet and freer from troubles from the time he arrived at the age of 20 years than he was from the year 1672 to the year 1683’. [Or did he just cover his tracks well?]
By reading his Parliamentary bio. you'll see how his work at the Post Office and for William of Orange paid off ... he was well placed to bribe or blackmail himself into whatever position he or Buckingham wanted.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.