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The Earl of Southampton

Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, wearing his Garter Star and holding his Staff of Office as Lord High Treasurer. Portrait by School of Sir Peter Lely
PredecessorHenry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
Other titlesEarl of Chichester
Lord Wriothesley
Born(1607-03-10)10 March 1607
Died16 May 1667(1667-05-16) (aged 60)
OfficesLord High Treasurer
Spouse(s)Rachel de Massue
Lady Elizabeth Leigh
Frances Seymour
ParentsHenry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
Elizabeth Vernon
Arms of Wriothesley: Azure, a cross or between four hawks close argent

Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, KG (/ˈrəθsli/ RY-əth-slee;[1] 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",[2] a noble if not a completely objective view of his work as the keeper of the nation's finances.[3] He died before the impeachment of Lord Clarendon, after which the Cabal Ministry took over government.


He was the only surviving son of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573–1624) by his wife Elizabeth Vernon (1572–1655), a daughter of John Vernon (died 1592) of Hodnet, Shropshire. In 1545 King Henry VIII granted to his ancestor Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, Chancellor of England, the manor of Bloomsbury[4] (now in Central London), which descended by the 4th Earl's second daughter and heiress to the Russell family, and is now part of the Bedford Estate. The Wriothesley family is commemorated today by Southampton Row and Southampton Street in Holborn,[2] within the historic estate.


He succeeded to the earldom following his father's death in 1624, after which event he attended St. John's College, Cambridge.[5] 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.[6] 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?"[7] 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 issue

Rachel de Massue, first wife of Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, portrait c.1638 by van Dyck

He married thrice and had three daughters:


  1. ^ Wells, J. C. Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. 3rd edition. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Southampton, Earl of" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 489–490.
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ "Bloomsbury's History & Heritage | the Bedford Estates".
  5. ^ "Wriothesley, Thomas (WRTY642T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  6. ^ Per Encyclopædia Britannica
  7. ^ Diary of Samuel Pepys 12 April 1665
  8. ^
  9. ^ Leslie Stephen (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 38. p. 263. Retrieved 2 November 2009.

10 Annotations

First Reading

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

prev: ref…
Wriothesley, Thomas (4th Earl of Southampton, Lord Treasurer)……
Thomas Wriothesley, 4th earl of Southampton born 1607
died May 16, 1667, London, Eng
major supporter of both Charles I and Charles II of England.
The only surviving son of the 3rd Earl, Thomas attended St. John's College, Cambridge. When the dispute began between Charles I and Parliament, he took the side of the latter, but soon the violence of its leaders drove him to support Charles, one of whose most loyal advisers he remained thereafter.

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Family seat: The Manor of Botley ??????
Botley good for golf -N.E of Southhampton NW of Portsmouth

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

Warrington has the following as a note to 'Southampton's parks and lands': "Titchfield House, erected by Sir Thomas Wriothesley, on the site of an abbey of Premonstratensians, granted to him with their estates, 29th Henry VIII. Upon the death of his descendant, Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, the Lord Treasurer, without male issue, the house and manor were allottes to his eldest daughter Elizabeth, wife of Edmund Noel, first Earl of Gainsborough; and their only son dying s.p.m., the property devolved to his sister Elizabeth, married to Henry Bentinck, first Duke of Portland, whose grandson, the third duke, alienated it to Mr Delme. The duke's second title is taken from this place."

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

He was a man [The Earl of Southampton] of great vertue, and of very good parts. He had a lively apprehension, and a good judgment. He had merited much by his constant adhering to the King's interest during the war, and by the large supplies he had sent him every year during his exile, for he had a great estate, and only three daughters to inherit it. He was Lord Treasurer: But he grew soon weary of business; for as he was subject to the stone, which returned often and violently upon him, so he retained the principles of liberty, and did not go into the violent measures of the Court. When he saw the King's temper, and his way of managing, or rather of spoiling business, he grew very uneasy, and kept himself more out of the way than was consistent with that high post. The King stood in some awe of him; and saw how popular he would grow, if put out of his service: And therefore he chose rather to bear with his ill humour and contradiction, than to dismiss him. He left the business of the treasury wholly in the hands of his secretary, Sir Philip Warwick, who was an honest, but a weak man, understood the common road of the treasury, he was an incorrupt man, and during seven years management of the treasury made but an ordinary fortune out of it. Before the Restoration the Lord Treasurer had but a small salary, with an allowance for a table; but he gave, or rather sold, all the subaltern places, and made great profits out of the estate of the Crown: But now, that estate being gone, and the Earl of Southampton disdaining to sell places, the matter was settled so, that the Lord Treasurer was to have 8000 l. a year, and the King was to name all the subaltern officers. It continued to be so all his time: But since that time the Lord Treasurer has both the 8000 l. and a main hand in the disposing of those places.
---History of His Own Time. G. Burnet, 1724

Bill  •  Link

The earl of Southampton, like another Sully, was placed at the head of the treasury after the ravage and confusion of the civil war. He, with the capacity and application of that able minister, undertook to reduce the public accounts to regularity and order; and happily succeeded in that great attempt. But the king, who had not the least œconomy himself, was too apt to overlook that virtue in others; and, what was still worse, was inclined to pull down much faster than his treasurer could build up. This excellent person, who was loyal, and yet a patriot, died too soon for the good of his country. He was a man of a quick and lively conception, prompt elocution, and invincible integrity. He was of an amiable and examplary character in domestic life; and, to say all in one word, was in his great office in the treasury, what his friend the lord Clarendon was in the high court of chancery. Ob. 16 May, 1667. Upon his decease, the treasury was put into commission, and the duke of Albemarle was appointed first commissioner.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.

Bill  •  Link

WRIOTHESLEY, THOMAS, fourth Earl Of Southampton (1607-1667), son of Henry Wriothesley, third earl of Southampton; succeeded to title, 1624; of Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford; supported resolution of House of Commons that redress of grievances should precede supply, but subsequently joined Charles I; privy councillor, 1642; became one of Charles I's closest advisers, making repeated efforts for peace; after Charles I's execution lived in retirement in country; privy councillor to Charles II and K.G.; lord high treasurer of England, 1660-7; opposed in council and parliament bill for liberty of conscience, 1663.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link



9 February, 1665. Dined at my Lord Treasurer's, the Earl of Southampton, in Bloomsbury, where he was building a noble square or piazza,* a little town; his own house stands too low, some noble rooms, a pretty cedar chapel, a naked garden to the north, but good air. I had much discourse with his Lordship, whom I found to be a person of extraordinary parts, but a valetudinarian.

* The Italians mean simply a square by their piazzas.

Southampton's name is perpetuated in Southampton Row and Southampton Street, Holborn, where his London residence stood.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


  • Feb