This text was copied from Wikipedia on 17 May 2024 at 3:11AM.

Portrait of Sir William Morice by Jacob Huysmans

Sir William Morice (6 November 1602 – 12 December 1676) of Werrington in Devon, was an English statesman and theologian. He served as Secretary of State for the Northern Department and a Lord of the Treasury from June 1660 to September 1668.


Morice was educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He was elected Member of Parliament for Devon to fill a vacancy in 1648, but was excluded in Pride's Purge in December of that year, probably before he had taken his seat. Nevertheless, he was appointed High Sheriff of Devon in 1651, and returned to Parliament as MP for Devon in the First Protectorate Parliament elected in 1654. He subsequently represented Devon again in the Second Protectorate Parliament, Newport (Cornwall) in the Third Protectorate Parliament.[1]

Arms of Morice of Werrington, Devon: Gules, a lion rampant reguardant or[2]

A relation of General Monck, Morice assisted in the Restoration and was knighted in 1660. He was also made a Privy Counsellor and appointed Secretary of State for the Northern Department, an office he held until he resigned in 1668; he was apparently an undistinguished minister, but justified his tenure of office by his usefulness in the House of Commons. In the Convention Parliament of 1660 he was re-elected for Newport but was also elected for Plymouth, which he chose to represent, and was that city's MP until his death 16 years later.[1]

In 1657, during the Commonwealth, he published a treatise on the administration of the sacrament to all church members.[3]

Marriage and children

Morice married Elizabeth Prideaux, a daughter of Humphrey Prideaux (abt 1573–1617) of Soldon, and Honor Fortescue, by whom he had children including [3]


  1. ^ a b "History of Parliament". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  2. ^ Display of Heraldry, John Guillim, John Logan (Captain.), Sir George Mackenzie, 1724, p.176
  3. ^ a b Courtney 1894.


10 Annotations

First Reading

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Morrice, Sir William, kt. Secretary of State (North) 27 May 1660-c. 29 Sept. 1668.
-, App. 27 May 1660 (PC 2/54, pt. ii, 2). Left office by 29 Sept. 1668 (PC 2/61 p. 44).

From: 'Alphabetical lists of officials: K-Z', Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 2: Officials of the Secretaries of State 1660-1782 (1973), pp. 85-119. URL:…. Date accessed: 13 February 2006.

pedro  •  Link

Morrice v Fanshawe.

Fanshawe had been promised the position of Secretary of State by Charles, and when passsed over for Monck's protege, William Morrice, he expostulated that he had been slighted in favour of "one that never saw the King's face."

(Fraser...King Charles II)

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Sir William Morris, Secretary of State from 1660 to 1668. Ob. 1676. He was kinsman to General Monk.
---Diary and correspondence of Samuel Pepys, the diary deciphered by J. Smith. 1854.

Bill  •  Link

Sir William Morice, who was allied to general Monk, was, for his own merit, and that of his illustrious kinsman, preferred to the office of secretary of state. He was a man of learning and good abilities, but was not completely qualified for his great employment, as he knew but little of foreign languages, and less of foreign affairs. It is currently reported, that the general told the king, "that his cousin Morice was well qualified for the secretary's office, as he understood the French, and could write short-hand." This was very probably a calumny, as it is inconsistent with his good sense. It is certain that the secretary spoke Latin fluently, that he understood Greek, and that he acquitted himself during the seven years that he continued in his office without reproach. He was succeeded by sir John Trevor. Ob. 12 Dec. 1676. He was author of a book entitled, "The Common Right to the Lord's Supper asserted," which was first printed in quarto, 1651, and again in folio, 1660. One singularity is recorded of him, "That he would never suffer any man to say grace in his own house besides himself; there, he said, he was both priest and king."
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.

Bill  •  Link

MORICE, SIR WILLIAM (1602-1676), secretary of state and theologian; B.A. Exeter College, Oxford, 1622; J.P.,1640; M.P., 1648, 1654, and 1656; excluded in Pride's Purge; high sheriff of Devonshire, 1651; M.P., Newport, 1658, Plymouth, 1660; related to Monck; assisted in the Restoration; secretary of state, 1660; knighted, 1660; privy councillor, 1660; resigned secretaryship, 1668; published treatise on the administration of the sacrament to all church members, 1657.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Highlights from William Morice MP's bio, -- I've left many details as they are covered in the Diary, and he was influential:

William Morice was 6 Nov. 1602, oldest son of Evan Morice, DCL, chancellor of Exeter dioc. 1594-1605, by Mary, daughter of John Castell of Ashbury, Devon.

He attended Exeter Grammar School and Exeter College, Oxford, 1619, BA 1622.
Little is known of Morice’s father except he came from Carmarthenshire and his 11 years as an official of the Exeter diocese would not have given Morice the entry into society but for his mother’s second marriage into the Prideaux family and his own solid, if unspectacular, talents.

In 1627, William married Elizabeth (d. Dec. 1663), da. of Humphrey Prideaux of Soldon, Cornwall. They had 4 sons and 4 daughters.

‘Always looked upon as a man far from any malice towards the King, if he had not any good affection for him’, William Morice was returned for Devonshire, but had not taken his seat before Pride’s Purge [1648].

A zealous Presbyterian, he was re-elected to the Protectorate Parliaments. In 1657 he published an attack on the Independent doctrine of the sacrament.

In Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, Morice sat for Newport, where he had bought the principal interest by his purchase of Werrington Manor, Devon, from Sir Francis Drake, 2nd Bt., in 1651.

He managed the estates of his wife’s kinsman, Gen. George Monck, and became his ‘greatest confidant’.
He took his seat in the Long Parliament on the return of the secluded Members, and at Monck’s request was made governor of Plymouth.

Charles II, aware of the contribution Morice could make to the Restoration, wrote to him on 17 Mar. 1660: ‘the good offices you have and will perform for me are so meritorious that they deserve all the trust and confidence I can repose in you’; and let it be known that he would appoint him secretary of state as ‘the most grateful and obliging thing’ that could be done for Monck;
Morice was knighted on 27 May, 1660.

At the general election of 1660, Sir William Morice MP was re-elected for Newport and involved in a double return at Plymouth.
He was only moderately active in the Convention, with 10 recorded speeches and 24 committees.

On 1 May, ‘in a very eloquent oration’, he was the first to speak in the House for a restoration, and was among those ordered to prepare the answer to Charles II’s letter.

In a personal letter of thanks for his appointment as secretary, he suggested Charles II should write again to Parliament, reiterating the promises contained in the declaration of Breda, and stating his desire that Parliament should advise what policies he should pursue.
This, Morice said, would ‘bring you hither by a conquest of hearts as well as by the right of inheritance, and make your empire more safe by being less absolute’.
He was one of the MPs sent to confer with the Lords over the King’s reception. At Charles’ request he accompanied Monck to welcome him at Dover.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


He was confirmed as secretary of state, provoking in the wife of a disappointed royalist claimant to the office the comment that he was merely ‘a poor country gentleman of about £200 a year, a fierce Presbyterian, and one that never saw the King’s face’.
But Sir Edward Hyde considered that he ‘behaved himself very honestly and diligently in the King’s service, and had a good reputation in the House of Commons, and did the business of his office without reproach’.
His French accent was somewhat comic, but ‘for all domestic affairs no man doubted his sufficiency’.

With the Restoration, Morice helped to draw up the petition for a day of thanksgiving and to administer the oaths to Members.
With the Plymouth election resolved in his favor he resigned his seat at Newport.

He managed the conference on recovering Queen Mother Henrietta Maria’s jointure, and brought a message from Charles II on 18 June urging the House to expedite the indemnity bill.
On 2 July he made ‘an excellent speech for the speedy raising of money’, and 2 days later defended the imposition of the oaths, saying ‘there was something hid in the opposition of it’.

On 27 July, when the House was considering withholding supply until the indemnity bill was passed, Morice said:
"Having called the King home without conditions, [we] should not distrust him now. ... He had commands from the King to speed the bill of indemnity, and moved that we should show our duty and trust the King."

The House accepted Morice’s arguments and he was named to the committee for settling the revenue.
In the debate on replacing the income derived by the crown from the court of wards, he opposed a pound rate as ‘very injurious and partial’.
He was added to the managers of conformers on the poll-tax and the indemnity bill, and acted as teller for agreeing with the Lords to pardon 16 offenders disabled from office.
On 30 Aug. he argued that ‘as long as the soldiery continued there would be a perpetual trembling in the nation’. He helped to manage a conference on disbandment.

When the debts of the army and navy were under consideration after the recess, Morice delivered ‘a set speech’ in favour of a year’s assessment at £70,000 a month. Otherwise, he said,
"the debts of the public would be like that serpent in America which would eat a cow at a meal, and, falling asleep, the birds of prey devour him, but if they break not the bones of him he grows as big as before."

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


On 17 Nov. he brought to the attention of the House a dangerous book denying that the Long Parliament had been legally dissolved.
He was among those ordered to draw up the excise clauses for the bill abolishing the court of wards.
Despite his Presbyterian views, he opposed the bill to give statutory force to the Worcester House declaration for modified Episcopacy, concluding with a characteristic metaphor that ‘sometimes a wound would heal of itself if you applied nothing to it’.

Morice was re-elected for Plymouth in 1661 without known opposition, but he was even less active in the Cavalier Parliament, although the peerages bestowed on Arthur Annesley, Denzil Holles, and Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper had thinned out the government front bench, and until the appointment of Sir Henry Bennet (the other secretary of state) was not in the Commons. He seems to have been content to let Heneage Finch shoulder the burden of committee work, while he acted chiefly as a messenger.
He helped to manage the conference on Charles II’s marriage, but quickly revealed his Presbyterian sympathies by acting as teller against the burning of the Covenant.
On 20 May he reported a message from the Scottish Parliament.
When Dr. Gunning, ‘the hammer of the schismatics’, preached to the House on 27 May, Morice found his sermon scandalous and together with William Prynne opposed a vote of thanks.
He was one of the managers of the conference on the security bill on the next day, and was appointed to the committee to consider the bill restoring the bishops to the House of Lords and to inquire into the shortfall in the revenue.
On 1 July he carried up the bill to confirm the legislation of the Convention, and he was named to the committees for the uniformity bill and the bill of pains and penalties.
He was one of 4 Members selected to deliver to Charles II a petition on behalf of the Marquess of Winchester.

After the autumn recess he was sent to the Lords for concurrence in an address for disarming the disbanded soldiers and expelling them from the metropolitan area, and to Charles II to thank him for deferring for 4 months the demonetization of the Commonwealth coinage.

In the 1663 session, his chief interest in the session was the prevention of the growth of Popery.
He was appointed to the committees to consider a bill to combine the resolutions of both Houses against Jesuits and Popish priests, and on 27 June he carried the bill to the Lords.
He was also named to the committee to consider the bill to regulate the sale of offices.
He was one of those appointed on 17 July to request Charles II grants preferment to the chaplain of the House.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


Listed as a court dependant in 1664, in the Oxford session he was appointed to the committee for attainting English officers in the service of the enemy.

In November 1666 he cut short a debate on the hearth tax by informing the House that Charles II would never consent to part with it.

The last important legislation in which he was involved concerned the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire.
He introduced bills to facilitate the production of the necessary brick and tile and to raise money by a levy on coal.

On 4 Feb. 1667 he brought a message from Charles II about rebuilding the City churches, and was appointed to the committee to prepare a bill.

On 30 Aug. 1667 Morice was sent to Clarendon to demand his seals of office, but when Parliament met he was one of the Members who believed that they should not further prosecute or trample on the fallen minister.

Sir William Morice's account of the 1666 division of the fleet gave the House little satisfaction, and he later blamed lack of money, stating that ‘he never had from Charles II for intelligence above £750 in one year, [whereas] Oliver allowed for intelligence £70,000 per annum’.
This absurdity was not challenged, for obvious reasons, by those in a position to know better, like Andrew Marvell.

He was appointed to the committees to inquire into restraints on jurors, and with Sir Charles Berkeley, Lord Fitzhardinge MP and Christopher Monck, Lord Torrington MP was sent to ask Charles II to consult Monck about measures to secure the highways against robbers.

After Clarendon’s flight he agreed to commit the bill for his banishment, ‘though it be condemning him unheard, because he could not but conclude it would be so’.

In a supply debate after the Christmas recess he opposed taxing ‘dignified clergy and ecclesiastical officers’, stating that ‘they are to pray for us, and I would not have them meddled with’.
On 11 Mar. 1668 he wound up a confused debate on ease for Protestant dissenters by moving its adjournment for a month.
In his last recorded speech, on 28 Apr., Morice attacked the continuation of the Conventicles Act, warning that ‘the fire of zeal for suppression of conventicles may be so hot that it will burn those that cast them in, as well as those that are cast in’.

His last mention in the Journals was on 4 May, when he pardoned a Chester bookseller who had published a letter from a post office clerk, passing himself off as under-secretary of state.
He had been appointed to 40 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in six sessions, and 13 speeches are on record.13

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


As early as October 1667 it was rumoured Morice was ‘willing to resign’, and the King was displeased with his ‘constancy to the chancellor’.
It remained only to negotiate the sale of the post, and in September 1668 he sold it for a price variously estimated at £6,000 and £8,000 to Alington’s nominee, John Trevor, rather than to Sir Robert Howard, Buckingham’s candidate.
Following the sale, Sir William Morice retired to his estate at Werrington, and devoted himself to theology and the accumulation of a notable library.

He gave a yearly pension to an ejected nonconformist minister, and the Independent, John Owen, dedicated a book to him.
While Sir Thomas Osborne listed him as a court supporter in September 1669, his name does not appear on the opposition lists drawn up later.

In 1676 Sir Richard Wiseman simply noted that ‘I guess will not come up’. Burnet thought him ‘virtuous but weak’ as a secretary, and ‘full of pedantry and affectation’.
His old friend Shaftesbury wrote to him on his retirement that ‘you are the only happy man that have got off the stage with the love and esteem of all’.

Sir William Morice MP died on 12 Dec. 1676 and was buried at Werrington, Devon.


Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.


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






  • Jun


  • Oct