1893 text

Sir William Compton (1625-1663) was knighted at Oxford, December 12th, 1643. He was called by Cromwell “the sober young man and the godly cavalier.” After the Restoration he was M.P. for Cambridge (1661), and appointed Master of the Ordnance. He died in Drury Lane, suddenly, as stated in the text, and was buried at Compton Wynyates, Warwickshire.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

9 Annotations

First Reading

Paul Brewster  •  Link

Wheatley Footnote
Third son of Spencer, Earl of Northampton, a Privy Councillor and Mater of the Ordnance, ob. 1663, aged 39. When only eighteen years of age, he had charged with his gallant father at the battle of Edgehill. His mother was first cousin to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, and to John Ashburnham; and his great uncle, Sir Thomas Compton, had been the third husband of the Duke's mother, Mary, Countess of Buckingham.

david ross mcirvine  •  Link

Towards the end of the Revolution, Sir William got a commission as a Colonel of Horse. House of Lords report from June 5 1648 here:


"Ordered, That Sir Wm. Compton Knight take the Command of a Regiment of Horse, consisting of Five Hundred, as Colonel of the said Regiment.

"Given under our Hands, the Day and Year abovesaid.

"R. of Trews.
"Fra. Clerke.
"Jo'n Darell.
Phill. Maude Mayor.
"Edw. Hales.
James Darell.
Geo. Newman."

"31 May, 1648.

And here is an account of what that troop of 500 horse did--mainly skirmish as the Parliamentary forces secured the defense of London:


A general rising was planned by the queen and Jermyn, which was to follow the appearance of the Scots in England. The earl of HoMand, who through the influence of the lord of Carlisle had made his peace with the Royalists, was appointed commander-in-chief. (Footnote 363) The general scheme was rendered hopeless, however, by the premature rising in Kent (21 May, 1648). After his defeat at Maidstone, Norwich, to whom Holland had given the command in Kent, heard that thousands had risen for the king in Essex, and that there were 2,000 men in arms at Bow. (Footnote 364) The City refused to let him pass through, so he decided to cross the Thames below London. (Footnote 365) He intended to go only to Bow and Stratford, but finding that his news had been false and that there was no force gathered to receive him, he went on to Chelmsford. About 500 men had followed him, crossing the river in boats, with their horses swimming. (Footnote 366) They meant to land in Essex, but on the morning of the 4 June they found themselves in Middlesex under the Hamlets of the Tower. Here they were confronted by the regiment of the Hamletteers. Their leader, Sir William Compton, prevailed upon the regiment to let them pass on a promise to disband, but when they reached Bow Bridge they forced the turn-pike to let them through into Essex, and met Norwich, on his return from Chelmsford, at Stratford. (Footnote 367) Fairfax had meanwhile sent Colonel Whalley in pursuit of the Royalists. (Footnote 368) He pressed after them, but was beaten back and pursued to Mile End, where the pursuers themselves fell into an ambuscade, and were forced to retreat. The Hamletteers then returned to the attack, but were surrounded in Bow church, where they had taken refuge, and were finally released on condition that they returned to their homes. The Royalists retired behind the Lea, setting guards at the fords over the river; and when a Parliamentary force of dragoons was collected on Mile End Green, they withdrew to Stratford.

Pauline  •  Link

from L&M Companion
(c.1625-63). Master-General of the Ordnance 1660-3; M.P. for Camgridge borough 1661-3; Tangier commissioner 1662-3. The ablest of six remarkable sons of the 2nd Earl of Northampton, he had given distinguished service to the royalists both in the Civil War and in the underground resistance movement of the '50s, being briefly imprisoned in Sept. 1659. His sobriety and godliness won him the respect and admiration of Cromwell.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

COMPTON, SIR WILLIAM (1625-1663), royalist; third son of Spencer Compton, second earl of Northampton; fought bravely at taking of Banbury, 1642; knighted, 1643; royalist governor of Banbury, 1642; besieged, 1644; surrendered, 1646; took part in the Kentish rising, 1648; imprisoned, 1648, 1655, and 1658; master of the ordnance, 1660; M.P., 1661.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Compton family was quite extraordinary in their service to the Crown -- how William ended up as a Colonel of the Horse for the Parliamentarians, I don't know -- unless he was playing both sides at the same time, or spying for Charles II.

"Spencer Compton was succeeded as 3rd Earl of Northampton by his eldest son, James Compton (1622-81).
Four of Spencer Compton's sons fought in the King's armies: James, Charles, William and Spencer Jr.
His third son, William Compton (1625-63), was knighted for his defence of Banbury and became a founder member of the Sealed Knot conspiracy ring."

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Of the six remarkable royalist brothers, Sir William Compton MP (1625 - 1663) was probably the ablest and of the highest character.

He was well-endowed for a younger son, his grandfather, the 1st Earl of Northampton, having settled on him the Kentish manor of Erith.
His defence of Banbury Castle during a 3-month siege in 1644 (when still in his teens), was remarkable not only for physical determination and courage but for the simple Anglican piety which he enforced in the garrison.

His moral courage was no less; he alone dissented from his eldest brother’s unjust cashiering of one of his officers in 1645.

He surrendered honourably on 8 May 1646, but, as a Kentish landowner, he could not refuse to take up arms in the second Civil War and served during the siege of Colchester as a major-general.
Cromwell is said to have described him as ‘the sober young man and godly Cavalier’, and he escaped with the moderate fine of £660.

He settled in Cambridgeshire on his marriage in 1651 to Elizabeth Tollemache Alington (she's daughter of Sir Lionel Tollemache, 2nd Bt. and Elizabeth Murray Tollemache [later Maitland] Countess of Dysart, of Helmingham, Suff., and widow of William, 1st Baron Alington, of Horseheath, Cambs. -- both families Pepys comes across later).
As a member of the Sealed Knot, he was engaged in most Cavalier plots until the last phase of the Interregnum, when he refused to believe the treachery of Sir Richard Willys led to his exclusion.

At the Restoration he crossed to Holland, and led a troop in Charles II’s escort from Dover to London, and was appointed master of the Ordnance.

Compton was returned for Cambridge at the general election of 1661, probably without a contest.

He was an active Member in the first and second sessions of the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was appointed to 64 committees, managed 3 conferences, and carried 8 messages to Charles II.

In the summer of 1661 he was named to the committees for the security, ... and the bill of pains and penalties.
Apart from these government measures, he also took part in considering the bill for drainage of the Bedford level.
After the recess he was appointed to the committees considering the ... ways of relieving loyalists, and the militia bill.
He was teller for candles in the debate on the Powell estate bill, and on 14 Mar. 1662 he carried the militia bill to the Upper House.
When the militia bill returned in May, he was appointed to the small committee to consider a proviso about the assessment of peers, ...
Also in May he attended Charles II with 2 messages, asking him to prevent a duel between Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory MP (1623-1680) in the Irish tradition, and also Baron Butler of Moor Park, and Philip Howard,
and to arbitrate between the old and the new adventurers in the Bedford level.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

In the second session of the Cavalier Parliament, Compton brought a reply from Charles II to the address against the Declaration of Indulgence.
It is clear from his letters that he had little sympathy for the nonconformists.
He was appointed to the committees to consider the petition of the loyal and indigent officers, and the bill for hindering the growth of Popery.

On 4 Apr. 1663 he was one of 12 Members ordered to join with the Lords in returning thanks for the proclamation against Popish priests and Jesuits.
He served on the committee to consider defects in the law against sale of offices.
On 12 May he was among the Members entrusted with an address on improving the revenue, and 4 days later he was appointed to the committee to consider amendments to the Bedford level bill.
When Charles II revealed the proposal of Sir Richard Temple to act as ‘undertaker’, Compton was sent to thank him for his message and, a week later, to ask who had been the intermediary.
He served on the committee for the bill for the loyal and indigent officers, and was one of 6 MPs appointed to draw up an additional clause on 10 July.
He ... on 25 July was sent to ask the King to allow the export of horses to the plantations and to preserve the timber in the Forest of Dean.
His last appearance in the Commons was to convey Charles II’s answer 2 days later.

Sir William Compton MP died after a short illness at his home in Drury Lane on 18 Oct. 1663, aged 38. Samuel Pepys wrote of the general, if transient, regret:

"all the world saying that he was one of the worthiest men and best officers of state now in England; and so in my conscience he was — of the best temper, value, abilities of mind, integrity, birth, fine person, and diligence of any one man he hath left behind him in the three kingdoms.

"Of not one courtier in a thousand," Pepys added, "could it be said, as of Compton, that no man spoke ill of him" and it is clear that with his death the Government lost a steadying influence in the House of Commons which would have been increasingly valuable in the subsequent sessions of the Cavalier Parliament.

Excerpted from his Parliamentary bio in which I see 2 errors! Another note to the House of Commons librarians -- they are getting to know me!: https://www.historyofparliamenton…

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


  • May