About William Legge, MP
Family and Education b. c.1608, 1st s. of Edward Legge of Geashill, King’s Co. by Mary, da. of Percy Walsh of Moyvalley, co. Kildare. m. lic. 2 Mar. 1642, ‘aged 26’, Elizabeth (d. 14 Dec. 1688), da. of Sir William Washington of Packington, Leics., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1616.1
Cornet (Dutch army) 1627; capt. of ft. (Swedish army) by 1632; lt.-gen. of artillery 1639-40; maj. of cuirassiers (royalist) 1642-4; col. of ft. 1644-6; gov. Chester 1644, Oxford 1644-5; capt. of ft. June 1660-d.; lt.-gov. Portsmouth 1662-d.2
Master of the armouries 1636-46, June 1660-d.; groom of the bedchamber 1645-7, June 1660-d.; lt. of the Ordnance June 1660-d.3
Commr. for excise, Oxon. 1645; asst. R. Adventurers into Africa Dec. 1660-d.; commr. for assessment, Westminster 1661-4, Hants and Oxon. 1664-9; keeper, Alice Holt and Woolmer forests, Hants 1661-d.; freeman, Portsmouth 1662, commr. for corporations, Hants 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers, Westminster 1662, woodward, Chute forest, Wilts. 1663-d.; j.p. Mdx. 1666-d.4
Biography Legge was descended from a Protestant family of London origin which settled in Ireland under the Tudors. A professional soldier, he fought in the Protestant cause in the Thirty Years’ War, returning to England as an expert in fortifications, and taking part in the second army plot against Parliament in 1641. He served with distinction in the Civil War under Rupert. He was allowed to attend Charles I in captivity as groom of the bedchamber, and accompanied him on his flight to the Isle of Wight; but unlike John Ashburnham and Sir John Berkeley he ‘never fell under the least imputation or reproach’ for its disastrous consequences. ‘He was a very punctual and steady observer of the orders he received, but no contriver of them’, according to Clarendon; ‘and though he had in truth a better judgment and understanding than either of the other two, his modesty and diffidence of himself never suffered him to contrive bold counsels.’ In February 1649 he compounded at £40 for his delinquency, but he was captured at sea in July on a mission for the new King and imprisoned until 1653, when he was allowed to go into exile. Returning to England in 1658, he became an active royalist conspirator, and was again imprisoned after Booth’s rising.5
At the Restoration Legge was made lieutenant of the Ordnance, which brought him in £2,000 p.a., and granted leaseholds in Ireland worth about £500 p.a. An award of £2,000 on the Irish customs was still unpaid at his death. On the Duke of York’s recommendation, he was elected at Southampton in 1661, and became a moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament. He was appointed to 96 committees, acted as teller in five divisions, and was five times sent as a messenger from the Commons to the King. In the opening session he helped to consider the uniformity bill and to manage the conference on the Lords’ proposal that all municipal charters should be called in. During the autumn recess he went to Ireland, but he returned in time to be sent by the House on 22 Nov. to ask the King for the return of the remaining regicides to the Tower, and to be appointed to the committees for the execution bill and for the relief of loyalists. He was among those ordered to provide remedies against nonconformist meetings in 1663, and in the same session he acted as teller against making a retrospection in the bill to prevent abuses in the sale of offices for an immediate grant of supply, and for the additional bill to recover arrears of excise. In 1664 he was listed as a court dependant, and named to the committees for the conventicles bill and the additional corporations bill. He attended the Oxford session, and was appointed to the committee for the five mile bill. The ordnance office was not exempt from criticism during the second Dutch war, all the more so because Legge was widely suspected of Popery. He produced his accounts to the House on 26 Sept. 1666, and was appointed to the committee to bring in a bill to prevent the embezzlement of powder and ammunition. He was teller for an unsuccessful motion on 11 Oct. to increase the estimates by £54,000. He was among those sent to the King with an address on behalf of the merchants trading with France on 29 Jan. 1667 and to Rupert and Albemarle after the fall of Clarendon with a vote of thanks for their services. He was named to the committees on the bill for uniting parishes in Southampton (11 Mar. 1668), the bill to prevent electoral abuses (8 Dec. 1669), and the conventicles bill (2 Mar. 1670). He died on 14 Oct. 1670, in his 63rd year, and was buried at Holy Trinity Minories.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690 Author: Paula Watson Notes 1. Collins, Peerage, iv. 107, 109, 114; Foster; London Mar. Lic. 835. 2. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), ix. 118; Collins, iv. 110-11, 113; E. Peacock, Army Lists, 15. 3. Foedera, ix. pt. 2, p. 86; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 75; 1671-2, p. 59. 4. W. H. Black, Docquets of Letters Patent, 263; CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 409; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 357, 365; HMC 11th Rep. III, 55; Collins, iv. 114. 5. HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 9; CSP Dom. 1637-8, p. 590; 1639-40, pp. 134, 167; 1649-50, p. 235; Whitelocke Mems. i. 134-5; Clarendon, Rebellion, iii. 131; iv. 266; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1583; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 294; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 218, 259. 6. CSP Dom. 1666-7, p. 467; 1667, p. 207; 1671, p. 88; CSP Ire. 1660-2, pp. 261, 639, 661; Adm. 2/1745, f. 31; CJ, viii. 311, 486, 501, 532; ix. 6; Pepys Diary, 13 June 1667; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1650-78, p. 144.
William Legge (1608 – 13 October 1670) was an English royalist army officer, a close associate of Prince Rupert of the Rhine.
He was the eldest son of Edward Legge, who was vice-president of Munster by the influence of his kinsman Charles Blount, 1st Earl of Devonshire, by Mary, daughter of Percy Walsh of Moy valley, co. Kildare. Edward Legge died in 1616, and William was brought to England by Henry Danvers, 1st Earl of Danby, his godfather. He gained military experience in continental Europe.
On 7 August 1638 Legge was commissioned to inspect the fortifications of Newcastle and Hull, and to put both in a state of defence. Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford vigorously remonstrated against the proposal to make him captain of Hull in place of Sir John Hotham. Legge, however, was appointed master of the armoury and lieutenant of the ordnance for the First Bishops' War.
In the spring of 1641 he was implicated in the plots for making use of the army to support the king against the parliament. Though examined as a witness with reference to the First Army Plot (18 May), he was not seriously implicated in it. A few weeks later, however, he was entrusted by the king with a petition denouncing the parliamentary leaders, for which he was to obtain signatures in the army, and played a leading part in what is termed the Second Army Plot. In January 1642 the king attempted to obtain possession of Hull, appointed the Earl of Newcastle governor, and despatched Legge to secure the town, but the attempt failed.
On the outbreak of the First English Civil War Legge joined the king's army, and was taken prisoner in a skirmish at Southam, Warwickshire, on 23 August 1642. Committed by the House of Commons to the Gatehouse Prison he escaped about 4 October 1642, and rejoined Charles at Oxford. Henceforth he closely attached himself to Prince Rupert, and was wounded and again taken prisoner while under his command at the siege of Lichfield in April 1643. At the Battle of Chalgrove Field on 18 June 1643 he was temporarily taken prisoner on the field. After the first Battle of Newbury (20 September 1643), the king presented him with an ornate hanger and wanted to knight him. On 19 May 1644 Rupert appointed Legge temporary governor of Chester.
After the death of Sir Henry Gage (January 145), Legge succeeded him as governor of Oxford. He received a commission from Rupert authorising him to command in chief all the neighbouring garrisons except Banbury (7 May), and was appointed one of the grooms of the king's bedchamber (12 April). During his governorship Oxford was besieged or blockaded by Thomas Fairfax (May-June 1645). Legge's attachment to Prince Rupert led to his removal, when the prince was disgraced for his hasty surrender of Bristol. When the king returned to Oxford Legge was released, and acted again to wait on the king as groom of his; he used the opportunity to try to heal the breach with Rupert, and urged the prince to submit to the king.
After the fall of Oxford, Legge went abroad, returning to England about July 1647 to wait on the king, then in the custody of the army. He concerted, with Sir John Berkeley and Ashburnham, the king's escape from Hampton Court, and never left him during his flight to the Isle of Wight. Parliament ordered Colonel Robert Hammond to send up Legge and his two companions as prisoners; but on Hammond's request allowed them to remain with Charles until 29 December 1647. For some months Legge and Ashburnham lingered in Hampshire, endeavouring to contrive the king's escape, but they were apprehended on 19 May, and Legge was confined in Arundel Castle. On 2 September 1648 the House of Lords refused him leave to attend the king during the Treaty of Newport.
Legge promised not to bear arms against the parliament, and was allowed to compound, and released. Charles II at once despatched him on a mission to Ireland, but he was captured at sea in July 1649, and imprisoned in Exeter Castle on a charge of high treason, for two years or more.. In March 1653 he was granted a pass to go abroad, on giving security to do nothing prejudicial to the state. On 11 March 1659 he was one of five commissioners empowered by the king to treat with all rebels not actual regicides, and promise pardon in reward for assistance. In 1659 Legge was again in England, preparing a royalist rising, and sanguine of success. From July to 30 September 1659, however, he was held prisoner in the Tower of London.
On the Restoration Charles II offered to create Legge an earl, but he declined. Charles restored him to his old posts as groom of the bed-chamber and master of the armouries, and appointed him also Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance. As lieutenant he also enjoyed the post of treasurer of the ordnance, and was granted by the king the lieutenancy of Alice Holt Forest and Woolmer Forest in Hampshire, lands in the county of Louth, and a pension for his wife. He was Member of Parliament for Southampton from 1661 to 1670.
He died at his house in the Minories, near the Tower, and was buried in the Trinity Chapel in the Minories.
On March 2, 1642, William married Elizabeth Washington (1619-1688), eldest daughter of Sir William Washington (son of Lawrence Washington, direct ancestor of George Washington) and Anne Villiers (half-sister of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham) of Packington in Leicestershire. By his wife Elizabeth, William Legge left three sons and two daughters. His eldest son George Legge was created Baron Dartmouth in 1682. Colonel Legge is often confused with Mr. William Legge, keeper of the wardrobe from 1626 to 1655.
William Legge, MP's Timeline
October 13, 1670