ALINGTON, William (1634-85)

ALINGTON, William (1634–85)

suc. bro. 20 Mar. 1660 as 3rd Bar. Alington [I]; cr. 5 Dec. 1682 Bar. ALINGTON.

Never sat.

MP Cambridge 28 Mar. 1664-81

bap. 25 June 1634,1 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of William, Bar. Alington of Killard [I] of Horseheath, Cambs. and Elizabeth, da. of Sir Lionel Tollemache, 2nd Bt. of Helmingham, Suff. educ. Padua 1652. m. (1) Catherine (d. 19 Nov. 1662), da. and h. of Sir Henry Stanhope, styled Ld. Stanhope, 1da. d.v.p.; (2) lic. 30 July 1664, Julianna (d. 14 Sept. 1667), da. of Baptist Noel, 3rd Visct. Campden, 1s. d.v.p. 1da.;2 (3) 15 July 1675, Diana (d. 13 Dec. 1701), da. of William Russell, 5th earl of Bedford, wid. of Sir Greville Verney, of Compton Verney, Warws. 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da. d. 1 Feb. 1685; will, 16 May 1684, pr. 6 May 1685.3

Commr. corps. 1662-3, foreign plantations 1670-2, trade and plantations 1672-4.

Col. of foot 1667, 1677, 1678-9, maj. gen. 1678; capt. indep. regt. foot in the Tower; constable of the Tower, Dec. 1678-d.

Dep. lt. Cambs. c. Aug. 1660-81; recorder, Cambridge 1679-d.; ld. lt., Tower Hamlets 8 June 1679-d.; ld. lt., Cambs. 9 Mar. 1681-d.

Associated with: Horseheath, Cambs.; Southampton Square, Bloomsbury; Great Wymondley, Herts.

The Alington family had held lands in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire since the fourteenth century, and several members sat in Parliament for Cambridgeshire, including two Speakers of the House of Commons.4 Alington’s father was created Baron Alington [I] of Killard, County Cork, in July 1642, presumably to encourage his support for the crown. The family’s royalist credentials ensured their exclusion from office during the Interregnum. Giles’s brother (1633-60), the 2nd Baron Alington, was briefly implicated in royalist plotting in 1655.5 William Alington was said to have been ‘bred in France and Italy’, and in January 1658 was reported as being gone to Germany.6

Alington succeeded as 3rd Baron Alington of Killard, on 20 Mar. 1660, following the death of his brother Giles (1633-60). The construction of a grand house at Horseheath in 1663-4, designed by Sir Roger Pratt and described by Evelyn as ‘seated in a park, with sweet prospect and stately avenue’, cost around £20,000 and left Alington in debt for the rest of his life.7 Pepys’s thought of him in 1667 as ‘a young and silly lord’ soliciting a posting in Tangier, and had ‘offered a great sum of money to go’; it was said that he would ‘put hard for it, he having a fine lady and a great man would be glad to have him out of the way’, though the identity of the man with designs on his second wife was not mentioned.8 In his search for office, Alington’s widowed mother’s marriage to the much admired Sir William Compton, master of the ordnance and a commissioner for Tangier, may have been of some assistance, though Compton himself died in 1663; probably more helpful was his first wife’s mother, the countess of Chesterfield, who had been deeply involved in royalist conspiracy in the late 1650s, and her third husband, the quintessential Restoration courtier Daniel O’Neill. Alington in 1668 and 1673 requested a Tangier posting or anything similar from Henry Bennet, earl of Arlington.9 Alington was also appointed to various commissions relating to foreign plantations, and to military and political offices within Cambridgeshire. In 1673 he advised the king on possible developments in the Dutch War and travelled to Cologne to join the forces under the Prince de Conde or Turenne, whoever was ‘likely to be first in action’.10

Alington was elected to Parliament for Cambridge in 1664, replacing his stepfather, Compton. His second wife having died in childbirth, Alington began to court his third wife, a daughter of the earl of Bedford, it being noted in April 1673 that ‘Lady Diana Verney will not yet have Lord Alington’.11 Their courtship was presumably interrupted by his departure for the continent that summer. He was present at the siege of Maastricht, where it was noted that he received a slight wound (the source mistakenly attributing this to Arlington, with whom Alington was in correspondence at the time). Two years later, Alington and Diana Verney were married, his wife being accorded precedence as a daughter of an earl, rather than as the wife of a baron.12

In debt and reliant on government handouts, Alington’s consistent support for the court throughout the Popish Plot and Exclusion Crisis received its reward in his appointment as constable of the Tower and lord lieutenant of Cambridgeshire. In March 1679 it was rumoured that he would be part of the treasury commission which succeeded Danby.13 His elevation to the English peerage, on 5 Dec. 1682, came shortly after the release of Anthony Ashley Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury, who had been so strongly supported by Alington’s brother-in-law, William Russell, styled Lord Russell, and was perhaps designed to underline the contrast with his own loyal service and support during the Exclusion Crisis. Alington, however, had no opportunity to take his seat in the Lords as there was no Parliament in being before his death on 1 Feb. 1685. He died suddenly of ‘an apoplexy’ at the Tower and was buried on 17 Feb. at Horseheath.14 He left all his lands and goods to his son and heir Giles Alington, 2nd Baron Alington. In September 1689, his widow responded to a query from Halifax about a self-assessment of her son’s personal estate with the comment that ‘my son being underage and I left sole guardian for his estate I believed it most proper for me to give you this assurance that my lord left his estate engaged for daughters’ portions. Therefore that being not yet paid I have no more to trouble you with’.15


  • 1 Suffolk RO, Bury St Edmunds Branch, FL592/4/1.
  • 2 C.E. Parsons, All Saints Church, Horseheath, 48.
  • 3 TNA, PROB 11/380.
  • 4 VCH Cambs. x. 196-205.
  • 5 CSP Dom. 1655, p. 216.
  • 6 CSP Dom. 1657-8, p. 259.
  • 7 Evelyn Diary, iii. 553.
  • 8 Pepys Diary, viii. 117.
  • 9 CSP Dom. 1668-9, pp. 54-55; 1672-3, p. 482; 1679-80, pp. 605-6.
  • 10 CSP Dom. 1673, p. 269.
  • 11 Verney ms mic. M636/22, W. Denton to Sir R. Verney, 19 Sept. 1667; Add. 70012, ff. 47-48.
  • 12 Verney corresp. i. 108-10; HP Commons 1660-90, i. 528; CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 218.
  • 13 Verney ms mic. M636/32, W. Denton to Sir R. Verney, 20 Mar. 1679; CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 103.
  • 14 HMC Egmont, ii. 149; CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 309.
  • 15 Chatsworth, Halifax Collection B.72.