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Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn


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Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn
Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, 3rd Baronet, (1692 – September 26, 1749), was a Welsh politician and prominent Jacobite.

Sir Watkin was the eldest son and heir of Sir William Williams, 2nd Baronet, of Llanforda near Oswestry; his mother, Jane Thelwall, was a descendant of the antiquary, Sir John Wynn of Gwydir, Caernarfonshire. The name "Watkin Williams-Wynn" was common to several of the later baronets. There is a Welsh folk song named after the best-known of these.

Education and political career
Educated at Jesus College, Oxford, Williams succeeded to Wynnstay near Ruabon and the estates of the Wynn baronets of Gwydir on the death of a later Sir John Wynn in 1719, and took the name of Williams-Wynn. A lifelong Tory, he was Member of Parliament for Denbighshire from 1716 until his death, but for a brief interlude from 1741-1742, and was prominent among the opponents of Sir Robert Walpole.

In the election of 1741, the Walpole administration targeted his Denbighshire seat. Although Wynn won the popular vote by 1352 votes to 933 the sheriff disallowed 594 of Wynn's votes and returned his rival. Walpole's first defeat in the ensuing parliament was in a dispute of this election, and after Walpole's resignation early in 1742 Wynn won the seat back and the sheriff was jailed.

From the early 1720s Wynn headed one of the best known Jacobite clubs, the Cycle of the White Rose. His Jacobite leanings were never concealed — he even publicly burned a picture of George I in 1722. Wynn was increasingly regarded by the exiled Stuarts as a key figure in any potential restoration attempt, and in 1740 he promised assistance if the Pretender returned accompanied by a French army. Wynn always insisted on this condition being met, and sensibly refused to pledge support in writing. He engaged in negotiations with Stuart agents in 1740, 1742, and 1743, and went to consult with Louis XV at Versailles. This visit was repeated in October 1744, despite the fact that Britain and France were then at war. In 1745 the Young Pretender arrived without an army, and true to the letter of his promise Wynn provided no aid, traveling to London to attend parliament rather than remaining in Wales to organize support. He sent messages to Prince Charles Edward promising help when a French army arrived, but this did not happen and Wynn never publicly declared his involvement in the rebellion. After the defeat at Culloden, and in the absence of legal proof of Wynn's involvement, Pelham deemed his notoriety to be sufficient punishment.

Death and descendants
Williams was killed by a fall while out hunting. Although there is still a Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn's Hunt based in Ruabon, the existing pack was re-founded in the year 1843. At his death the Wynnstay estates straddled at least five Welsh counties and extended into Shropshire in England, and yielded an estimated rental income of £20,000 — a very substantial sum at the time.

His first wife, Ann Vaughan (d. 1748), was the heiress of extensive estates in Montgomeryshire which still belong to the family. His son and heir, Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, Bart. (1749-1789), was the eldest son of Sir Watkin's second marriage to Frances Shackerley. A noted patron of the Arts in Wales, he was the father of another Sir Watkin (1772-1842), the 5th baronet. Two other sons attained some measure of distinction: Charles (1775-1850), a prominent Tory politician, and Sir Henry (1783-1856), a diplomatist. A daughter, Frances Williams-Wynn (d. 1857), was the authoress of Diaries of a Lady of Quality, 1797-1844, which were edited with notes by Abraham Hayward in 1864.

A portrait of Williams by Thomas Hudson was acquired by Jesus College in 1997; it is not on public display as it hangs in the Senior Common Room of the college. It shows him wearing a sky-blue waistcoat, the colour proclaiming his allegiance to the Tory Jacobite cause.


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