The Twickenham Museum
People : Royals, Peers and Courtiers

Sir William Killigrew
Courtier and Playright
1606 - 1695

Sir William Killigrew

Sir William Killigrew was resident in Twickenham for three years, from 1688 until 1690. Prior to this a Dr Killigrew, believed to be his brother Henry had paid rates for 1679 and 1680. Where they stayed has not been ascertained although it is possible that they rented a house on Twickenham Common later known as Gifford Lodge.

The Killigrews were a remarkable Cornish family of royalist courtiers to four monarchs through the 16th and 17th centuries and reputedly not averse to a spot of piracy in the earlier years. The family came from Falmouth, a town with which they were closely associated. The Killigrew Pyramid; 44 feet high was erected in Falmouth in 1737 by a descendant. It carries no inscription but there is an adjacent plaque reciting an extensive family history.

John Killigrew (1515-68), captain of Pendennis Castle and his wife, Elizabeth, second daughter of James Trewennard, lived at Arwennack Manor, a family property dating from 1385. Their five sons were James (d1568), John (d1584), Bennet, William (d1622) and Henry (1525-1603).

William & Henry Killigrew

William and his brother, Henry, made their fortunes at the court of Queen Elizabeth and were knighted for their services. William married Margaret Saunders of Uxbridge. Their son, Robert (1579-1633) was knighted by James I on his accession in 1603 and served as Chamberlain of the Exchequer from 1605-8 and in 1614 was appointed Keeper of Pendennis Castle. He married Mary, daughter of Sir Henry Woodhouse (1546-1624) of Kimberley, Norfolk. There were 12 children of the union of whom 5 sons and 4 daughters lived to adulthood.

Their eldest son, the second William, was born at Hanworth, Middlesex where, in 1594, his grandfather Sir William Killigrew, groom of the privy chamber under Elizabeth by 1576, had been granted an eighty-year lease of the manors of Hanworth and Kempton, both being parts of the Honour of Hampton Court. On the death of his father in 1622 Sir Robert inherited the lease of the manor, and soon after conveyed the remainder of its term to Francis Lord Cottington. William's brothers were Charles (1609-29), Robert (1611-35), Thomas (1612-83) and the second Henry (1613-1700). Perhaps nurtured by the intellectual atmosphere of the Hanworth home, William and Thomas Killigrew later became playwrights, and Henry a noted divine also possessed literary talent. Chaplain to the King's army in 1642 and later prebendary of Westminster (where he was living in 1691) he was made Master of the Savoy Hospital from 1663 until his death in 1700. It is not known why he spent a short period in Twickenham.

Like his father, William was a Royalist: knighted in 1626, by Charles I, he attached himself firmly to that monarch and then to Charles II. In 1630 he succeeded his father as vice-chamberlain to Queen Henrietta Maria. After the Restoration William continued at Whitehall as vice-chamberlain to Queen Catherine until 1682, when he retired and was allowed to move his lodgings to Hampton Court. By 1691 he was living at Westminster, possibly with his brother.

Much of his working life, and his fortune, was spent on a project to drain the Lincolnshire Fens. Following the Restoration in 1660 he turned his attention to playwrighting.

Family connections in Twickenham

The Killigrews were connected by marriage to the Bacon family. Sir Robert married Mary, daughter of Sir Henry Woodhouse and Ann Bacon the daughter of Sir Nicholas Bacon (1509/10-1579) by his first marriage, to Jane Fernley. Jane died in 1552 and, the following year, Sir Nicholas married Anne Cooke, their second son being Francis Bacon (1561-1626) who was to become Lord Chancellor of England. A further connection was through Anne Cooke's sister Katherine (c1542-83), his aunt: she married Sir Henry Killigrew (1525-1603).

Their daughter Elizabeth (d1622) married Sir Maurice Berkeley of Bruton in Somerset after the death of her 1st husband, Sir Henry Trelawney.
John Berkeley (1607-1678) was their fifth son, born and baptised at Hanworth. Lord John Berkeley came to live at Twickenham Park, where Francis Bacon had lived, in 1668.

Francis Boyle, 1st Viscount Shannon (1623-99) spent time in Twickenham from 1691-96. He had married another Elizabeth Killigrew (1622-80), daughter of the second Sir William, in 1638. Elizabeth is noted as an early mistress of Charles II with whom, in 1650, she had a daughter so discharging the duty of a female royal courtier. Where he lived here is not known, though it could have been Gifford Lodge or Twickenham Grange next door on Twickenham Common, succeeding his father-in-law, Sir William Killigrew.

Further reading

Karen Hearn, Sir Anthony Van Dyck's portraits of Sir William and Lady Killigrew, 1638, Tate's online research journal, Spring 2004
Alan C B Urwin, Twicknam Parke, for the author, 1965
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (for various Killigrews)

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