Compton, William (1625-1663) (DNB00)

COMPTON, Sir WILLIAM (1625–1663), royalist, the third son of Spencer Compton, second earl of Northampton [q. v.], was born in 1625. In his eighteenth year he was directed by his father to take up arms for Charles I, who gave him the command of a regiment, with which he rendered signal service to the royal cause at the taking of Banbury. He led his men on to three attacks, and had two horses shot under him. Upon the surrender of the town and castle he was made lieutenant-governor under his father, and brought over many to the king's interest. He received the honour of knighthood at Oxford on 12 Dec. 1643. When the parliament forces of Northamptonshire, Warwick, and Coventry, who were aggrieved by Compton's continual incursions, came before the town of Banbury on 19 July 1644, he returned answer to their summons 'that he kept the castle for his majesty, and, as long as one man was left alive in it, willed them not to expect to have it delivered.' Afterwards they sent another summons, to which he replied 'that he had formerly answered them, and wondered they would send again.' So vigilant was he that he countermined the enemy eleven times, and during the siege, which lasted thirteen weeks, never went to bed, but by his example so animated the garrison that they would never suffer another summons to be sent to them. At length on 26 Oct. his brother, the Earl of Northampton, raised the siege. Compton continued governor of Banbury till the king left Oxford, and when the whole kingdom was submitting to the parliament he, on 8 May 1646, surrendered upon honourable terms, 'all officers being allowed their horses, swords, goods, money, and passes, with a safe-conduct whither they pleased, without any arrest or molestation.'

In 1648 he served the king in the Kentish expedition, and in the absence of the Earl of Norwich commanded as general at Greenwich. As major-general of the king's forces at Colchester, when that town was besieged by General Fairfax, he, by his instructions and example, kept the garrison in some competent order while they were enduring the greatest privations, for before they surrendered on 28 Aug. 1648 they were reduced to eating not only dogs and horses, but the very draff and grains for the preservation of their lives. Compton, after being confined for some time, was set at liberty. He was so much taken notice of for his admirable behaviour, that Oliver Cromwell called him 'the sober young man, and the godly cavalier.' He, with the Earl of Oxford, John, lord Bellasis, Sir John Grenville, Sir John Russell, and Sir Richard Willis, were called the 'sealed knot,' from the privacy of their councils in managing all the eight attempts made for the restoration of Charles II from 1652 to 1659. Compton was in prison in 1655, and was again arrested in 1658.

After the Restoration he was returned to parliament for the borough of Cambridge 11 March 1660–1, and Charles II appointed him master of the ordnance. He died suddenly in Drury Lane, London, on 18 Oct. 1663, and was buried at Compton-Wynyates, Warwickshire,where a monument was erected to his memory.

He married Elizabeth, widow of William, lord Alington of Horseheath, Cambridgeshire.

[Whitelocke's Memorials, p. 129; Dugdale's Warwickshire, ed. Thomas, i. 551; Dugdale's Baronage, ii. 403; Collins's Peerage (1779), iii. 187; Metcalfe's Book of Knights, p. 201; Lloyd's Memoires (1677), p. 354; Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion (1843), pp. 506, 655; Official Lists of Members of Parliament, i. 519; Pepys's Diary, 19 Oct. 1663; Sanderson's Charles I, p. 729; Walker's Historical Discourses, p. 109; Vicars's God's Ark, p. 250; Vicars's Burning Bush, p. 99; Thurloe's State Papers, iii. 697; Mercurius Politicus, 13-20 April 1658; Cromwelliana, p. 172.]

T. C.