Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Killigrew, William

KILLIGREW, Sir WILLIAM (1606–1695), dramatist, the eldest son of Sir Robert Killigrew [q. v.], was baptised at Hanworth, Middlesex, 28 May 1606, and entered a gentleman-commoner of St. John's College, Oxford, 4 July 1623. He was knighted 12 May 1626, and made what was called the tour of Europe. He was elected by double returns member of parliament for Newport and Penryn, both in Cornwall, and sat for the latter, 1628–9; was appointed governor of Pendennis Castle and Falmouth Haven, and obtained the command of the West Cornwall militia. He succeeded to the family mansion in Lothbury, and to Kineton Park, near Hampton Court, on his father's death in 1633. He was made gentleman-usher to Charles I, and had command of one of the two troops of horse that guarded the person of the king during the civil war. While in attendance on Charles I at Oxford, he took, 1 or 2 Nov. 1642, the degree of D.C.L. After the defeat of the royal cause he compounded for his estate with the committee of sequestration. He was in much trouble with his neighbours, who resented his efforts to drain portions of the Lincolnshire fens for his own benefit. In the manuscripts of the House of Lords there are, among many similar papers, a petition of Henry Carr and others of Donnington, Lincolnshire, respecting their imprisonment in the Fleet for a riot in the Fens by the House of Lords at the suggestion of Sir W. Killigrew, 1641; a petition of Thomas Kirke of Burne (Bourn, Lincolnshire), respecting the impounding of his cattle and other persecutions at the hands of Sir William Killigrew, 14 Dec. 1640; petition of Sir W. Killigrew and others respecting Lindsey's Level, in Lincolnshire, 9 May 1642, with the copy of order therein; petition of Sir W. Killigrew about Thomas Kirke, the Earl of Lindsey, and the riots at Lindsey Level, 22 Feb. 1647–8, 3 Sept. 1660; and another petition against the same, in which Killigrew states that he owes 11,000l. Killigrew and the other drainers in Lindsey Level had lost 30,000l. by Kirke's conduct, and Killigrew on 22 Feb. 1647–8 ‘prays the house to consider the estate of himself, his wife, and family, who do beg their bread, which misery is fallen on them through the riotous conduct of Kirke.’ Killigrew was one of the first to taste of the not too lavishly accorded bounty of Charles II, who after the Restoration restored him to his former post of gentleman-usher of the privy chamber. After his marriage to Catherine of Portugal, Charles appointed him vice-chamberlain to the queen, a post he held for two-and-twenty years. On 9 April 1664 he was elected M.P. for Richmond, Yorkshire, vice Sir John Yorke, deceased, and continued to sit for the borough until 1678. After 1682 Killigrew disappeared from court. Two grants of 20l. were made to him by Charles II (Akerman, Secret Service Money, Camd. Soc. 1851, pp. 24, 42). He was buried in the Savoy Chapel 17 Oct. 1695. By his wife Mary, daughter of John Hill of Honilay, Warwickshire, he had three sons, Henry (d. 1661), William, a captain in the army, and Sir Robert. A daughter Elizabeth married Sir Francis Clinton.

In 1665 appeared, in 8vo, ‘Three Playes, written by Sir William Killigrew, Vice-Chamberlain to her Majesty the Queen Consort, 1664; viz., Selindra, Pandora, Ormasdes.’ These were reprinted in 8vo in 1674. Among the contributors of commendatory verses, English or Latin, are: R. Stapylton, the translator of Juvenal, whose lines are suggestively headed ‘To Envy;’ Edmund Waller, ‘Of Pandoras not being approved upon the Stage as a Tragedy;’ T. P. (?Thomas Porter); T. L., whose verses Lamb gives in extenso in his ‘Dramatic Poets;’ and Lodowick Carlisle. Of ‘Pandora’ as a tragedy nothing is known. It was played as a comedy at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, and is for the epoch both well written and passably decent. Much of its dialogue and one or two of the female characters are vivacious. ‘Selindra’ and ‘Ormasdes’ are fairly interesting works, happy in termination, but called tragi-comedies, as some deaths by violence are introduced. ‘Selindra’ is mentioned by Downes as having been given at the Theatre Royal. Of the performance of ‘Ormasdes’ no record is extant. In 1666 was published in folio, Oxford, printed by Henry Hall, printer to the university, for Richard Davis, ‘Fovr new Playes; viz., The Seege of Urbin, Selindra, Love and Friendship, Tragy-Comedies: and Pandora. A Comedy. Written by Sir William Killigrew, Vice-Chamberlaine to Her Majesty.’ ‘Love and Friendship’ is ‘Ormasdes.’ The ‘Siege of Urbin,’ also unacted, is a capable and sympathetic play. The plays have separate title-pages, and the volume contains some further commendatory verses. In 1663 appeared ‘A Proposal shewing how the Nation may be vast Gainers by all the Sums of Money given to the Crown without lessening the Prerogative … by W. Killigrew. To which is prefixed The late Honourable Sir James Sheenes Letter on the same Subject,’ no place or date [London, 1663], 4to, 16 pp. In London, 1684, appeared ‘The Artless Midnight Thoughts of a Gentleman at Court; who for many Years built on Sand, which every Blast of cross Fortune has defaced; but now he has laid new Foundations on the Rock of his Salvation, which no Storms can shake; and will last out the conflagration of the world, when time shall melt into eternity,’ 8vo, 1684; 2nd edition, 12mo, 1684. The first dedication to Charles II bears no name, but the second to James II is signed W. Killigrew. Following this came ‘Midnight and Daily Thoughts, in Prose and Verse, by Sir W. Killigrew,’ London, 1694, 8vo (see Sir E. Brydges, Restituta, ii. 130–6). Giles Jacob (Poetical Register, i. 157–8), like the anonymous author of a ‘Continuation of Langbaine,’ p. 83, assigns to Killigrew the ‘Imperial Tragedy; taken out of a later Play and very much altered by a Gentleman for his own Diversion,’ &c., London, 1669, folio. It was acted at the Nursery in the Barbican. A sonnet by Killigrew is in Lawes's ‘Ayres and Dialogues for one, two, and three voices,’ two books, 1653–5.

In addition to these works Killigrew is responsible for the whole or portions of:

  1. ‘An Answer to the Objections made by some Commoners of Lincolnshire against Robert, Earl of Lincolnshire, and his Participants concerning the Drayning of those Fens which lye between Lincoln, Berne, and Boston. Set forth by Sir W. Killigrew. Printed for the Author, 1647,’ 4to.
  2. ‘Certaine Papers concerning the Earl of Lindsey his Fennes. … With a Paper directed to Sir W. Killigrew, and signed William Howell. And also an Answer to that Paper by Sir W. Killigrew,’ no place or date [August 1649], 4to, 8 pp.
  3. ‘Sir William Killigrew his Answer to the Fennemen's objections against the Earl of Lindsey his drayning in Lincolnshire. Printed at London, 1649,’ 4to, single sheet and a title-page.
  4. ‘The Rioters in Lindsey and their Abettors,’ single sheet, no place or date [1654], fol.
  5. ‘The late Earl of Lindsey his Title,’ &c., a single sheet, n.d., signed ‘Henry Heron, W. Killigrew, 1 July 1661.’

Further contributions to the controversy by William Killigrew, son of Sir William, appeared in 1695 and 1705. In Heber's ‘Catalogue,’ pt. v., is a pamphlet privately printed for the judges, entitled ‘Proofs that Jane Berkeley and Sir W. Killigrew combined to defraud Richard Lygon of an estate left him by H. Killigrew;’ ‘Letters from Col. Doleman to Col. W. Killigrew’ are in the ‘Thurloe State Papers,’ and ‘Letters from Killigrew to Archbishop Sancroft and Tobias Rustat, under-housekeeper at Hampton Court, dated respectively 31 Dec. 1677 and 1682,’ are among the Tanner MSS. in the Bodleian Library.

A portrait of Killigrew was in the first Exhibition of National Portraits.

[Boase and Courtney's Bibliotheca Cornubiensis is the chief source. Mr. Joseph Foster has supplied notes of Killigrew's parliamentary career and dates of his Oxford progress. See also Vivian's Visitation of Cornwall; Genest's English Stage; Wood's Fasti; Biographia Dram.; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Langbaine's Dramatic Poets.]

J. K.