Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Napier, Nathaniel

NAPIER, Sir NATHANIEL (1636–1709), dilettante, born in 1636, was the third son of Sir Gerard Napier [q. v.], of More Crichel or Critchell, Dorset, by Margaret, daughter and coheiress of John Colles of Barton, Somerset. He matriculated at Oxford, 16 March 1654, as a fellow-commoner of Oriel College, to which he presented a fine bronze eagle lectern, still in the chapel; but, being sickly, did not take a degree. In 1656 his father married him to Blanch, daughter and coheiress of Sir Hugh Wyndham, justice of the common pleas, and he lived quietly at Edmondsham, Dorset. He was knighted on 16 Jan. 1662, and in 1667 went for three months to Holland with his mother's brother-in-law, Henry Coventry [q. v.], then ambassador to the States; on his return he wrote a ‘Particular Tract’ describing his travels. In 1671–2 he paid a visit to France, and wrote another ‘Tract.’

In 1673 he succeeded his father as second baronet, and settled down to the ordinary occupations of a country gentleman. He renovated Middlemarsh Hall and Crichel Hall, and represented the county of Dorset from April 1677 to February 1678, when he was unseated. He next sat as member for Corfe Castle in the two parliaments of 1679, and in those of 1681 and 1685–7. In 1689 he took his seat in the Convention parliament as member for Poole, for which town he had procured the restoration in 1688 of the charter forfeited in 1687; but a double return had been made for the second seat for that borough, and a committee of the House of Commons reported, 9 Feb. 1689, that Thomas Chaffin, who had a majority of the votes of the commonalty paying scot and lot, was entitled to the seat. The house, however, resolved that the franchise should be confined to the ‘select body,’ i.e. the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses, who had voted for Napier by a majority of 33 to 22 (Hist. of Boroughs, i. 219). Napier continued to represent Poole till 1698. He sat for Dorchester from February 1702 until 1705.

Lady Napier died in 1695, and, their first four sons having also died before 1690, Sir Nathaniel married a Gloucestershire lady, Susanna Guise, in 1697. In 1697 also he recommenced his travels by a tour in France and Italy, the events of which he ‘noted in a journal in which he has given a full and true relation of all his travels’ (Wotton, Baronetage, ii. 161–4). In October 1701 he revisited Holland, and in 1704 spent three months in Rotterdam, intending to proceed to Hanover. From March 1706 to September 1707 he was at Spa for his health; and eventually died in England on 21 Jan. 1708–9. He was buried with his ancestors at Great Minterne, Dorset, where he had erected a monument during his lifetime. A mural inscription was added by his son. He was succeeded by his only surviving son, Nathaniel, who was member for Dorchester in nine parliaments between 1695 and 1722. On the death of his grandson, the sixth baronet, in 1765, the estates passed to a cousin, Humphry Sturt, with whose representative, Lord Alington, they remain.

Napier is described by the author of the ‘Memoir’ in Wotton's ‘Baronetage,’ who seems to have been a member of the family, as ‘a gay, ingenious gentleman, well versed in several languages,’ who ‘understood very well architecture and painting; he has left behind him several pieces of his own drawing, besides many others of good value, which he had collected on his travels.’ A portrait is at Crichel Hall. The whereabouts of his manuscripts and drawings is unknown.

[Wotton's English Baronetage, ii. 161–4 (apparently a first-hand memoir); Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Shadwell's Oriel College Register; Hutchins's Dorset, ed. 1868, iii. 123–5, iv. 483; Parl. Hist.; Sydenham's Hist. of Poole, pp. 209 seq. 259, 281.]

H. E. D. B.