in gold, and would have knighted him with it had he consented' (Collins, iv. 110). On 19 May 1644 Rupert appointed Legge temporary governor of Chester, styling him 'my serjeant-major and general of my ordnance' (Warburton, ii. 425).
After the death of Sir Henry Gage (January 1645), Legge succeeded to his post as governor of Oxford. He received a commission from Rupert authorising him to command in chief all the neighbouring garrisons except Banbury (7 May), and was appointed one of the grooms of the king's bedchamber (12 April) (Dugdale, Diary, p. 78; Warburton, iii. 83). During his governorship Oxford was besieged or blockaded by Fairfax (May-June 1645), and a party from the Oxford garrison, under the command of the governor's brother, Colonel Robert Legge, surprised the regiment of Colonel Greaves at Thame on 7 Sept. (Life of A. Wood, ed. Clarke, p. 120). Legge's attachment to Prince Rupert led to his removal, when the prince was disgraced for his hasty surrender of Bristol. Charles wrote to Sir Edward Nicholas on 14 Sept. 1645, ordering Legge's arrest. 'For what concerns Will. Legge,' he added, 'what Lord Digby informed me satisfies me as to what I have done, but not to believe him guilty of trickery before I see more particular proofs (Evelyn, Diary, ed. Wheatley, iv. 174, 177; Ellis, Original Letters, 1st ser. iii. 315). When the king returned to Oxford Legge was released, and allowed again to wait on the king as groom of his bedchamber Dugdale, Diary, p. 83). He used the opportunity to endeavour to heal the breach between Rupert and his uncle, and urged the prince to submit to the king. 'Since I had the honour to be your servant,' he told Rupert, 'I never had other desire than faithfully to serve you, and when I leave to pursue that may I die forgotten. I have not hitherto lost a day without moving his Majesty to recall you ' (Warburton, iii. 211). He was the most active agent in effecting the reconciliation which followed (ib. iii. 195, 12, 223). After the fall of Oxford Legge went abroad, returning to England about July 1647 to wait on the king, then in the custody of the army (Berkeley, Memoirs, ed. Maseres, pp. 356, 373). He concerted with Berkeley and Ashburnham the king's escape from Hampton Court, and never left him during his flight to the Isle of Wight (ib., pp. 374, 377; Ashburnham, Vindication of Ashburnham, ii. 101, 106). In the mutual recriminations and accusations which this unhappy resolution produced Legge's character alone was spared. 'Legge,' says Clarendon, 'had had so general a reputation of integrity and fidelity to his master, that he never fell under the least imputation or reproach with any man; he was a very punctual and steady observer of the orders he received, but no contriver of them, and though he had in truth a better judgment and understanding than either of the other two [i. e. Berkeley and Ashburnham], his modesty and diffidence of himself never suffered him to contrive bold councils' (Rebellion, x. 130). Parliament ordered Colonel Hammond to send up Legge and his two companions as prisoners; but on Hammond's remonstrances allowed them to remain with Charles until 29 Dec. 1647 (Berkeley, p. 394; Gardiner, Great Civil War, iii. 285). For some months Legge and Ashburnham lingered in Hampshire, endeavouring to contrive the king's escape, but they were apprehended on 19 May, and Legge was confined in Arundel Castle (Ashburnham, p. 148). On 2 Sept. 1648 the House of Lords refused him leave to attend the king during the Newport treaty (Lords' Journals, x. 484).
Legge consented to give a promise not to bear arms against the parliament, and was thereupon allowed to compound, and released. Charles II at once despatched him on a mission to Ireland, but he was captured at sea in July 1649, and imprisoned in Exeter Castle on a charge of high treason (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649-50, p. 235; Commons' Journals, vi. 267; Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. p. 9). A family tradition asserts that he accompanied Charles II to Scotland, was imprisoned by the Marquis of Argyll for opposing the match between Argyll's daughter and the king, and was taken prisoner at the battle of Worcester (Collins, iv. 112; Burnet, Own Time, ed. 1833, i. 105), but Legge was still a prisoner at Exeter as late as May 1651 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1651, p. 220). In March 1653 he was granted a pass to go abroad, on giving security to do nothing prejudicial to the state (ib. 1652-3, p. 470). On 11 March 1659 he was one of five commissioners empowered by the king to treat with all rebels not actual regicides, and promise pardon in reward for assistance (Baker, Chronicle, ed. 1670, p. 658). In 1659 Legge was again in England, preparing a royalist rising, and sanguine of success (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. pt. iv. pp. 207-10). From July to 30 Sept. 1659 he was a prisoner in the Tower (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659-1660, pp. 35, 231).
On the Restoration Charles II offered to create Legge an earl, 'which he modestly declined, having a numerous family with a small fortune, but told the king he hoped his sons might live to deserve his majesty's