top of page

Thomas Wriothesley 4th Earl of Southampton





















Thomas Wriothesley 4th Earl of Southampton was born on 10 March 1607 in Little Shelford.


He was a witness at the execution of Charles 1st on Jan 30 1649 and went on to become the Government's Lord High Treasurer. Thomas Wriothesley created Bloomsbury Square and his title gave the name to Southampton Row in London.


Thomas was the son of Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton. Between 1603 and c 1615 he lived with his family in Horatio Palavicino's house (The Manor) in Little Shelford.

Here he found a retreat after his release from the Tower of London on the accession of James 1st. He has been imprisoned for his part in the Essex Rebellion against Queen Elizabeth and he was lucky to have escaped with his head.


He was a cultured man who was the patron of William Shakespeare. He was also a benefactor of St John's College, Cambridge, where he left his books and illuminated manuscripts. He presented the tenor bell to Little Shelford Church; it is inscribed "Ricardus Hitchfield ne fecit.Henry Wryeste, Earl of Southampton 1612."

He was a 17th century English statesman, a staunch supporter of Charles II who would rise to the position of Lord High Treasurer after the English Restoration. Lord Southampton, having acceded to the earldom in 1624, attended St. John's College, Cambridge. At first, he sided with the Parliament supporters upon the subjects leading to the English Civil War, but upon his realisation of their leaders' violence, he became a loyal supporter of Charles I. While remaining very loyal to the deposed monarch, he still vied for peace, representing the king at several peace conferences (as Encyclopædia Britannica notes, he attended at least two conferences: one in 1643, and one at Uxbridge in 1645). He was allowed to live within England, having paid the Commonwealth over £6000.

Several months after the Restoration, Lord Southampton was appointed Lord High Treasurer (8 September 1660), a position in which he would serve until his death. As the Encyclopædia Britannica notes, Lord Southampton "was remarkable for his freedom from any taint of corruption and for his efforts in the interests of economy and financial order," a noble if not completely objective view of his work as the keeper of the nation's finances. Samuel Pepys admired Southampton's integrity and the stoicism with which he endured his painful last illness, but clearly had doubts about his competence as Treasurer; in particular he graphically described the Council meeting in April 1665 where Southampton helplessly asked him where he was to find the funds requested.



Excerpt from Wikipedia

Picture courtesy National Trust

Thomas Wriothesley.jpg
bottom of page