William Lenthall

b. Jun 1591, Henley-upon-Thames, Oxfordshire [1]
d. 1/3 Sep 1662, Burford Priory, Oxfordshire

Title: Speaker of the House of Commons
Term: 3 Nov 1640 - 30 Jul 1647, 6 Aug 1647 - 20 Apr 1653
Chronology: 3 Nov 1640, elected Speaker by the House of Commons
  30 Jul 1647, ceased to exercise the duties of Speaker
  6 Aug 1647, assumed the chair
  20 Apr 1653, Parliament forcibly dissolved by the army under Lord General Oliver Cromwell
Term: 4 Sep 1654 - 22 Jan 1655
Chronology: 4 Sep 1654, elected Speaker by the House of Commons
  22 Jan 1655, Parliament dissolved by the Lord Protector
Term: 7 May 1659 - 16 Mar 1660
Chronology: 7 May 1659, assumed the chair without reelection at the session of Parliament re-convened following an appeal of the army; Parliament considered to have been in recess from 20 Apr 1653 to 7 May 1659
  13 Oct 1659, ceased to exercise the functions of Speaker with dissolution of the Parliament by the military
  24 Dec 1659, the revolted army units approached Lenthall asking him to resume his authority, which he did by taking possession of the Tower and appointed commissioners for its government the same day (Parliament re-convened on 26 Dec 1659)
  13 Jan 1660, Lenthall incapacitated by illness (resumed the chair on 21 Jan 1660)
  16 Mar 1660, Parliament dissolved itself

William Lenthall was the son of a west Oxfordshire Catholic. He was educated at St. Alban Hall, Oxford. Called to the bar without having taken a degree, he was subsequently a bencher at Lincoln's Inn. Lenthall built up a large practice and was made Recorder of Woodstock, which he represented in the Parliament of 1624. When the Long Parliament met in 1640, he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons. In 1643, Lenthall was made Master of the Rolls, and in 1646 he was appointed one of the Commissioners of the Great Seal. During the Civil Wars he sided with Parliament, and upon the outbreak (1647) of the power struggle between the Presbyterians and Independents he supported the Independents. Lenthall carried on his duties as Speaker without interruption till 26 Jul 1647, when a mob invaded the House of Commons and obliged it to rescind the ordinance re-establishing the old parliamentary committee of militia. Together with Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester, the Speaker of the Peers, he left London on 29 Jul 1647 (Henry Pelham was elected Speaker 30 Jul 1647) and joined the troops under Lord Fairfax. Returning to London with the army, Lenthall was installed again in the chair (6 Aug 1647), and all votes passed during his absence were annulled. Though he opposed to the trial of King Charles I (1649), Lenthall still presided during the debates upon it. He was pulled from the chair at the dissolution of the Long Parliament on 20 Apr 1653.

Lenthall was again elected the Speaker of the First Protectorate Parliament (1654-1655), summoned under the terms of the Instrument of Government, but it was dissolved on 22 Jan 1655. In the Second Parliament (1656-1658), summoned by the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, Lenthall sat as a private member until, in response to his own request, he was raised to the Upper House. When the Rump Parliament was restored (7 May 1659), Lenthall was persuaded to assume the chair once more. He supported General George Monck and the Restoration of the Stuarts, but under King Charles II he was declared incapable of holding any public office. [2; 3; 4]

[1] Baptized at the later end of June 1591 [2] or born at that time [3]. The date of death is 1 Sep 1662 [2] or 3 Sep 1662 [3].
[2] "The Lives of the Speakers of the House of Commons", by James Alexander Manning (London, 1850).
[3] "Dictionary of National Biography" (Smith, Elder, London, 1900).
[4] "Historical Portraits", by Emery Walker (1909).
  Image: portrait of William Lenthall by Samuel Cooper, 1652.
Last updated on: 13 Mar 2010 01:46:58