Catalogue description State Paper Office: Williamson Collection, Pamphlets, Miscellaneous

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Details of SP 9
Reference: SP 9
Title: State Paper Office: Williamson Collection, Pamphlets, Miscellaneous

Mainly a collection of transcripts and original documents, treatises, notes and foreign and domestic pamphlets (some formerly in SP 16, SP 29 and SP 30) made by Sir Joseph Williamson, the Keeper of the State Papers from 1661 to 1702. The collection was made from the state papers in his custody, from other official historical records, and from private sources. They relate to heraldry, genealogy, diplomacy, the royal prerogative, the Coronation Claims Court, precedence, styles of foreign princes, etc., and include original letters patent and grants of arms, maps, plans, engravings and seals, English and foreign. The collection includes transcripts or notes by other record keepers such as Ambrose Randolph, Thomas Astle, John Brydall, and John Bruce.

To Williamson's collection has been added, from at least the early nineteenth century and probably earlier, a considerable number of miscellaneous items found in the State Paper Office, including more recently a series of domestic pamphlets.

The records cover a very wide variety of subjects: foreign (there is much material relating to Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, France and the Netherlands), domestic, colonial, administrative, cultural, political, legal, heraldic, diplomatic and military. The content of the transcripts dates back to the thirteenth century.

Date: 1463-1828

The series has been rearranged several times: it was previously called State Papers Miscellaneous (or some variant), and several of the various calendars of State Papers Domestic refer to items in it, often giving a superseded reference. Many of the items have previously had different piece numbers within the same series.

Related material:

Other Williamson papers are in the Stowe MSS. and Additional MSS. at the British Library.

Coronation rolls are in C 57

For other transcripts, etc collected by Williamson see PRO 31/16

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English and Latin

Sir Joseph Williamson, Knight, 1633-1701

Physical description: 273 volume(s)
Custodial history: On his death, Williamson bequeathed (or restored) to the State Paper Office his historical papers, which became known as the Williamson Collection. Williamson's official papers as Secretary of State also came in, and were sorted over the centuries into their respective State Papers Foreign and Domestic series. Some items come from outside the custody of the State Paper Office, including some from the Conway Papers or by purchase.
Publication note:

For more detail on Williamson's work as Keeper of the State Papers, see the 'Calendar of Documents relating to the History of the State Paper Office to the Year 1800' by W Noel Sainsbury, in the Deputy Keeper of Public Records, Thirtieth Report.

Unpublished finding aids:

See also State Paper Office: Williamson Collection, Pamphlets, Miscellaneous (formerly introductory note to SP 9)

Administrative / biographical background:

Sir Joseph Williamson (1633-1701) was a diplomat who started his career as an unpaid Under-Secretary in the service of Secretary of State Edward Nicholas, on the restoration of Charles II. Financial reward came partly through his appointment, for the term of his life, to the posts of Keeper of the King's Library at Whitehall and Keeper of the State Papers on 31 December 1661. Williamson did not have the power to appoint a deputy to actually do the work, despite his later appointment to higher office: as a result the State Paper Office appears to have suffered.

Williamson became a clerk of the council in ordinary in January 1672, and was knighted as such. In 1673 he was sent as one of the British plenipotentiaries to the Congress at Cologne. On his return in June 1674, he was promoted to one of the two posts of Secretary of State, for the Northern Department, paying the resigning Secretary Arlington £6,000 for the post. In November 1678 Williamson was committed to the Tower of London by the House of Commons, on the charge of passing commissions drawn up by Charles II's order in favour of certain recusants. The King ordered his immediate release, and withdrew the commissions. By the next February, Williamson had been removed from the post of secretary.

Williamson continued to lead an active public life, as a privy councillor, diplomat in Holland (1697-1699) and an active member of the Royal Society. He also continued to take an interest in historical, constitutional, diplomatic, legal and genealogical research, with special interest in the politically sensitive subject of the royal prerogative.

He was able to use his considerable wealth, acquired through office and through his marriage to the heiress of the Duke of Richmond and Lennox, to collect many valuable manuscripts relating to history and heraldry: in particular, he purchased the heraldic collections of Sir Thomas Shirley and William Ryley. On his death in 1701, Williamson left to Queens College, Oxford, his 'library of printed books and books of heraldry and genaligy [sic], as well manuscripts as printed'.

As the Keeper of the State Papers, Williamson was active in pursuing those public papers of the Interregnum, and of previous years, which remained in private hands. However, Williamson himself kept large numbers of state papers in his own hands, and not just those for the period when he was Secretary himself. He also made copious notes and extracts on a huge range of subjects, not solely from the state papers.

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