William Say, 1604-c.1666

Lawyer and regicide, he helped draft the King's death warrant and was a legislator throughout the Commonwealth period.

The second son of William Say of Slinfold in Sussex, William Say the younger was educated at University College, Oxford, and the Middle Temple. He was called to the bar in 1631 and elected recruiter MP for Camelford, Cornwall, in 1647, emerging as a strong supporter of the Independents.

In January 1649, Say acted as temporary president of the High Court of Justice before the arrival of John Bradshaw, and assisted him during the King's trial. He was among those responsible for drafting the King's death warrant, to which he was a signatory, and for reporting the proceedings to Parliament. He was also involved in the prosecution of John Lilburne in October 1649.

Say remained active in drafting legislation throughout the Commonwealth period, and was a member of the committee appointed to determine the future government of the nation. However, he did not support Cromwell's assumption of power in 1653 and withdrew from public life during the Protectorate.

Say returned to Parliament with the recall of the Rump Parliament in 1659, and was associated with the attempt by Edmund Ludlow to reconcile the civilian republicans with the leaders of the army. He was appointed to the Council of State in December 1659, and briefly deputised for William Lenthall as Speaker of the Commons in January 1660.

Say opposed the return of the monarchy and escaped abroad at the Restoration. He joined Ludlow at Vevey in Switzerland until 1664 and is believed to have been involved in plots against the government of England in 1665-6. He probably died in the Netherlands around 1666.


J. T. Peacey, William Say , Oxford DNB, 2004