CROWNE (Crown), WILLIAM, colonizer, independent minister in the Parliament of Cromwell, colonel in the British militia, Rouge-Dragon; b. 1617 (nothing is known of his place of birth or of his education); d. 1682 in Boston, North America.
William Crowne married, between the years 1635–40, Agnes (Mackworth) Watts, widow of Richard Watts and daughter-in-law of John Watts, an alderman and lord mayor of London, 1606. Mrs. Crowne was the sister of Humphrey Mackworth of Breton Grange, county of Shrewsbury. Three children were born to Agnes and William Crowne; the eldest, John, became a well-known English dramatist.
In 1636, William Crowne, in his nineteenth year, accompanied as a member of his suite the Earl of Arundel on a mission to the emperor Ferdinand II. He subsequently wrote an account of this journey. On 24 Sept. 1638, at the Red Tavern Inn, Richmond, the Earl of Arundel created Crowne Rouge-Dragon, entitling him to armorial bearings. William Crowne held this office after he went to America. He returned to London and officiated as Rouge-Dragon at the coronation of Charles II on 23 April 1661. Crowne resigned 25 May 1661.
Nothing is known of Crowne immediately following his marriage but at the outbreak of the Civil War he allied himself with the Parliamentary cause. In 1641 he was serving Basil Feilding, 2d Earl of Denbigh, as secretary. In July 1644, Crowne was in London requesting more strength and money for Denbigh. Four letters are known to have been sent out over his signature. In December 1649, he was acting as Humphrey Mackworth’s secretary. On 2 April 1650 he was granted a commission as captain of foot and on 19 April he became a lieutenant-colonel of foot for Shropshire, under Humphrey Mackworth. He was an M.P. in 1654.
In the year 1656, Crowne tied up his fortune in a venture in the New World. He became joint proprietor, with Col. Thomas Temple, of Nova Scotia, by buying Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour’s patent as baronet of Nova Scotia. By this purchase, Crowne and Temple agreed to pay La Tour’s debt of £3,379 to the widow of Maj.-Gen. Edward Gibbons of Boston and Temple assumed the cost of the English troops which had earlier captured the fort on the Saint John River [see Sedgwick]. According to his statement of losses in about 1668, Crowne supplied the money and security for the purchase.
Col. Temple, Col. Crowne, his son John Crowne, and a group of settlers came to America in 1657. Crowne’s name first appears in the records of Suffolk County, Mass., in September 1657 on an agreement between Temple and Crowne to divide Acadia, Temple taking the eastern part and Crowne the western, including the fort of Pentagouet (now Castine, Maine). The articles of agreement were not signed until 15 Feb. 1657/58 when Governor Endicot and John Crowne witnessed them. Each party gave a bond of £20,000.
Crowne took possession of his part of Acadia and built a trading post on the Penobscot River at a place called “Negu,” or “Negu alias Cadascat.” His son attended Harvard for the next three years. On 1 Nov. 1658 Crowne leased the whole territory to Capt. George Corwin and Ensign Joshua Scottee, and in 1659 to Col. Temple for four years. In each case the consideration was £110 per year. At this time Col. Crowne was living in Boston. He was made a freeman of Boston 30 May 1660.
The claim of Temple and Crowne to the grant of Nova Scotia by Cromwell was threatened at the Restoration by both French and English claims. Thomas Elliott, one of the grooms of the bedchamber to Charles, petitioned his master for a grant of the province. Sir Lewis Kirke and associates and the heirs of Sir William Alexander also petitioned for it. In 1661 the French ambassador claimed it for France. That same year Crowne, accompanied by his son, went to England with a petition, signed by the three original grantees (himself, Temple, and La Tour) which he submitted on 1 March. On 22 June 1661 he submitted a statement on the manner in which he and Temple became proprietors. While in England, Col. William Crowne also pleaded the cause of the colonists before the council and lord chamberlain on 4 Dec. 1661. Temple arrived in England in February 1662 and prepared a statement in answer to the French ambassador’s claim, which gained him and his heirs a grant of Acadia and Nova Scotia and the governorship for life.
Crowne returned to America on 8 Oct. 1662. As a reward for his services while in London the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay colony granted him five hundred acres of land. This was laid out for him near Sudbury, Mass., in 1665. During the preceding five years Crowne had been involved in a lawsuit to recover lands and damages. The case was finally ended when the General Court of Massachusetts declared the entire matter beyond its jurisdiction. He moved to Mendon in 1667 and was chosen as the town’s first clerk and selectman on 7 June 1667, offices he held for many years. Crowne lost the residue of his fortune in 1667 when by the Treaty of Breda Charles II ceded Acadia to France. His life in Mendon was marked by endless disputes with his neighbours over rents and other financial matters. On 27 May 1669, in answer to a special petition of the townspeople, the General Court appointed him a magistrate to solemnize marriages. He moved from Mendon by 1674 and lived then at Prudence Island, near Newbury, Mass. In 1679, he was living in Boston.
Agnes Crowne did not accompany her husband to America. That she was alive in 1674 is known because at that date Crowne was ordered to return to her in England. John Crowne also stayed in England and was forced by the loss of his patrimony to earn his living as a playwright.
Up until the time of William Crowne’s death on 24 Dec. 1682, both he and his son endeavoured to collect promised restitution from the Crown for his property in Nova Scotia. Crowne’s will was probated in Suffolk County 26 Feb. 1682/83. He died a poor man, as is evidenced also by records dated July 1682 containing his petition for financial assistance to the General Court of Massachusetts on the grounds of illness and need. He received two grants, one for £5 and one for £15. John Crowne continued for the rest of his life his father’s struggle to obtain restitution for the Acadian losses. But although he won Charles II’s favour through his plays, John Crowne also failed to regain financial security and died in poverty in 1712.
BM, Lansdowne MS 849, f.51, Crowne’s memorial concerning the English title to Penobscot and adjacent lands, 4 Jan. 1697/98. “Mass. Archives,” II, 506. Annals of the town of Mendon from 1659 to 1880, comp. J. G. Metcalf (Providence, R.I., 1880). Documentary history of Maine, IV, 175–76, 197; VII, 280; X, 25 and passim. Maine Hist. Soc., Province and court records of Maine, I, II. Mémoires de commissaires, I, 49, 56, 61, 96, 106; II, 278–79, 280–81, 289–90, 511; IV, 126, 307, 329; and Memorials of the English and French commissaries, I, 120, 126, 138–39, 167–68, 176, 579, 727. PRO, Acts of P.C., col. ser., 1613–80; CSP, Col., 1574–1660, 1661–68, 1698–99, no.151. Records of the Massachusetts Bay (Shurtleff), IV, pts. 1 and 2, V. William H. Davis, “Colonel William Crowne and his family,” N. Eng. Hist. and Geneal. Register, LVII (1903), 406–10. DAB (John Crowne; William Crowne). DNB (John Crowne). Samuel Jennison, “William and John Crowne,” N. Eng. Hist. and Geneal. Register, VI (1852), 46. J. L. Sibley, Biographical sketches of graduates of Harvard University (3v., Cambridge, Mass., 1873–85), I, 577. A. F. White, John Crowne: his life and dramatic works (Cleveland, 1922).