Ellis, Sir William (c.1648–1732), chief secretary, was the second son of John Ellis (d. 1681) and his wife, Susanna (d. 1700), a daughter of William Welbore of Cambridge. John Ellis was a fellow of St Catharine Hall, Cambridge, and a chaplain to Archbishop Abbot of Canterbury; he took the parliamentary side during the English civil war and published a tract in favour of independency in church government. In 1659 he publicly retracted his earlier views and (despite the attacks of former allies) enjoyed favour under the restored monarchy. Of a Yorkshire family originally, he held a living at Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire, where he raised his family, including at least six sons and two daughters who survived to adulthood. Five of the sons enjoyed public careers of varying duration and adopted notably divergent allegiances; three – all of whom enjoyed the patronage of the dukes of Ormond – were prominent in Irish affairs.
William Ellis was educated at Westminster School and entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1665, graduating BA in 1669. When the 1st duke of Ormond (qv) became lord lieutenant for the second time in 1677, his chief secretary, Sir Cyril Wyche (qv), remained in London; the duke was in Ireland, where Ellis acted as secretary, 1676–82. In 1678 he was granted (in reversion, with his younger brother Welbore, see below) the offices of customer, comptroller, and searcher for the provinces of Leinster and Munster; in 1679 he was appointed to the revenue and appeals commissions; and in 1682 he was appointed surveyor general of the ordnance. During these years he acquired extensive property in Ireland.
When Ormond's eldest son, Richard, earl of Arran (qv), became lord deputy in his father's absence in May 1682, Ellis became chief secretary proper, 1682–5. He was too clerk of the crown and peace in the Ormond palatinate in Tipperary, an appointment that was presumably made before a breach in relations with the duke, who, writing to Arran in December 1684, bitterly denounced his protégé's greed for offices and land, and reproached his son for unwise intimacy with him. With Ormond's influence in sharp decline at this time, Ellis transferred his allegiance to a new patron. When Tyrconnell (qv) was appointed lord deputy in 1687, Thomas Sheridan (qv) was imposed on him as chief secretary by James II (qv). However, Sheridan never enjoyed Tyrconnell's confidence, and Ellis, who had sought the appointment, became de facto secretary. Sheridan, by his own account, endured humiliations and withstood threats and inducements to resign, but he could not prevent many of the functions of the secretary's office being entrusted to his rival. Though an English protestant, Ellis was preferred by the lord deputy for the execution of his controversial policy of catholicising Irish institutions. This included the remodelling of Irish borough government, and Ellis himself became an alderman of Dublin (by December 1687) and treasurer of the city (by January 1688). He was knighted and appointed secretary at war in 1688.
He sat in the Irish parliament of 1689 for St Johnstown, Co. Longford; he was one of six protestants in the house of commons, and one of only three who were Jacobites. He was also a member of the privy council and was appointed one of the assessors for the city and county of Dublin in April 1690. He followed James into exile and, though he was said to be seeking to negotiate a return to England in 1700, he remained prominent in the Jacobite court into old age, enjoying numerous household and diplomatic appointments under James (including commissioner of the household, in which office one of his colleagues was Sheridan) and the Old Pretender. Sir William's Irish properties (of considerable extent, though heavily encumbered) were subject to Williamite forfeiture, and his brother John (see below), in consideration of William's debts to him, obtained a grant of them. He subsequently lost them by the English Act of Resumption of 1700, but eventually obtained relief by an English private act of 1702. Sir William died in Rome in August 1732; it is not known if he had married, but he died without issue.
John Ellis (c.1645–1738), secretary to the revenue commission, was William's eldest brother. He was educated at Westminster School and entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1664, though he did not take a degree. He was employed by Sir Joseph Williamson, one of the under-secretaries of state, by 1672, and was subsequently secretary to Sir Leoline Jenkins, one of the envoys to the conference at Nijmegen, 1675–7; to Thomas Butler, earl of Ossory (qv), from 1678; and after Ossory's death in 1680 to his father, the duke of Ormond. In 1682 he was appointed secretary to the revenue commissioners. He returned to England in early 1689, and later in that year became secretary to the second duke of Ormond (qv). In 1691 he was one of the commissioners of the transports. He was an under-secretary of state, 1695–1705, and comptroller of the mint in England, 1702–11. He failed to be returned to parliament for Oxford University in 1695 despite Ormond's backing, but he sat for Harwich in Essex, 1702–8. In 1710 he was one of the trustees appointed to manage the Ormond estate. He died unmarried on 8 July 1738 at his house in London.
William's younger brother Welbore Ellis (c.1662–1734), bishop, was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he matriculated in 1680, graduating BA in 1684, MA in 1687, and BD and DD by diploma in 1697. He was appointed chaplain to the 2nd duke of Ormond in 1693, a prebendary of Winchester in 1696, and rector of St Peter's in Northampton in 1702. He was appointed bishop of Kildare, with the deanery of Christ Church, Dublin, in commendam in 1705. His predecessor in both posts, William Moreton (qv), had been embroiled in a dispute with Dublin's forceful archbishop, William King (qv), over the prerogatives of Christ Church cathedral. Moreton had petitioned and published against King's claimed right of visitation, and the primate, Narcissus Marsh (qv), congratulating Ormond on Ellis's appointment, expressed the hope that it would bring the unedifying litigation to an end. In 1711 Ellis went to law in the same matter, claiming that the cathedral was a royal foundation and thus exempt from episcopal visitation, and the case was heard repeatedly in the Irish and English courts. In 1715 King appointed his nephew Robert Dougat archdeacon of Dublin, but the cathedral chapter refused him admittance; more litigation ensued, and the dispute was not concluded until 1724, when the British house of lords gave judgment in favour of the archbishop in both cases in quick succession.
In the reign of George I, when the bishops in the house of lords tended to divide into English- and Irish-born factions, Ellis aligned himself with the former. He overcame the suspicions arising from his former tory connections, and won the approval of Archbishop Hugh Boulter (qv). His long tenure in Kildare was not voluntary: in 1708 he was said to be desperately seeking an English bishopric, and in 1727 he canvassed unsuccessfully for the archbishopric of Cashel. He was eventually translated to Meath in 1731, with which see he obtained the customary appointment to the privy council.
He died on 1 January 1734. He married Diana, daughter of Sir John Briscoe of Broughton, Northamptonshire, and Amberley Castle, Sussex, and his wife, Anne Knollys. They had two surviving children. Anne (1707–65) married as her first husband Henry Agar of Gowran Castle in Co. Kilkenny, MP for Gowran from 1727 until his death in 1746; her children by this marriage included Charles Agar (qv), archbishop of Dublin and earl of Normanton, and James Agar (qv), first Viscount Clifden. The one surviving son of Welbore and Diana, also Welbore Ellis (1713–1802), Baron Mendip, inherited his uncle John's fortune. He made a career in English politics sitting in the house of commons from 1741 almost continuously until 1794, when he was created Baron Mendip in the British peerage. Among other appointments he was a lord of the admiralty, 1747–55, and joint vice-treasurer of Ireland, 1755–62, 1765–6, 1770–7. Twice married, he had no issue.
(1652–1726), priest and vicar apostolic, like his brothers attended Westminster School, but left for the Benedictine house at Douai in France, where he was professed in 1670. He was appointed chaplain to James II, and was an influential figure at court, where on one occasion he preached against the Irish Act of Settlement. In 1688 he was appointed vicar apostolic of England's western district and bishop of Aureliopolis in partibus. Briefly imprisoned after the flight of James, he subsequently joined his court in St Germain. In early 1687 he proposed that the fifth son Samuel Ellis (fl.
The very extensive official and private papers of John Ellis, including letters of his brothers, are in the British Library, Add. MSS 28,875–28,956; letters from another collection, Add. MS 4,194, were printed in the Ellis correspondence in 1829. The same work reproduces an engraving of Philip, while at Christ Church, Oxford, has portraits of the both elder and younger Welbore.