Harbord, William (1635–92), politician and civil servant, was born 25 April 1635, the second son of Sir Charles Harbord, politician and civil servant, of Stanninghall, Norfolk, and his second wife, Mary, daughter of Jan van Aelst of Sandwich, Kent. He was educated at Leiden, 1651, and the Middle Temple in London, 1655. From 1656 he travelled in the Levant, where he may have engaged in trade in Turkey.
He entered the English house of commons in 1661, and was a member of the house in every parliament until his death. On the death of his father in 1679 he had the reversion of the office of surveyor general of England, which he held lifelong. He held many other local and minor offices in England, several of them connected with the royal forests. These had also been a particular concern of his father, and were frequently the subject of the son's parliamentary activity.
He was secretary to the earl of Essex (qv), lord lieutenant of Ireland. 1673–7. He was also appointed to the Irish privy council in 1673, and granted an Irish pension of £500 p.a. in 1674. He continued to attend the English parliament while in session, acting as the lord lieutenant's confidential agent and source of information on political developments in London, especially the many intrigues against Essex. The latter thought highly of his ability but, like others who would deal with him, had occasion to doubt his trustworthiness.
After his Irish service ended Harbord emerged as a strong whig, whose public utterances were sometimes immoderate. He was convinced of the reality of the popish plot and – after the first bill to exclude James, duke of York (qv), from the succession – became a leading exclusionist. He was an early adherent of Prince William of Orange (qv), and fell under suspicion after the Rye House plot. On the accession of James to the throne, he went to the Netherlands, where he became friendly with General Schomberg (qv) and was at Buda during the siege of 1686. He returned to England in 1688 with William, to whom he was commissary general in November to December of that year.
He rapidly established himself as a figure of some prominence wherever English policy towards Ireland was being formed. Henry Hyde, earl of Clarendon (qv) found in January 1689 that the exiled Irish protestants in London were unhappy that Harbord and Sir John Temple (qv) had monopolised the king's counsels concerning a declaration it was proposed to make to the Irish supporters of James II. In February 1689 (a month before being sworn of the council proper) he was appointed to the powerful committee for Irish affairs of the English privy council. In April 1689 he was the first named in the list of a committee of the English house of commons for the relief of the Irish protestant refugees in England, and in June was appointed to the committee of the house to inquire into delays in sending relief to Ireland, especially to Londonderry. This committee heard the allegations of an Irish exile, Sir George St George, that Harbord had been responsible for delays in establishing communications with Ireland, but the committee and the house vindicated him.
In March 1689 he was made treasurer and paymaster general of William's army in Ireland, and in May he was appointed captain of a troop of horse for guarding and conveying the treasure to pay the soldiers intended for Ireland. In May he was also included, with Schomberg, Thomas Wharton (qv), and Percy Kirke (qv), in a commission for reforming abuses in the army. He was soon after forced to deny allegations of embezzlement of money raised during the revolution, but William himself was reportedly unconvinced of Harbord's innocence.
While Harbord was still in England, in August 1689, Schomberg was writing to William from Ireland of difficulty in getting money from his agents. These complaints intensified after Harbord's arrival in Ireland in September, though he made sure that London had his own version of affairs in the Williamite camp. He took considerable authority to himself in Ireland before leaving abruptly in December, promising to get more money from England. After his departure Schomberg's denunciations continued, with increasingly explicit charges of financial improprieties.
In the commons in April 1690 Harbord proposed sweeping confiscations in Ireland in the manner of Oliver Cromwell (qv). That he drew the house's attention in May 1690 to the failure to pay officers in Ireland since 1 September 1689 may indicate a clear conscience, or brazen defiance of his detractors. He was superseded as paymaster in June 1690 by joint appointees, Charles Fox and Thomas Coningsby (qv), who also became in July the first Williamite appointees to the office of vice-treasurer of Ireland. In November Coningsby was alarmed to hear that Harbord might be made paymaster again; in fact the office of vice-treasurer went in that month to Harbord. Godolphin considered that Fox and Coningsby had the executive role, and that the vice-treasurership was a pension for Harbord.
Harbord undertook diplomatic missions in the Netherlands in 1690, and was appointed ambassador to Turkey in November 1691. He died 31 July 1692 in Belgrade on his way to Constantinople. He had married first, in 1661, Mary, daughter and co-heir of Arthur Duck, DCL, of North Cadbury, Somerset, and Grafton Park, Northamptonshire, with whom he had three daughters. He acquired Grafton Park through his wife and by purchase. He married secondly, in 1678, Catherine, daughter of the Hon. Edward Russell of Corney House, Chiswick, Middlesex, with whom he had one daughter. A daughter of the first marriage, Margaret, married in February 1690 an Irish peer, Robert King, 2nd Baron Kingston, a member of the committee of Irish exiles formed in London in September 1689.