Wolseley, William (1640–97), soldier and politician, was the youngest of five sons (there were also six daughters) of Sir Robert Wolseley, 1st baronet, of Wolseley, Staffordshire, and his wife, Mary Wolseley (née Wroughton), daughter of Sir George Wroughton, knight, of Walcot, Wiltshire. Sir Robert's elder brother William (b. c.1568) had served as a soldier in Ireland. Sir Robert, a royalist in the English civil war, suffered sequestration of his estates, which were restored to his eldest son, Sir Charles Wolseley (c.1630–1714), 2nd baronet, a politician noted for his loyalty to Oliver Cromwell (qv).
William Wolseley was captain lieutenant to the marquess of Worcester's regiment of foot in June 1667, and reached the rank of major by June 1685. His strong protestantism appeared in an incident in September 1688, when he was stationed at Scarborough. The town's mayor beat a clergyman during divine service for refusing to read the declaration of James II (qv) for liberty of conscience. Wolseley, who was present, had the mayor tossed in a blanket; though summoned before the council of war in London, he was not punished.
William of Orange (qv) appointed him lieutenant colonel of the 11th foot in 1688, and the regiment went to Ireland in May 1689 in the force commanded by General Percy Kirke (qv) for the relief of Londonderry, where Wolseley became a member of the council of war. An appeal for assistance in June from the irregular Enniskillen troops – who had already proved a considerable obstruction to the armies of James II – prompted Kirke to send Wolseley with arms and a handful of officers round the coast of Donegal and up the Erne. In Enniskillen Wolseley took charge of the troops formerly commanded by the town's governor, Gustavus Hamilton (qv) (d. 1690), and as colonel of the Inniskilling horse became one of the best-known commanders of the war. At the end of July 1689, immediately after his appointment, the Inniskillings routed Jacobite forces under Justin MacCarthy (qv) and Anthony Hamilton (qv) at Crom castle on Lough Erne and at Newtownbutler. The regiment saw service in numerous other engagements, including the Boyne and Aughrim.
Wolseley's bravery at times verged on recklessness, and he was once warned by General Schomberg (qv) not to put his men in danger. The Inniskillings were also notorious for plunder, and it was reported in 1691 that a captain of the regiment who was a brother of Wolseley (probably in fact his nephew Richard) faced a court martial for cattle stealing. Wolseley was appointed master general of the Irish ordnance in 1692 and brigadier general of all horse in 1693.
After the war his pugnacity found expression in politics, and he was a bitter opponent of the lord chancellor, Sir Charles Porter (qv). Wolseley sat in the Irish house of commons for Co. Longford, 1692–3 and 1695 to his death. In May 1696, during the illness of the lord deputy, Henry Capel (qv), he was appointed one of the lords justices of Ireland and a member of the Irish privy council.
In 1695 he got a custodiam of lands which included the estate of one Edward Geoghegan, a catholic who had persuaded the government during Porter's term as lord justice that he deserved pardon. Wolseley's ardent campaign to prevent the reversal of Geoghegan's outlawry combined a desire to demonstrate Porter's excessive leniency to catholics with a determination to acquire permanent possession of the estate; however, it was ultimately unsuccessful.
He died unmarried in December 1697. A branch of the family was established in Ireland by his nephew Richard Wolseley, a son of Sir Charles, who was appointed a captain in the Inniskillings in 1689. He purchased lands from Charles Butler (qv), earl of Arran, in Co. Carlow, which he renamed Mount Wolseley. He was MP for Co. Carlow in 1703–13 and 1715–24.