Burke, William (d. 1687), 7th earl of Clanricard , catholic nobleman, was the second son of Sir William Burke and Joan, daughter of Dermot O'Shaugnessy (qv; see Roger O'Shaugnessy) of Gort, Co. Galway. He was a colonel in the king's service in 1640 and succeeded to the earldom in August 1666 following the death of his brother Richard. The family estate had been restored by personal proviso in the acts of settlement (1662) and explanation (1665).
Like his predecessors, William took his place as a prominent political leader of the Irish catholic interest. The previous earl had subscribed to the Irish catholic remonstrance of 1661 and William was not only a relative but a close associate of the lord lieutenant James Butler (qv), 1st duke of Ormond, throughout the restoration period. He also had other significant political connections at court and in Ireland. During the popish plot crisis, despite allegations of involvement in a French–Irish conspiracy, Clanricard enjoyed the confidence of both Ormond and the king, who were convinced of his loyalty, and indeed his accuser was later discredited. He was appointed to the Irish privy council on 30 April 1681, a position he maintained under James II (qv).
The earl had a strong commitment to catholicism and his patronage of the church in Ireland was significant. Archbishop Oliver Plunkett (qv) described him as someone whose support and protection was essential for the catholic clergy. During crisis years for the church at the end of the 1670s the earl sheltered Thady Keogh, catholic bishop of Clonfert, who had been his family chaplain. The conversion to protestantism of his son and heir Richard, Lord Dunkellin, in 1680, was met with anger and contempt: Clanricard refused him financial support and, despite representations from the king, Ormond, and others, insisted that the indebtedness of his estate left him with no resources for Lord Dunkellin. On the succession of James II, Clanricard carried the sword before the Dublin lords justices to church, where he reportedly stayed for the sermon and anthem but left during prayers.
His first wife was Lettice, daughter of Sir Henry Shirley and Dorothy Devereux, daughter of Robert, earl of Essex. His second wife, Helen, was the widow of Sir John Fitzgerald and daughter of Donough MacCarthy (qv), 1st earl of Clancarty, and Eleanor Butler, sister of the duke of Ormond. His daughter Honora (qv) married Patrick Sarsfield (qv), later earl of Lucan, and, after his death in 1693, James Fitzjames (qv), 1st earl of Berwick, James II's illegitimate son. The earl died in October 1687 and was succeeded by his estranged son Richard Burke, the child of his first wife.