During the 1740s and '50s, this colonial governor presided over the Massachusetts Bay Province and played a key role in planning the Siege of Louisbourg during the third French and Indian War (also known as King George's War). Later in his political career, he served as Governor of the Bahamas.
After graduating from Pembroke College, Cambridge, he trained as a barrister at London's Inner Temple Inn of Court.
He served only briefly as North American military Commander-in-Chief; his difficulty in coordinating war efforts led to his being ousted in the late 1750s.
Born in East Sussex, England, to Elizabeth and William Shirley, he later settled in the Massachusetts colony. His marriage to Frances Barker resulted in several children, including a daughter named Anne and sons named William, Jr. and Thomas.
He and Thomas Hutchinson were both colonial governors of Massachusetts in the period preceding the Revolutionary War.