SAUNDERSON, George, 5th Visct. Castleton [I] (1631-1714), of Saxby, Lincs. and Sandbeck Park, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 12 Oct. 1631, 3rd s. of Nicholas, 2nd Visct. Castleton [I] (d.1640) by Frances, da. of Sir George Manners† of Haddon Hall, Derbys. m. (1) by 1656, Grace (d. 16 Nov. 1667), da. of Hon. Henry Belasyse of Newburgh Priory, Yorks., 9s. (7 d.v.p.); (2) 14 Feb. 1675, Sarah, da. and coh. of Sir John Evelyn II of West Dean, Wilts., wid. of Sir John Wray, 3rd Bt., of Glentworth, Lincs. and of Thomas Fanshawe, 2nd Visct. Fanshawe of Dromore [I], 2s. d.v.p. suc. bro. 1650.1
Commr. for militia, Lincs. 1659, Lincs. and Yorks. Mar. 1660, assessment, Lincs. Jan. 1660, 1661-3, 1665-80, Yorks. (W. Riding) Aug. 1660-80, Lincs. (Lindsey) 1663-4, Lincs. and W. Riding 1689-90; j.p. Lincs. Mar. 1660-87, 1689-?d., (W. Riding) July 1660-87, 1689-?d.; commr. for oyer and terminer, Midland circuit July 1660; dep. lt. Lincs. c. Aug. 1660-?87, (W. Riding) 1661-80; steward, honour of Bolingbroke Aug. 1660-d.; commr. for sewers, Hatfield Chase and Lincs. Aug. 1660; v.-adm. Lincs. Sept. 1660-1702; commr. for corporations, Yorks. 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers, Lincs. 1662, recusants, Lincs. and W. Riding 1675.2
Capt. Prince Rupert’s Horse 1667; col. of ft. 1689-94.
Lord Castleton’s great-grandfather, who died in 1583, bought the Saxby estate, and his grandfather entered Parliament for Grimsby in 1593, later receiving an Irish peerage. None of the family was of age to take part in the Civil War, but after Castleton succeeded to the estate, amounting to £3,000 p.a. in Lincolnshire and £4,000 in Yorkshire, he engaged himself in royalist conspiracy, and was sent to the Tower in 1659. At the general election of 1660 he secured the first of his remarkable run of nine consecutive successes for Lincolnshire by defeating the Presbyterian Thomas Hatcher. He was one of the messengers sent to the King by the Commons, but his only committees in the Convention were for the estate bill promoted by Sir William Wray and the restoration of the dukedom of Somerset. On 10 Dec. he spoke against making grandfathers, rather than mothers, guardians.3
At the general election of 1661 Castleton defeated the ultra-Royalist Lord Willoughby (Robert Bertie I), and became a moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament. He was appointed to 73 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in ten sessions. In 1661 he was named to the committees for restoring bishops to the House of Lords and for the corporations bill, and he was among those ordered on 13 Apr. 1663 to report on defects in the law regulating the sale of offices. But he seems to have taken little part in political activity during the Clarendon administration, though he missed few committees of local interest, especially those concerned with drainage projects. In the Isle of Axholme he was regarded as a patron of the commoners. He probably introduced the bill for regulating the common fields of the Lincolnshire manors of Epworth and Grinley on 17 Dec. 1664, for he was the first Member named to the committee. In the 1666 session he was among those instructed to consider the bill to prevent imports of cattle and to estimate the yield of the hearth-tax. On the fall of Clarendon he was appointed to the committees to consider the public accounts bill and to investigate the financing of the second Dutch war. On 10 Mar. 1668 he spoke against a bill promoted by Lord Ailesbury (Robert Bruce) for the drainage of Deeping fen, ‘but yet did not oppose the committing of it, because ... he did believe the charge would be so great and the profit so little that the bill would fall of itself’. He was named to the committee, which under the chairmanship of (Sir) Humphrey Winch defied his prognostications, and the bill passed. A Protestant, he served on the committee to prevent the growth of Popery which produced the test bill, and on most of its successors, and the Modena marriage turned him against the Court. He called the new Duchess of York ‘the Pope’s eldest daughter’, though it is not clear whether he meant the description to be applied literally or figuratively. In 1674 he was named to the committees to regulate parliamentary elections and to inquire into the condition of Ireland. After voting for an address for the recall of British subjects from the French service on 10 May 1675 he almost came to blows with Sir Robert Holmes on the floor of the House. In the same session he was appointed to the committees for extending habeas corpus and for appropriating the customs to the use of the navy. In 1676 Sir Richard Wiseman noted that Castleton had been absent in the previous session, ‘and I wish he might be this, unless I were better persuaded than I am yet of him’. Shaftesbury marked him ‘doubly worthy’ in 1677. In 1678 he twice acted as teller for the Opposition, and he was appointed to the committees to prepare reasons for a conference on the growth of Popery, to draft an address for the removal of counsellors, and to consider the bill for hindering Papists from sitting in Parliament.4
Castleton was returned with Sir Robert Carr at the first general election of 1679, defeating a court candidate sponsored by Lord Willoughby, now Earl of Lindsey. He was marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list, but he left no trace on the records of the first Exclusion Parliament, apart from appointment to the elections committee, and he missed the division on the bill. He met no opposition at the next two elections, and continued to maintain a fairly low profile. When the Duke of York passed through Doncaster on his way to Scotland, Castleton promised him to stand fast for the lawful succession, but his record of opposition under the Danby administration had not been forgotten, and he was coldly received. In the second Exclusion Parliament he was named to no committees, but spoke twice. On the first occasion a diatribe against the Duke by Goodwin Wharton provoked from Castleton the exclamation: ‘To hear a prince thus spoken of, I am not able to endure it’. The Duke ordered George Legge to express his appreciation of this intervention, and to assure those who had appeared for him in the debate ‘that if ever in my power I shall let them and theirs see it’. On 7 Jan. 1681 he spoke against the removal of Councillors on common fame. In the Oxford Parliament he was appointed only to the elections committee.5
Alarmed at the news of the Rye House Plot, Castleton wrote to Legge (now Lord Dartmouth):
I beg of you to give the Duke my humblest duty, and assure his royal highness from me that I will not swerve one syllable from what I promised him at Doncaster. ... I am not ill horsed nor armed, and I hope not ill with my neighbours, neither Yorkshire nor Lincolnshire, for I am no pensioner nor plotter. Honesty is the wisdom I have gone upon, though it seldom doth a man good. However there is something in it that will smell sweet and blossom when we are but dust.
Loyalty to the royal family did not involve their discarded ministers, however, especially Lindsey’s brother-in-law Danby. When the former lord treasurer arrived in Yorkshire on his release from the Tower in 1684, he wrote: ‘I have been visited by all the country to a very great distance, except my Lord Castleton, from whom I have not heard, though he be at Sandbeck’.6
Castleton was returned to James II’s Parliament with Lindsey’s candidate, Sir Thomas Hussey, probably without a contest. A moderately active Member, he was appointed to six committees, of which the most important was to draw up the loyal address on Monmouth’s invasion. Nevertheless Danby included him among the parliamentary Opposition. On 16 June 1685 he acted as teller against the second reading of a bill for draining Lindsey level. During the supply debate on the second session he said: ‘If the King wants £200,000, I would give him £200,000; but I am for giving him no more than he really wants’. In a later list he was included among the Lincolnshire opposition, though Danby’s compiler professed not to regard him as in any way ‘considerable’, and he seems to have been removed from local office about 1687. After the invasion of William of Orange and the Yorkshire rising Lindsey complained: