ANNESLEY, Francis (1663-1750), of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Mdx. and Thorganby, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

1705 - 1708
1708 - 1715
28 Mar. - 1 June 1715
1722 - 1734

Family and Education

bap. 24 Oct. 1663, 1st s. of Hon. Francis Annesley of Castlewellan, co. Down (6th s. of Francis Annesley†, 1st Visct. Valentia [I]) by Deborah, da. of Henry Jones, bp. of Meath.  educ. Trinity, Dublin 1679, BA 1682, LL.B. and LL.D. 1725; I. Temple 1684, called 1690, bencher 1713.  m. (1) 5 July 1695, Elizabeth, da. of Joseph Martin*, 7s. 2da.; (2) July 1732, Elizabeth (d. 20 May 1736), da. of John Cropley of Rochester, Kent, wid. of William Gomeldon of Summerfield Hall, Kent, s.p.; (3) 31 Aug. 1737, Sarah, da. of William Sloane of Portsmouth, Hants, wid. of Sir Richard Fowler, 2nd Bt., of Harnage Grange, Salop, s.psuc. fa. aft. 1689; cos. Hon. Arthur Annesley* in personal and unentailed estates 1737.1

Offices Held

MP [I] 1692–9, 27 Aug.–28 Sept. 1703, 1713–14.

Commr. inquiry into forfeited estates in Ire. 1699–1700, trustee for sale 1700–3; commr. building 50 new churches 1711–15, 1727, taking subscriptions to S. Sea Co. 1711; public accts. 1711–14.2

Dir. New E.I. Co. 1700.

Freeman, Preston 1705.3

Trustee, Cottonian lib. by 1738.4

Biography

The share of his grandfather’s estate that Annesley eventually inherited, though substantial enough in Irish terms to rank him among the greater gentry of county Down, was insufficient for the needs of an English country squire (being estimated at between £500 and £1,000 p.a.), and certainly did not deter him from seeking a fortune by other means. Marriage offered opportunities, and after unsuccessful negotiations with a neighbouring family, the Rawdons of Moira, he made an advantageous match in 1695 with the daughter of a rising London merchant, Joseph Martin. Legal education offered another avenue, especially inviting to a man of Annesley’s quickness of mind and evident talent for public speaking, and after taking his degree at Trinity, Dublin, he was entered at an English inn of court. He then rapidly embarked upon a career at the bar, and in the public life of his native Ireland. His roots in the planter society of east Ulster determined the development of his political attitudes, which were a compound of strong sectarian prejudices: on the one hand fear and hatred of popery, on the other suspicion and resentment of the ever-increasing local influence of immigrant Scots Presbyterians. Thus he was at first a resolute Williamite, and in the Irish context a kind of ‘Country Whig’, but shifted towards a Tory position in the 1690s as the leading Irish Whigs abandoned their ‘country’ principles and he himself began to entertain serious apprehensions of an imminent Presbyterian coup. During the Revolution, while his father raised troops for the voluntary Protestant associations in the north of Ireland that kept up a resistance to King James, Annesley himself seems to have remained in London, in contact with other exiled and temporarily impoverished Irish Protestants, whose bitter sense of grievance was to make them advocates of a vindictive anti-Jacobite and anti-Catholic strategy when they returned to Dublin after the war. In the short-lived Irish parliament of 1692 he joined his voice to those calling for a more vigorous promotion of Protestant interests and inquiries into corruption, and after the prorogation he attended the lord lieutenant, Lord Sidney (Henry†), together with other prominent parliamentary critics (several of them also from county Down) to request permission to go to England to place their various complaints before the King and Queen. He was not, however, among the Irish witnesses called by the English House of Commons inquiry in 1692–3 into mismanagements, or to give evidence in the impeachments at Westminster the following session of lords justices Porter (Sir Charles*) and Coningsby (Thomas*). The ‘Francis Annesley’ who was in attendance on both occasions was his cousin and namesake of Ballysonan, co. Kildare. As yet he seems to have had few contacts of his own in the English Parliament, relying instead on the connexions made by the more senior ‘Country’ politicians from his own locality, men like James Hamilton of Bangor and Hamilton’s namesake of Tollymore, who were much nearer to the ‘Country Whig’ opposition than to the emergent Whig Junto. In consequence, he was not taken into office in 1694–5 along with the Junto’s friends by the new Whig lord deputy, Lord Capell (Hon. Sir Henry*), and while some of his former comrades swallowed their principles and argued the ministerial line in the next Irish parliamentary session of 1695–6 he continued in opposition. Indeed, he was the unsuccessful ‘Country’ candidate for the speakership. The issue which exercised him most was the so-called ‘sole right’ of the Irish house of commons to initiate supply bills, and during this session he established himself as one of the leaders of the ‘sole right party’, so much so that Capell personally intervened to prevent his name being added to the Irish privy council as part of a further attempt to buy off opposition. According to the deputy, Annesley and one Colonel Eyre were ‘the two noisy voters’ in the entire session, ‘and likewise the great promoters in the house of commons of all things that diminished the prerogatives of the crown and abated the King’s revenue’.5

At this stage Annesley’s connexions and political allies were still staunchly Whig. His closest collaborators in the Irish parliament were Hamilton of Tollymore, who was a relative of Lord Monmouth, and James Sloane*. He was also on good terms with Bishop King of Derry. Moreover, his marriage to the daughter of one of the merchants associated with the establishment of the New East India Company, into which Annesley was brought as a founding director, drew him into the circle of Whiggish ‘moneyed men’. Nevertheless he moved gradually and inexorably towards the Tories. Still in opposition in the Irish parliament in 1697 and 1698, and occasionally ‘violent’ in his denunciations of the Court, he found himself working more and more with Irish Tories rather than Whigs, and in his pursuit of patriotic issues, such as the assertion of the appellate jurisdiction of the Irish house of lords in the case of the bishop of Derry against the Irish Society of London, in which he acted as counsel for the bishop, he came inevitably into open conflict with the Junto ministry. Although he resisted urgent requests to attend parliament in Dublin in the winter of 1698–9, he maintained his close connexions with ‘patriots’ like Bishop King and tried to persuade Irish MPs to send ‘agents’ to England to present their grievances. This whole process came to a head through his involvement in the resumption of the Irish forfeited estates. As a prominent ‘patriot’ in the Irish parliament, and one who had already broached the question of the resumption of the Irish grants (and Lord Portland’s in particular) ‘as a fund’ for the use of ‘the public’, he was an obvious choice as one of the commissioners of inquiry chosen by the English Commons in February 1699, and indeed headed the ballot. Appropriately, it was he who eventually presented the commissioners’ report on 15 Dec. following. In the parliamentary row which then ensued over party-political bias and English interference in the commissioners’ work it emerged that he had been one of the most insistent advocates of the inclusion in the report of the grant of King James’s personal estate to William’s reputed mistress, Lady Orkney, and that he had received letters from various English MPs during his time as a commissioner, notably from Simon Harcourt I and Arthur Moore, encouraging him in his militancy. When trustees were elected in March 1700 to supervise the resumption and sale of the forfeitures he again headed the ballot, and proved himself not only diligent but ‘pugnacious’, the only trustee that the Whiggish lord chancellor of Ireland, John Methuen*, found personally difficult. Significantly, it was Annesley who brought over the trustees’ report to Parliament in March 1701, and who attended the Commons both later that year and in February 1702 to answer questions and deliver further papers. While at Westminster he combined his official responsibilities as a trustee with a less formal role as adviser to and solicitor for various individuals with petitions to place before the Commons requesting legislative exemption from the effects of the Resumption Act, notably Anglican dignitaries such as the bishop of Cloyne, and of course Bishop King, whose pet scheme for a restoration to the Church of Ireland of the forfeited impropriations he did his best to forward. By 1702 he was exhausted: ‘I own ingenuously to your lordship’, he confessed to King in September of that year, ‘that the three last years of my life have made me 15 years older than I otherwise should have been, and [have been] the least profitable to me in any respect.’ The worst of it was that he had become identified not just with the Tory politicians in England who had been responsible for the passage of the Resumption Act and who continued to act as patrons of the trustees, but with the wave of anti-Irish sentiment that the controversy over the trust had aroused in England. When Queen Anne’s first Irish parliament met in 1703 he felt that backlash personally, being expelled from the house of commons there on the grounds that a passage in the first paragraph of the trustees’ report, for which he was held to be responsible, had ‘misrepresented and traduced’ the Protestant freeholders of Ireland. There was considerable irony in the fact that Annesley, himself a noted patriot in former sessions, had now fallen victim to an onset of patriotic enthusiasm, but party animosities also obtruded, and his Tory connexions proved a considerable liability, even his ties to the new viceroy, Ormond, who proved unable to protect him from the vindictiveness of Irish Whigs and of ‘Country’ members in general.6

Although Annesley continued to think of the Anglo-Irish rather than the English as his ‘countrymen’ and to maintain professional as well as personal interests in Ireland, the affair of the forfeitures trust marked a turning point in his career, and henceforth he made Westminster rather than Dublin the centre of his ambitions. At first he acted as an English agent for his Irish patrons, soliciting the passage of Irish bills through the Privy Council on behalf of Ormond’s administration, and forwarding the parliamentary concerns of such long-standing clients as Bishop King and Bishop Crowe of Cloyne. Then in 1705 he secured election to the English House of Commons, obtaining the support of his old friend Lord Gower (Sir John Leveson Gower, 5th Bt.*) and, through the intercession of his cousin Lord Anglesey, that of the Duke of Hamilton, their combined support securing Annesley’s return. He already had an English country seat, at Thorganby in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which his family had acquired in the 1640s, and before long began to make other purchases in the vicinity in order to establish himself more firmly in England. To observers at Westminster, however, and in particular Grey Neville* the parliamentary diarist of the 1705–6 session, he may well have been thought of as ‘Mr Annesley Irish’, if for no other reason than to distinguish him from Lord Anglesey’s brother, Hon. Arthur Annesley, another High Tory with a powerful aversion to Dissenters, with whom his parliamentary career was to be closely entangled. In his first session Annesley, who had been listed as a ‘Churchman’ in an analysis of the new Parliament and whose election had been accounted a ‘loss’ by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), voted against John Smith I in the division on the Speaker, 25 Oct. 1705 and acted as a teller on 18 Mar. 1706, with his cousin Arthur, against proceeding on the report of the committee on the bill for reform of the legal process. The conclusion later that year of the negotiations for an Anglo-Scottish union raised his hackles. In part, he viewed it as a party-political job: the Scottish peers and Members at Westminster would represent ‘so many dead votes one way’, which would be ‘a great stroke in the legislature’. Then there was the patent neglect of Irish interests, and the danger that preferential status for Scottish trade and manufacture would imperil the Irish economy. Finally, he feared the consequences for religion. Since the Kirk of Scotland was accepted as the establishment in North Britain, and indeed was termed in the bill of union ‘the Protestant church’, what, he asked a correspondent, ‘is become of the mission?’. More particularly, he supposed that once the Union was passed, ‘those of the established religion in Scotland’ would have ‘all imaginable countenance in Ireland as well as in England’. His own devotion to the Established Church, manifest at local level in his financing of the partial rebuilding of, and gifts of plate to, Thorganby parish church and in plans for rebuilding and for the foundation of a charity school in ‘my own town’ in county Down, was reflected in Parliament in his painstaking management of Bishop King’s Irish forfeited impropriations bill, which he and Lord Coningsby successfully piloted through the Commons in March and April 1707, and this despite the fact that he was wounded in a duel during its progress. Overseas trade was another abiding concern, probably because of his father-in-law, and it is therefore likely that he rather than his cousin acted as a teller on 15 Apr. 1707 against an address to the Queen to act ‘to recover’ the Newfoundland trade. In the following session Annesley petitioned Parliament for relief in a dispute with the Irish MP Robert Dixon over the possession of an Irish forfeited estate Annesley had purchased in 1702. A bill for this purpose proceeded through the Commons, only to be rejected in the Lords in February 1708.7

In the less favourable political climate of 1708, with Leveson Gower replaced as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster by the Whig 10th Earl of Derby (Hon. James Stanley*), Annesley switched to the Wiltshire constituency of Westbury, pocket borough of the Tory Earl of Abingdon (Montagu Venables-Bertie*), with whom he was for a long time both personally and professionally associated. He was classed as a Tory in a parliamentary list dating from early in the year, and, indeed, so pronounced had his High Church sympathies become that in September he wrote to Bishop King to appeal for financial assistance to the non-juring bishop of Kilmore, Thomas Sheridan, whom he had discovered living in penury. On 5 Mar. 1709 he acted as a teller in a party matter, in favour of recommitting the report on an alleged breach of privilege committed against the Whig George Duckett. Having brought in a bill to make two Dutch-built vessels ‘free ships’, he told for the bill on 5 Apr., and his standing in the law points to his having served as a teller again ten days later, in favour of hearing a petition from the clerks of enrolment in Chancery against a bill to establish a public registry of deeds in Middlesex. Predictably, he was listed as having voted in early 1710 against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.8

Although re-elected without any real difficulty at Westbury in 1710, Annesley tried again at Preston in the same general election, but was unsuccessful. Marked as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’, and recognized by fellow Tories as ‘a very honest gentleman’, he was optimistic as to what the incoming ministry might be able to achieve. ‘I hope the power as it is again lodged in the crown will be there preserved from ever falling again into its merciless adversaries’ hands’ he wrote to an Irish correspondent. More particularly he hoped, as he had done since 1707, for ‘a safe, honourable and lasting peace’, concluded as quickly as possible so that the economy of the kingdom could recover and ‘we shall once more see happy days’. At the same time, he recognized that, as he put it, ‘a supply of treasure is the most difficult part of the ministry’s work’. It was thought possible that he might be included in the new customs commission envisaged for Ireland, but nothing came of these rumours, and without an appointment of any kind other than his inclusion in a new commission of the peace for Middlesex, he quickly showed himself among the more aggressive of Tory back-benchers. As the only ‘Mr Annesley’ then in the Commons, his career there can be followed with more certainty. He acted as a teller on 2 Dec. 1710 in favour of hearing the merits of the Stafford election at the bar of the House. He was listed as one of the ‘Tory patriots’ voting for peace and also as a ‘worthy patriot’ exposing the mismanagements of the old ministry, and certainly his significant parliamentary activity for the most part involved inquiries into corruption of various kinds. March 1711 saw him elected to the revived commission of accounts, his previous service as an Irish forfeitures commissioner standing him in good stead. In April, with the backing of friends from the October Club, of which he was a member, he endeavoured to raise the issue of the Palatine immigration and to pass a censure on the Whig ministers who had encouraged it. His commercial experience made him a natural choice to spearhead investigations into corporate fraud. Having reported from the committee to consider the petitions of creditors of and proprietors in Sir Humphrey Mackworth’s* Mine Adventurers’ Company, he presented on 12 Mar. 1711 a bill for their relief, and in May chaired the committee of the whole House on the petitions of creditors of and subscribers to the Royal African Company. He also told, on 13 Mar., for a clause to be added to the bill obliging the Bank of England to redeem Exchequer bills on demand, which would have prevented anyone from being simultaneously a director of the Bank and the East India Company. Residual Irish patriotism led to his acting as a teller on 9 June in favour of reading the Lords’ amendments to the bill to regulate the Scottish linen industry (which was in direct competition with the Irish). He was especially exercised by the scheme to build new churches in London and Westminster. The first-named Member of the committee appointed on 29 Mar. to draft the address in reply to the Queen’s original message, he reported from this committee on 2 Apr., and, on 6 Apr., from a subsequent committee inquiring into petitions from Greenwich and other parishes proposing that funds remaining in the hands of the commissioners for the rebuilding of St. Paul’s cathedral be applied to this new scheme. Then on 18 May he presented the bill to appropriate the coal duties to a fund for building 50 new churches, chaired the committee of the whole on the bill and later took a place on the commission appointed to oversee the project.9

Acknowledged as one of the leaders of the October Club by 1712, Annesley took a prominent part in the promulgation of the ministry’s peace policy, being nominated to the committees of 17 Jan. 1712 and 6 June, which drew up separate addresses of thanks for the communication of the peace terms. Moreover, he chaired the committee of the whole House which considered the Barrier Treaty on 13 and 14 Feb. A trenchant critic of the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), he had written to William, now archbishop, King in Dublin

I hope the dismission of the general from all his employments will be no ungrateful news to your Grace, or to others in Ireland, considering what has been proved against him in Parliament; had any other person been concerned in that of the poor soldiers’ bread, the Commons would have called it notorious bribery and corruption, but you see what great regard is paid to a great man . . . I have great hopes of a peace, and that we shall have no further occasion for armies and generals abroad; if the war continues I know not which way we shall find funds for carrying it on.

Equally helpful to the administration was his conduct on 13 May in moving for a bill for the continuance of the South Sea Company, after which he was included in the drafting committee. He also concerned himself with two other bills which followed up his work in the preceding session. Having presented a bill to continue the commission for building 50 new churches on 29 Feb. he managed it through the House, a task which included chairing the committee of the whole on the bill. This concern for the Church probably also accounts for his appointment on 16 Apr. to draft a bill to ease the recovery of small legacies given to pious and charitable uses. The following month saw him pursue his interest of the previous session in the Royal African Company, as he was appointed to draft, and subsequently presented, a bill to make effectual agreements to be concluded between the Company and its creditors. He was also responsible for a private bill to enable the Duke of Ormond to convey to the crown the liberties of his palatinate of Tipperary in return for a cash equivalent.10

During the 1713 session Annesley shifted from a position of support for the Earl of Oxford’s (Robert Harley*) ministry to one of open criticism and even occasionally outright opposition. Concern for the Hanoverian succession may have been one motive, and it does appear that by 1713 Annesley had left the October men to enlist in the pro-Hanoverian March Club. Another explanation may have been his association with prominent ‘whimsicals’ like Abingdon and his own cousin Arthur Annesley, now Earl of Anglesey. Some historians have regarded him as little more than Anglesey’s lieutenant in the Commons, and the course he pursued in the last two parliamentary sessions of the reign seems to bear this out. He made the motion on 1 June 1713 for an address to the Queen to lay before the House the asiento contract, a proposal arising from a debate on the African trade, and was to the fore in proceedings on the French commercial treaty. On 18 June, he spoke and voted against the bill confirming the 8th and 9th articles of the treaty, being regarded as a ‘whimsical’. At the same time he piloted through the Commons a bill, introduced on 29 June, to vest in the commissioners for building 50 new churches lands in the Strand, and another, brought in on 8 July, to enable Ormond’s brother the Earl of Arran to take the oaths in England for his Irish office as master of the ordnance.11

Annesley was elected (as a Tory) to the Irish parliament held in the autumn of 1713 but did not accompany Lord Anglesey to Dublin, undertaking instead a ‘progress’ around the country seats of various leading English Tories. The new Parliament, to which he had been returned for Westbury, assembled in March 1714, and on 21 June 1714 he presented another bill to facilitate an agreement made by the commissioners for 50 new churches to purchase building land in the Strand. He was unwilling to let his name go forward for the ballot for commissioners of public accounts when a bill to renew the commission was brought forward in June, perhaps because he was now identified with Anglesey and the ‘Hanoverian Tories’. On the basis of his voting record in this session he was classified in the Worsley list as a Tory who would often vote with the Whigs, while outside the House he solicited on behalf of the Irish privy council in the highly political dispute over the Dublin lord mayoralty, in which his cousin had taken a particular interest; he was even said to have negotiated the rapprochement in July 1714 between Anglesey and Lord Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*); and was confidently predicted as the next lord chancellor of Ireland should Anglesey acquire the viceroyalty, which sadly for him never came to pass.12

In the aftermath of the Hanoverian succession Annesley guided through the Commons a bill to enable Irish office-holders in England to take the oaths to the new king without the necessity of travelling to Ireland. Re-elected to Parliament in 1715 as a Tory, he lost his seat on petition, a decision attributed to the fact that ‘Mr Annesley has been long enough in this Parliament to show himself so true a friend to his country, and so obstinate an opposer of such who intend to make themselves rich by pillaging it’. He remained close to Abingdon, and to Lord Anglesey, who in 1719 recommended him, in case of a vacancy in the parliamentary representation of Cambridge University, as ‘a person who would serve the university faithfully and not disreputable’. Annesley does in fact seem to have put up at a by-election there the following year, when he was praised as ‘an honest Tory’ and ‘an honest Englishman’, but did not stand a poll. Nevertheless he recaptured a seat at Westbury for the Bertie interest in 1722 and held it for two Parliaments, voting consistently against the administration. In 1732 he married as his third wife the niece of his old associate James Sloane and five years later inherited the unentailed English estates and ‘very considerable’ personalty of Lord Anglesey. He had long since abandoned Ireland and was now a permanent absentee. He died on 7 Apr. 1750.13

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton

Notes

  • 1. Lodge, Peerage of Ire. (1754), ii. 284–5.
  • 2. E. G. W. Bill, Q. Anne Churches, pp. xxiii–xxiv; W. Pittis, Hist. Present Parl. (1711), 348.
  • 3. Lancs. RO, Preston bor. recs. CNP 3/1/1, p. 539.
  • 4. Bodl. Carte 109, f. 353.
  • 5. [T. Prior], List of Absentees of Ire. (1733), 3; CSP Dom. 1703–4, p. 131; Lodge, 284–5; E. St. J. Brooks, Sir Hans Sloane, 132–3, 151; Davies Diary (Cam. Soc. lxviii), 101; J. Hamilton, Hamilton Mss ed. Lowry, p. lxxviii; Penal Era and Golden Age ed. Bartlett and Hayton, 23, 25–26; Add. 28887, f. 392; 28879, f. 104; 70035, f. 154; CJ, x. 676, 688–9, 826, 832; xi. 34; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1559; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 219; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 267, Capell to Portland, 7 Mar. 1696.
  • 6. HMC Lords, n.s. iv. 62, 65, 206; CJ, xi. 323; xiii. 65, 125, 273, 307, 395, 441, 714, 717, 764–5, 816; PRO NI, De Ros mss D638/1/15, John Hely to Ld. Coningsby, 28 Aug. 1697; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 342; 1700–2, p. 108; 1703–4, pp. 131–3, 140–1, 143; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/106, James Vernon I* to Shrewsbury, 3 Nov. 1698; Bpric. of Derry and Irish Soc. ed. Moody and Simms (Irish Mss Commn.), ii. 212, 214–15, 217, 234; Trinity, Dublin, King letterbks. 750/1, pp. 160, 206–7, 220; 750/2, ff. 18–19, 22–24, 48–49, 188–9, 205; 1489/1, pp. 129–30; 1489/92, p. 92; Lyons (King) mss 2001/874, Bp. Ashe to Bp. King, 7 Feb. 1701–2; 2001/909, Sir Robert Southwell to same, 5 May 1702; 2001/939, Annesley to same, 12 Sept. 1702; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 522; Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 1012a, Ld. Winchester (Charles Powlett I*) to Portland, 10 Aug. 1697; J. G. Simms, Williamite Confiscation in Ire. 98–100, 103, 105, 116, 118, 121–2, 156–7; VernonShrewsbury Letters, ii. 410; Chandler, iii. 113–14, 116–18, 121–2; Nat. Archs. Ire. Wyche mss 1/227, 233, 248, 250, Annesley to Sir Cyril Wyche*, 10, 24 June 1701, 19 Mar., 9 Apr. 1702; HMC Ormonde, n.s. viii. 41–42; Huntington Lib. Stowe ms