ANSTIS, John (1669-1744), of West Duloe, Cornw. and Arundel Street, Norfolk Buildings, Westminster

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



1702 - 1705
20 Jan. 1711 - 1713
1713 - 1722

Family and Education

b. 28 Sept. 1669, 1st s. of John Anstis by Mary, da. and coh. of George Smith of Lantewy and Lunna, Cornw.  educ. Exeter, Oxf. 1685; M. Temple 1690, called 1699, bencher 1722, treasurer 1730.  m. 1695 (with £5,000), Elizabeth, da. and h. of Richard Cudlipp of Tavistock, Devon, 8s. (5 d.v.p.) 6da. (4 d.v.p.)  suc. fa. 1692.1

Offices Held

High steward, Cornish tinners 1692–?d.2

Dep. gen. to auditors of imprest 1703–4; commr. prizes 1703–4; receiver-gen. of the stannaries, 1704–14; commr. to inspect and report on recs. 1704; keeper of recs. in Tower 1712; Garter king of arms 1718–d.3


An 18th-century account of Anstis’ life claimed that he was ‘said to be a natural son of the Scawen family by one Mrs Mary Smith, who being with child was married to John Anstis, a tenant of the Scawens’. The parish records, however, simply record that Anstis was the son of John Anstis. In 1670 Anstis’ father purchased the office of registrar of the archdeaconry of Cornwall, and the following year bought land at West Duloe, Cornwall. Anstis trained for the law, which led in 1701 to his being one of two lawyers appointed by the Commons to draw up the impeachments of the Whig lords. He had also acquired the deep interest in heraldry and antiquarian study that was to dominate his later life. Returned for St. Germans on the accession of Queen Anne, he voted on 13 Feb. 1703 against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill enlarging the time for taking the abjuration. Upon the death of the Garter king of arms in March 1703 he applied for the consequent vacancy, hoping that the support of the 13th Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal, would be sufficient to gain the post. Norfolk, however, was still a minor and his desire to see Anstis appointed carried no weight against the opposition of the deputy Earl Marshal, the Earl of Carlisle (Charles Howard*). During the summer of 1703 Anstis received some compensation for this disappointment, in May being appointed deputy to the auditors of the imprest, an office he never executed, and in August he was included in the new commission for prizes, a post which carried a salary of £500 p.a. During the following year Anstis continued to receive marks of official favour, being granted in early 1704 a lease of duchy of Cornwall property in Kingsbear, Cornwall and later that year being appointed receiver-general of the stannaries and named to the commission to inspect and report upon the condition of the public records. In August Anstis’ tenure as a prize commissioner was ended. The following October he was forecast by Robert Harley* as a likely supporter of the Tack, and though William Lowndes* was deputed to lobby Anstis on this matter he nevertheless voted for it on 28 Nov. Support for this measure did not lead to Anstis’ removal from his post of receiver-general of the stannaries, and though he was not returned to the Commons in 1705 a contemporary reported that it was Anstis who ‘declines standing’. There is no evidence of Court pressure being brought to bear to keep him out of the Commons.4

Anstis continued to crave the post of Garter king, and it was presumably in order to bolster his pretensions to this office that in 1707 he was nominated, but not created, Carlisle herald extraordinary and Norfolk herald. Within three years Anstis had begun a campaign to have the current Garter king, the aged Sir Henry St. George, surrender his grant of the office and to procure a new patent granting the office to St. George and Anstis jointly. Anstis enlisted George Granville* to write to Robert Harley in support of these claims and it is possible that Anstis’ return, upon Francis Scobell’s* interest, at the St. Mawes by-election of January 1711 was secured in order to advance his cause. Anstis made little contribution to the remainder of the 1710–11 session, but busied himself in carrying out an investigation into the conditions of various types of public records, and by the end of 1711 his involvement in such matters was said to have received the ‘good liking’ of the Earl of Oxford (as Harley had become). This approbation of Anstis’ activity probably explains his appointment in 1712 as keeper of the records in the Tower. His loyalty to the ministry was made clear in the 1713 session when he voted on 18 June for the French commerce bill. At the 1713 election Anstis was returned for Launceston, having begun to treat the borough some months prior to the election, and though he made little impact upon the new Parliament, he made sufficient impression upon contemporaries to be classed as a Tory in the Worsley list and two further comparisons of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments. His efforts continued to be focused upon obtaining a reversionary grant of the office of Garter king, and on 2 Apr. 1714 such a patent was issued. Six days later the Commons considered whether this grant required that Anstis should submit himself for re-election and resolved in the negative. Anstis retained his seat at the 1715 election, and, though he was arrested on suspicion of high treason later the same year, in 1718 he secured his appointment as Garter king. Anstis died at Mortlake, Surrey on 4 Mar. 1744, and was buried at Duloe on the 23rd.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


Unless otherwise stated this account is based upon A. Wagner and A. L. Rowse, John Anstis, Garter King of Arms.

  • 1. Info. from Mr A. Ailes.
  • 2. Boase and Courtney, Bibl. Cornub. 1030.
  • 3. DNB; Cal. Treas. Bks. xviii. 284, 371; xix. 228, 336; xxix. 107; Boyer, Pol. State, iv. 64.
  • 4. Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. Cornw. i. 302; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvi. 320; Bull IHR, xli. 182; Bodl. Ballard 20, f. 222.
  • 5. HMC Portland, iv. 646; v. 225; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 460–2, 590; Morice mss at Bank of Eng. Richard Blighe to Humphry Morice*, 19 Apr. 1713; Bibl. Cornub. 5, 1030.