ASHBY, George (1656-1728), of Quenby, Leics.
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Family and Education
b. 16 July 1656, 1st s. of George Ashby of Quenby, Leics. by Mary (d. 1721), da. of Euseby Shuckburgh of Naseby, Northants. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1673, MA 1675; G. Inn 1674. m. 7 Nov. 1681 (with approx. £9,000) Hannah (d. 1733), da. and coh. of Edmund Waring of Umphriston, Salop, 7s. (3 d.v.p.) 4da. suc. fa. 1672.1
Sheriff, Leics. 1688–9, 1698–9.
Ashby’s ancestral connexion with Quenby dated from around the mid-15th century. His father died when he was still a minor, and his mother remarried another Leicestershire gentleman, George Hewitt of Rotherby. In 1676 Ashby’s sister Elizabeth married the future lord keeper, Sir Nathan Wright, and since Wright himself was of low birth, the match played its due part in helping his political career to prosper. Ashby too was fortunate in the marriage stakes: his bride, the heiress Hannah Waring, was judged to be ‘a very pretty woman’ bringing ‘’tis said £9,000 portion, but ’tis thought it will fall far short’. His funerary monument describes him as ‘honest George Ashby, the Planter’, an epithet applied to him on account of his arboreal interests. At Quenby he successfully cultivated a rare genus of cedar tree originating from Lebanon which attracted interest from, among others, the diarist John Evelyn, with whom Ashby was acquainted.2
In November 1695 Ashby was returned as a Whig for the county following a poll, but was then totally inactive in the ensuing three sessions of Parliament. A prospective supporter of the Court on the proposed council of trade in the forecast for the division on 31 Jan. 1696, he signed the Association at the end of February, voted in late March for fixing the price of guineas, and likewise on 25 Nov. for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. In the last session of this Parliament he was granted ten days’ leave of absence (21 Mar. 1698). An analysis of the parties, compiled in about September 1698, counted him as a Court supporter in the former Parliament.
Ashby contested for re-election in 1698 but after a tough party struggle was very narrowly defeated. Despite his reputation as one of the ‘dissenters’ favourites’ among the Leicestershire gentry, he seems to have played no active part in the election of January 1701, but in November, on behalf of the Whig candidates, Lords Roos (John Manners*) and Sherard (Bennet*), he engaged ‘several . . . friends that were zealous . . . for me at my election’. With peace hanging in the balance, he strongly believed it was essential that the county’s representation should rest with its aristocratic families and observed to Lord Rutland, ‘it is the only expedient that could be proposed to prevent a division among us when unanimity is so requisite at home to preserve the peace of [E]urope’. Ashby re-emerges in December 1707 when after nearly ten years’ absence from the Commons he captured the county seat vacated by the death of his one-time opponent John Verney*. A list compiled early in 1708 classed him as a Whig. Standing for re-election in May 1708, he was narrowly defeated after an intense campaign. At the January 1711 by-election he was thought of as a possible contender against Sir Thomas Cave, 3rd Bt.*, the Tory candidate, but Ashby himself made no move. Indeed, his originally Whig brother-in-law, Sir Nathan Wright, who had long since become politically detached from him and turned Tory, gave his blessing to Cave. Ashby actively engaged and failed at both the abortive February 1715 poll and its repeat in April, his last bid to return to Westminster. He died early in February 1728 and was buried on the 11th at Hungarton, Leicestershire. The inscription on his funerary monument declares that ‘he had the honour of being twice chosen to represent this county in Parliament without any expense to himself or family. He then saved this county five thousand pounds one year in taxes; and procured several advantages to it, which it is hoped this county will long enjoy the benefit of.’3
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. Nichols, Leics. iii. 300; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 66.
- 2. Nichols, iii. 216, 295; Verney, i. 66.
- 3. Rutland mss at Belvoir Castle, John Verney to Ld. Rutland, 28 May 1698, Ambrose Phillipps to same, 18 Nov. 1701, Ashby to same, 19 Nov. 1701, Thomas Sawbridge to same, 3 Mar. ; HMC Cowper, ii. 418–19; HMC Rutland, ii. 168; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/53, Sir Thomas Cave to Ld. Fermanagh (John Verney*), 29 Feb. 1708; CJ, xvi. 22; Leics. RO, Braye mss 23D57/2858, Palmer to Cave, 10 Feb. 1711, 2861, Wright to same, 11 Feb. 1711; J. H. Plumb, Growth of Pol. Stability, 84; Nichols, iii. 285.