POLEY, Henry (1654-1707), of Badley, Suff. and Lincoln’s Inn, London

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



1689 - 1695
31 Mar. 1703 - 1705
1705 - 7 Aug. 1707

Family and Education

bap. 5 Jan. 1654, 1st surv. s. of Sir Edmund Poley† of Badley by Esther (d. 1714), da. of Sir Henry Crofts† of Little Saxham, Suff.  educ. Bury St. Edmunds g.s.; G. Inn 1669; Jesus, Camb. 1670, BA 1673, fellow 1673–5; M. Temple 1673, called 1678, bencher 1701; L. Inn 1704, bencher 1704. unmsuc. fa. 1671.1

Offices Held

KC duchy of Lancaster 1679–89.2


‘A man of very despicable presence’, wrote Hearne, ‘being deformed to the highest degree’,

but what made amends for this was his admirable parts, being endowed with a strong memory and most solid judgment, in so much that he was accounted one of the best common lawyers in England . . . He was likewise a man of a very quick apprehension, and extraordinary elocution.

Poley’s legal career may have been prompted by the fact that most of the family’s Suffolk estates seem to have comprised his mother’s jointure. Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) listed him as a Tory supporter of the Court in March 1690. He is not known to have spoken in his first Parliament, but drew undue attention to himself at the opening of the second session on 2 Oct. when at the reading of the King’s Speech he refused to remove his hat. ‘We were all uncovered’, reported Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones*),

except three, viz. Sir Edward Seymour [4th Bt.], Mr Paul Foley I, and little Poley the lawyer, which everybody minded, though nobody took any public notice of it, since it seems we may by the rules of the House be covered, except in case of a message signed by the King. However, it was thought a peevish disrespect in the three Hattons [sic].

In December Carmarthen forecast that Poley would support him in the event of an attack on his ministerial position. Robert Harley* classed him with the Country party in April 1691. Poley was listed in early 1695 as one of the friends of Henry Guy*, possibly in connexion with Guy’s forthcoming defence against charges of corruption.3

Though a Tory, Poley was selected by Lord Orford (Edward Russell*) as one of his counsel against impeachment in 1701. He was returned at Looe in 1703 on the recommendation of Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†), who later claimed to have taken considerable ‘pains’ on his behalf. Forecast as likely to support the Tack, he appeared on Harley’s lobbying list but voted for it on 28 Nov. Poley was one of the most prominent of the Tackers and would have been the High Tories’ candidate to be solicitor-general had they been able to force a reconstruction of the ministry. A Commons manager in February 1705 in a conference with the Lords over the Aylesbury case, he was described by a correspondent of John Me