ANNESLEY, Francis (1734-1812), of Reading, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. 2 May 1734, 1st s. of Rev. Martin Annesley of Bucklebury and Frilsham by Mary, da. and coh. of William Hanbury of Little Marcle, Herefs. educ. Reading; G. Inn 1753. unm. suc. fa. 1749.
Master of Downing, Camb. 1800-d.
By 1790 Annesley enjoyed wide support and popularity at Reading and he came top of the poll in the contested election of that year. He retained the seat unopposed in 1796 and again headed the poll in 1802.
Although he had voted with government on the Regency question, he was noted as ‘doubtful’ in the ministerial election forecast of 1790. He presumably continued to give general support to government, however, was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in April 1791, marked ‘pro’ in the election forecast for 1796 and voted for the assessed taxes augmentation bill, 4 Jan. 1798. His only recorded vote in opposition to Pitt’s government was as teller for the majority who voted for a minor amendment to the land tax bill, 31 May 1798. Annesley voted for abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796 and, in his only recorded intervention in debate, 23 Nov. 1795, presented, evidently without comment, petitions from Reading against the pending repressive legislation and in favour of peace negotiations.
Annesley, who was appointed to the committee on East India judicature regulations, 9 Dec. 1801, is not known to have opposed Addington’s government. In the ministerial list of September 1804 he was placed under ‘Pitt’, but he voted twice against Melville, 8 Apr. and 12 June 1805, against further compensation to the Duke of Atholl over the Isle of Man, 7 June, and in the government analysis of July was classed as ‘doubtful Sidmouth’. His attitude to the ‘Talents’ is unknown. Annesley retired from Parliament at the dissolution of 1806, stating that he was not prepared to resort to the expensive and corrupt electioneering methods which had become the vogue at Reading. He claimed, in a farewell address:
I have never upon any occasion whatever asked or received of any minister a favour for myself or family, and ... I have never been obliged to give one single shilling to any elector to induce him to give me his vote; and in return, my conduct in Parliament has been as pure as the mode of my going there.1
As heir-at-law to the founder of Downing College, Cambridge, of which he became the first master in 1800, Annesley was engaged in a long struggle to overcome obstruction and delays in the execution of the founder’s will. A noted bibliophile, he was credited in his obituary with ‘moral excellence’ and great generosity.2 He died 17 Apr. 1812.