CONWAY, Sir Edward II (1594-1655), of Ragley, Warws.; later of Lisburn, Co. Antrim and Great Queen Street, St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Mdx.
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Family and Education
bap. 10 Aug. 1594,1 1st s. of Sir Edward Conway I*, 1st Visct. Conway and his 1st w. Dorothy, da. of Sir John Tracy† of Toddington, Glos.; bro. of Thomas* and Ralph*.2 educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1611;3 ?travelled abroad (France) 1615;4 ?G. Inn 1624.5 m. lic. 21 Sept. 1619 (with £3,000),6 Frances (d. 7 May 1671), da. of Sir Francis Popham* of Littlecote, Wilts., 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da.7 kntd. 25 Mar. 1618;8 summ. to Lords in his fa.’s barony by 23 Apr. 1628;9 suc. fa. as 2nd Visct. Conway 3 Jan. 1631.10 d. 26 June 1655.11 sig. Edw[ard] Conway.
Capt. ft., Neths. by 1613-24,12 lt.-col. 1624-6,13 col., Cadiz expedition 1625,14 Île de Ré expedition 1627,15 ?capt. ft. [I] 1631-816; vol. RN 1635-7;17 col. horse [I] 1638-45,18 marshal of the army [I] 1640-at least 1641,19 gen. horse 1640-1,20 col. ft. [I] 1641-at least 1645.21
Cttee. Virg. Co. 1622.22
Commr. martial law, Hants 1627,28 oyer and terminer 1628;29 gov., Co. Londonderry [I] 1629-35, from 1641;30 freeman, Newport, I.o.W. 1635;31 commr. rebels’ estates (roy.), Glos. 1644, impressment (roy.) 1644.32
Conway spent most of his early life in the Netherlands, where his father, Sir Edward, was lieutenant-governor of the Cautionary Town of Brill. He secured his first military command there while still officially a minor, and in 1614 served under his uncle, Sir Horace Vere, during the Jülich-Cleves crisis. In the following year he obtained a pass to visit France, but may not have used it. When Brill was returned to the Dutch government in 1616 he obtained a commission in a new regiment formed from the Brill garrison, and remained in the Low Countries for another seven years, paying only occasional visits to England.33 Knighted at Whitehall in March 1618, he married in the following year, the union proving to be long but unhappy. By 1622 he was a regular correspondent of (Sir) Dudley Carleton*, who described him to his London contact John Chamberlain as ‘my very dear friend and one well worthy of your acquaintance’.34 Although later accused by Clarendon (Edward Hyde†) of being ‘a voluptuous man in eating and drinking, and of great licence in all other excesses’, he was also a highly cultured individual whose interests included modern literature, medicine, astronomy and ancient history.35
Conway was now a veteran of numerous campaigns and sieges, but he had also fallen heavily into debt. In October 1623 he resolved to return home again to order his affairs, but could not guarantee that he would not be arrested by his creditors. A solution presented itself when Parliament was summoned in December, as membership of the Commons would provide him with precisely the protection he required. On 10 Jan. 1624 his father wrote: ‘I have sought to get you a burgess’s place of the Parliament, and am confident I shall have one for you. So soon as the election is made I will send an express for you.’36 Conway was returned in his absence for Warwick on the interest of his kinsman Lord Brooke (Sir Fulke Greville*), and also for Rye, where the lord warden of the Cinque Ports mistakenly nominated him instead of his brother Thomas. Sir Edward Conway informed the Commons on 23 Feb. that his son would sit for Warwick, but nearly three more weeks passed before he actually arrived back in England.37 Conway was present in the House on 19 Mar. for the debate on war finance, which he reported at length to Carleton, excoriating Sir George Chaworth for opposing the breach with Spain. He failed to leave his own mark on the Parliament’s records, but continued to keep Carleton informed of developments. Describing the fall of lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*), he pointedly observed on 18 Apr.: ‘Sir Edward Coke hath taken great pains in this business, and I believe that if once in seven years he were not to help to ruin a great man, he should die himself’. However, by 26 May, with supply finally agreed, his thoughts turned to what part he might play in the coming conflict, and he noted the great competition for army commissions.38
With some difficulty, Conway’s father secured him a promotion as second-in-command in Lord Willoughby’s regiment, and by September he was back in the Low Countries with his brother Thomas as one of his junior officers. The campaign was beset by problems, but Conway’s own prospects were rising. His father, ennobled in March 1625, was one of the duke of Buckingham’s closest allies, and in the following month he informed Conway that he should expect a warrant, as ‘the duke reckons you in the number of his’.39 It is unclear whether this statement alluded to the royal favourite’s forthcoming embassy to France, or to the current naval preparations, but by late July Conway had resigned his Dutch commission in order to join the Cadiz expedition, which he helped to organize. He is not known to have sought membership of the 1625 Parliament, though he visited plague-stricken London shortly after the first sitting ended, ignoring his father’s fears about the risk of infection.40 During the Cadiz campaign Conway commanded a thousand-strong regiment, but this adventure proved to be a major disappointment. In November he wrote to his brother-in-law, Sir Robert Harley*: ‘our voyage thrives like the last Parliament; much fair hope, but the one spoiled by some few factious men, and this by two or three foolish men’. Convinced that Buckingham’s presence on the voyage would have transformed its prospects, he assured the duke that ‘no man shall follow you with a more earnest desire to your service’. Arriving back in England in December, he spent Christmas in Cornwall with Sir John Eliot*, apparently failing to anticipate the latter’s defection from Buckingham’s circle.41
At the 1626 general election Lord Conway again tried to secure his son a seat at Warwick, but left his nomination request too late, and instead used his influence as captain of the Isle of Wight to have him returned at Yarmouth. Despite Buckingham’s impeachment, Conway made no recorded contribution to the Parliament’s proceedings.42 While the government struggled to raise the money for a further expedition, his regiment was billeted in Hampshire, and an attempt to transfer it to the Isle of Wight did nothing for his standing there. During 1626 he continued to receive Dutch pay, but he is not known to have returned to the Low Countries.43 Wounded in July 1627 during the Île de Ré campaign, he recovered in time to lead a vital rearguard action three months later. Buckingham offered to promote him to colonel-general following Sir John Borough’s death, but Conway declined the favour, arguing that Sir William Courtney would discharge the role better. The duke subsequently ensured that Conway was not blamed for the campaign’s failure, and conceivably also procured his appointment as a gentleman of the privy chamber.44 In November 1627 Conway warned his patron of the mounting tensions in Hampshire caused by billeting, but was unable to prevent the arrival of further troops from Plymouth shortly afterwards. At the 1628 parliamentary elections, Lord Conway employed all his local influence to secure seats on the Isle of Wight. However, as Sir John Oglander* pointed out, he committed a major tactical error in nominating Conway not for Yarmouth, where he was almost certain of re-election, but for the more independent borough of Newport, which rejected him. Unable to find an alternative seat in the Commons, Conway was consoled with a summons to the Lords in his father’s barony, an honour unprecedented for a viscount’s son, and took his seat on 23 April.45
In 1629 Conway obtained the governorship of County Londonderry, and settled at Lisburn, where he formed an extensive library. He inherited his father’s titles two years later, but leased his family seat at Ragley to the 2nd Lord Brooke (Robert Greville*). After the Crown took direct control of the Londonderry plantation in 1635, he returned to England, and spent the next three summers serving as a volunteer in naval patrols in the English Channel and North Sea.46 A close friend of the 10th earl of Northumberland (Algernon Percy, Lord Percy*), his neighbour in Great Queen Street, London, he was also on good terms with key political figures such as Sir Thomas Wentworth* and Archbishop Laud. In 1636 he was mentioned as a potential secretary of state.47 Conway returned to Ireland in 1639 with a new army commission, but was summoned back to England in 1640 as general of the horse against the Scots. Although his forces were seriously outnumbered during the Second Bishops’ War, he was made the scapegoat for the defeat at Newburn and surrender of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in August, and sought to recover his military reputation by volunteering for further service in Ireland. He drove back the Irish rebels at Lisburn in November 1641, but his library was burnt in the battle’s aftermath.48 Conway’s friendship with Northumberland caused him to side with Parliament when he came back to England in 1643, but within months he was imprisoned on suspicion of complicity in Waller’s plot. Once freed, he defected to the king, and although he rejoined the parliamentarian fold in March 1644 he was thereafter viewed with suspicion.49 Obliged by his flirtation with royalism to compound for delinquency in 1646, his fine was initially set at £3,000, but reduced on appeal to £1,859 4s. Plagued by debt, and now in declining health, he found shelter with his friend Northumberland until 1653, when he returned to the Continent, finally dying either at Paris or Lyons in June 1655. His body was brought home, and buried with his ancestors at Arrow, Warwickshire. No will or administration has been found. None of Conway’s descendants sat in the Commons.50
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. CP.
- 2. W. Dugdale, Warws. 848, 850.
- 3. Al. Ox.
- 4. APC, 1615-16, p. 294.
- 5. GI Admiss. (possibly Sir Edward Conway I).
- 6. The Gen. n.s. xxv. 98; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 175.
- 7. Dugdale, 851.
- 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 168.
- 9. CP.
- 10. Dugdale, 848.
- 11. Conway Letters ed. M.H. Nicolson, 127.
- 12. APC, 1615-16, pp. 60-1; SP84/109, f. 99; 84/116, f. 123.
- 13. SP84/120, f. 20; 84/128, f. 55; Het Nationaal Archief, Raad van State archief (1.01.19) 1908, pt. i, Eng. lias, ms. marked ‘1626’ (ex inf. David Trim).
- 14. J. Glanville, Voyage to Cadiz ed. A.B. Grosart (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxxii), 3.
- 15. SP16/71/75.
- 16. HMC Cowper, i. 424; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, ii. 203.
- 17. Strafforde Letters, i. 390; HMC Cowper, ii. 165.
- 18. Strafforde Letters, ii. 203; CSP Dom. 1644-5, p. 375.
- 19. CSP Ire. 1633-47, p. 234; CSP Dom. 1641-3, p. 181.
- 20. CSP Dom. 1639-40, p. 332; HMC Cowper, ii. 292.
- 21. HMC Ormonde, i. 92, 126.
- 22. T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 269.
- 23. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 1, p. 130.
- 24. LC3/1.
- 25. CSP Ire. 1633-47, p. 791; Addenda, 1625-60, p. 135.
- 26. CSP Dom. 1637, p. 86; CSP Dom. 1639-40, p. 332.
- 27. A. and O. i. 181.
- 28. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 440.
- 29. APC, 1627-8, p. 318.
- 30. CSP Ire. Addenda, 1625-60, p. 135; Strafforde Letters, i. 390; CSP Dom. 1641-3, p. 181.
- 31. I.o.W. RO, NBC 45, f. 198.
- 32. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 119, 127.
- 33. APC, 1615-16, pp. 60-1, 294, 515, 540; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 167.
- 34. Shaw, ii. 168; Strafforde Letters, i. 525; CSP Dom. 1635-6, p. 357; SP84/108, ff. 65-6, 88-9; 84/109, ff. 15, 143a; Carleton to Chamberlain ed. M. Lee, 315.
- 35. Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, i. 186; HMC Portland, iii. 46; Add. 23213, ff. 9-16v, 20-4.
- 36. SP84/113, ff. 218-220v; 84/114, ff. 208, 272; 84/116, ff. 25-6; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 92.
- 37. E. Suss. RO, RYE 47/98/5, 9; CJ, i. 671b; CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 197-8; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 94.
- 38. CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 197-8, 257; SP14/163/1.
- 39. CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 269, 294; SP84/120, f. 20; 84/121, ff. 276-7; 84/126, f. 189.
- 40. SP84/128, f. 55; CSP Ire. Addenda, 1625-60, p. 134; Rymer, viii. pt. 1, p. 130; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 38.
- 41. HEHL, Hastings mss, Military Box 2, file 40 (ex inf. David Trim); HMC Portland, iii. 20; R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 375; CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 184, 193.
- 42. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 94;
- 43. APC, 1626, p. 219; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 437; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 165.
- 44. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 258, 301; CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 313, 331, 352, 434; Add. 4106, f. 128.
- 45. CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 442, 540, 542, 568; 1628-9, p. 80; APC, 1627-8, p. 155; Lords Procs. 1628, v. 333.
- 46. HMC Portland, iii. 26; CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 112; 1635-6, p. 296; Strafforde Letters, i. 390; HMC Cowper, ii. 92, 130, 165.
- 47. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, vi. 98; Survey of London, v. 60, 71; Strafforde Letters, i. 294, 334, 507; Clarendon, i. 186.
- 48. CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 622; 1639-40, p. 332; 1640, pp. 645, 649; M.C. Fissel, Bishops’ Wars, 51, 54-5, 59-60; Clarendon, i. 190; HMC Cowper, ii. 292; HMC 5th Rep. 413-14; R. Bagwell, Ire. under the Stuarts, i. 348.
- 49. Clarendon, iii. 40-1, 44, 142; LJ, vi. 90a-b, 159b; CCC, 980; CSP Dom. 1644, pp. 113-14; HMC Denbigh, v. 78-9.
- 50. CCC, 980; CSP Dom. 1650, pp. 409, 424; 1651, p. 464; 1651-2, pp. 303, 440; 1653-4, p. 440; HMC Portland, iii. 202; Dugdale, 851; CP.