Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 370 in 1705


28 Feb. 1681EDWARD HOWARD, Visct. Morpeth

Main Article

By the 17th century the corporation of Carlisle, consisting of 12 aldermen (from whom the mayor was elected) and a common council of 20, had come to control the freeman roll, and hence the franchise. The city retained a substantial garrison throughout the period, and the governor often exercised a decisive influence. The cathedral interest cannot have been negligible, especially under Dean (subsequently Bishop) Smith (1672-84), the step-father of Sir George Fletcher. No contests are known in this period, and the two local magnate families, the Howards of Naworth and the Musgraves of Edenhall, shared the representation of the city in four of the seven Parliaments.1

At the general election of 1660 the Musgraves were ineligible under the Long Parliament ordinance against the candidature of Cavaliers or their sons, and Charles Howard, the head of the northern branch of the family, was returned for Cumberland. It was doubtless on his interest, however, that Jeremiah Tolhurst, who had served under him as deputy governor, was elected. The senior seat went to William Briscoe, Lord Wharton’s steward and a staunch Parliamentarian in the Civil War. In December (Sir) Philip Musgrave was appointed governor, and in the following year his son Christopher and Howard’s brother (Sir) Philip were elected unopposed to the Cavalier Parliament. Sir Philip Musgrave, as commissioner for corporations, was largely responsible for the purge of nonconformist elements in 1662-3, and the new charter of April 1664 imposed the oaths of supremacy and allegiance on all officials and required crown approval for the recorder and town clerk. A party in the corporation, led by Alderman John Aglionby, resented ‘the military power’ of the Musgraves; but in 1668 Aglionby was censured by the King and forced to apologize publicly to Musgrave and his officers.2

On Musgrave’s death in 1678 Charles Howard (who had taken the title of his earldom from the city) succeeded as governor; but he was in the West Indies for both elections of 1679, when the sitting Members were re-elected. Both opposed exclusion. Sir Philip Howard retired after the second Exclusion Parliament, and Aglionby set himself up on the corporation interest. But Lord Carlisle hoped to persuade Sir John Lowther II to stand for the city, thereby leaving a seat in Cumberland vacant for his son, Lord Morpeth. On 31 Jan. 1681, however, Fletcher, who was serving as mayor, wrote:

My Lord Morpeth hath declared that he will stand for Carlisle ... to prevent any designs against Sir Christopher [Musgrave], whom ‘tis thought they aim at .... Most of the town have writ to Sir Christopher to assure him of their readiness to choose him, and I think there will be no doubt of it.

Morpeth and Musgrave were returned to the Oxford Parliament without a contest.3

The corporation presented loyal addresses approving the dissolution of Parliament, and abhorring the ‘Association’ and the Rye House Plot. Nevertheless in 1684 they were induced, it was said by Musgrave and Fletcher, to surrender their charter. Musgrave at least cannot have been pleased with the replacement, since it nominated Fletcher’s step-son Lord Preston (Sir Richard Grahme) as recorder, and thus established a new interest in the city. The Howards remained, though it must have been some consolation to Musgrave that when Lord Carlisle died he succeeded to the command of the garrison. The 2nd Earl wrote before the 1685 election that he was willing to spend two or three hundred pounds to bring in his cousin, the son of Sir George Downing, but received no encouragement. Musgrave was re-elected to James II’s Parliament, together with Preston’s brother James Grahme, who had been appointed privy purse to the new monarch.4

Musgrave’s opposition to the King’s ecclesiastical policy was so strong that he was replaced by Lord Carlisle’s cousin, Sir Francis Howard of the Roman Catholic Corby branch. The new governor proposed in December 1687 that all the officers of the garrison, many of whom were of his own religion, should be given their freedom, ‘that they might be capable to serve the King in electing Parliament men for the city’. The corporation rejected the proposal, and in March Fletcher, Musgrave, the mayor, one other alderman and ten common councilmen were removed by order-in-council. On the birth of the Old Pretender the remodelled corporation sent a congratulatory address, promising:

We will choose such Members as shall certainly concur with your Majesty in repealing and taking off the Penal Laws and Tests, and not hazard the election of any person who hath any ways declared in favour of those cannibal laws. Surely they do not consider what a sovereign prince by his royal power may do that oppose your Majesty in so gracious and glorious work, and a work which Heaven smiles upon, and with no less blessing, we hope, than a Prince of Wales, that there may never want of your issue to sway the sceptre, so long as the sun and moon endure.

But these effusions (said to be the work of a Jesuit) failed to soften the hearts of the regulators, who promptly removed the Earl of Carlisle, another alderman, and no less than 12 of the common council. As court candidates for the abortive Parliament Sunderland approved Grahme and his brother Fergus, or the Whig collaborator Aglionby, and wrote to Preston to secure their election. The remodelled corporation was one of the few to pledge support against the Dutch invasion, but this was almost their last official act, for the old charter was restored in the same month by Musgrave and Fletcher ‘in a kind of cavalcade and ostentation of merit’. In December Musgrave, assisted by Jeremiah Bubb, one of the officers of the garrison, secured the peaceful withdrawal of Sir Francis Howard and the Irish. His enemy Aglionby reported to Sir John Lowther III:

Sir Christopher Musgrave sent in great diligence to Carlisle, and, a common council being called, a letter of his was read wherein he recommended himself or his son (’tis said his younger son) to serve them in Parliament, proposing the privy purse [James Grahme] for another; but the privy purse being rejected with contempt, he immediately joined Captain Bubb, who stands also for a Member. Before I got to town they had given a great treat to the most considerable men of the corporation, and ‘tis said have carried on their business a great way, so that by what I can yet learn it will be a matter of much difficulty and expense to prevail for a new man. ... I have sent out some of the most considerable men here to observe and take measures of the strength of our adversary, and also try how the common people stand affected by my Lord Carlisle.

Although Lord Carlisle was apparently well disposed towards the Lowther interest he was too ill to intervene, and Musgrave and Bubb were ‘unanimously elected’ to the Convention. Musgrave’s interest remained unshaken even by the appointment of Lowther as governor by the new regime.5

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. S. Jefferson, Carlisle, 328, 338-40; R. S. Ferguson, Cumb. and Westmld. Members, 13, 22; DNB (Thomas Smith).
  • 2. Ferguson, -4; G. Burton, Life of Sir Philip Musgrave, 47; HMC Le Fleming, 60; Royal Charters of Carlisle (Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. extra ser. x), 213.
  • 3. Westmld. RO, D/Ry2375, Musgrave to Fleming, 29 Jan. 1681; 2379, 2380, Fletcher to Fleming, 30, 31 Jan. 1681.
  • 4. London Gazette, 18 July 1681, 25 May 1682, 23 Aug. 1683; Royal Charters, 257-8, 276; Mun. Recs. Carlisle (Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. extra ser. iv), 17, 19; Ferguson, 51; M. Creighton, Carlisle, 169; D/Ry2870, Fletcher to Fleming, 2 Mar. 1685.
  • 5. HMC 7th Rep. 357; Ferguson, 54; HMC Le Fleming, 27-29; PC2/72/621, 693; London Gazette, 21 May, 15 Oct. 1688; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 273; 1689-90, p. 47; Musgrave to Fleming, 13 Sept. 1688; HMC Lonsdale, 98; Yale Univ. Lib. Osborn mss, Lowther to Lowther, 29 Dec. 1688.