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

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 1,100 in 1673


c. Apr. 1660ROBERT MONTAGU, Visct. Mandeville 
27 Apr. 1661ROBERT MONTAGU, Visct. Mandeville 
 HENRY WILLIAMS formerly Cromwell 
15 Feb. 1673(SIR) NICHOLAS PEDLEY vice Mandeville, called to the Upper House 
22 Nov. 1673ROBERT APREECE vice Williams, deceased598
 Sir John Bernard, Bt.331
23 Aug. 1679(SIR) THOMAS PROBY 
5 Feb. 1681(SIR) THOMAS PROBY 
28 Mar. 1685(SIR) JOHN COTTON I 

Main Article

Huntingdonshire, a small county, was always in danger of being swamped by the powerful and widespread Montagu family. Two branches were seated in the county, at Kimbolton and Hinchingbrooke, and with a remarkable family solidarity that transcended political differences, they were also prepared to find seats for their Northamptonshire cousins. At the general elections of 1660 and 1661 the Earl of Manchester’s heir and Henry Cromwell of Ramsey were returned, probably unopposed. Cromwell (or Williams, as he later preferred to call himself) was the last of a great parliamentary family, and according to tradition died of a stroke when Lord Manchester’s candidate was successful at a by-election. Presumably this was the election of Feb. 1673 (though Williams did not die till several months later), in which Pedley may well have enjoyed the support of the Montagu interest, but the identity of the other candidate is unknown. Possibly it was Robert Apreece, who in November defeated Pedley’s brother-in-law John Bernard. Bernard petitioned, complaining of intimidation by the quartering of a militia troop under Sir Francis Compton, the adjournment of the poll to the inn which served as Apreece’s headquarters, the promotion of Apreece’s candidature by Papists, and the premature closing of the poll. In reply Apreece claimed that the inn was the only building in Huntingdon suitable for taking the poll, that when one of the two Papist freeholders in the county offered to vote he was refused, and that the poll was closed only when Bernard was so far behind that he could not possibly have won, as there were only 1,100 freeholders in the county. In addition he claimed that Bernard had brought in a large party of horsemen from neighbouring counties who cried: ‘Mutiny! We with our hobnails will beat the gentlemen out of the country’. But nobody was killed, which, according to Sir Nicholas Carew, was unusual in this tumultuous constituency. John Birch recommended from the elections committee that the petition should be rejected, and the House agreed by 137 votes to 108.1

Huntingdonshire returned country candidates to the three Exclusion Parliaments, probably without a poll. In the first, the county afforded a seat to Ralph Montagu when his prospects in Northamptonshire looked hopeless. In the second and third, Silius Titus, reluctant to face a poll in Hertfordshire, stood on the Ramsey Abbey interest, which he had acquired by purchase from Williams’s heirs, and was returned with Sir Thomas Proby, another newcomer to the county.2

In 1685 the Montagu interest was in abeyance; Kimbolton was under a cloud as a centre of Whiggery, while the 2nd Earl of Sandwich was living in retirement on the Continent. The old parliamentary interest of the Cotton family was able to reassert itself, with the assistance of the new lord lieutenant, the Earl of Ailesbury (Robert Bruce), even though Sir John Cotton had ceased to reside in the county, and his partner, (Sir) Lionel Walden, had no con siderable freehold estate. Walden complained that Apreece and John Bigg were working to set up Pedley’s son, ‘a person very unfit, having always (so far as his wit served him) been an enemy to the King in a violent manner. ... They are purse-proud, but we must struggle as well as we can.’ Eventually (according to Ailesbury’s son) the court candidates were returned without a contest. Walden was approved as court candidate in 1688, but Sunderland had such difficulty in finding a colleague for him that he eventually pitched on the Whig Apreece, presumably because he had Roman Catholic relatives at Court and was opposed to the Manchester interest. But when the general election came that interest swept all before it. The 4th Earl had taken an active part in the Revolution, and the county returned ‘with one assent and consent’ his brother Robert and Bernard’s son, who had probably been one of his officers.3

Author: E. R. Edwards


  • 1. SP29/360/110; M. Noble, Mems. Cromwell Fam. i. 70; Grey, ii. 395-6.
  • 2. HMC 13th Rep. VI, 14; Add. 33573, ff. 126, 127.
  • 3. Ailesbury Mems. i. 100; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 26; 1687-9, p. 273; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), 116.