ASHLEY, alias COOPER, Hon. Anthony (1652-99).

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



Family and Education

b. 16 Jan. 1652, o. surv. s. of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. educ. Trinity, Oxf. 1666-7. m. 22 Sept. 1669, Lady Dorothy Manners (d. June 1698), da. of John Manners, 8th Earl of Rutland, 3s. 4da. styled Lord Ashley 23 Apr. 1672; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Shaftesbury 22 Jan. 1683.

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Dorset, Poole and Wilts. 1673-80, recusants, Dorset 1675, v.-adm. 1679-d., j.p. by 1685-?87.1

Member, Society of Mines Royal 1674.2


Ashley had John Locke, the philosopher, as his tutor and Thomas Sydenham as his medical consultant, but he seems to have derived little benefit from either, except that Locke, in his capacity as matchmaker, provided him with a bride who bore him healthy and intelligent children. He was strong neither in mind nor body, and his character aroused general contempt.3

There is no evidence to show whether Ashley’s election for Weymouth in 1670 was contested. He was under age, but the combined personal and government interest wielded by his father, then chancellor of the Exchequer, must have been overwhelming. A moderately active Member, Ashley was named to 52 committees during his 13 sessions in the Cavalier Parliament. His most important committee was that which produced the test bill in 1673, and he was teller for the resolution that the pricking of Members as sheriffs was a breach of privilege (16 Nov. 1675). On taking his seat, he had naturally been regarded as a court supporter by the Opposition, but Sir Richard Wiseman placed him low on the list of Dorset Members, and Shaftesbury (who generally viewed his offspring with detachment) accorded him the rating of ‘doubly worthy’ in 1677. He served on two important committees in this session, one for better securing the liberty of the subject, the other for providing that the children of the royal family should be educated as Protestants. He made no recorded speeches in Parliament, and when he was denied access to his father in the Tower it was Sir Scrope Howe who raised the matter in the House. He was teller, for the third and last time, in favour of the fourth article in Danby’s impeachment on 21 Dec. 1678.4

Ashley was re-elected for Weymouth at the top of the poll in February 1679, and marked ‘honest’ by his father. He sat on no committees in the first Exclusion Parliament, and was granted leave to go into the country on 12 Apr., but he returned in time to vote for the bill. He apparently stood down in favour of (Sir) John Morton in the autumn, and took no further part in politics. He had no difficulty in making his peace with the Court after his father’s death, and was listed as a court peer in 1686. In 1696 he excused himself from signing the Association on the grounds of ‘a weakness in his limbs, which for several years past has hindered his stirring from his bed’. He died on 2 Nov. 1699 and was buried at Wimborne St. Giles. His eldest son, the philosopher, was returned for Poole in 1695, and a younger son Maurice was elected for Weymouth as a Whig six times between 1695 and 1710.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


Christie, Shaftesbury, ii. 234.

  • 1. Ind. 24557.
  • 2. BL Loan 16.
  • 3. M. Cranston, John Locke, 121; Christie, ii. 431; CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, p. 43.
  • 4. Finch diary.
  • 5. Christie, ii. 224; HMC Lords n.s. ii. 265.