COPLEY, Sir Godfrey, 2nd Bt. (c.1653-1709), of Sprotborough, Yorks.

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



15 May 1679
Oct. 1679
Feb. 1701
Dec. 1701
1708 - 9 Apr. 1709

Family and Education

b. c.1653, 1st s. of Sir Godfrey Copley, 1st Bt., of Sprotborough by 1st w. Eleanor, da. of Sir Thomas Walmesley of Dunkenhalgh, Lancs. educ. L. Inn 1674. m. (1) lic. 15 Oct. 1681, Catherine, da. and coh. of John Purcell of Nantribba, Mont., 3s. d.v.p. 2da.; (2) c. June 1700, Gertrude, da. of Sir John Carew, 3rd Bt., of Antony, Cornw., s.p. suc. fa. 17 Feb. 1678.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Yorks. Feb.-Nov. 1678; commr. for assessment, Yorks. (W. Riding) 1679-80, 1689-90, j.p. by 1690-d., dep. lt. by 1700-?d.2

Commr. for public accounts 1702-4.3

FRS 1691-d.


Copley came from a cadet branch of a 15th-century Yorkshire family. His father, a royalist major of horse during the Civil War compounded on a fine of £1,366, and was created a baronet at the Restoration. He died while serving as sheriff of Yorkshire in 1678, and through Sir John Reresby Copley obtained from Lord Treasurer Danby (a kinsman of the family) a patent ‘to be continued in that office for the remaining part of the year’. In return Copley was expected to assist Reresby in his disputed election at Aldborough by persuading John Wentworth, whose son had married his sister, to drop his petition. But after he had ‘discoursed the business with Mr Wentworth and urged his promises and engagement’, he could report little success. A few months later he stood himself against Reresby at the general election on the Wentworth interest. Defeated at the poll he was seated on petition on 15 May, just in time to vote for exclusion. His only committee during his 11 days in the first Exclusion Parliament was on a naturalization bill. Re-elected in the autumn, he was again moderately active in the second Exclusion Parliament. He was appointed to three committees, including those to prohibit the import of cattle from Scotland and to reform the collection of the hearth-tax. In his only recorded speech he declared that he believed the charges against the Marquess of Worcester (Henry Somerset) to be more than common fame. The Aldborough electors commended Copley’s ‘care and civility whilst in the House’, but warned Wentworth that if he failed to ‘discharge his arrears upon the last election ... ’twill be somewhat hard for him to have an entertainment like to his former’. Although he was re-elected without a contest in 1681, he left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament.4

Copley does not seem to have stood in 1685, and on 24 July he was licensed to travel abroad. Nevertheless his name appeared on a list of the Yorkshire Opposition in 1687. He returned to the House in 1695 as a Tory, though he signed the Association in 1696. He died of quinsy on 9 Apr. 1709, and was buried at Sprotborough.5

Copley took an active interest in the sciences, and made a valuable collection of prints and mathematical instruments. In his will he left £100 to the Royal Society for the improvement of natural knowledge, which since 1736 has been used for an annually awarded gold medal. He bequeathed his estate to a distant cousin, Lionel Copley of Wadworth.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 52; Nonconformist Reg. ed. Turner, 55; Luttrell, iv. 656.
  • 2. Reresby Mems. 132; Add. 29674, f. 160.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xix. 178.
  • 4. Royalist Comp. Pprs. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xviii), 117-19; Reresby, 132, 155; HMC 12th Rep. IX, 114; HMC Var. ii. 396.
  • 5. PC2/71/121; Luttrell, vi. 428.
  • 6. DNB; Clay, ii. 53.