MUSGRAVE, Christopher (c.1631-1704), of Carlisle Castle, Cumb. and Newport Street, St. Martin's Lane, Westminster.

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



Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
Feb. 1701
Dec. 1701
1702 - 29 July 1704

Family and Education

b. c.1631, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Philip Musgrave, 2nd Bt. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1651; G. Inn 1654. m. (1) 31 May 1660, Mary (d. 8 July 1664), da. and coh. of Sir Andrew Cogan, 1st Bt., of Crowley House, Greenwich, Kent, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.; (2) 15 May 1671, Elizabeth (d. 11 Apr. 1701), da. of Sir John Franklin of Willesden, Mdx., 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 6da. Kntd. 26 May 1671; suc. bro. as 4th Bt. 27 Dec. 1687.1

Offices Held

Tpr. Life Gds. June-Dec. 1660; dep. gov. Carlisle Dec. 1660-78, gov. 1684-7, Dec. 1688-9; lt. of ft. Carlisle 1661-2, capt. 1662-7; capt. King’s 1 Ft. Gds. 1669-79; capt. of ft. the Tower 1685-7.2

Commr. for assessment, Cumb. 1661-80, Westmld. 1663-4, Westmld. and Worcs. 1673-80, Westminster 1677-80, Cumb., co. Dur., Westmld., Worcs. and Westminster 1689-90; capt.-lt. of militia ft., Cumb. and Westmld. by 1661; j.p. Westmld. 1665-96, 1700-d., Mdx. 1680-7, Cumb. 1680-June 1688, co. Dur. 1680-July 1688, Cumb. and co. Dur. Nov. 1688-96, 1700-d.; searcher of customs, Berwick-upon-Tweed 1668-80; receiver-gen. of taxes, Yorks. 1671-8; mayor, Carlisle 1672-3, 1703-d., ald. 1685-Mar. 1688, Oct. 1688-d.; commr. for recusants, Cumb. 1675; farmer of tolls, Cumb. and Westmld. 1678-d.; collector of customs, Carlisle 1679-Mar. 1688; freeman, Portsmouth 1681, 1683, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1682, Kendal 1684, dep. lt. Cumb. and Westmld. 1685-Feb. 1688, Oct. 1688-96, by 1701-d.; alderman, Appleby 1685-d., mayor Nov. 1688-9, 1700-1; common councilman, Berwick 1686-Oct. 1688.3

Clerk of the robes to Queen Catherine of Braganza by 1663-1702; commr. of the Ordnance 1679-81, lt. 1681-7; chairman, committee of elections and privileges 22 May-20 Nov. 1685; teller of the Exchequer 1702-d.; commr. for union with Scotland 1702.4


Musgrave was involved in the plans for a royalist rising in 1655 and fled to France. He obtained a pass from the Protectorate, but was imprisoned in the Tower on his return, and was next implicated in the rising of Sir George Booth in 1659. He went to Holland shortly before the Restoration with a letter of introduction to Ormonde from his cousin, Sir Thomas Wharton,

that he might have the honour by your means to be brought into the King’s hands. He has been divers times some months in prison upon the King’s account and a long time kept out of England upon the same score.

He obtained for his father a patent for a peerage, and was himself recommended for the order of the Royal Oak, with a Cumberland estate valued at £1,000 p.a.5

At the general election of 1661 Musgrave was returned for Carlisle, of which his father was governor, and listed by Lord Wharton among his friends in the House, presumably on grounds of kinship. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 173 committees, including the elections committee in six sessions, acted as teller in II divisions, and made ten recorded speeches. In the first session he was appointed to the committees for restoring the bishops to the House of Lords, for the corporations bill, and for preventing mischiefs arising from meetings of Quakers. On 17 May 1662 he helped to manage a conference with the Lords on the bill to curb theft and rapine on the northern borders. Thanks to his fellow-Cumbrian Joseph Williamson he persuaded the authorities that the tenure of a minor post in the Queen’s household was not incompatible with his duties in the garrison of Carlisle. On I Apr. 1664 he acted as teller against Lady Wandesford’s bill, apparently for no better reason than that she was the sister of Sir John Lowther I. The antagonism between the two families came to dominate local politics for the whole period and beyond. On the fall of Clarendon Musgrave was among those ordered to consider the additional charges against Lord Mordaunt and to take the accounts of the indigent officers fund during the Christmas recess. He was appointed to the committee to inquire into the libellous pamphlets distributed to Members on 12 Feb. 1668 and acted as teller for the additional duty on wine and against extending the penalties of the Conventicles Act to Papists. In his first recorded speech, foreshadowing his interest in the Ordnance, he exonerated the King’s master-gunner from the responsibility for the failure to fortify Sheerness. He was included among the friends of Ormonde at this time, and as a court dependant his name appears in both lists of the government party. His company in the Carlisle garrison had been suppressed after the second Dutch war, but he was given a commission in the Guards in 1669, and two years later, after his second marriage, he was knighted. No longer content with the purely local eminence that his father enjoyed, he now aspired to a role in national politics, and his letters show him building up a network of friendships in many other parts of England besides the north. An opposition writer described him as ‘a busy, prating committeeman, especially when he can buckle to the Court for money’.6

Musgrave was among those ordered to draw up a bill of ease for Protestant dissenters in 1673. His name appeared on the Paston list, and he acted as teller against the addresses for the dismissal of Arlington in the following year and for the recall of British subjects from the French service in the spring of 1675. In the same session he was appointed to the committee on the bill for hindering the growth of Popery. In the autumn he was among those named to inquire into the publication of dangerous books and to prevent illegal exactions, and on 8 Nov. he twice acted as teller for the Government on supply. Sir Richard Wiseman noted him as ‘not to be doubted’, and he was listed among the government speakers. In Westmorland, however, he was looked on as the motive force behind his father’s quarrel with Sir George Fletcher and the Earl of Carlisle (Charles Howard), and efforts were made to represent him to the Government as ‘factious and hot-headed’. Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’ in 1677, when he was named to the committees on the bills for recall from the French service, the prevention of illegal exactions, and securing the liberty of the subject. In this, his most active session to date, and the first which his father had failed to attend, he also helped to draft the address on the danger from France and to consider the bill for the Protestant education of the royal children. In the debate of 23 May on foreign policy he defended the King’s refusal to disclose diplomatic negotiations in progress. The author of A Seasonable Argument mentioned Musgrave’s company in the Guards, adding that he had a pension of £200 p.a. and ‘a promise to succeed his father in the government of Carlisle’. In fact, when his father died in the following winter, leaving Musgrave the effective head of the family, the governorship was granted to his enemy, Lord Carlisle.7

During the 1678 sessions Musgrave made nine speeches. After serving on the committee to draft an address for the removal of counsellors, he acted as teller on 8 May against the additional paragraph specifically attacking Lauderdale. He was summoned to the meeting of the government caucus on 30 May, and named on both lists of the court party. He was among those ordered to prepare for a conference on disbanding the army on 22 June. In the final session of the Cavalier Parliament he was appointed to the committee of inquiry into the Popish Plot, and helped to draw up reasons for believing in it. On Titus Oates he said: ‘We owe much to this man: I would have him tell you what he will propose for his security and subsistence’. He was named to the committees to draft the impeachment of Lord Arundell of Wardour and the instructions for disbanding the army. When Williamson’s signature was produced on dispensations for Roman Catholic officers, Musgrave leapt to his defence; but he was significantly silent in the debates on excluding the Duke of York from the House of Lords and the impeachment of Danby.8

Although stigmatized by the Opposition as one of the ‘unanimous club’, and marked ‘vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list, Musgrave was re-elected to the Exclusion Parliaments. An active Member in 1679 he was appointed to 20 committees, but made only two speeches. On 21 Mar. he seconded the motion of Silius Titus for entrusting the informer Bedloe to the Duke of Monmouth’s protection. He was appointed to the committees on the bills for habeas corpus amendment and security against Popery. He helped to prepare the Commons’ case in the dispute with the Lords over disbandment on 8 May, and was sent, as one of the managers, to desire a conference on the impeachments of the lords in the Tower. He voted against exclusion, but was again appointed to a committee to explain the Commons’ unwillingness to proceed with the trials on 24 May. Shortly after the prorogation he was given a seat on the newly-constituted ordnance board. Although he was appointed to only ten committees in the second Exclusion Parliament, he was active as a government spokesman, with 20 speeches to his credit. On the exclusion issue he declared on 2 Nov. 1680:

To extirpate the Duke and at the same time not to declare his successor will be strange, and you will make the thing perplexed. ... It may engender a civil war by putting the Duke from his succession to the crown of England, which nevertheless cannot exclude him [from] Scotland, and I should be glad to have the borders secured for my own concern, for I live near them.

Four days later, to embarrass the exclusionists, he moved to instruct the committee on the bill to name a successor. He objected that it was unparliamentary to base charges in the Commons against Lord Halifax (Sir George Savile) on his speeches against exclusion in the Lords, and described the accusation of advising the dissolution of the previous Parliament as mere hearsay ‘talked of in coffee-houses’. He acted as teller for the unsuccessful motion to recommit the address for Halifax’s removal. He pointed out that none of the charges against Edward Seymour had been proved, and moved to refer them to a committee, to which his name was added, though only after a division. He was also appointed to the committee for disarming Papists, and spoke against including the Quakers among the Protestant dissenters to be exempted from the Penal Laws. Although he had served on the committee which drew up reasons for believing that the Duke of York’s religion had encouraged the Popish Plot, he disagreed with its report: ‘does not believe it to be upon the debates at all, and nothing to our advantage’. In the Oxford Parliament he was appointed to the elections committee and to that for inspecting the Journals about Danby’s impeachment. He continued to support expedients to avert exclusion, arguing that further debate on the subject would delay more essential measures for the preservation of the Protestant religion.9

Musgrave was appointed lieutenant of the Ordnance under George Legge at the end of 1681. He played an active part in remodelling the corporations of Appleby and Carlisle. He secured the appointment of Lord Preston (Sir Richard Grahme) as recorder of the latter borough, which duly reelected him in 1685. Before the opening of Parliament Musgrave was chosen chairman of the elections committee at a meeting of 250 Members at the Fountain tavern, and it was said that the Court confided in him more than in the Speaker, Sir John Trevor. Nevertheless Danby listed him among the Opposition. A very active Member, he took the chair in the grand committee for the encouragement of coinage, and was appointed to 32 committees. In the first session these included those to recommend expunctions from the Journals, to draw up a loyal address promising support against the Duke of Monmouth, and to extend penalties for treason to cover any proposal to alter the succession. After Sedgemoor he was given a hundred of Monmouth’s followers to sell in the plantations. After the recess he voted against Preston’s unparliamentary proposal for supply before grievances, and was named to the committee to draw up the address against Roman Catholic officers. However, he supported the Court’s demand for a grant of £1,200,000 and thus retained his places until closeted over the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws in March 1687. He retired to his estates, and, writing to Legge, now Lord Dartmouth, in August 1688, remarked that his ‘rustic head’ could not ’comprehend the mysteries of state in making Petre Privy Councillor and some instances of that nature’. To the intense indignation of Sir John Lowther III he prepared to contest Westmorland, and nominated his sons for Appleby and Carlisle. When the charter of the latter borough was restored he entered the city ‘in a triumphant cavalcade’, took over the castle from its Roman Catholic governor and proposed himself and James Grahme as candidates for the next election. When his partner was rejected ‘with great contempt’, Musgrave announced that he would join interests with Jeremiah Bubb. He refused to co-operate with Lowther in calling out the militia, but together with Fletcher raised 3,000 men to defend the county against an alarm from James’s disbanded Irish troops. On 11 Jan. 1689 he announced his withdrawal from Westmorland, but he was successful at Carlisle, probably unopposed.10

In the Convention Musgrave was one of the most prominent and active Tories. ‘Though he cloth not look deep into things, [he] loves to hear of them.’ He made 67 speeches and was appointed to 83 committees. In grand committee on the state of the nation he declared, despite an interruption from Thomas Wharton:

I live near a kingdom (Scotland) where I know not how ill neighbours they will be if they cannot concur with your sense. I would be clear whether the intention is to depose the King, and, if he has forfeited his inheritance to the crown, I would know from the long robe whether you can depose the King or no.

He urged the House to assert the rights and liberties of the nation before filling the throne: ‘you must have wheels before you put the cart on them’. He was named to the committee to consider the essentials for safeguarding religion, law and liberty. After voting to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, and losing the governorship of Carlisle to Lowther, he clashed with him in committee over an allegation of £200,000 distributed to the Commons ‘for the French and Jesuit interest’. He was appointed to the committees to bring in a resolution for the reduction of Ireland, to inquire into the authors and advisers of grievances, to devise new oaths of allegiance and supremacy, to draft the address for the suppression of the Ipswich mutiny and to consider the bill of rights. With unconcealed self-interest, he was helpful to the Government over defence and indemnity. ‘For the charge of the Ordnance’, he told the House, ‘I can do it to a farthing. I believe England can never be without some standing force; I deal plainly with you.’ He proposed a vote of thanks for the message urging the speedy enactment of an indemnity bill, and helped to draw up the address accordingly. He was appointed to the committees for the comprehension and toleration bills. On 8 Apr. he reported a conference on the removal of Papists from the metropolitan area, from which the Lords wished to exempt Catherine of Braganza and her household. He helped to draw up the address for war with France. He reacted angrily to criticism of a proviso to the bill of rights safeguarding the hereditary succession:

I know not why we are told of France and foreign ministers. If we have not liberty to speak, let us go home. I know not what thoughts other gentlemen have of the Prince of Wales; I have none. But I know we have had a commonwealth, and a rebellion in 1641 also.

In the debates on the suspension of habeas corpus, he described imprisonment, from his own experience under the Protectorate, as ‘the greatest punishment next to death’, and he denied the necessity for any such measure, while ‘we have an army of 40,000 men to protect us. ... There can be no need of such a bill to commit men to prison without oath, made upon suspicion only, which may be grounded upon malice.’ After supporting Lowther’s efforts for a general pardon, and in particular for the inclusion of Sir Francis Wythens, he was among those ordered to bring in an indemnity bill. But the King was too deeply committed to Lowther and Wharton to offer Musgrave a place, or to help him defend his interest at Carlisle and Appleby. It was with satisfaction, therefore, that he reported to Sir Daniel Fleming on 20 June: ‘There was an attempt for more money, but the House would not admit of it’. ‘The Dutch have no great war upon their hands’, he said in debate, ‘but we know who has; we have the French and Ireland.’11

After the recess Musgrave was named to the committee for the second mutiny bill. When Lowther told the House that the French King was not so formidable as he was generally reckoned, Musgrave replied: ‘Notwithstanding this representation of France, I believe him a potent enemy, and therefore I would see our allies that we are to depend upon’. He helped to draft the address on behalf of Princess Anne. On the Sacheverell clause, which would have driven him out of politics, he exclaimed: ‘gentlemen ought to conform themselves to modest expressions, and not be told of justifying all the villanies that have been done’. The clause, in his view, was unworkable in any shape or form, because, to his personal knowledge, corporation records essential for proving majority consent to the surrender of the charters had been stolen by the town clerks. He pointed out that those who had described the condemnation of Sir Thomas Armstrong unheard as a gross injustice were now proposing the same procedure for Richard Graham and others. He was appointed to the committee for the general oath of allegiance.12

Musgrave remained out of office throughout William’s reign, refusing the Association in 1696; but Queen Anne gave him a lucrative sinecure on her accession. He died after an apoplectic stroke on 29 July 1704, aged 73, and was buried at Holy Trinity, Minories. A brilliant parliamentary tactician, his touch was less sure in major issues; and his errors in judgment in 1688-9 contributed to the displacement of his family by the Lowthers as the leading political interest in the north-west.

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. G. Burton, Life of Sir Philip Musgrave , 40-43, 46; HMC Le Fleming , 407, 408; Westminster City Lib. St. Martin in the Fields par. reg.; Bulstrode Pprs. 189.
  • 2. Flemings in Oxford (Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxiv), 138; CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 253; 1667, p. 441; 1668-9, p. 565; 1679-80, p. 326; 1684-5, pp. 295, 310; 1687-9, p. 83; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1185.
  • 3. SP29/445/115; S. Jefferson, Carlisle, 447; R. Hopkinson, ‘Elections in Cumb. and Westmld.’ (Newcastle-upon-Tyne Ph.D. thesis, 1973), 91; HMC Le Fleming, 209, 210; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 571; iv. 52; v. 616, 1110; vi. 267, 702; viii. 390, 1835; R. East. Portsmouth Recs. 366; Reg. of Freemen (Newcastle Rec. Soc. iii), 101; HMC Le Fleming, 492; Flemings in Oxford (Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxix), 416-17; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 254; 1686-7, p. 231; Hopkinson, ‘Elections at Appleby’ (Newcastle B.A. thesis, 1958), 48.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 260; 1664-5, p. 180; CJ, ix. 719, 760; Luttrell, i. 106, 409; v. 187, 451; HMC Portland, iv. 39.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1655, p. 215; Thurloe, v. 256; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 94; Bodl. Carte 214, f. 138.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1663-4, pp. 356, 376, 443; North, Lives, i. 181-3; CJ, ix. 68, 90; Grey, i. 81; Harl. 7020, f. 42v.
  • 7. CJ, ix. 296, 343; CSP Dom. 1676-7, p. 107; Grey, iv. 365.
  • 8. Grey, vi. 219, 292.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 82; Grey, vii. 17, 407, 427-8; viii. 25, 84, 215, 297; CJ, ix. 616, 660, 664, 701; HMC 12th Rep. IX, 112.
  • 10. HMC Ormonde, n.s. vi. 244; Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxii), 212-13; CJ, ix. 746; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 329; Add. 28875, f. 426; Grey, vii. 367; Ellis Corresp. i. 259, 313; HMC Dartmouth, i. 138; HMC Le Fleming, 209, 223, 226, 231, 232; HMC Lonsdale, 97-99; Westmld. RO, D/Ry 3498.
  • 11. IHR Bull. xlix. 258; Add. 36707, f. 80; Grey, ix. 11, 36-37, 154, 179, 186-7, 240, 267, 273, 343, 377; Luttrell, i. 499; Foxcroft, Halifax, ii. 219; HMC Le Fleming, 246.
  • 12. Grey, ix. 487-8, 512, 530.