CARY, William (c.1661-1710), of Clovelly, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1685 - 1687
1689 - 1695
1695 - 1710

Family and Education

b. c.1661, 2nd s. of George Cary, DD, dean of Exeter, by Mary, da. of William Hancock of Combe Martin, Devon; bro. of Sir George Cary† of Clovelly.  educ. Queen’s, Oxf. matric. 23 Mar. 1678, aged 16; M. Temple 1679.  m. (1) aft. 1683, Joan (d. 1687), da. of Sir William Wyndham†, 1st Bt., of Orchard Wyndham, St. Decuman’s, Som., s.p.; (2) settlement 28 Mar. 1694 (with £5,000), Mary (d. 1701), da. of Thomas Mansel† of Briton Ferry, Glam., sis. of Thomas Mansel II*, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.  suc. bro. 1685.1

Offices Held

Recorder, Okehampton 1685–?Jan. 1688, 1689–d; freeman, Exeter 1697.2

Commr. drowned lands 1690.3


Cary, who had joined William of Orange after the Prince’s landing in the West, was returned for Okehampton in 1690, following which he was classed as a Court supporter and a Tory by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). His parliamentary activity is impossible to distinguish from that of his namesake Edward Cary* (Carey), and the disappearance of the surname ‘Cary’ from significant parliamentary activity after the death of Edward Cary in August 1692 strongly suggests that William was by some way the less prominent of the two. The only comment that can be made as to Cary’s contribution to the 1690 Parliament is that he was included in December 1690 in Carmarthen’s list of likely supporters in the event of a Commons attack upon his ministerial position. In 1695 Cary transferred to Launceston, which he then represented until his death. His contribution to the 1695 Parliament is again complicated by the presence of a namesake, on this occasion Nicholas Carey. Forecast as likely to oppose the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. upon the council of trade, Cary initially refused to sign the Association and was subsequently removed from the commission of the peace. On 25 Nov. he voted against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†, and the only other matter of note concerning him in this Parliament was the leave of absence he was granted on 11 May 1698. Classed as a Country supporter in about September in a comparison of the old and new Commons, he was included on 7 Mar. 1699 upon a list of Members who had not attended that session but were excused by reason of sickness or infirmity. In February 1701 he was listed as likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’, and in December was listed as a Tory by Robert Harley*. He was included on the list of those who favoured the motion of 26 Feb. 1702 vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the previous session in the impeachments of the Whig lords. His only other notable parliamentary activity was to tell on 13 Mar. 1702 against the second reading of the bill for punishing felons and their accomplices.4

During Queen Anne’s reign Cary remained consistent in his Tory sympathies. On 13 Feb. 1703 he voted against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill enlarging the time for taking the abjuration, and in March 1704 Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) included him upon a list of probable supporters over the Scotch Plot. The previous month a bill was passed to allow Cary to sell lands in Somerset and settle his Devon estates in order to pay debts and make provision for his younger children. That this act was occasioned by growing financial problems became clear in the summer when he was in correspondence with Harley concerning the possibility of being given a place of profit under the crown. He explained to Harley that

by 16 or 17 years of war my estate, which mostly lies near the sea, has felt more than ordinary calamities of it, and hath been lessened in its income beyond most of my neighbours living in the inland country, and that a considerable jointure upon it, and four small children and the Act of Parliament procured last session for dismembering it, are motives which concur with my ambition to serve her Majesty.

Harley assured Cary of both his own and Lord Treasurer Godolphin’s (Sidney†) ‘goodwill’, and his hope that ‘a little patience . . . will present somewhat which may be consistent with your being a Member’. No place was forthcoming, however, and it is difficult to determine if this failure was occasioned by, or was the result of, Cary’s support for the Tack. Forecast on 30 Oct. as likely to support this measure, on 28 Nov. he voted for it. An analysis of the 1705 Parliament classed Cary as ‘True Church’, and on 25 Oct. he voted against the Court candidate for Speaker. In early 1708 he was listed as a Tory and in 1710 he voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. Cary’s only other significant activity in the 1708 Parliament was to tell, on 25 Jan. 1710, against the second reading of a bill relating to the making of buttons. Cary had died by 3 Oct. 1710, before the general election, and his will, drawn up the previous September, was proved in January 1711.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 159; Collinson, Som. iii. 495; Cat. Penrice and Margam MSS, ser. 4, iii. 144.
  • 2. W. K. H. Wright, Okehampton, 105; PC 2/76, f. 263; Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. ex. ser. i), 201.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 794.
  • 4. Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 477; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 338; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 123.
  • 5. HMC Portland, iv. 99; Add. 70276, Harley to Cary, 28 July 1704; Morice mss at Bank of Eng. Sir Nicholas Morice, 2nd Bt.*, to Humphry Morice*, 3 Oct. 1710; PCC 4 Young.