GUY, Henry (1631-1711), of Tring, Herts., Earl’s Court and St. James’s Street, Westminster

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



4 Mar. 1670 - Mar. 1681
1685 - 1687
1689 - 1695
1702 - 1705

Family and Education

bap. 16 June 1631, o. s. of Henry Guy of Tring by Elizabeth (d. 1690), da. of Francis Wethered of Ashlyns, Berkhamsted, Herts.  educ. G. Inn 1648; I. Temple 1652; Christ Church, Oxf. MA 1663. unmsuc. fa. 1640.1

Offices Held

Commr. hackney coaches 1662–7, stables 1682–5, customs 1690–1; jt. farmer of excise, Yorks. by 1667–71; commr. wine licences, London 1668–?71; cup-bearer to Queen Catherine of Braganza by 1669–75; groom of the bedchamber 1675–9; receiver-gen. of fee-farm arrears 1677–9; sec. to Treasury 1679–89, 1691–5.2

Freeman, Hedon 1669, Portsmouth 1684; alderman, St. Albans 1685–6, Oct. 1688, mayor 1685–6.3

Member, R. Fishery Co. 1677, Hon. Artillery Co. 1681.4

Commr. Greenwich Hosp. 1695–d.5


Guy was much more at home in the world of back-room politics than in the open glare of Parliament. His long stretch at the Treasury, beginning in 1679, equipped him with an unrivalled mastery over its detail, and made him indispensable to successive ministries. An adroit power-broker and consummate political player, he owed his position chiefly to the longstanding pre-eminence of his patron, the 2nd Earl of Sunderland, and it was to the fulfilment of Sunderland’s aims and objectives that Guy devoted much of his energy. He was regarded, and often disparaged, as Sunderland’s ‘creature’, and worse still as a political ‘pimp’, someone readily prepared to buy men’s consciences. The advice he gave late in life to the young and ambitious Henry St. John II* typified a hard-edged approach to politics in which there was little room for principle: ‘to be very moderate and modest in my applications for my friends, and very greedy and importunate when I asked for myself’. Money-making and reaping the profits of government office were pursuits which he undertook seriously and unashamedly.6

Guy’s attitudes were honed in the cut-throat atmosphere of Restoration politics. His friendship with the King earned him appointment to a succession of revenue posts in the 1660s from which he profited handsomely. Early in these years there developed what was to be a lasting connexion with Sir William Pulteney*, a wealthy property developer in Westminster, whose family Guy adopted as his own. Indeed, there may have been a tie of kinship between Guy and the Pulteneys, for he sometimes referred to John Pulteney*, Sir William’s younger son, as his ‘cousin’. Another close and important friendship was forged with the wealthy London goldsmith Charles Duncombe* with whom he collaborated in various financial dealings. Guy first entered Parliament in 1670 for the Yorkshire borough of Hedon where he had established an interest through his revenue-farming activity in that county. His attachment to Sunderland began in the early days of Lord Danby’s (Sir Thomas Osborne†) administration, and it was probably on Sunderland’s recommendation that he was made secretary to the Treasury on Danby’s fall from office in 1679. Over the next ten years, while Treasury lords came and went, Guy remained firmly in place, thus marking a break in the practice of replacing the secretary at each change of Treasury commission. ‘A polished figure, thoroughly acceptable at court’, he turned the office into a position of real political importance and made enormous gains from fees and perquisites, in some years totalling £5,000 or more, as well as creaming the profits from shadier Treasury operations. Popular rumour had it that the house he built at Tring, to a design of Sir Christopher Wren* and adorned ‘with gardens of unusual beauty’, was funded by his Treasury pickings. He never married, but kept a mistress, Kathy Priors, the daughter of a wine-house keeper, until 1691 when she married a younger son of Lord Grandison.7

Despite his prominence as Sunderland’s principal henchman, Guy provided the incoming regime with valuable assistance at the Treasury during the winter of 1688–9 and was again elected for Hedon. The collaboration of one of James II’s senior officials was viewed with scepticism in the Commons, however, and not surprisingly he came under attack in March 1689 for his management of secret service funds: his dismissal from the Treasury followed a month later. This apparent cold-shouldering was only superficial, for although Sunderland himself was under a cloud, several other of his political acquaintances were in high office, most notably Lord Godolphin (Sidney†) and Sunderland’s uncle Lord Sydney (Henry Sidney†), and through them Guy was able to maintain some degree of influence. It would seem likely that through these channels he played a part in the appointment in September of John Pulteney*, son of his old friend Sir William, as under-secretary to Lord Shrewsbury. Guy’s financial prowess and his ability to procure loans for the government ensured that his exclusion from office did not last long, and early in March 1690 it was conjectured that he was to be included in the new Treasury commission, though in fact he was only appointed to a customs commissionership. After his re-election in 1690, he was listed as a Tory by Lord Carmarthen (the former Danby). The King’s esteem for him was exhibited early in the summer when William dined with Guy at his house at Tring. Guy had been listed earlier as a potential ‘manager of the King’s directions’ who was ‘to be spoken to by the King’, and it was doubtless the subsequent display of royal intimacy which emboldened Guy to submit to Lord Portland a memorial of advice on the political situation when the King returned in November. In this he outlined the principles which he felt should govern the approach to major problems confronting administration:

That which will ruin the King, if not remedied, is, that everyone thinks this government cannot last, which means that many of those who wish well to it have a mind to save themselves, for the generality of mankind will ever intend that chiefly. Now the first step to persuade the world it may last must be to let England always be in a posture of defence, not to be conquered in a month, as it was in the spring and as it is now, which can only be by bringing over with the King and keeping constantly here such a body of men as may hinder attempts of that kind, for otherwise everyone will be shifting for themselves and the ministers as soon as any. Such a foundation being laid, the government must act steadily and vigorously, which certainly it hath not done hitherto . . . If the fears and discontents continue though the Parliament doth give money, we shall be undone.

At least in part, Guy’s intention must have been to ease the rehabilitation of Sunderland at court. It was noted that at about this time both he and Duncombe were busily trying to intrude the Earl ‘again at the back door of the Court’ despite the objections of those, such as Sir Dudley North†, who brushed aside Guy’s commendation of the Earl as ‘a divine man, a peerless man’ with the brusque retort: ‘how came he to be turned out of the Court before?’ Guy, whom Carmarthen naturally noted as a Court supporter in December 1690, kept a low profile in Commons’ proceedings. He did, however, make a complaint of privilege on 31 Mar. 1691 concerning the arrest of one of his servants. The sudden death of William Jephson* early in June raised the question of appointing a successor as secretary to the Treasury. The King appears from the start to have wanted Guy back in his old post, but delay in finalizing the appointment was caused by the rival claims of Carmarthen’s brother-in-law Charles Bertie*, Charles Montagu* and Sir Robert Southwell†, currently secretary of state for Ireland. The young and ambitious Montagu was favoured by the Court Whigs, while Carmarthen and Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) were pushing for Bertie and Southwell respectively, but it was never in doubt that Godolphin, as first lord, would succeed in having Guy named to the post. Resuming his former role at the Treasury towards the end of June, Guy was soon grappling with the problem of depleted funds and wrote with a sense of relief in September at news that the King would soon be returning from Ireland: ‘God knows there will be need enough of his presence some time before the Parliament sits.’ The death of Guy’s sister Elizabeth, the wife of Sir Francis Leigh*, in January 1692 left Guy without a blood heir and it may have been soon after this event that he chose to make William Pulteney*, the grandson of his recently deceased friend Sir William, the heir to his considerable fortune. In his will Sir William had appointed Guy a trustee to sell his leasehold lands and to purchase lands in fee-simple for the benefit of various members of the Pulteney family.8

As Sunderland moved back into the mainstream of politics Guy proved an invaluable source of support while at the same time becoming a key figure in his own right in the Commons. The failures of Court management during the 1691–2 session led Sunderland to suggest that Lord Carmarthen’s managers in the House, Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II*, and Sir Henry Goodricke*, be replaced by Guy and Sir John Trenchard*, but nothing was done. In August 1692, Guy accompanied Lord Sydney, who was en route to Ireland, as far as Althorp, where with Sunderland and Speaker Trevor they discussed measures for the supply in the forthcoming session. An unwelcome mark of royal favour came Guy’s way the same month when to his consternation he was made a trustee of the estates in Ireland formerly belonging to James II. Although the disposal of the estates had not been sanctioned by Parliament, the King had begun to grant them to his favourites. Guy naturally envisaged trouble if Parliament choose to investigate the grants, and he warned Godolphin that his being an MP might require him to give immediate answers to probing questions. Only when the lord treasurer told him of the ‘pressing terms’ in which the King had ordered the business to be settled did he agree to serve, taking the first opportunity to step down a year later. The next parliamentary session offered a worsening scene of disarray and weakening support for the government at the hands of the Country party. As soon as the session ended in March 1693, however, Sunderland’s position suddenly became pivotal. Not only did the King follow the Earl’s oft-repeated advice to balance the political complexion in the House with a series of popular Whig appointments, he also entrusted him with the all-important task of forming a new ‘Court party’ to facilitate the passage of government business in the next session. Guy’s involvement in the latter process was crucial. He knew that Sunderland himself was unlikely to accept office for the time being in the belief that, if he did so, it ‘would hurt the King’, but progress on what Sunderland called his ‘great project’ went on throughout the summer. Guy was one of a small nucleus of Commons managers around whom Sunderland tried to build support in the Commons. On 20 June Sunderland was able to report to Lord Portland that ‘the Speaker [Trevor], Mr Guy and myself have done a great deal in order to persuade men to serve the King, and I think with good success. They have acted with great industry, diligence and skill.’ A list was drawn up of ‘such as are to have money’, though Sunderland assured Portland ‘it will come within compass’. In July, as the campaign in Flanders turned to disaster, Guy advised that more money for the purpose of parliamentary management was ‘absolutely necessary’. The session which began in November 1693 did not proceed as comfortably as he could have wished, however, certainly not from a personal point of view. His summer activities, cajoling and quietly bribing MPs, had left a poor impression among many Members who were eagerly awaiting the report from the commission of public accounts concerning secret service money paid to MPs by Guy’s predecessor William Jephson, and there was the possibility that demands might be made for similar accounts of his own secret service payments. In November it was noted that the commissioners ‘are very sharp to discover pensioners which for a jest they say Harry Guy is made captain of’. The report Robert Harley presented on 9 Dec. revealed nothing about Guy. A second report on 9 Feb. 1694 revealed the seemingly modest payment to him of £2,500 for ‘secret service’, but, far more tantalizingly, showed a sum of £500 paid to one Daniel Osborne ‘to repair the town of Hedon’. Subsequent proceedings on the commissioners’ findings dwelt mainly upon the larger sums corruptly accepted by Lord Falkland (Anthony Carey*), and though other MPs named were later called to account, Guy escaped censure. It was never established whether the £500 was received by the corporation of Hedon through Guy’s offices, though his provision of a commodious new town hall, finished in 1693, is of course highly suggestive. He was not, however, immune from other areas of attack, having already been taken to task in the most uncompromising terms by the Jacobite author of A Short State of our Condition, with Relation to the Present Parliament, the so-called ‘hush-money paper’, printed in around November 1693:

I could name a certain gentleman who exactly resembles Harry Guy, that the last sessions, when the House was a little out of humour, disposed of no less than £16,000 in three days’ time for secret service. Who are in places we may find out, but God knows who have pensions; yet every man that made the least observation can remember that some who opened loudly at the beginning of the last sessions, who came up eager as is possible for reformation, had their mouths soon stopped with hush-money.

A lampoon on the government’s chief managers and supporters, The Club Men of the House of Commons, was equally explicit and damning:

          Ne’er was better bargain than for honest Guy
          His own conscience to sell, other men’s to buy;
          There’s nothing that’s dirty to which he’ll say fie.

The presumed scope of Guy’s bribery was taken to ludicrous heights, however, as when the author of The Price of Abdication descanted upon the impossibility of calculating

what hath been distributed to these pensioners since the Revolution, though some reckon it at a million. And there are those who can tell that Mynheer Bentinck [Portland] and Guy of Hedon are captains of that band and when £150,000 was lodged for such secret service . . . The price of abdication is never to be discharged, while such jackals are able to ?nd prey for the Belgic lion [the King].9

These attacks made Guy vulnerable as the King completed the transfer of power from Court Tories to Whigs. One such Whig appointee was Charles Montagu, the new chancellor of the Exchequer (appointed in April 1694), ‘the little man’ as Guy disdainfully called him, and with whom he had never got on. While Lord Keeper Somers (Sir John*) and Secretary Trenchard (Sir John*) were willing to continue co-operation with Sunderland and Guy, the Junto Whigs Montagu and Thomas Wharton* were not. It was reported in September 1694 that Montagu had unsuccessfully attempted to wean Guy from the Treasury with the offer of a peerage. Guy became ‘dangerously ill’ in the winter, but no sooner had he recovered than he was placed, almost certainly by Montagu, in the invidious position of having to present Treasury accounts on 15 Jan. 1695, disclosing that between September 1693 and September 1694 his secret service payments had amounted to an astronomical £37,106. But it was a bribe that he was found to have received, rather than given, that finally brought him down. At the end of the month the commissioners of public accounts revealed to the House that an army agent, Tracy Pauncefort*, had collected the sum of 500 guineas from his regiment’s former officers for use in obtaining the regiment’s arrears of pay. For nearly two weeks, Pauncefort exasperated the Commons with his refusals to say to whom the money had been paid, until finally he divulged that the matter had been dealt with by his brother Edward*. When interrogated on 16 Feb. Edward Pauncefort confessed that Guy had been paid 200 of the 500 guineas, although he had promptly paid it back when the Commons began to investigate. Called upon to answer the charge, Guy insisted, though it was denied by Pauncefort, that he had not taken the money until after the Treasury had paid the £2,000 arrears, and appealed to the House ‘not to send his white hairs down into the grave’. His plea was ignored, however, and he was immediately committed to the Tower, though this appears to have been precisely what Guy’s friends wanted and had contrived in the hope that no further action would be taken against him. In anticipation of an attack on him he had drawn up a list of 171 ‘friends’ whom he considered could be counted on to support him – a broad spectrum of both Whig and Tory, including some who were recognizable followers of Lord Sunderland. Despite demands for his removal, Guy was not displaced from his Treasury post immediately. As matters stood towards the end of February, his situation was still unsafe. A demand on the 26th for the recommittal of the draft ‘representation’ to the King concerning the need to regulate army agents was made primarily because it failed to mention Guy. Although the motion was defeated, it boded ill for him that Montagu had been conspicuous among its supporters. On 7 Mar., just when Guy’s friends were about to seek his release from the Tower, they were deterred by the exposure of a much larger scene of corruption and the Commons’ proceedings thereon. Within a day or two suspicions were being levelled at Speaker Trevor for accepting a 1,000-guinea bribe for expediting the passage of the London orphans bill. Trevor had played a key part in Guy’s fall from grace. As the cry had gone up against corruption in February, Guy’s chief fellow managers Trevor and William Palmes, sensing their control over the House quickly slipping away, shabbily deserted him and gave in to Montagu. At a supper meeting arranged by Palmes, Trevor had divulged to Montagu the facts of Guy’s acceptance of the Pauncefort bribe, a betrayal which Guy afterwards called ‘as black an ingratitude as ever yet was known, for the King and Lord Portland may very well remember how industrious and even importunate Mr Guy was ever to gain him [Trevor] any advantage’. In return, Montagu had promised Trevor his ‘perfect friendship’, though when the opportunity came on 12 Mar. to topple the Speaker, the chancellor was prominent in exposing Trevor’s corrupt conduct. The Montagu–Wharton attack on the King’s managers was part of their campaign to discredit Sunderland and bar him from ministerial office. However, the failure to secure Sir Thomas Littleton’s election as Speaker in succession to Trevor indicated their already weakening hold over the Country Whigs and back-bench Tories. On 17 Apr. an attempt to have Guy expelled collapsed in a thin House (103 votes to 66), largely through the intercession of the Country Whigs under Harley; but Guy remained in the Tower until the end of the session. He apparently chose to remain there and not petition for his release until the storm had subsided. By this stage he had already decided to resign from the Treasury, and was succeeded by his long-serving chief clerk William Lowndes*, who kissed the King’s hands for the post on 24 Apr. Sunderland’s continuing esteem at court enabled him to secure for Guy the most favourable terms. In the first instance the King allowed him to nominate his successor. Guy’s choice of the politically unskilled Lowndes was nothing if not astute, being calculated to guarantee the continuance of both his own and Sunderland’s influence at the Treasury for the foreseeable future, particularly in the disbursement of secret service funds. The King’s sanctioning of a private arrangement whereby Lowndes allowed Guy a substantial share of the profits of the secretaryship while Lowndes himself drew a modest salary of £1,000 p.a. was presumably in anticipation of Guy’s continuing involvement in Treasury business. Late in April the investigations of the joint parliamentary committee into the East India Company’s briberies revealed that Sir Basil Firebrace* had offered Guy and Trevor ‘presents’ of £1,800 in lieu of stock in around November 1693 in connexion with the grant of a new charter to the Company, but it is not exactly clear from the accounts of the committee proceedings whether the money had actually been accepted. In any event, the prorogation of Parliament prevented the possibility of further action.10

Almost immediately on his release from the Tower, Guy immersed himself again in politics. Towards the end of May 1695 he reopened private communication with Portland, then with the King in Flanders, and was in regular contact with him throughout the summer. It was part of Guy’s strategy to do all he could to further the King’s scheme to grant to Portland all the apanage of the Prince of Wales in Denbighshire and other Welsh counties. Having obtained the assistance of Lowndes and John Smith I*, and the legal advice of Sir Francis Pemberton, Guy reassured Portland that it was ‘very clear that the King may lawfully make the grant’ and that ‘the point of law will be readily settled by the King’s counsel’, but doubted that the Treasury would be co-operative. Sunderland had given Guy the task of regrouping the government’s forces in the Commons. In this he was ably assisted by Aaron Smith, the Treasury solicitor, Palmes, whom (unlike Trevor) Guy evidently forgave for his earlier treachery, and Duncombe. Towards the end of May he opened a series of weekly meetings with the new Speaker, Paul Foley I, who, as he informed Portland, ‘doth zealously profess his resolution of promoting everything for the public’. He was fully aware, however, that Foley needed to be carefully nursed: ‘we must do as well with him as we can and keep him easy in some points, since we cannot have him so in all.’ Preparations for the next session, with which he and Foley had to deal, were dominated in part by the need to concert measures that would meet the government’s colossal spending needs. ‘God knows’, he confessed to Portland on 31 May, ‘there is a great deal to compass, for I fear there will be near a million to be paid.’ The principal stumbling block, however, was Montagu, who had not been replaced as government leader in the House. His embittered relationships with Sunderland’s chief acolytes, Guy, Foley and Palmes, precluded any prospect of accommodation, and he was seen generally as a divisive influence among the Whigs. Abetted by Wharton, Montagu renewed his agitation for Sunderland’s removal from politics. Harley, finding himself the object of Wharton’s malice, looked to Guy for support, and from mid-June they met on a regular basis. Guy, of course, found this connexion with Harley all the more useful as he was able to assist his relentless endeavours to obtain confirmation of the King’s Welsh grant to Portland, being ‘a considerable man in the country where the affair of Lord Portland doth lie’. On Harley’s side, Guy provided access to Portland, and ultimately to the King. It marked the beginning of an odd, though mutually beneficial, relationship which endured until early in the next reign. Despite the obstacles thrown in his way by Montagu and Wharton, Guy was convinced of the weakness of the Whigs’ position, having in the course of his many consultations surmised that in any new Parliament Foley would be re-elected Speaker. Indeed, when Sunderland himself confronted Montagu and his allies late in July, he had little difficulty in obtaining assurances ‘that they will be totally governed by him and do as he shall direct’. Guy could hardly contain his admiration of Sunderland for having pulled off such a feat, informing Portland: ‘this was and is a matter of that difficulty that I will boldly say no man in England but himself could have done it’. This sudden resolution of political tension enabled Guy to engage in ‘several discourses’ with Montagu early in August, and he was confident that he had ‘brought him to good resolutions’. He also secured a promise from Foley that ‘he would ever live civilly with Montagu’.11

As preparations began for the general election in the autumn of 1695, Guy was content with the schemes for the supply which would be put before the new Parliament. Foley’s plan to raise £7–8 million, he believed, was ‘not an ill one’. Until a late stage in the summer it had been Guy’s intention to resume his seat in Parliament, but by the time of the dissolution he had thought better of it and instead made arrangements for the two seats at Hedon (‘my corporation’, as he called it) to go to the new secretary of state, Sir William Trumbull, and Sunderland’s heir, Lord Spencer (Charles). Though now out of Parliament, Guy continued to work closely with Sunderland behind the scenes. As events turned out, his new-found rapport with Foley and Harley and their supporters only partially assisted the Court. Harley honoured his undertaking to Guy to assist with the passage of supply, but on other occasions the Country party, less acceptably, went its own way. It must have been particularly galling to Guy when in January 1696, after all his assurances to Portland, some of Harley’s friends broke ranks and launched a violent attack on the King’s grant of Welsh manors to his favourite. No sooner had the King backed down than a full-scale parliamentary campaign unfolded against the government’s scheme for a council of trade in which Harley himself was the architect of a proposal for an alternative body nominated by Parliament. Late in July, in the midst of Portland’s hurried return from the Continent in search of funds to meet the army’s desperate shortage of cash, Sunderland involved Guy and Duncombe in negotiations with the land bank commissioners in search of an agreement that would establish the bank and provide the government with an immediate £200,000. The talks failed, however, largely through the efforts of Montagu, who was reported to have ‘affrighted’ both Guy and Duncombe. In collaboration with a number of other City figures, however, Guy stood security for an advance from the Dutch of £300,000.12

In preparation for the proceedings against Sir John Fenwick† in the Commons in November 1696, the ministers agreed that the Country Whigs should be taken into their confidence and Guy was duly entrusted with this task by Sunderland. He was presumably involved in the marshalling of Whig support for the government for the duration of the affair. July 1697 found him optimistic about imminent peace although he was understandably apprehensive of ‘unreasonable opposition’ when the session opened, ‘for that will ruin all irrecoverably’, and urged Harley to pledge his assistance, finding that ‘several here have changed their style since the news of the peace’. He was hopeful, too, that former links with the Church Tories might be revived. His own proposals on the subject to Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.*, produced only a ‘coldness’, but he urged Harley to press Musgrave to arrive early in London for discussions. As the weeks passed Guy found himself ‘in the last anxiety of mind’ as the fissures among the government’s Commons supporters grew painfully apparent, and Harley’s refusal to respond to his pleas in October to return from the country and rally his supporters only made matters worse. The upshot was that the ministry found itself ill-prepared to defend its measures in the 1697–8 session, the most contentious of which was the retention of a standing army. In November Guy’s trouble-shooting activities were focused on Sunderland’s efforts to keep Trumbull in post as secretary of state. Trumbull, whose appointment Sunderland had engineered in the spring of 1695, was beside himself with rage over an accumulation of slights and insults from his colleagues, and finding himself increasingly isolated, was not prepared to go on any longer. Sunderland’s own patience with the secretary had well nigh run out, and he deputed Guy to listen to his grievances and reason with him. Portland, too, used him as an emissary of conciliation, and he even discussed Trumbull’s catalogue of grievances with the King himself, but all to no avail: Trumbull surrendered his seals on 1 Dec. Sunderland himself was feeling the fatigue of his position, beleaguered as he was by the Whig ministers. In mid-December his own attempts to relinquish office as lord chamberlain failed, but he finally succeeded in doing so on 26 Dec. in farcical circumstances, with Guy as his main accessory. On quitting an audience with the King, he handed his gold key of office to James Vernon I* (now secretary of state in Trumbull’s place) who took it under the mistaken impression that the King had in fact finally agreed to his departure. When moments later the King angrily discerned Sunderland’s trickery, he sent Vernon after him to Guy’s residence at Earl’s Court where Sunderland had taken refuge, and was refusing all entreaties to accept the key back. Sunderland’s decision to withdraw from the court prompted Guy to co-ordinate a series of attacks on Montagu in January 1698, centring on allegations that he had falsified the endorsement of Exchequer bills. The chancellor defended himself with success, however. Sunderland, embarrassed by Guy’s unsupervised actions, offered an appeasing hand to Montagu and his Junto colleagues. The terms, according to Vernon, were generous: ‘if it be thought necessary, he [Sunderland] will come to the councils as my Lord Rochester [Laurence Hyde†] did; and he would take it for a great gratification if Mr Montagu would be reconciled to Mr Guy, and he would then undertake that Mr Guy should never give them any jealousy or offence’. The damage was already done, however, as Montagu had determined on a plan of ‘carrying the war into the enemy’s country’ and towards the end of January turned the accusation regarding Exchequer bills on Guy’s old comrade Charles Duncombe. In Montagu’s hands Duncombe’s fate was a foregone conclusion. Having achieved his object, Montagu was ready for an accommodation with Sunderland, but, as he told Shrewsbury in a letter on 1 Feb., it was imperative that Guy be either ‘made subservient, and break off his underpart, or if he cannot be trusted, I think he may be still blasted and sent after Duncombe’. There were no further developments, however.13

With Sunderland now mainly retired from active politics, there was much less for Guy to do, though through his continuing friendship with Harley he was still a vital link between the government and the Country party. When the idea was floated during the summer of 1699 of a new ministry headed by Shrewsbury, embracing Montagu and Wharton, and also including Sunderland, Guy hurried to Althorp to give assurances that such a scheme would be supported by ‘all his friends’, and that ‘he would never fail the Duke of Shrewsbury’. The initiative failed to make progress largely because of Lord Orford’s (Edward Russell*) unco-operative conduct, but it was not forgotten. In the meantime Guy turned his attention to the arrangement of one of the great political marriage alliances of the age, between Sunderland’s heir Lord Spencer and Lady Anne Churchill, daughter of the Earl of Marlborough (John Churchill†). Having escorted the Marlboroughs and their daughter to Althorp in mid-September, he was present at the completion of the settlement terms. Guy’s participation at this gathering seems to have fuelled, speculation, possibly malicious, that his own chosen heir, William Pulteney, the 15-year-old grandson of the late Sir William, was to marry another of the Marlborough daughters; however, no such match took place. By early 1700 it was clear that Shrewsbury was too ill to carry on the negotiations begun the previous summer for a projected ministry that was to combine the Harley and Sunderland interests, and include Marlborough, Godolphin and Somers. The King ordered Sunderland, who had resumed his attendance in the Lords, to take over the talks, and initially his efforts benefited from Guy’s intimacy with Harley. Before long, however, the project was dashed by Harley’s determination to enter office only on his own terms, and by the attacks on Somers throughout the 1699–1700 session for which, not unnaturally, the Junto Whigs blamed Sunderland. Guy himself seems to have given encouragement to these attacks for, as he told Vernon in the summer, ‘there would have been no thoughts of prosecuting things any further against Lord Somers, if his friends had not begun with their threats against my Lord Sunderland’.14

The death of the Duke of Gloucester in July 1700 prompted urgent consideration of the succession, and the end of August found Guy in the thick of discussions on the subject at Althorp. Sunderland had put himself at the forefront of initiatives to establish a broadly backed Tory ministry that would legislate in the forthcoming session to settle the succession on the Hanoverian dynasty, and once more Guy was Sunderland’s chief intermediary. It was immediately clear to politicians in London that the Hanoverian succession was ‘a project from Althorp’. All through the autumn and winter he concerted arrangements between Sunderland, Godolphin, Rochester and other leading politicians, while at the same time maintaining a regular correspondence with Harley. The new ministry, with Godolphin as first lord of the Treasury, was completed by December.15

After the accession of Queen Anne Guy decided to resume his seat in Parliament and was returned for Hedon. Harley had now ceased to pay him much attention and early in September Guy was driven to complain of ‘the unkindness of so long a silence’. His anguish increased as Sunderland, who by now had given up active politics, succumbed to serious illness. Guy spent some time with the Earl in the middle of the month, writing to Harley on the 17th: ‘to part with so old and true a friend must go near to the heart of an honest man’. He wrote to Harley again the day after Sunderland died, the 29th: ‘the loss of so true a friend sits heavy upon me. My heart is so full that I cannot say more to you at present, nor is there anything of moment to tell you.’ By the eve of the new Parliament in the third week of October his spirits were evidently reviving: Lord Godolphin, with whom he remained on close terms, remarked to Lady Marlborough that ‘Mr Guy can’t hinder himself from showing a satisfaction in being of this Parliament’. Owing to his advanced years, however, he was not active in the House. Though reckoned a High Churchman, his vote against the Tack on 28 Nov. 1704 in accordance with a forecast taken the previous month, suggests that his voting habits were characteristically pro-Court. He stood down at Hedon in 1705.16

Little is known of Guy in his remaining years, but the story is clearly one of gradual decline. In 1705 he sold Tring to William Gore* and lived mainly at his large mansion house at Earl’s Court. Ill-health had already forced him to visit Bath in 1703 to take cures for ‘a great weakness in his nerves’, but as ever, he continued to devote himself to promoting the careers and interests of members of the Pulteney family. He was instrumental, for instance, in procuring for John Pulteney’s son Daniel† the envoyship to Denmark in 1706 which was obtained through the intercession of his ‘great friend’ the Duchess of Marlborough. Guy died on 23 Feb. 1711 and was buried at St. James’s, Piccadilly. As intended, he left ‘the greatest part of his estate’, valued at £100,000 according to Luttrell, to William Pulteney, in addition to £500 p.a. and £40,000 in cash. Besides Earl’s Court, the estate comprised property at Stoke Newington, Hornsey and Clerkenwell, together with the land at Hedon, on which he had built the town hall, and leased to the corporation. Guy also acknowledged the unstinting assistance and friendship he had received from William Lowndes, his old chief clerk at the Treasury, and left him the residue of his property.17

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. Cussans, Herts. xiii–xiv. 23, 82; DNB.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 144, 348; iii. 1015; iv. 496; v. 437; vii. 674; viii. 162–3; CSP Dom. 1667–8, pp. 91, 106; 1675–9, p. 200; 1689–90, p. 514; Savile Corresp. (Cam. Soc. lxxi), 129.
  • 3. G. P. Poulson, Holdernesse, ii. 174; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 366; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 73; Clutterbuck, Herts. i. 52.
  • 4. Sel. Charters, 198; Ancient Vellum Bk. ed. Raikes, 111.
  • 5. Add. 10120, ff. 232–6; Daily Courant, 8 Aug. 1704.
  • 6. Swift Corresp. ed. Williams, ii. 413.
  • 7. S. B. Baxter, Treasury, 191–2; J. P. Kenyon, Sunderland, 15; DNB; HMC Finch, iii. 26.
  • 8. Baxter, 192; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, ‘Devonshire House notebk.’; DZA, Bonet despatch 18/28 Mar. 1690; Add. 70014, f. 301; 70015, f. 96; 32681, f. 429; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 514; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 52; A. Browning, Danby, iii. 178; Kenyon, 245–6, 249; Correspondentie, ed. Japikse (ser. 1), ii. 36–38; Lives of the Norths, ed. Jessop, ii. 195; Luttrell, ii. 242; Bodl. Carte 79, ff. 368–9; Trinity, Dublin, Clarke mss 749/8/780, Robert Yard* to George Clarke*, 23 June 1691; Huntington Lib. Hastings mss HA9638, newsletter 28 Jan. 1691–2; PCC 172 Vere; CJ, xiv. 285.
  • 9. Kenyon, 253, 257; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 405; 1693, p. 275; EHR, lxxi. 580, 582; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 1212, 1217, 1224, Sunderland to Portland, 3 May, 20 June, 28 July [1693]; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 115; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), 199; Poulson, ii. 174; G. Holmes and W. A. Speck, Div. Soc. 146; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Cameron, v. 434; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 809.
  • 10. EHR, lxxi. 591; HMC Portland, iii. 555; Nat. Archs. Ire. Wyche mss 1/115, William Ball to Sir Cyril Wyche*, 29 Nov. 1694; Horwitz, 146–51, 152, 155; Add. 17677 PP, ff. 160–2; 46527, f. 57; Luttrell, iii. 443, 458; SP 105/82, f. 255; Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 503, Guy to Portland, 14 June 1695; Baxter, 200–2; Debates and Procs. 1694–5, pp. 43–44; HMC Lords, n.s. i. 560.
  • 11. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 502–6, 508–14, Guy to Portland, 31 May, 14, 18, 25, June, 5, 12, 13, 30 July, 6, 16, 20, Aug., 6 Sept 1695.
  • 12. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 506, 510, Guy to Portland, 5, 30 July 1695; Horwitz, 164, 181–2; BL, Althorp mss, Francis Gwyn* to Lord Halifax (William Savile*, Ld. Eland), 3 Aug. 1696; Luttrell, iv. 92.
  • 13. Kenyon, 285, 299–300, 303; Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 516, Guy to Portland, 20 July 1697; Add. 70018, ff. 203, 205, 237; HMC Portland, iii. 590–1; BL, Trumbull Add. mss 125, pp. 16–17, 19 [diary, 25, 29, 30 Nov. 1697]; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 470; Horwitz, 230; Shrewsbury Corresp. 532.
  • 14. Shrewsbury Corresp. 590; Kenyon, 311–15; Luttrell, iv. 560; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 101.
  • 15. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 130, 134; HMC Portland, iii. 625–33; Kenyon, 318–19.
  • 16. HMC Portland, iv. 46–48; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 131.
  • 17. HMC Portland, iv. 65; Add. 28558, f. 4; 4291, f. 72; Top. and Gen. iii. 380; Luttrell, vi. 695; DNB; PCC 66 Young.