HOPKINS, Edward (1674/75-1736), of Coventry, Warws.

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



Dec. 1701 - 1702
25 Feb. 1707 - 1710
1713 - 1727

Family and Education

bap. 5 Jan. 1675, o. s. of Richard Hopkins*.  educ. Eton c.1687–92; Trinity, Oxf. 1692; travelled abroad (Flanders, France, Italy) 1696–1700.  m. 1 Mar. 1725, Anna Maria, da. and coh. of Hugh Chamberlayne, MD, of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, Mdx., and Alderton Manor and Hinton Hall, Suff., 3s. 2da.  suc. fa. 1708.1

Offices Held

Commr. of revenue [I] 1716–Mar. 1722; chief sec. [I] 1721–4; PC [I] 11 Sept. 1721–d.; master of the revels [I] Oct. 1722–d.2

MP [I] 1721–7.

Freeman, Dublin 1721.3


Hopkins’ grand tour yielded a rich harvest of influential acquaintanceships, though perhaps not all his companions were suitable for the scion of a staunchly Whig family. In Paris he drank with the young James Stanhope*, and laid ‘a good foundation of interest’ with the Earl of Portland and with the Duke of Grafton, under whom he was later to serve as Irish chief secretary; in Milan he stayed with a son of the Earl of Athlone. At the same time, while attending Portland’s embassy he became a close friend of Matthew Prior*, and he spent a considerable time in Italy and France in the company of Henry St. John II*. He was curious about the exiled James II and his family, and made several excursions in order to view them, from a discreet distance. In 1698 he went with other English visitors to see the Prince of Wales and his sister ‘at their coming out’, but as soon as the Prince appeared ‘retired a little’, without ‘showing him the least mark of respect’, and scuttled back to Prior to inform on a fellow countryman who had observed less restraint. He returned from his travels safely in October 1700, thanks, he felt, to ‘the wonderful providence of God’, and was enabled, with help from his uncle Thomas Hopkins*, the under-secretary, to go to court and kiss the King’s hand. At this juncture, he was later to write, William ‘was in the hands of a ministry who by distressing him had forced themselves into power, and who were too much inclined to the measures of France for him to expect that they would extricate him out of his present difficulties’. Affairs ‘had a bad aspect’, but ‘providence now happily interposed’: James II died, Louis XIV recognized the Pretender, and William called a new Parliament for December 1701. ‘My father being retired, and my uncle declining to engage again’, Hopkins was put forward as the family candidate, mainly in order to pursue a feud with his Tory cousin Sir Christopher Hales, 2nd Bt.*

I was young, active, ambitious, warm in the interest of my country, just come from travels of several years and vain enough to think that I had some knowledge of the interest of Europe, but I had no motive, I fear, so strong as my resentment to my kinsman Sir Christopher for his treatment of my father.

A turbulent election ended with a double return but Hopkins’ name appeared on both indentures. He was petitioned against, and when at the hearing of the double return his name was improperly taken ‘into the present question’ he protested and brought the issue to a division. This unexpectedly proved to be the occasion of a permanent rupture with St. John:

Seeing Mr St. John moving with my enemies I threw myself in his way, and, taking him by the hand, said ‘et tu, Brute’ . . . Afterwards he came and made great professions of no design in him and his friends to hurt me . . . but I knew well enough his falseness, and his whole actions now in public matters were diametrically opposite to the principles he professed with vehemence when abroad. I told him if it was necessary to break private friendships to gratify his new friends he should not be troubled with mine . . . Some years after, when he was secretary at war, he graciously made a little advance to a meeting with me, but I civilly declined his favours, for though I could have forgot private injuries, I saw too many public ones in him which I could never forgive.

Classed with the Whigs in Robert Harley’s* list of this Parliament, he voted for Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt., in the contest for the Speakership, and made his first recorded speech on 26 Feb. 1702, on the Kentish Petition and the privileges of the House, his performance, which Cocks noted as a success, winning him the congratulations of ‘some of the ministers’. He told on 5 Mar. in favour of agreeing with an amendment to the malt tax bill, and again on 17 Mar. for Thomas White* in the disputed election for East Retford. ‘In most things’ he voted with the Whigs, though he recalled an exceptional instance in a vote in the committee of elections, when ‘I was squeamish, as they term it, and in the division left my friends’. Coventry elections were a different matter, however, and on 28 Mar. he intervened in a debate on a complaint of breach of privilege against ‘one of my best friends, a principal alderman of Coventry’, in a case arising from the last election. Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., ‘showed much venom upon this occasion, and in others a particular aversion to me, even descending to descant upon what I offered in debates, more than became so old a Member against one so new and so young a man’. Seymour’s behaviour stemmed from an old animosity to Hopkins’ father. Hopkins was a teller three more times before the dissolution: in a division on the Bishop’s Castle election (31 Mar.); on an amendment to the land tax bill (17 Apr.); and against a Tory motion for an address against the employment of foreign officers in the armed forces (2 May).4

Earlier in the year there had been ‘a design in some in power . . . soon to send me an envoy abroad’, since ‘I had been formed by a long foreign education and had been well known at several courts’, but King William’s death ‘put an end to this view’. He was defeated at Coventry in 1702. At the 1705 election, ‘not being inclined to spend monies’, he very nearly did not stand at all, but eventually put up with a new partner, Sir Orlando Bridgeman, 2nd Bt.* An injury from a fall, ‘going heedlessly over the side of the Mall in St. James’s Park’, prevented Hopkins from attending the poll, at which he and Bridgeman were controversially defeated (see COVENTRY, Warws.). During the summer he joined the retinue of Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) in his journey as special envoy to Hanover, among other excitements dining with the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) on campaign. After an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a hearing at the bar for the disputed election for Coventry, this was eventually reported from committee as a void election on 5 Feb. 1707. Having been returned at the ensuing by-election, Hopkins told on 10 Mar. 1707 against the game bill, and on 19 Apr. for an amendment to the bill to prevent frauds over Anglo-Scottish customs duties. He was given leave of absence for one month on 2 Feb. 1708. Twice listed as a Whig in 1708, he was re-elected for Coventry at the general election of that year. A teller for the Whigs on 24 Nov. on the Westminster election petition, he voted for the naturalization of the Palatines in 1709. He was named envoy to Hanover in November but appears never to have been posted. On hearing of his appointment one Tory had wondered, ‘How will the court of Hanover like that sorry scoundrel Hopkins?’ Having served as a Whig teller on 25 Jan. 1710 to recommit the report on the Beaumaris election, he voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.5

Losing his seat at Coventry in 1710 in another bitter contest, Hopkins transferred to Eye in 1713, where he was brought in on the interest of Lord Cornwallis (Hon. Charles*). He voted on 18 Mar. 1714 against the expulsion of Richard Steele. In the Worsley list, and in two other comparative analyses of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments, he was classed as a Whig. Under the Hanoverians Hopkins received his political reward in Ireland. He died on 17 Jan. 1736, at Ewell in Surrey. The family monument in St. Michael’s church, Coventry, where he was buried, proclaimed him ‘a person eminently distinguished for parts, politeness and all other amiable qualities’.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. IGI, Warws.; Eton Coll. Reg. ed. Sterry, 179; Poole, Hist. and Antiqs. Coventry, 140.
  • 2. Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniae ed. Lascelles, pt. 2, pp. 93, 194; Procs. R. Irish Acad. lxxvii (1977), C, no. 1, p. 25; A. B. Beaven’s list of Irish PCs (Hist. of Parl. trans.).
  • 3. Cal. Ancient Recs. Dublin ed. Gilbert, vii. 167.
  • 4. EHR, xxxiv. 493–500; HMC Bath, iii. 231; Add. 28886, f. 70; Hopkins mss (Hist. of Parl. trans.), ‘Travels and Mems. of . . . Edward Hopkins’; Cocks Diary, 227, 258.
  • 5. EHR, 500–4; Hopkins mss, ‘Travels and Mems.’, Edward to Thomas Hopkins, 24 Apr. 1708; W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 53; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 611; vi. 130, 507; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 9 Aug. 1705; HMC Portland, iv. 320; Beaufort mss at Badminton House, Hopkins to [Ld. Coventry], 20 Feb. [1707]; HMC Downshire, i. 882.
  • 6. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 377; EHR, 504.