MAY, Baptist (1628-97), of Jermyn Street, Westminster, Mdx. and Old Windsor, Berks.

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



21 Jan. 1670 - Jan. 1679
6 Mar. - 17 May 1690
26 May 1690 - 1695

Family and Education

bap. 4 Nov. 1628, 6th s. of Sir Humphrey May† of Carrow priory, Norf. by his 2nd w. Judith, da. of Sir William Poley† of Boxted, Suff.  unm. at least 1s. illegit. ?by Dorothy Broke of Bury St. Edmunds, Suff.1

Offices Held

Servant to Duke of York by 1648, groom of the bedchamber 1662–5; jt. registrar of Chancery Aug. 1660–d.; privy purse 1665–85; keeper, Windsor Great Park 1671–d.

Member, R. Fishery Co. 1677.2


‘Bab’ May had fallen from favour in the last years of Charles II’s reign and had been dismissed from office by James II. He supported the Revolution, and was restored by William and Mary. In February 1690 he was considered as a possible Treasury commissioner, William leaving him aside ‘because he was no speaker’. He stood at Windsor in 1690, presumably on his own and his family’s interest, with Sir Christopher Wren*. There was a double return, which was decided in favour of May and Wren in committee but against them in the House on 17 May. However, ‘Bab’ was brought in at Thetford nine days later, to the seat vacated by William Harbord. Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classified him as doubtful in his list of the new Parliament, while Robert Harley* listed him as a Court supporter in April 1691, and he was repeatedly classed as a placeman and a member of the Court party in subsequent lists. Between September 1690 and December 1693 more than £3,500 was issued to May from secret service money, £1,500 specifically to reimburse him his obligatory expenses as keeper of Windsor Great Park but of the remainder at least £750 as free gifts from the King. Byfield House, his residence as keeper, was also repaired at William’s expense. In May 1695 a further £1,000 was paid him as royal bounty ‘without account’. In addition his other office, as registrar of Chancery, was reputedly worth £1,500 p.a. In July 1694 he persuaded his ‘old friend’, Lord Godolphin (Sidney†), to endorse his recommendation of one Robert Baynton to the ‘equerry’s place vacant’, and he was one of those whom Lord Sunderland consulted in the following September about the political situation. While not quite agreeing with Sunderland that ‘business is now in so good hands that nothing needs to be done but to keep it so’, he nevertheless admitted, as Sunderland reported it, ‘that there is great weight in many of my arguments’. He was one of the ‘friends’ listed by Henry Guy* in connexion with the parliamentary investigation of Guy for corruption in 1694–5. True to William’s earlier opinion of him, May is not recorded as having spoken in this Parliament.3

May did not stand for re-election in 1695 and died on 2 Mar. 1697, being buried in St. George’s chapel, Windsor. By his will, dated 23 Jan. 1689, he left his manor of Berwick in Essex, and various fee farm rents, in trust to pay annuities of £200 and £50 respectively to his son Charles and Mrs Dorothy Broke. Further bequests of £2,000 went to Charles and £500 to a niece, the rest of his property being entailed to his nephew Charles May. His personal estate proved insufficient to pay the legacies and his debts, and the nephew petitioned the Commons in 1705 for the right to break the entail and sell off some of the lands, finally obtaining the required Act in 1712.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Add. 19141, f. 295; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 349; E. Ashmole, Berks. iii. 153; PCC 61 Lort.
  • 2. Cal. Clarendon SP, i. 445; ii. 304; HMC 8th Rep. pt.1 (1881), p. 278; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 683; xii. 128; CSP Dom. 1671, p. 308; 1685, pp. 8, 117; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 192; Sel. Charters, 198.
  • 3. Foxcroft, Halifax, ii. 249; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, ‘Devonshire House’ notebk. (‘May, Bab’); CJ, xi. 26; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1503; x. 88, 510, 1037; T. E. Harwood, Windsor Old and New, 178; Luttrell, iv. 192; CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 210; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 1243, Sunderland to [Portland], 13 Sept. 1694.
  • 4. Ashmole, ii. 153; CJ, xiv. 483; HMC Lords, n.s. vi. 290–1.