PHELIPS, Edward (1678-1734), of Preston Plucknett, Som.

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



1708 - 1715
1722 - 1727

Family and Education

b. 3 Apr. 1678, 1st s. of John Phelips*.  educ. Trinity, Oxf. 1695; L. Inn 1695, called 1702.  m. (1) c.1700, his cos. Anne, da. and coh. of Sir Edward Phelips*, 1s. (d.v.p.) 2da.; (2) c.1720, her sis. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Edward Phelips, 3s. 1da.  suc. fa. 1701, uncle William Phelips to Preston Plucknett, Som. 1714, mother-in-law Lady Phelips to Montacute 1728.1

Offices Held

Comptroller of the Mint 1711–14.2


Although his father had lost his Irish estates in the 1689–90 upheavals, Phelips had great prospects in that neither of his uncles, Sir Edward Phelips of Montacute nor William Phelips of Preston had a male heir. His father was on good terms with Phelips’ uncle William and did his best to ingratiate himself and his son with Sir Edward, who was reported in 1696 as declaring ‘what a great affection he had for Mr Edward and what an extraordinary character he heard of him’. But despite these expressions of affection, all he inherited on Sir Edward’s death in 1699 was an annuity of £60 for a fixed term of years. Although devised for Phelips’ eventual succession, the principal estates remained in the care of Sir Edward’s widow. Phelips’ marriage soon afterwards to one of Sir Edward’s daughters provoked a bitter quarrel between his father and Lady Phelips, chiefly, it appears, over Lady Phelips’ refusal to allow the couple to take up residence at Montacute. The dispute had wider repercussions and bore on the family’s electoral interest at Ilchester, for which Phelips’ father had been returned in 1698 (see ILCHESTER, Som.). At one point the anti-Phelips faction tried to offer a seat at the next election to Phelips himself, presumably in the hope of alienating him from his father and uncle. His father urged him to resist all such temptations, warning him he was unlikely to receive any financial support from Lady Phelips.3

Phelips followed this advice. In January 1703 he wrote to his uncle ‘councillor’ William lamenting ‘the present mean condition of the place of our ancestors’ but could foresee no change in Lady Phelips’ attitudes, although ‘the world is convinced that the measures my father took were not so unnecessary as at first they appeared’. It was not until 1708 that he was able to reassert his family’s interest in the town and secure his return to Parliament. A man of Tory predilection in the family tradition, his election was deemed a loss for the Whigs by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*). In 1710 he voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, and after the election was classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the new Parliament. On 2 Feb. 1711 he was included in a three-man committee to prepare a bill for the regulation of the woollen industry. Printed lists show him featuring during the 1710–11 session as a ‘Tory patriot’ opposed to the continuance of war, and as a ‘worthy patriot’ who assisted in the detection of the previous administration’s mismanagements. His zeal for the new ministry was rewarded in June with his appointment to the comptrollership of the Mint. At the beginning of the next session, on 7 Dec. 1711, he was included on the Address committee, and on two later occasions acted as a teller: on 12 May 1712 on a detail in a supply bill, and on 6 June against the bill allowing Quakers to affirm. During these final weeks of the session he partly managed a private estate bill on behalf of a Somerset constituent. He voted on 18 June 1713 for the French commerce bill, and was subsequently classed as a Tory in the Worsley analysis of the 1713 Parliament. He was teller against an amendment to the bill for reducing the drawback on Irish tobacco imports on 19 Apr. 1714, and on 24 May was granted six weeks’ leave.4

Despite obtaining a clear superiority of votes, Phelips was not returned at the 1715 election. He re-entered Parliament, however, at the next election as knight of the shire for his county, standing down in 1727. Not until 1728, when the indomitable Lady Phelips died, did he finally succeed to Montacute where he died in May 1734, his burial taking place at the church there on the 13th.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. Harbin, Som. MPs, 190; Burke, LG; F. Brown, Som. Wills, i. 78; iv. 84–85; Som. RO, Phelips mss DD/PH 224/24(b), John to Edward Phelips†, 3 Apr. 1678.
  • 2. Boyer, Pol. State, i–ii. 388; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxix. 207.
  • 3. Phelips mss DD/PH 224/61, John to William Phelips, n.d. [1700]; 229/18(b), William Forbes to John Phelips, 6 May 1696; 229/25, Edward to William Phelips, 28 Jan. 1702[–3].
  • 4. Phelips mss 229/25, Edward to William Phelips, 28 Jan. 1702[–3].
  • 5. Collinson, Som. iii. 315.