PROBY, John (1639-1710), of the Middle Temple and Elton Hall, Hunts.
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Family and Education
bap. 16 Jan. 1639, 2nd s. of Sir Heneage Proby of Raans, Amersham, Bucks. and Elton Hall, Hunts. by Helen, da. of Edward Allen, Fishmonger, of Bread Street, London; bro. of (Sir) Thomas Proby† (1st Bt.). educ. Jesus, Camb. 1657; M. Temple 1657, called 1664, bencher 1684, reader 1691, treasurer 1698–9. m. by 1691, Jane (d. 1712), da. and coh. of Sir Richard Cust, 1st Bt.†, of Blackfriars, Stamford, Lincs., 1da. suc. bro. at Elton Hall 1689.1
As a younger son Proby was put to the law, a profession he pursued diligently but without achieving any eminence. Little has been discovered about him prior to his entry into Parliament: he seems to have shared his elder brother’s Whiggish proclivities, replying firmly in the negative to King James’s questions on the repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act, and welcoming the Revolution, at least to the extent of subscribing £3,000 in loans to the new regime. In 1689 he succeeded to his brother’s Huntingdonshire estate though not to the baronetcy. He did not immediately transfer his residence to the county, for his widowed sister-in-law remained at Elton for the next ten years, but he was soon appointed to the lieutenancy under the Earl of Manchester, and in 1693 was returned on Manchester’s interest at a by-election for knight of the shire. Unusually for a lawyer, he was not particularly active in Commons business. Replaced by a relation of Manchester in 1695, he was elected again in 1698, when he was classed as a supporter of the Country party in an analysis of the House of about September 1698, and was forecast at the beginning of the 1698–9 session as likely to oppose the establishment of a standing army. A list of early 1700 marked him as doubtful or possibly as opposition. He retained the county seat in the two general elections of 1701, after the second of which he was listed by Robert Harley* as a Whig. However, he was listed as supporting the motion on 26 Feb. 1702 to vindicate the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of William III’s Whig ministers, and may well have forfeited Manchester’s goodwill in consequence, for he was not re-elected in 1702.2
Following a six-year absence from the House, Proby successfully contested the county seat in 1708, first at a by-election in January and then again in the general election of that year. This time he stood on an independent footing, professing his determination to avoid party entanglements, at least in his constituency. Before the 1710 election he was listed as having voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, but Manchester was still willing to consent to his return alongside his own nominee, John Pocklington*, in order to keep out the High Tory Sir John Cotton, 4th Bt.* Proby was described as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’, presumably on the evidence of his published vote in favour of Sacheverell, and was also included in 1711 in a list of the ‘Tory patriots’ who opposed the continuance of the war. But in fact he had died on 14 Nov. 1710, before the Parliament had even met.3
Proby was buried at Elton, whither he was followed in close succession by his unmarried daughter and widow. He had bequeathed to his daughter his personal estate, valued at £10,000, together with a further sum of £5,000, to be raised by the sale of property at Old Weston and from rents of his other Huntingdonshire manors. Elton Hall, to which he had added a wing, descended first to his cousin William, governor of Fort St. George, and eventually to William’s grandson, 1st Lord Carysfort [I] (John Proby†).4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. R. F. Whistler, Hist. Elton, 77–78; Cambs. RO (Huntingdon), index to Elton par. reg. 923; Lansd. 988, ff. 252–6.
- 2. Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1883), 144; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1977, 1982, 2002; PCC 252 Smith; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 503; VCH Hunts. ii. 34.
- 3. Lincs. AO, Massingberd Mundy mss 2MM/B/5, Burrell Massingberd to Proby, 14 Jan. 1707[–8]; Add. 70201, E. Lawrence to Robert Harley, 8 Aug. 1710; Whistler, 21.
- 4. Index to Elton par. reg. 923; PCC 252 Smith; VCH Hunts. iii. 155, 160.