HARLEY, Edward (?1699-1755), of Eywood, Herefs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1727 - 16 June 1741

Family and Education

b. ?1699, 1st s. of Edward Harley of Eywood, and bro. of Robert Harley. educ. Westminster, Ch. Ch. Oxf. 21 Feb. 1717, aged 17; D.C.L. 1737. m. 16 Mar. 1725, Martha, da. of John Morgan of Tredegar, Mon., 5s., 2da. suc. fa. 1735; cos. as 3rd Earl of Oxford 16 June 1741.

Offices Held

High steward, Hereford 1746-d.; Harleian trustee of British Museum 1753-d.


Returned for Herefordshire at George II’s accession, Edward Harley became a prominent member of the Tory party, speaking against the Hessians and in defence of Queen Anne’s Tory administration, 4 and 27 Feb. 1730, and in favour of a reduction of the army in 1732 and 1733.1 He carried in Mar. 1730 a bill to prevent the packing of juries. In 1736 he voted against the Westminster bridge bill, which was opposed by the city of London, and presented a petition against the mortmain bill on behalf of the trustees of the Charity schools. He states in his parliamentary diary that the motion for Walpole’s dismissal, 13 Feb. 1741, was disliked by the Tories, ‘whose principles abhor even the shadow of bills of pains and penalties!’ In a speech against the motion he reports himself as saying:

A noble Lord to whom I have the honour to be related [the 1st Earl of Oxford] has been mentioned in this debate. He was impeached and imprisoned, and by that imprisonment his years were shortened, and the prosecution was carried on by the honourable person who is now the subject of your question though he knew at the same time, that there was no evidence to support it. I am now, Sir, glad of this opportunity to return good for evil, and do that honourable gentleman and his family that justice which he denied to mine.

He and his brother Robert then withdrew from the House.2 Chesterfield in 1745 referred to him and Watkin Williams Wynn as ‘the only two people to be regarded’ in the Tory party.3 He was described to the Pretender in 1749 as one of the ‘leading men of your Majesty’s friends’. About the same time Thomas Carte, the Jacobite historian wrote:

There cant be two better men nor are they more universally esteemed than the Duke of Beaufort and the Earl of Oxford, the chiefs of the Tories. But they are not active enough, the one by his gout and the other by his constitution.4

‘Much given to books, and a friend to scholars’,5 he maintained a close connexion with Oxford University; was present, as a Radcliffe trustee, at the opening of the Radcliffe Camera in 1749, when Dr. King delivered his celebrated Jacobite oration; and spoke at its aftermath, a meeting at the St. Albans Tavern between the Tories and the Prince of Wales’s party6 to concert measures against a proposed government bill to change the constitution of the University (see Oxford University). He figures as lord privy seal in a Leicester House list of future office holders, dated 29 Apr. 1749.7 He died 11 Apr. 1755.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 31, 74, 315.
  • 2. Harley Diary. He must have sent the speech to Chandler who printed it verbatim.
  • 3. Lodge, Private Corresp. Chesterfield and Newcastle, 1744-5 (R. Hist. Soc. Cam. 3rd ser. xliv), 44.
  • 4. Stuart mss 301/5 and box I/299
  • 5. Hearne, Colls. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxv), ix. 222.
  • 6. Walpole to Mann, 3 May 1749.
  • 7. Add. 47092.