ASHLEY COOPER, Anthony, Lord Ashley (1801-1885), of 20 New Norfolk Street, Park Lane, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1826 - 1830
1830 - 29 Sept. 1831
30 Sept. 1831 - 31 Jan. 1846
1847 - 2 June 1851

Family and Education

b. 28 Apr. 1801, 1st s. of Cropley Ashley†, 6th earl of Shaftesbury, and Lady Anne Spencer, da. of George, 4th duke of Marlborough; bro. of Hon. Anthony Henry Ashley Cooper*, Hon. Anthony John Ashley Cooper* and Hon. Anthony William Ashley Cooper*. educ. Manor House, Chiswick 1808; Harrow 1813; private tutor 1817; Christ Church, Oxf. 1819; continental tour 1823-5. m. 10 June 1830, Lady Emily Caroline Catherine Frances, da. of Peter Leopold Louis Francis Nassau, 5th Earl Cowper, 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. (2 d.v.p.). styled Lord Ashley 1811-51; suc. fa. as 7th earl of Shaftesbury 2 June 1851; KG 21 May 1862. d. 1 Oct. 1885.

Offices Held

Commr. bd. of control Feb. 1828-Dec. 1830; commr. of lunacy 1828-49, chairman 1849-85; ld. of admiralty Dec. 1834-Apr. 1835; ecclesiastical commr. 1841-7; member, bd. of health 1848-54; commr. subdivision of parishes 1849-56.

Ld. lt. Dorset 1856-d.


The Evangelical philanthropist Lord Ashley, whose family had long resided at St. Giles House, Wimborne St. Giles, Dorset, was the most accomplished of the Ashley Coopers since the 1st earl of Shaftesbury, the seventeenth century statesman, and the 3rd earl, the eighteenth century philosopher. His father, a former ministerialist Member for Dorchester, where the family controlled one seat, succeeded his brother as 6th earl in 1811 and from 1814 was a brusquely efficient chairman of committees in the House of Lords.1 He dominated his large family with unrestrained ferocity, so that it was reported that all his children ‘are shockingly bullied by the Earl (as they call him)’, and that ‘Lord Shaftesbury is so severe that the girls do not dare speak when he is in the room’.2 Ashley, who in 1825 condemned his father’s cold neglect, was equally critical of his mother, whom he avoided seeing once he came of age, writing ‘what a dreadful woman our mother is! ... her whole pleasure is in finding fault’.3 His only childhood friend was the housekeeper Maria Millis, who first interested him in religion, and whose death, while he was at the school he later likened to Dickens’s Dotheboys Hall, led him to turn to the Bible for spiritual consolation. He was happier when he moved to Harrow, and it was on the Hill there that he one day witnessed the drunken procession of a pauper’s funeral, an incident which provided the first impetus towards a life devoted to charitable causes.4

Following two years’ private tuition under a Derbyshire clergyman, Ashley went up to Oxford in 1819, but, committing himself to matters of study and faith, did not emulate the high spirits of his friends.5 Henry Edward Fox* noted in July 1820 that his ‘character seems to me quite unintelligible and can only be accounted for by a dash of madness’, but added that ‘from having a dislike that almost amounted to hatred, I have grown insensibly to admire and like him’. Of a later occasion he commented that

I got from his conversation a much better opinion of his heart than I ever had before. His understanding is so warped by the most violent prejudices, that he appears quite ridiculous whenever he finds an opportunity to vent them.6

Although evidently ill at ease, he apparently grew in confidence away from his immediate family. George Howard* (later Lord Morpeth), who made a visit to Scotland with him in the autumn of 1820, when Ashley supported the Liverpool administration’s prosecution of Queen Caroline, found him a curious companion. He confided to Fox from Castle Howard a few weeks later that

Ashley stayed here a fortnight to my boundless surprise, but he is hand in glove with all the family; my venerable mother flirted with him as hard as ever ... I have made myself the magnanimous resolution of always sticking to him, or he will be really like Cain in the world.7

Having taken first class honours in 1822, Ashley left England for a two-year tour of Europe, to the relief of Lady Holland, whose daughter Mary at one point attracted his amorous attentions: ‘his absence will be a blessing for the young ladies. He is a male coquet, the cruellest of characters and the most cold hearted. But he is very handsome and captivating’.8 In Austria he fell in love with his ‘Liebe’, Antoinette von Leykham, and reacted badly to being rejected by her (who, having married Metternich, died in childbed in 1829).9 Expressing commonly held opinions of Ashley, Eleanor Fazakerley, who met him in Vienna, reported to Fox, 28 June 1825, that he ‘has some very attaching qualities’, and commented on 14 Jan. 1826, that he ‘is a strange creature, yet I am very fond of him’.10

In late 1825, when he was said to have ‘entirely lost his good looks’ and to ‘not seem so haughty’, he was denied lodging in St. Giles House and at his father’s London residence at 24 Grosvenor Square, and was turned out on an allowance of £2,000.11 On 13 Aug. that year he began to write the journals, of mostly religious reflections, which he would continue for the rest of his life, and in which he dwelt initially on his childhood misfortunes. In the first of the longer birthday entries, 28 Apr. 1826, he brooded on his hopes and fears for the future, displaying a character of melancholy introspection, and a tension between political ambitions and personal sensitivities with which he would wrestle for several years.12 In addition, he was in a poor condition physically, as he noted the following year that the Leamington physician Henry Jephson

assured me he had never met a person with a more deranged system. Knew by my symptoms that my brain must be sadly loaded; enough to bring on an excess of bad spirits. I have suffered dreadfully for many years with headaches, low spirits and most wearisome sensations, attended by great weakness of limbs.13

During the late 1820s, when not involved with politics, he sought distraction in his study of the Welsh language, astronomy and Biblical exegesis, but his principal concern came to be to deepen his personal faith and to apply his Christian principles to practical purposes.14 With the self-doubt that was typical of his Evangelicalism, he noted with surprise (on 28 Apr. 1829) that ‘yesterday I heard (at Hatfield) that I was considered A SAINT. I do not regard it; with all my faults, I fear that I shall never have the fault of being too good’.15

Ashley was rumoured to have declined a requisition to offer for Dorset on a vacancy in February 1823.16 By September 1825, when a dissolution was expected, he had come forward on his uncle the duke of Marlborough’s interest at New Woodstock, where he had been made an honorary freeman in 1822. At the general election of 1826, when a reserve seat at Dorchester instead went to his brother William, he was elected on a ‘No Popery’ platform for Woodstock with his cousin Lord Blandford, after a contest against two Whigs. He took a short holiday in Paris, but returned in time to take his seat, 16 Nov.17 He was proud to be appointed to the select committee on the Arigna Mining Company, 5 Dec., but privately described it as ‘a real bore’.18 He was so impressed with Canning’s speech on Portugal, 12 Dec. 1826, that he ‘could not sleep for agitation, feverishly and indistinctly remembering what I had heard’, and wrote a letter in its praise to Mrs. Canning; though on 22 Jan. 1827, he noted that ‘now I think Canning’s speech a little imprudent’.19 He wrote in his diary, 14 Feb., that

I am too bilious for public life. What I suffer from the brazen faces and low insults of that radical party! I am not fit for their accursed effrontery ... Hume’s conduct tonight [on Colonel Bradley’s case] was over-disgusting, and so was that of his civilized friends. I should have stormed in madness had it been against myself. I am not fit for the House of Commons.

In the Ilchester election committee, to which he was appointed on 15 Feb., he voted in the minority for confirming the election of Richard Sharp, 22 Feb. 1827, recording in his journal that ‘he and his colleague [are] against me in politics, but I gave him the benefit of the doubts, according to [the] custom of Parliament’.20

Ashley regretted having promised his constituents to oppose Catholic relief, and wrote on 25 Feb. 1827 that

I am certainly more for the Catholics than I was before, but wholly as a matter of policy, because it does not seem that danger any longer exists. This is the result of private reason, uninfluenced by speeches or conversation; but as so little turns upon me I must and may conceal it; my father otherwise would go mad.21

On 4 Mar. he expressed his disillusionment with politics and his frustration at his own lack of independence, complaining that

Shaftesbury came and requested me not to say anything in the House when [the] Arigna report was given in ‘because it concerned men with whom I was in the habit of voting’. Good God, is it possible that in a case of honour and gentlemanlike delicacy I am entreated to hold my tongue out of consideration of party? ... [The treasury secretary Stephen] Lushington* asked me the other night to make a speech upon the Catholic question; I refused positively to rise and state violent opinions for the mere pleasure of a few stubborn and ignorant politicians; what will be my situation, without the right of thinking for myself? Had I better not withdraw from public life? What is at the bottom of this request? Lushington is a friend to [William] Holmes*, a scoundrel and friend to [James] Brogden*; many men would not like my censure, as by God’s gift, I am yet reckoned an honest man; he may have had several applications to neutralize me ... [Alexander] Chin Grant* is the cause. The earl’s friend yet a slippery fellow, but unhappily Lord Shaftesbury forgets all that provided a man be what he calls ‘a sound Protestant’. Now Chin Grant has dabbled over much in the joint-stocks. I am sure Lord Shaftesbury called on me today with the intention of seconding Lushington’s request, but somehow or other he left it out, thank God!22

In fact, although Marlborough had gone over to the pro-Catholics, Ashley, who as John Robert Townshend* expressed it to Fox on 6 Mar. 1827, ‘raves about the House of Commons’, divided against relief that day. According to his diary, ‘I gave a vote "almost" against my conscience, and nothing but a determination not to think prevented it being "entirely" so’; he added that it ‘is in all likelihood the last I shall give, I shall perhaps withdraw from Parliament - but gently’.23 Henry Brougham*, who had ‘a high idea of him as a young man’, tried to entice him into joining the Useful Knowledge Society and to wean him off ‘illiberal principles’, but Ashley would have nothing to do with the Whigs and only wished that he could ‘quit public life and sink down into an ambition proportionate to my capacity! But I am cursed with honourable desires (they are so) and by predestined failure’.24

Although he retained his admiration of Canning’s talents, he opposed his appointment as prime minister in April 1827, distrusting him personally and being aghast that such an irreligious man should be given control of church patronage. He was, therefore, entirely in sympathy with the duke of Wellington, with whom he had become friends during the previous year, Peel and the other anti-Catholics who resigned from office that month. He expressed his disgust that the ‘whole run of radicals, Whigs and Canning’s party is at the duke of Wellington’, and, dismayed at the divisions among the Tories, he even upbraided Wellington’s constant companion Mrs. Arbuthnot for indiscretions which might have jeopardized his return to office. In reply to a cautious approach from Mrs. Canning, he replied on 18 Apr., politely declining to accept office because of ‘a concurrence of circumstances’ and as ‘indeed, I feel so unqualified’. Described by his friends as being ‘high minded and unworldly’ and having ‘something so very fine about him’, he at least emerged from this episode convinced that he should apply himself to a political career.25 He voted in the minority against the Coventry magistracy bill, 18 June. He showed some remorse at Canning’s death in August, when Shaftesbury commented to Peel that ‘if this should lead to anything, in which I can be useful to you, command me and mine’. Yet Ashley was amazed at the choice of the weak Lord Goderich to succeed Canning, and George Agar Ellis* observed on the 25th that he ‘seems to me as mad as the winds upon politics; so violent and yet not able to assign any reason, good, bad or indifferent for his violence’.26 In November his name was included on George Tierney’s* list of the proposed finance committee.27 The following month he condemned ministers, particularly over Navarino, and wrote of Peel that ‘he must lead us now or we are undone’.28 Lord Bathurst, who had heard that Ashley feared he would fail as a speaker, wrote to him a letter of advice and encouragement, 14 Dec. 1827, and three days later Ashley pledged himself in his diary to make a further commitment to politics in the new year.29

On the formation of his administration, Wellington offered a place at the India board (with a salary of £1,500) to a highly gratified Ashley, 25 Jan. 1828, when he reported to Charles Arbuthnot* that the prime minister’s ‘intentions were to put me in some situation where I should be the principal man of my department in the House of Commons, and so it would be necessary to make a speech now and then’.30 He raised doubts about the wisdom of Wellington retaining the office of commander-in-chief and belonging to that ‘magazine of wickedness’, Crockford’s, but otherwise gave ministers his full support, and no doubt divided regularly with them in the House.31 He was quietly re-elected for Woodstock in early February, and took his seat on the 11th.32 He made his maiden but probably inaudible speech, 19 Feb., when, at the request of Robert Gordon, he seconded his motion for leave to bring in a bill to improve the treatment of pauper lunatics. As he wrote in his journal the following day:

I ventured to speak and, God be praised, I did not utterly disgrace myself, though the exhibition was far from glorious; but the subject was upon lunatic asylums, mere matter of plain business and requiring simplicity alone with common sense.

Bathurst congratulated him on it, but remarked that ‘Peel said that if your speech had been uttered with as loud a voice as that of Lord Morpeth, everybody would have said it was an excellent speech’. He became one of the members of the commission established under the lunacy legislation which he helped to oversee that session.33 He told Hume that government were considering extending the laws on insolvent debtors to India, 12 Mar. He divided against Catholic relief, 12 May. He spoke in favour of making provision for Canning’s family, 20 May, and presumably voted for this, 22 May. After a strong defence of the taxation and commercial relations of the Subcontinent, 17 June, he noted in his diary that ‘though I did not please myself, I found that the House was delighted. Cheers and compliments were abundant’.34 Aware of the enormous scale of social problems in India, Ashley applied himself earnestly, but with some trepidation, to the business of his office, for instance in drafting a paper on the improvement of horticulture there. However, like Sir Henry Hardinge*, Lord Ellenborough, who succeeded Lord Melville as president of the board in September 1828, had a poor opinion of his parliamentary abilities and rejected his proposals for extending the jury system in India.35

Ashley, who was listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, as likely to side ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, expressed himself ‘delighted’ with Wellington’s decision in its favour. This was despite his father’s continued opposition to relief, and his own fear that Catholic domination of certain constituencies would increase the demand for parliamentary reform. He commented in his diary, 5 Feb. 1829, that

I have long and deeply desired this policy. Who but he would have dared to conceive and execute it, persuade the king and overcome popular abhorrence? Peel has resolved to aid him; this is public virtue. I offered to say a few words expressive of my hearty concurrence. Peel was delighted. I did not know that my opinion was of such value.36

He therefore defended emancipation on the basis of political expediency that day, jotting down afterwards that ‘I have spoken; I am but just saved from disgrace’, although the speech was again described as inaudible.37 He voted for emancipation the following day, and again, 30 Mar. According to Ellenborough’s diary, 17 Mar., he ‘found a letter from Ashley complaining of not having shown him enough official correspondence ... I set him right as to the facts’. He continued to be dissatisfied with Ashley, who made several ineffectual speeches on Indian matters in the Commons that session, and even suggested to Wellington in April that Ashley might be made a lord of the treasury. Ashley emphasized government improvements in Indian administration, 5 June, but conceded that Ellenborough’s hostility meant that natives would not be allowed to serve on grand juries.38 He had already apparently asked Arbuthnot, who refused, to pass on his resignation to the premier on the ground of his inadequacy, and in July 1829 declined to sign what he called an insulting dispatch to the governor-general, even if it led to his dismissal. Mrs. Arbuthnot considered that she had been ‘certainly never more deceived in a man than in Lord Ashley, for he has proved himself in office to be wholly inefficient’, and she commented that Wellington believed him ‘quite incapable’ of handling the next session’s Indian business.39

Disappointed in his hope of marrying Lady Selina Jenkinson, the former prime minister’s niece, in late 1829, Ashley fell in love with ‘Minny’ Cowper, whose mother’s lover, Lord Palmerston*, was reputed to be her father and certainly treated her as a favourite.40 Much malicious pleasure was taken at the sight of the stiff-necked Tory Ashley, who was described by Lord Francis Leveson Gower* as having ‘always been more or less of an Ishmaelite in the fashionable world’, courting the daughter of the leading Whig hostess, whom Leveson Gower imagined had ‘little taste for uncut jewels, but likes those which have taken a higher polish from the attrition of society’. Jokes about her future behaviour were also made at his expense, for example by Ralph Sneyd who, according to Tom Moore, thought ‘what a pity it would be to see that "fine Roman head" ... surmounted with horns’, and ‘that there was one Roman to whom he would certainly bear a resemblance and that was Lepidus, who is said to have been the first that opened the Via Emilia to the public’.41 Although he was ‘very low and disconsolate’ at her initial indifference, Ashley’s conduct was considered very becoming by her family, and Lady Granville reported of one party that

Emily was in the most captivating beauty. Lady Cowper very much in love with Lord Ashley and I too, we agreed, much more than the girl. However, I think her pleased with him and that she will like and marry him. He is quite willing to wait and hope and try everything to gain her affections. His manner of making up to her is so exactly what we all like and admire that everybody was in astonishment at her insouciance. So passioné, so devoted, yet so manly, si noble, nothing of the commonplace rôle in it.

It was said that ‘he does not care what risks he runs for the slightest hope’, but that he was so wretched that he even talked of giving up office and going to America.42 She did not relent until the following spring, when they became engaged.43

In January 1830 Ellenborough wished that Ashley would replace Horace Twiss* as colonial under-secretary, and was disappointed to be told by Wellington that he had declined the offer of a place at the treasury.44 The following month Mrs. Arbuthnot wrote bitterly that Lady Cowper was trying to get Ashley

out of office and into the ranks of the opposition. I dare say she will succeed, a man in love is always a fool, and I have observed he is becoming a frondeur. However, he will be no loss for, in talent and sense, he has disappointed us grievously.45

Ashley, who defended Ellenborough’s conduct over the publication of a private letter, 5 Feb., was appointed to the select committee on the affairs of the East India Company, 9 Feb. He ‘spoke good stuff apparently’, as Ellenborough put it, when he vindicated the conduct of Sir John Malcolm* as governor of Bombay over the administration of justice there, 4 Mar., and he was a teller for the majority against the production of papers on this, 8 Mar.46 He confirmed Thomas Fowell Buxton’s impression that suttee had been abolished in India, 16 Mar. Shaftesbury pointedly absented himself from Ashley’s wedding in June, but despite the fears of those who thought they were ill matched, the couple, who took up residence in New Norfolk Street, enjoyed an obviously happy marriage.47 At the general election that summer Ashley withdrew from Woodstock, where he was replaced by a Whig, and was returned by his father for Dorchester as an opponent of constitutional change; he was admitted a freeman of the borough at the same time.48 In August 1830 he was reported to be ‘in a great state’ about the revolution in France, ‘seeing it very much en noir’.49

Ashley was, of course, listed by ministers among their ‘friends’, but Lord Durham noted on 8 Nov. 1830 that Wellington, with whom Ashley had indeed had a brief misunderstanding, was ‘almost abandoned by his own party, who openly say (even his subalterns Ashley, Wortley, etc.) that he ought to give it up, and make way for Lord Grey’.50 He divided with his colleagues in the minority on the civil list on the 15th, and duly resigned with them, although as Lady Dover recorded three days later:

In general those who are out looked very cheerful, even Lord Ashley, who was quite adorable. He has the most solemn way of talking of the state of the country and says he certainly shall, and knows that it is Peel’s intention, as much as possible to support the future government. He is delighted to have gone out with that great man (the duke), but is not in the least factious; in a beautiful state of mind, notwithstanding his poverty, which I am afraid will be extreme.51

On the 19th the new foreign secretary, Palmerston, who had left office with Huskisson in 1828, asked Ashley to be his under-secretary, an office incompatible with a seat in the Commons, and urged him to take Peel’s advice on the offer. He replied the next day that he had been unable to see Peel, but, although grateful for this act of friendship, he was convinced that he should decline because

the peculiarity of circumstances now attending party and the business of politics has, I know, greatly changed the grounds upon which public men of different, though approximating, opinions, must regulate their conduct. It has become a matter of feeling much more than of principle to decide the acceptance or refusal of office; and feelings, perhaps unfortunately for the interests of mankind, maintain their spirit of exclusiveness, long after principles have ceased to present any distinction.52

He was at St. Giles House during the ‘Swing’ riots, when Portman, the county Member, complained to Lord Ilchester, 27 Nov. 1830, that ‘Ashley is very ill used by Lord Shaftesbury, for his presence would have been invaluable’.53 He was reappointed to the select committee on the East India Company, 4 Feb., and again, 28 June 1831.

Ashley voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., after which he was described by Sir John Benn Walsh* as ‘very low about it’, and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, which brought about a dissolution, 19 Apr. 1831.54 On the 28th, he wrote in his diary that

whatever be the result of this general election relative to the bill, the ministers have succeeded in rendering some reform inevitable. In my daily unguarded talk I curse them for their wicked ambition, in my reflection I say ‘God forgive them’, but both the curse and the deprecation arise from a sense of their abominable selfishness.55

Neither he nor any of the other Ashley Coopers were put up for Chippenham, as had been expected, but his brother John came in for Gatton, and he was returned unopposed for Dorchester, as an opponent of the bill which would partially disfranchise this borough.56 He plumped for the anti-reformer Henry Bankes* in the contest for Dorset.57 He belonged to the group of Tories who in June agreed to take Planta’s house in Charles Street as headquarters for their party, but was largely inactive in the House on the reform question.58 He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, for using the 1831 census to determine the boroughs in schedules A and B, 19 July, and for postponing consideration of the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July. He spoke against the proposed abolition of one seat for Woodstock, 26 July, and Dorchester, 28 July. He sided with ministers in favour of the division of counties, 11 Aug., but voted to preserve the right of voting to non-resident freemen for their lives, 30 Aug., and of the non-resident freeholders of Aylesbury, Cricklade, East Retford and New Shoreham, 2 Sept. He divided against the passage of the bill, 21 Sept. 1831.

After a good deal of hesitation, caused partly by the assumption that one of the Bankes family would stand and Shaftesbury’s initial opposition to the idea, Ashley finally picked up the anti-reform mantle in Dorset, where a vacancy had been caused by John Calcraft’s death. By an address of 27 Sept., he offered in opposition to the reformer William Ponsonby*, the husband of his first cousin Barbara, who enjoyed a considerable head start.59 He took his leave of Dorchester, where he was replaced by his brother Henry, and, vaunting his local connections, undertook a rapid and extensive canvass, on the basis of defending the existing constitution and protecting the agricultural interest. He made these points forcefully on the hustings, 30 Sept., when he also declared that Lord Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will did not go far enough, and vindicated the record of the Wellington administration, for instance on retrenchment. He took a clear lead on the second day of the poll and held it for nearly all the fifteen days of the unusually fierce contest, during which he proclaimed his undoubted success as proof that a reaction against reform had taken place and robustly rebutted allegations of electoral malpractice. Having succeeded by 36 votes, he paraded in triumph into Dorchester that day, but condemned the violent proceedings that continued to take place, and had to return to London by a secret and circuitous route.60 He took his seat in the Commons, 20 Oct., when he defended the neutrality of the assessor and repeated his opinion about the public reaction against reform. Despite the Tory party subscription in his support, the election expenses were so high, amounting to at least £28,000, that Ashley, who blamed Wellington for the lack of ‘unity of action’ by his friends, refused to incur further debts by contesting the petition that was brought up against his return, 7 Dec.61 Having voted against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, he made a formal declaration to the House to this effect, 17 Jan. 1832, but the following day Hardinge reported to Mrs. Arbuthnot that he ‘is very sulky and cross but will keep his seat’; Ponsonby’s defence capitulated in the committee, 19 Mar.62 Ashley divided against the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., and, in a letter to Peel the following day, reiterated his opposition to conceding any measure of reform.63 The eventual confirmation of his county victory led Portman, who had opposed him, to announce his resignation, which he did not in the end carry out, but the threat of which, originally made in a private communication to Ashley and made public by him, had resulted in a bitter exchange of letters between them.64 Ashley explained his conduct over this to the House, 17 May, when he told Portman that he knew nothing of a Dorset petition to withhold supplies. He voted against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and may have divided against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July. Having sat on the select committee on Sabbath observance, he insisted that the London journeymen bakers had been granted a full hearing before it, 24 July 1832.

Ashley, who was returned for Dorset as a Conservative at the general election in December 1832, feared for the constitution after the passage of the Reform Act, but thereafter turned his attention to social questions, notably factory legislation, and became known as the ‘working man’s friend’.65 He represented the county until his resignation, being unwilling to oppose repeal of the corn laws, in January 1846, and subsequently sat for Bath until he succeeded to his father’s peerage and estates in June 1851. He declined ministerial office, but accepted the offer of the garter from Palmerston, and was president or patron of numerous humanitarian and charitable societies. A man of imposing appearance, unimpeachable moral rectitude and indefatigable Christian zeal, he died in October 1885, when his life was cited as an exemplar of ‘true nobility’.66 He was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son Anthony (1831-86), Liberal Member for Hull, 1857-9, and Cricklade, 1859-65, who six months later shot himself in a London cab. Another of his numerous children, the junior minister Anthony Evelyn Melbourne Ashley (1836-1907), was Liberal Member for Poole, 1874-80, and the Isle of Wight, 1880-5.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


Based on E. Hodder, Life and Work of Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury (1887), and the best recent biography, G.B.A.M. Finlayson, Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury (1987).

  • 1. Hodder, 8-15; Gent. Mag. (1851), ii. 82.
  • 2. Fox Jnl. 67; Countess Granville Letters, i. 202.
  • 3. Finlayson, 14; Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 20 Sept. 1825.
  • 4. Hodder, 19-25.
  • 5. P. Mandler, Aristocratic Government in Age of Reform, 51-52.
  • 6. Fox Jnl. 35, 116.
  • 7. Add. 52010, Howard to Fox, 12 Aug., 1 Sept., 7 Oct. [1820]; Finlayson, 17-19; P. Mandler, ‘Cain and Abel: Two Aristocrats and Early Victorian Factory Acts’, HJ, xxvii (1984), 85-87.
  • 8. Finlayson, 19; Lady Holland to Son, 18.
  • 9. Finlayson, 20-21, 41-42.
  • 10. Add. 52011.
  • 11. Add. 52017, Townshend to Fox, 1 Aug. 1825; Finlayson, 19-20.
  • 12. Southampton Univ. Lib. Broadlands mss SHA/PD/1; Finlayson, 21-23, 30-32.
  • 13. Hodder, 33.
  • 14. Finlayson, 32-34, 49-52.
  • 15. Hodder, 61.
  • 16. Western Flying Post, 17 Feb. 1823.
  • 17. Woodstock Town Hall, Woodstock borough recs. B. 30/1/1; Jackson’s Oxford Jnl. 10 Sept., 8 Oct. 1825, 10, 17 June; Dorset Co. Chron. 15 June 1826; Finlayson, 27-28; Hodder, 30.
  • 18. Broadlands mss SHA/PD/1, 14 Dec.; Add. 52017, Townshend to Fox, 22 Dec. 1826.
  • 19. Hodder, 30-32.
  • 20. Ibid. 32.
  • 21. Ibid.; Lady Holland to Son, 57.
  • 22. Broadlands mss SHA/PD/1.
  • 23. Ibid.; Add. 36463, f. 415; 52017.
  • 24. LMA, Jersey mss 510/404; Hodder, 32-33.
  • 25. Hodder, 31, 33-37; Canning’s Ministry, 148, 196, 197; Howard Sisters, 71, 89; Add. 40332, f. 323; 52017, Townshend to Fox, 29 July 1827.
  • 26. Hodder, 38-39; Add. 40394, f. 173; Agar Ellis diary.
  • 27. Add. 38761, f. 269.
  • 28. Arbuthnot Corresp. 94, 96; Castle Howard mss, Lady Carlisle to Morpeth, 12 Dec. 1827.
  • 29. Hodder, 42-44.
  • 30. Ibid. 44; Finlayson, 29-30; Shaftesbury mss SE/NC/2/15, 17; Arbuthnot Corresp. 102; Colchester Diary, iii. 544; Twiss, Eldon, iii. 27.
  • 31. Add. 40395, f. 132; Arbuthnot Corresp. 105.
  • 32. Oxford Univ. and City Herald, 16 Feb. 1828.
  • 33. Hodder, 51-53.
  • 34. Ibid. 56.
  • 35. Ibid. 45-47, 54-59; Finlayson, 37-41; Mandler, ‘Cain and Abel’, 88-89; Shaftesbury mss SE/NC/3; TNA, Ellenborough mss 30/12/7/6; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 148-9.
  • 36. Ellenborough Diary, i. 334; Hodder, 60.
  • 37. Lady Holland to Son, 95; Hodder, 60.
  • 38. Ellenborough Diary, i. 396, 400; ii. 13, 19.
  • 39. Hodder, 60, 63; Arbuthnot Corresp. 125; Arbuthnot Jnl. 293, 308.
  • 40. Finlayson, 43-49; K. Bourne, Palmerston, 200-1.
  • 41. Arbuthnot Corresp. 124, 125; Arbuthnot Jnl. 306; Lady Palmerston Letters, 183; Moore Jnl, iii. 1260.
  • 42. Agar Ellis diary, 25 Oct. 1829; Lady Palmerston Letters, 184; Countess Granville Letters, ii. 42-43, 45, 50; Hodder, 65.
  • 43. Add. 51600, Lady Cowper to Lady Holland [Jan.]; Add. 51680, Russell to same, 20 Apr. 1830; Howard Sisters, 124; Lieven-Palmerston Corresp. 17-18;
  • 44. Ellenborough Diary, ii. 158, 188-9.
  • 45. Arbuthnot Jnl. 338.
  • 46. Ellenborough Diary, ii. 205.
  • 47. Add. 52011, Eleanor Fazakerley to Fox, 14 Apr.; Agar Ellis diary, 10 June 1830; Finlayson, 91-94.
  • 48. Jackson’s Oxford Jnl. 31 July; Dorset Co. Chron. 29 July, 5 Aug. 1830; C. H. Mayo, Municipal Recs. of Dorchester, 434.
  • 49. Howard Sisters, 138.
  • 50. Shaftesbury mss SE/NC/2/13, 21; A. Aspinall, Brougham and Whig Party, 288.
  • 51. Howard Sisters, 166.
  • 52. Broadlands mss GC/SH/2; SHA/PC/62; Finlayson, 58-59.
  • 53. Dorset RO, Fox Strangways mss D/FSI/242.
  • 54. NLW, Ormathwaite mss FG 1/5, 22 Mar. 1831.
  • 55. Broadlands mss SHA/PD/1; Hodder, 66.
  • 56. Hants RO, Carnarvon mss 75M91/L14/12; Dorset Co. Chron. 28 Apr., 5 May 1831.
  • 57. Dorset Pollbook (1831), 25.
  • 58. Three Diaries, 93; Hodder, 70.
  • 59. Three Diaries, 130, 134, 136; Shaftesbury mss OF 50/6-8, 28, 29, 35, 36; Wellington mss WP1/1195/24, 29; The Times, 30 Sept., 1 Oct. 1831.
  • 60. Dorset Co. Chron. 29 Sept., 6, 13, 20, 27 Oct. 1831; Wellington mss WP1/1198/2, 15; Jnl. of Mary Frampton ed. H.G. Mundy, 380-1.
  • 61. Wellington mss WP1/1202/39; 1204/2; 1205/12; 1206/3; Shaftesbury mss SE/NC/2/2-9, 11, 23, 24; 5/36, 37; Berks. RO, Pusey mss D/EBp C1/1; Hants RO, Heathcote mss 63M84/482; Hodder, 66-69; Finlayson, 64-69.
  • 62. CJ, lxxxvii. 34; Arbuthnot Corresp. 161; Dorset Co. Chron. 19, 26 Jan., 22, 29 Mar. 1832.
  • 63. Add. 40402, f. 266.
  • 64. Shaftesbury mss SE/NC/5/1-6, 11, 14-20; Finlayson, 69-70.
  • 65. Dorset Co. Chron. 19 July, 6, 20 Dec. 1832; Hodder, 71-72; Finlayson, 71-72.
  • 66. Morning Post, 2 Oct.; The Times, 2 Oct. 1885; J. W. Kirton, True Nobility (1886); Hodder, 773-6; DNB; Oxford DNB.