CAREY, John (c. 1608-77)

CAREY, John (c. 1608–77)

styled 1628-66 Visct. Rochford; accel. 3 Nov. 1640 Bar. HUNSDON; suc. fa. 13 Apr. 1666 as 2nd earl of DOVER.

First sat 27 Nov. 1640; first sat after 1660, 25 Apr. 1660; last sat 27 Mar. 1677

MP Hertford 28 Jan. 1629

b. c.1608, 1st s. of Henry Carey, later earl of Dover, and Judith, da. of Sir Thomas Pelham, bt. of Laughton, Suss. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1624. m. (1) 9 May 1628, Dorothy (d. 28 June 1628), da. of Oliver St. John, earl of Bolingbroke, s.p. (2) 2 Dec. 1630 (with £5,000), Abigail (d. 10 Feb. 1688), da. of Sir William Cockayne, of Rushton, Northants. 2da. (1 d.v.p.). KB 1 Feb. 1626. d. 26 May 1677; admon. June 1681.1

Speaker, House of Lords 1-5 Aug. 1647, 23-30 June, 3-4 July, 2-8 Aug, 1-20 Sept, 10 Oct. 1648.

Commr. advance of money by Nov. 1643-July 1644, exclusion from sacrament 1646, sale of bps. lands 1646, appeals, Oxf. Univ. 1647, indemnity complaints 1647, great seal 1-5 Aug. 1647, scandalous offences 1648.2

Commr. milita, Yorks. 1648.3

Col. regt. of horse (Parl.) 1642-3; maj. gen. 1642.4

Associated with: Hunsdon House, Herts. (to 1653); Cokayne House, London (to 1651); St. John’s, Clerkenwell, Mdx.; Coningsborough, Yorks.5

As the scion of a family of courtiers and royal servants, it would have been expected that Sir John Carey, styled Viscount Rochford from 1628, when his own father Henry Carey, was created earl of Dover, would maintain this tradition of loyalty to his sovereign. Rochford married Abigail Cockayne, the youngest daughter of the wealthy London merchant Sir William Cockayne, in December 1630, only a few months after his father had married Sir William’s widow, Mary. These matches brought both father and son valuable lands and houses, and a host of future royalist connections. Among Rochford’s new brothers-in-law were Charles Cockayne, later Viscount Cullen [I], the heir to Sir William Cockayne; Montague Bertie, later 2nd earl of Lindsey; and Thomas Fanshawe, later Viscount Fanshawe [I]. These family connections, and the political attitudes that were assumed to accompany them, may explain why on 3 Nov. 1640 Rochford was summoned to the House of Lords by a writ in acceleration as Baron Hunsdon, the barony of his father Dover.

Any expectation that he would assist the beleaguered king soon proved to be misplaced. Hunsdon sided with Parliament, albeit in an inconsistent manner, throughout the Civil War. He was one of only two sons of peers whom Edward Hyde, the future earl of Clarendon, recorded as fighting for Parliament against their royalist fathers at Edgehill.6 Hunsdon’s commitment to Parliament was lukewarm. On 12 July 1644 the Commons impeached him for treason and he was sequestered from the House because, in the aftermath of Marston Moor, incriminating letters in which he made peace offerings and professions of loyalty to Charles I had been found in the deserted camp of William Cavendish, marquess (later duke) of Newcastle. On 15 and 19 July Hunsdon submitted petitions to the House requesting that his case be dealt with speedily, primarily because he found the charges of his imprisonment ‘insupportable to him in respect of his weak estate, that if he should be long detained, that alone will ruin him, without any further punishment’, especially as he feared that the local county committees were proceeding to expropriate his goods from Hunsdon House and Cockayne House.7 The House resolved to readmit him on 9 May 1646 as the Commons had never produced articles of impeachment against him.8

Throughout the remainder of 1646 and into 1647 he opposed the growing power of the army and the independents and was one of the seven peers who supported the Presbyterian uprising in London in July 1647. After the army had reinstated control the Commons attempted to impeach him and he was again sequestered from the House. Hunsdon was permitted to rejoin the House on 6 June 1648 when the charges against him were finally dropped.9 He was present when the House unanimously rejected the ordinance for the King’s trial on 2 Jan. 1649 and a week later he sat for his last time in the Long Parliament.10

He was not politically active in the 1650s and probably spent most of it trying to husband his own estate, damaged as it was by his royalist father’s and brother-in-law’s ruinous compositions.11 Perhaps to shore up his decaying economic and political fortunes Hunsdon in 1655 married his sole surviving child and heir, Mary, to the regicide William Heveningham, whose estate was reckoned in 1660 to be worth £2,500 a year.

Both Philip Wharton, 4th Baron Wharton, and John Mordaunt, Viscount Mordaunt, thought that Hunsdon, one of the peers who was still sitting in the House in 1648, would join the Presbyterian peers and be allowed to sit in the Convention House of Lords.12 Hunsdon was indeed one of the small group of nine peers who gathered together on the morning of 25 April 1660, the Convention’s first day. He attended just 87 per cent of the sitting days of the Convention, mostly in the first few months between its commencement and its long adjournment in September. He was particularly busy in its first weeks. On the first day he was assigned to be part of the delegation of eight peers who attended George Monck, later duke of Albemarle, with an address of thanks for his role in summoning the Convention. On 1 May, Hunsdon was placed on the committee to draft a letter of thanks to Charles II for his Declaration of Breda, and the following day he was put on the committee to draw up an ordinance to make Monck captain general of the realm. Over the next few weeks he was placed on many committees concerned with preparing and settling the realm for the king’s return: disbanding the army and settling the militia (9 May), finding the monarch’s jewels and goods (9 May), determining which Interregnum ordinances to keep (15 May) and raising an assessment of £70,000 (21 May). On 26 May, the day after Charles II’s landfall in England, Hunsdon was the only peer to enter his dissent against the House’s order that Thomas Bushell be released from his imprisonment in order to attend the committee of petitions. He was nominated to far fewer committees after the return of the king – 12 in total from 1 June until the end of 1660, the same number to which he had been appointed in the month of May 1660 alone.

A matter which concerned Hunsdon greatly during the latter part of the Convention, and on into 1661, was the threat to except his regicide son-in-law, William Heveningham, from the general pardon in the bill of indemnity. Heveningham himself petitioned strenuously for his own life, arguing that although present at the trial, he had not signed the death warrant for Charles I and that he had been the first to surrender himself (on 9 June 1660) following the king’s proclamation promising clemency. On 5 Sept. 1660 Hunsdon and his father, Dover, petitioned for the House’s assistance and support in their supplication to the king that Heveningham not be attainted in blood and that his estate be granted to them outright instead. By May 1661, when it was finally determined that Heveningham would remain alive but imprisoned and his estate intact, Dover and Hunsdon appear to have been granted an annuity of £1,000 each from its income.13

Shoring up his own financial situation occupied much of Hunsdon’s attention in the Convention and the early years of the restored monarchy. He fought against the passage of the bill abolishing the court of wards and terminating tenure by knight’s service, as much of his income was derived from his tenants in the manor of Conisborough in the West Riding of Yorkshire who held land from him by knight’s service. When the House passed the bill on 20 December 1660, Hunsdon apparently extracted from both the lord chancellor, Edward Hyde, and the lord treasurer, Thomas Wriothesley, 4th earl of Southampton, assurances that they would represent the state of his diminished income to the king so that he could grant some sort of satisfaction. It is not certain that they ever did so, for it was not until 1672, and after more petitioning, that Hunsdon (by that time 2nd earl of Dover) received regular compensation for his loss of income.14 This important property in Yorkshire gave him an interest in that county, and on 15 Feb. 1662 he was part of the delegation of northern lords led by Algernon Percy, 4th earl of Northumberland, that visited the lord chancellor to express their opposition to the projected re-establishment of the council of the north, ‘as believing it not for the service of the king or good of the county’.15

Hunsdon, who most often appears in the papers of his contemporaries under his courtesy title of Viscount Rochford rather than his seldom-used parliamentary title of Baron Hunsdon, became 2nd earl of Dover on 13 Apr. 1666 upon the death of his father. Under both his titles he was one of the most constant members of the Cavalier Parliament. He attended well over 90 per cent of the meetings of the House between May 1661 and his last attendance on 27 March 1677, two months before his death. During that same period he was named to just over two-thirds of the committees established on his days of attendance. He was nominated with increasing frequency as his career progressed, until by the early 1670s he was being placed on nearly every committee set up to deal with legislation. Of the 11 separate bills for which he chaired committee meetings, the majority come from after 1671. He was also one of the more frequent chairs for the committees for petitions and was also involved with the committee for privileges and its subcommittee for the Journal, on many occasions subscribing his name to approve the Journal’s record of the day’s proceedings.

Hunsdon was present at 93 per cent of the sitting days of the first session of the Cavalier Parliament in 1661-2, missing only nine days in the first part of the session before the summer adjournment of 1661 and then being absent for only three meetings in the latter part of this session. Throughout this session he was named to 46 committees established on the days he was present. On 3 July 1661 he chaired both the select committee considering Sir Anthony Browne’s bill and the meeting of the committee for privileges considering the privilege of Dorothy, dowager Lady Dacre.16 In that month he was also predicted to oppose the claim of Aubrey de Vere, 20th earl of Oxford, to the office of great chamberlain, against the incumbent, Hunsdon’s own brother-in-law, Lindsey. The greater number of his committee nominations, 36 in total, came in the 1661-2 part of the session after the summer adjournment. In late January 1662 Hunsdon reassured the House that the former postmaster general Charles Stanhope, Baron Stanhope, who did not attend the House after the Restoration, would waive privilege of peerage in his ongoing dispute with George Porter, a former deputy postmaster, about the profits of the office over the last few years.17 Hunsdon ended this session with a flurry of work in select committees. On 10 Apr. he reported from committee the bill for Francis Tindall as ready to be passed. On 12 and 18 Apr. 1662 he chaired meetings of the committee on the bill for the manufacture of Norwich stuffs, and reported the bill to the House on 22 April.18

In the second session, in spring 1663, Hunsdon was present at all but seven of the 86 meeting days and was named to 31 committees. He brought to the attention of the House on 12 Mar. 1663 his complaint that his signature had been forged on a protection being used by Thomas Shercliffe. The committee for privileges spent much of its time on this matter in late March and early April 1663, and reported on 11 Apr. that it needed to hear the further testimony of Francis Bird, who had sold the counterfeit protection to Shercliffe for 40s. As Bird could not easily be found, the matter was allowed eventually to drop.19 In mid July, near the end of this session, Wharton predicted that Hunsdon would vote to support the attempt of George Digby, 2nd earl of Bristol, to impeach Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon. Future events in 1667 suggest that Dover could be included among the enemies of the lord chancellor, perhaps owing to the delay in the promised compensation for his loss of income through the abrogation of tenure by knight’s service.

Hunsdon’s attendance dropped in the session of spring 1664 to only 61 per cent, but he resumed his usual high attendance in the following session of 1664-5, when he came to all but four of the 53 business days. On 1 Mar. 1665, the day before the prorogation of this session, the House considered the report of a conference on the bill to prevent delays in extending statutes, at which the Commons had made clear their objections to a proviso proposed by Hunsdon, ‘because they know not whether there were such a statute as the proviso mentions, nor whether the Lord Hunsdon were enabled to extend it’. The House concurred and rejected Hunsdon’s proviso.

After coming to 89 per cent of the sitting days of the short session at Oxford in October 1665, the 2nd earl of Dover, as he had become on 13 Apr. 1666, was even more than usually active in the session of 1666-7, where he missed only two days and was named to 24 committees. In mid October 1666, he brought to the attention of the committee for privileges a complaint from Conyers Darcy, 6th Baron Darcy (later earl of Holdernesse), that the ‘foreign’ peer George Saunders, Viscount Castleton [I], had insisted on taking precedence over him and other English barons during the entry of James Stuart, duke of York, into York in the summer of 1665. The committee reported on 14 Nov. that a bill should be drawn up asserting the precedence of English peers before all foreign nobility.20 In the first months of 1667 Dover subscribed to a number of protests. On 23 Jan. 1667 he dissented from the House’s rejection of any provision for the right of appeal to the king or the House in the bill establishing a judicature to hear disputes caused by the Fire of London, and then was one of only four to protest against the eventual passage of the bill that day, and the only one to state explicitly the reason for his objection – ‘the unlimited and unbounded power given to the judges in this bill without any appeal’. He was the only peer to protest on 7 Feb. against the bill for rebuilding the City of London, objecting again to ‘the exorbitant and unlimited powers’ given to the Corporation of London to dispose of landlords’ property. At this same time, he supported the Commons’ impeachment of John Mordaunt, Viscount Mordaunt, protesting on 5 Feb. (and once again being the only peer to state his reasons in a written explanation) – against the House’s decision not to convene a conference with the Commons to discuss the case against him.

Like so many other peers, he did not attend any of the meetings of the short five-day session in mid July 1667 where the peace with the United Provinces was to be announced, but he was very attentive to the tumultuous session beginning in October 1667. He missed only five of the sitting days in that part of the session held in the last months of 1667, when he was also named to 16 committees; he was then absent for only one meeting, and was placed on 11 committees, when the House resumed from 6 Feb. to 9 May 1668. In November 1667 Dover joined in the larger attack against Clarendon, signing the protest of 20 Nov. 1667 against the decision not to commit the lord chancellor pending the submission of specific charges, and later, on 7 Dec., being placed on the committee for the bill to banish and disable him. He also, on 6 Nov. 1667, reported to the House as fit to pass the bill to confirm an exchange of land in Norfolk involving Horatio Townshend, Baron (later Viscount) Townshend. At this point he was probably allied with George Villiers, 2nd duke of Buckingham, in his attacks against Clarendon, for later Edward Montagu, earl of Sandwich, listed Dover as one of four peers of ‘Buckingham’s party that appeared’ in the short session of winter 1669, all of whose meetings Dover attended. The main issue of this session was the confrontation between the houses over Skinner v. East India Company, and Dover showed his jealousy of the House’s privileges against the Commons’ claims by joining with four others in protesting on 22 Nov. 1669 against the passage of the bill to limit certain trials in Parliament, arguing ‘that privileges of Parliament and peerage are so fundamental as we ought not to part therewith’.

He came to 90 per cent of the sitting days of the 1670-71 session, and was most engaged in the first part of the session, before the adjournment from April to October 1670. In this period he was named to 26 committees. He also signed the protest against the passage of the second Conventicle Act on 26 Mar. 1670 and on 5 Apr. defended the privilege of peerage yet again by objecting to the House’s agreement to a Commons’ clause in that bill which would allow peers’ houses to be searched and their persons attached. The previous day he had reported to the House the bill to make Shadwell church parochial as fit to pass with only a proviso added. When the session resumed on 24 Oct. after the recess over the summer, he came to 87 per cent of the meeting days and was named to 39 committees. He was especially busy with committees in the latter part of this session, in the spring of 1671. On 14 Mar. 1671 he chaired a committee considering the bill to give power to the guardians of Thomas Howard, 5th duke of Norfolk, to make leases on Arundel House, which he reported to the House as fit to pass the following day.21 On that same day, 15 Mar., he also protested against the resolution to suspend the judgment, originally decreed in the Irish courts and confirmed by king’s bench in England, against John Cusack in the case brought against him by William Usher. Between 7 and 10 Apr., as the session was entering into a stalemate between the Houses on the issue of the House’s right to amend the bill for impositions on foreign commodities, Dover chaired three committee meetings on the bill for the preservation of game.22 He did not have a chance to report it before the session was prorogued on 22 April.

On 22 July 1672, a full eleven and a half years after it had initially been promised to him, he finally received a grant of £600 a year for three years and then £500 a year thereafter in compensation for his losses of income incurred by the statute abolishing tenure by knight’s service.23 Dover maintained his busy schedule in select committees in the following session of Parliament in February-October 1673, when he attended all of the 38 sitting days and was nominated to all but one of the committees established. He also took the chair for a number of committee meetings and reported to the House a number of bills: to confirm agreements between Sir Ralph Banks and Sir John Hanham (21 Feb. 1673); to confirm the articles of marriage of Sir William Rich (14 Mar. 1673); for the naturalization of Philip Lloyd (22 Mar. 1673); and to sell part of the estate of Sir William Hanham to settle his debts (25 Mar. 1673).24

Hunsdon maintained his usual high attendance level in the succeeding two sessions: he attended every day of the four-day session in the autumn of 1673 and 97 percent of sittings in the session of early 1674. It dropped to 88 per cent in the succeeding session of spring 1675 where, if he had formerly been a follower of Buckingham, he now did not join with the duke or his allies in protesting against the divisions in support of the non-resisting test bill of Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby, nor does he appear as one of the bill’s opponents in A Letter from a Person of Quality. He was present for 90 per cent of the sitting days in the session of autumn 1675, when despite his high attendance and his apparent presence in the House on 20 Nov. 1675, his name does not appear in any of the existing lists on the division on that day on whether to present the king with an address calling for the dissolution of Parliament.

He remained involved in parliamentary business to the end. In the five and a half weeks that he attended the House in the session beginning on 15 Feb. 1677, he was nominated to 19 committees and on 23 Feb. 1677 he chaired the committee on the bill for Robert Montagu, 3rd earl of Manchester, which he reported as fit to pass on 26 February.25 He last sat in the House on 27 Mar. 1677. He died on 26 May, and was buried five days later in Westminster Abbey.26 Sometime in spring 1677 Anthony Ashley Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury, incarcerated in the Tower, marked Dover as ‘worthy’ in his political analysis of the lay peers, but later made a note of his death and the extinction of the title in the margin of his list, for Dover died intestate, in debt and with no male heir. Thus the earldom of Dover was extinguished, but the older barony of Hunsdon, created in 1559, passed to a distant relative, Robert Carey, 6th Baron Hunsdon.


  • 1 TNA, PROB 12/56.
  • 2 A. and O. i. 853, 905, 927, 937, 995, 1208; CCAM, 247.
  • 3 A. and O. i. 1245.
  • 4 E. Peacock, Army Lists of the Roundheads and Cavaliers, 30, 32; CSP Dom. 1641-2, p. 366; Clarendon, Rebellion, ii. 351.
  • 5 VCH Herts. iii. 328; Her. and Gen. iv. 134.
  • 6 Clarendon, Rebellion, ii. 351.
  • 7 HMC 4th Rep. 269; HMC 6th Rep. 18, 21.
  • 8 HMC 10th Rep. VI, 163; HMC 6th Rep. 116.
  • 9 CSP Dom. 1645-7, p. 570; HMC 7th Rep. 6, 19.
  • 10 J.S.A. Adamson, ‘The Peerage in Politics, 1645-9’ (Camb. Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1986), App. A-D.
  • 11 VCH Herts. iii. 328; VCH Surr. iii. 502; HP Commons, 1604-29, iii. 555-6.
  • 12 Bodl. Carte 81, f. 63; Clarendon 71, ff. 305-6.
  • 13 HMC 5th Rep. 157, 171; HMC 7th Rep. 155; CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 312, 340; 1661-2, p. 50.
  • 14 CTB, iii. 1287, 1291, 1354.
  • 15 Chatsworth, Cork mss, Burlington diary, 15 Feb. 1662.
  • 16 PA, HL/PO/CO/1/1, p. 46; HL/PO/DC/CP/1/1, p. 63.
  • 17 HMC 7th Rep. 154-5.
  • 18 PA, HL/PO/CO/1/1, pp. 241, 254.
  • 19 HMC 7th Rep. 169; PA, HL/PO/DC/CP/1/1, pp. 84-89, 94.
  • 20 PA, HL/PO/DC/CP/1/2, pp. 16-19.
  • 21 PA, HL/PO/CO/1/2, p. 425.
  • 22 Ibid. 447, 448.
  • 23 CTB, iii. 1083, 1287, 1291, 1354; iv. 89, 94, 102, 821, 845.
  • 24 PA, HL/PO/CO/1/3, pp. 13, 19, 25-26, 28, 31, 33, 34.
  • 25 Ibid. 136-7.
  • 26 Add. 18730, f. 22.