CAREY, Robert (c. 1645-1702)

CAREY, Robert (c. 1645–1702)

suc. cos. 24 May 1692 as 7th Bar. HUNSDON

First sat 26 Sept. 1692; last sat 19 Mar. 1702

b. c.1645, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Col. Ernestus Carey (d.1680) of Great Shelford, Cambs. and 1st w. St. John (d.1649), da of Thomas Salveyn of Croxdale, co. Dur. educ. unknown (apprenticeship?). unm. d. 11 Sept. 1702.

Capt., coy of foot ?-1692.1

Robert Carey’s father, Ernestus Carey, was born in the Netherlands where his father was fighting in the service of the United Provinces. Ernestus and his elder brother Horatio came to England as boys and both were naturalized in 1620 and later fought for the king during the Civil War.2 At that time Ernestus was settled in the manor of Grandsham (Granhams) in Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, which he had inherited through his distant kinsman, Valentine Cary, bishop of Exeter. Having to compound with Parliament for £229 in November 1646, he sold this property (reserving to himself a rent charge of £60 on it) and at his death in 1680 was recorded as residing in St Leonard’s, Middlesex.3

Robert was Ernestus’s third son and probably grew up in London and its suburbs. Abel Boyer claimed in his obituary notice of the 7th Baron that, coming from a family of middling resources, he ‘was put apprentice to the mean trade of a weaver; but then considering the possibility of his becoming one day Lord Hunsdon, he betook himself to a military life; and having rode some time in the guards, as a private gentleman, he had got a commission before the honour devolved on him’.4 Upon the death abroad of his Jacobite cousin Robert Carey, 6th Baron Hunsdon, following the action at La Hogue on 23-24 May 1692, ‘Capt. Carey, now in Ireland’ was suddenly hurtled from obscurity to a barony and the House of Lords.5 He was ill-equipped financially for his new role as he did not have any personal wealth to bring to the already depleted resources of the barony. ‘His small estate was supplied by a pension from court’, added Boyer, and from 1692 to 1702 Hunsdon received an annual pension of between £100 and £200, and on one occasion £400, as royal bounty from the secret service funds to maintain him in his honour.6

He first sat in the House upon his succession on 26 Sept. 1692, a day of prorogation, and when Parliament met for the 1692-3 session on 7 Nov. 1693, Hunsdon was again there and proceeded to attend 78 per cent of the session’s sitting days, during which he was named to 32 committees. He voted to commit the Place Bill on 31 Dec. 1692, but Thomas Bruce, 2nd earl of Ailesbury, recorded that Hunsdon, probably aware of his royal benefactor’s strong opposition to the bill, was one of the six lords who left the House before the final division on 3 Jan. 1693, thus helping to secure its defeat. The previous day he had voted against the second reading of the bill for the divorce of Henry Howard, 7th duke of Norfolk. On 17 Jan. he entered his dissent against the resolution that Charles Knollys had no right to the earldom of Banbury, and on 4 Feb. he voted Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun, not guilty of murder. He further signed on 8 Mar. the protest against the rejection of a rider intended for a bill to extend the Licensing Act (among other legislation) that aimed to reduce the power of the government censor.

He was present at 89 per cent of the sitting days of the following session of 1693-4 when he was named to 25 committees. In the Albemarle inheritance case he supported the claims of Ralph Montagu, earl (later duke) of Montagu, against those of John Granville, earl of Bath and voted on 17 Feb. 1694 to reverse chancery’s earlier dismissal of Montagu’s petition in this case. When the chancery judgment was upheld by the House, he signed the protest against the decision and a week later, on 24 Feb. 1694, he entered another protest against the House’s dismissal of another petition from Montagu in this matter.

By 1695 Hunsdon’s impoverished state was well known, and he and his fellow ‘poor lords’ were figures of amusement among their more wealthy peers. In May 1695 Thomas Osborne, duke of Leeds, was reportedly keeping open house at ‘Hell’, a tavern immediately abutting Westminster Hall, offering free roast beef and ale in order to ‘debauch’ Hunsdon, and other ‘mumpers’ (slang for genteel beggars), such as Thomas Parker, 15th Baron Morley and John Colepeper, 3rd Baron Colepeper. Presumably Leeds was trying to gain their support in opposing the allegations of corruption that he was then facing in Parliament.7 In that same month Mary, wife of William Savile, 2nd marquess of Halifax, wrote to her father Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, about the seven lords justices recently appointed by William III, then bereft of his usual regent Mary II, to rule the country during his continental absences. She noted that they had not yet appeared in state because they had discovered that if they were to do so the sword of state must be carried before them by a peer, ‘and they could think of but two that would do it, my Lord Colepeper and my Lord Hunsdon, and always them two would not look well so they resolved to meet privately and never to appear together’. Perhaps because of this embarrassing connection with these two notoriously impecunious lords, the lords justices ‘have had great variety of names given them but the most lasting one is the overseers of the poor’.8

Without possessing any of the other trappings of aristocracy, such as wealth, land or political interest, Hunsdon appears to have thrown himself wholly into the life of the House in order to emphasize his noble status. He attended the House diligently and throughout the three Parliaments of 1695, 1698 and 1701 he maintained an attendance rate of between 85 and 95 per cent in each session. He was particularly assiduous in the first (1695-6) session of the 1695 Parliament which met in November 1695 and which saw his highest attendance rate of 95 per cent, missing only five of its 124 sitting days. Hunsdon signed the Association on the first day possible, 27 Feb. 1696. This was one of the last occasions when he let any considerations of obligation to the king for his continuing pension affect his vote, for thereafter, and with growing confidence, he consistently opposed the measures of William’s ministry, increasingly coming under the influence of the Whigs. He opposed the bill to attaint Sir John Fenwick and signed the protests against hearing the testimony of Charles Goodman (15 Dec. 1696), to read and commit the bill of attainder (18 Dec.) and to pass the bill (23 Dec.). He fought against the Junto’s bill to punish the cashier of the Exchequer, Charles Duncombe, and subscribed to the protest against the second reading of that legislation on 4 Mar. 1698. He was nominated to almost every committee established on his days of sitting and was occasionally named to manage conferences as well - on the Greenland trade bill on 25 Apr. 1696 and on the bill for the Alverstoke waterworks on 20 June 1698.

He continued this trend of opposition in the Parliaments of 1698 and 1701. On 8 Feb. 1699 during the 1698-9 session, he voted and signed the protest against the resolution to offer assistance to the king in maintaining the Dutch Guards in England. In that session he was also appointed a manager on 3 May 1699 for a conference on the bill for a duty on paper. On 23 Feb. 1700 he was in favour of the motion to adjourn the House into a committee of the whole House to further discuss the Tory-inspired bill for continuing the old East India Company as a corporation. In the Parliament of 1701 he protested on 20 Mar. 1701 against the decision not to send the address condemning the secret negotiations surrounding the Partition Treaty to the Tory-dominated Commons for their agreement. He pushed for the impeachment of the Junto ministers and in June 1701 fought a rearguard action to prevent the acquittal of John Somers, Baron Somers, by protesting first against the reasons the House intended to present to the Commons in conference in answer to the lower House’s message concerning the impeachments (3 June 1701), and then against the resolutions to conduct Somers’s trial in Westminster Hall and then to put the question for his acquittal (17 June 1701). Hunsdon not surprisingly voted against the Whig minister’s acquittal that day.

In August 1701, Luttrell noted that ‘the Lord Hunsdon is dangerously ill of a cancer under his tongue’. He was not active in the Parliament of early 1702, and stopped attending entirely shortly after William III’s death and Anne’s accession.9 He did register his proxy with Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth, on 11 May 1702, but Weymouth was only able to exercise it for two weeks before Parliament was prorogued. Hunsdon died unmarried and apparently intestate in September 1702 when the Hunsdon peerage once again passed to a distant and obscure cousin, this time to a man who had spent most of his life in the Netherlands, William Ferdinand Carey, 8th Baron Hunsdon.


  • 1 Boyer, Anne Hist. App. ‘Annual List of the Most Eminent Persons who died’, 34; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 537.
  • 2 Huguenot Soc. Publications, Quarto Series, xviii. 26.
  • 3 Notes and Recs. 3rd ser. vi. 174; CCC, 1563; VCH Cambs. viii. 211; PROB 6/55; Harl. 6694, f. 16.
  • 4 Anne Hist., 34.
  • 5 Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 537.
  • 6 Anne Hist., 34; CTB, x. 167, 733; xi. 124; xiv. 51; xvi. 263; xvii. 934.
  • 7 HMC Portland, ii. 173; Lillywhite, London Coffee Houses (1963), 267-8.
  • 8 Leics. RO, DG7, bdle. 22, Lady Halifax to Nottingham, 23 May 1695.
  • 9 Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 76.