CAREY, William Ferdinand (1684-1765)

CAREY, William Ferdinand (1684–1765)

suc. cos. 11 Sept. 1702 (a minor) as 8th Bar. HUNSDON.

First sat 22 Mar. 1708; last sat 12 May 1748

bap. 14 Jan. 1684, o.s. of William Carey (d. 7 Nov. 1683), capt. Army of the States General, and Gertrude (d.1688), da. of Cornelius van Oudtshoorn, heer van Oudtshoorn-Gnephoek, chief burgomaster of Amsterdam. educ. unknown. m. 11 Jan. 1718, Grace (d. 9 May 1729), da. of Sir Edward Waldo, of Pinner, Mdx., wid. of Sir Nicholas Wolstenholme (d.1717), 4th bt., of Forty Hall, Mdx. s.p. d. 12 June 1765; will 23 Apr. 1763, pr. 15 Aug. 1765.1

Associated with: St. James’s Square, Westminster (by 1716);2 Cannons Farm, Pinner, Mdx. (from 1718);3 Alphen, United Provinces (from c.1748).

William Ferdinand Carey’s grandfather was the third son of Robert Carey, whose first two sons, Horatio and Ernestus, had moved to England from the Netherlands before the outbreak of the Civil War. Robert’s youngest son Ferdinand remained in the Netherlands and maintained the family tradition of military service to the Dutch republic, serving as a colonel of a regiment of the Dutch army garrisoned at Maestricht. He married a Dutch woman, and from that point this branch of the Careys were as much Dutch as English. Ferdinand’s son William was a captain in the Dutch army in the Maestricht garrison; he died in November 1683, and his posthumous child, William Ferdinand Carey, was born the following January. William Ferdinand’s mother died in 1688, when her son was only four years old.4

The young William Ferdinand was taken in hand by Pieter van Reede, heer van Reede tot Nederhorst, a fellow captain in the Maestricht garrison and husband of William Ferdinand’s maternal aunt, Maria van Oudtshoorn. Under van Reede’s instructions, William Ferdinand was taken to England in August 1689 by Abraham van Uylenbroeck, commissioner of the Orphans’ Chamber in Amsterdam. The objective was to secure a bill for his naturalization so that his distant claim to the English barony of Hunsdon would not be complicated by issues of foreign allegiance. This was an opportune time, as at that time Dutch influence in English political life was becoming paramount. Through his connection with van Reede, William Ferdinand was related to a number of Dutchmen prominent in English politics. Pieter van Reede was the nephew of the diplomat Johan van Reede, heer van Renswoude, who had been created a baron of England by Charles I in 1644. A more distant, but more influential, kinsman was Godard van Reede, heer van Ginkel, later created earl of Athlone [I] for his military service to William III in Ireland. William Ferdinand’s naturalization bill, which went through both Houses quickly and received the royal assent on 3 May 1690 states that at that time William Ferdinand was about five and a half years old.5

That he did not remain in England after receiving his naturalization is suggested by the evidence of Robert Carey, 7th Baron Hunsdon, who sometime during his tenure of the barony (1692-1702), informed his servant ‘that all his own brothers were then dead without issue … but there was a young youth of a moderate estate of his name and nearest in blood … who was born and bred in Holland that was in a just legal and lineal descent’, and he instructed this servant to write to this heir to invite him to England so that he could make good his claim.6 By early 1708 William Ferdinand, now of age, was in England and laid claim to the barony of Hunsdon through a petition to the queen. There appears to have been a rumour that the proper heir was then in the West Indies, but when Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, presented Carey’s petition to the House on 25 Feb. 1708 Carey had accumulated, with the assistance of the Norroy king-at-arms Peter Le Neve, a wealth of evidence documenting his legitimate and sole claim to the barony.7 The case was referred to the committee for privileges and witnesses were quickly summoned. At the committee meeting on 8 Mar. the solicitor general raised the objection that, despite Carey’s act of naturalization, his foreign-born father William had only been denizened, and ‘the question is whether he can claim by descent through his father who was but a denizen’. The heralds attested that the registering of William Ferdinand’s pedigree ‘restores the blood as well upwards as downwards’. At a subsequent committee meeting on 11 Mar. the judges declared that ‘his naturalization makes him free to all intents and purposes’ and that the statute that enacted that English subjects could inherit from foreign-born ancestors, was made specially for such cases and concluded that ‘This gentleman is as capable of the honour as if he had been born in England’. Charles Berkeley, 2nd earl of Berkeley, reported to the House that same day that the committee found that Hunsdon had fully proved his pedigree and right to the title. A writ of summons was then issued to him and he first sat in the House on 22 Mar. 1708. He did not sit again until the prorogation of 1 Apr., two weeks before the Parliament was dissolved.8

Like his cousin and predecessor in the barony William Ferdinand was a ‘poor lord’ with no land or income to rely on to maintain his new status. Almost immediately after receiving his writ of summons he enlisted the help of Peter Le Neve to find him a wealthy wife or benefactor. In April 1708 he inquired about the situation of a Mrs. Rivers, ‘not only what she might be worth but how much she has every year’ and was encouraged by the news ‘that old Madam Cary who liveth about Bloomsbury is a dyeing, and they say that I am the next heir’. He submitted a bill in chancery to reclaim possession of the lands in Rood, Northamptonshire, originally granted to the first Baron Hunsdon and long since alienated and encroached upon by its tenants. He even dug up an old indenture of 1646 whereby his great-uncle Ernestus Carey, in selling the manor of Grandsham (Granhams), Cambridgeshire, had seemingly entailed a rent-charge of £60 p.a. from the estate for the use of his heirs male.9

None of these attempts to provide for himself came to fruition. It was not until January 1718, when he married Lady Grace Wolstenholme, and acquired her family’s properties in Pinner, Middlesex, that he achieved some level of financial security.10 For much of his life he was dependent on pensions from the Crown. Unlike his predecessor in the barony he did not follow an independent political path regardless of his source of income, but obediently supported the ministry in government at any given time. He dutifully attended the first Parliament of Great Britain on its first day of 16 Nov. 1708 and came to just over half of the sittings in the first session of 1708-9. On 21 Jan. 1709 he backed the ministry of Sidney Godolphin, earl of Godolphin, against the attempt of the Junto Whigs to prevent James Douglas, 2nd duke of Queensberry [S], and recently created a peer of Great Britain as duke of Dover, from participating in the election of the Scottish representative peers. On the last day of the session, 21 Apr. 1709, he was also appointed a manager for a conference on the House’s amendments to the bill to continue the coinage acts. He followed the ministry again in the final session of the Parliament in 1709-10 (when he attended 68 per cent of the sittings) and on 20 Mar. 1710 voted that Dr. Sacheverell was guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours.

Hunsdon was then able to use the fragility of the new Tory ministry to his own advantage. Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, listed Hunsdon as a government supporter from the beginning of his ministry in the autumn of 1710 and although Hunsdon’s activity in the House in the 1710-11 session, when he attended two-thirds of the sittings, was unremarkable, he was almost certainly in receipt of a pension from Harley to ensure his support for the ministry. In January 1711 the Hanoverian agent in England, Bothmer, reported to his masters that Hunsdon would not have been able to survive without a pension and a year later John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, used Bothmer to suggest to the elector that Hunsdon be provided with a pension of £400 in order to win and secure his opposition to a separate Anglo-French peace. A hastily scrawled note among Oxford’s papers suggests that in early July 1711 Hunsdon was among a number of peers who received a bonus of £200 for their services during the recently prorogued session.11

By the time of the session of 1711-12 (when he had an attendance rate of 71 per cent) Hunsdon had ingratiated himself with the Tories to the extent that Lady Strafford reported seeing him playing cards with ‘Jack’ Howe, no friend to the Dutch in England, at a soirée in late November 1711.12 William Cowper, Baron (later Earl) Cowper, later told the queen’s physician Sir David Hamilton that after the Oxford ministry had lost the vote on the ‘No Peace without Spain’ clause by one vote on 7 Dec. 1711 they ‘fixed their thoughts on making up that one’ and ‘thought to have got Lord Hunsdon, who would not unless they doubled his pension’.13 Oxford, in dire straits in the House, acquiesced, and on 15 Dec. Hunsdon received £1,000 from as bounty from the queen. The receipt still exists among the minister’s papers.14 Hunsdon may have withheld his important vote on 7 Dec. to achieve this very end, and this is probably the episode to which Jonathan Swift alludes in his Enquiry into the Behaviour of the Queen’s Last Ministry, when, reflecting that ‘the greatest events depending frequently upon the lowest, vilest and obscurest causes’, he provides the example of ‘the stupidity or wilfullness of a beggarly Dutchman, who lingered on purpose half an hour at a visit when he had promised to be somewhere else’.15

On 20 Dec. 1711 Hunsdon voted against the measure to disable James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], from sitting in the House under his recently granted British title as duke of Brandon. Hunsdon also signed the protest against the resolution disabling Hamilton. This stance may have been owing in part to his new-found, and remunerated, loyalty to the ministry, but it is likely that it was also born out of sympathy and friendship with the Scots. At about this time Hunsdon was a key member of what has been termed a ‘Westminster Anglo-Scottish dining group’, which had at it inner core the Scottish peers William Johnstone, marquess of Annandale [S], John Elphinstone, 4th Baron Balmerinoch [S], William Livingstone, 2nd Viscount Kilsyth [S] and William Keith, 8th earl of Marischal [S], the Scottish MPs John Montgomerie, William Cochrane and Sir James Abercromby, and the English peer Charles Bennet, 2nd Baron Ossulston (later earl of Tankerville). It is through the diary kept by Ossulston that the existence of this group is known.16 Unfortunately the entries on Ossulston’s social activities with Hunsdon and his Scottish friends at the time of the controversy surrounding Hamilton are in a volume of his diary no longer extant. Hunsdon’s last appearance in the diary with this group was on 7 June 1712 and shortly after this date the diary breaks off.

From the end of the 1711-12 session Hunsdon frequently registered his proxy with other peers, even during the briefest of absences. His earlier proxies cannot be known as the registers for 1708-1710 are missing. For 20-22 May 1712 his proxy was held by the Scotsman George Hay, Baron Hay, who, surprisingly, does not appear among his and Ossulston’s Scottish dining companions. On 28 May Hunsdon was in the House to vote with the ministry against the motion to address the queen expressing disquiet about the ‘restraining orders’ which prohibited the captain general James Butler, 2nd duke of Ormond, from engaging in offensive action against the French.17 The following day Hunsdon registered his proxy with John West, 6th Baron De la Warr, until his return on 3 June 1712. He again used De la Warr as a proxy from 20 June until the end of the session on 8 July. The ministry may have assigned Hay and De la Warr as Hunsdon’s proxies, for both of them were court supporters, and Hay had been created a British peer in the lifetime of his father, Thomas Hay, 7th earl of Kinnoul [S], in December 1711 specifically to provide Oxford with more votes in the House.

For the session of April-July 1713, both Oxford and Swift counted on Hunsdon’s support, particularly in the matter of the controversial French Commerce Treaty. Hunsdon, however, barely attended this session of Parliament at all. He came to 23 per cent of the sittings and effectively left the House for that session on 28 May, without registering a proxy. In the first session of the following Parliament in the spring of 1714 Hunsdon attended just less than three-quarters of the sittings and left the House on 28 May 1714. On that day he did register his proxy with De la Warr. In his forecasts, Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, included Hunsdon among those who would vote for the schism bill, and Hunsdon did return to the House on 7 June, during the debates on that bill, and continued to attend regularly until the end of the session. His name does not appear in the protest against the passage of the bill on 14 June, so Nottingham’s prediction may well have proved accurate. Hunsdon came to the first four sittings in the brief session of August 1714 following Anne’s death and then appeared only once more, on 21 August, four days before the prorogation.

Hunsdon regularly attended the House for the first few months of George I’s Parliament until 22 Sept. 1715, when the new king signed a warrant granting him a pension of £600 p.a.18 Perhaps because he now had a secure income independent of his political behaviour, Hunsdon’s attendance in the House dropped steeply and continued to be erratic and inconsistent for the remainder of the reigns of the first two Georges. A more detailed account of his parliamentary activities during those years will be provided in the 1715-90 volumes of this series. He stopped sitting in the House entirely after May 1748, and it may be from this date, almost 20 years after the death of his English wife, that he moved back permanently to the Netherlands. There he died, at his seat at Alphen on the Rhine on 12 June 1765. He had not turned his back entirely on England and in his will of 1763 he assigned executors to manage the ‘sundry effects, stocks in the public funds and other goods and credits’ remaining to him in England. He died childless and with his death peerage was extinguished.


  • 1 TNA, PROB 11/911.
  • 2 HMC Cowper, iii. 116.
  • 3 VCH Mdx. iv. 179-80.
  • 4 Harl. 6694, ff. 50-84.
  • 5 Ibid. ff. 87-90; Huguenot Soc. 4to ser., xviii. 222; Biographisch Woordenboek der Nederlander.
  • 6 Harl. 6694, ff. 72-73.
  • 7 Harl. 6694, passim.
  • 8 HMC Lords, n.s. vii. 560-1; PA, HL/PO/DC/CP/1/3, pp. 163-4; 11 Will. III, c. 6; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 276.
  • 9 Harl. 6694, ff. 16-32, 43-45.
  • 10 VCH Mdx. iv. 179-80.
  • 11 Add. 70152, f. 238, no. 75.
  • 12 Wentworth Pprs. 214.
  • 13 Hamilton Diary, 33.
  • 14 Add. 70152, no. 95.
  • 15 Swift, Works ed. Davis et al, viii. 171-2.
  • 16 SHR, lxxi. 114-15, 124-8; TNA, C104/113, Ossulston diary.
  • 17 PH, xxvi. 178.
  • 18 Add. 61604, ff. 1-2, 5-10; CTB, xxix. 753; xxx. 231; xxxii. 546.