We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Annesley, Arthur, first earl of Anglesey (1614–1686), politician, was born on 10 July 1614 on Fishshamble Street, Dublin, the first son of , a politician and substantial landowner in Ireland, and his first wife, Dorothea (d. 1624), daughter of Sir John Philipps of Picton Castle, Pembrokeshire. He entered Magdalen College, Oxford, about 1630, was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in October 1633, went on a grand tour of Europe, visiting Padua in 1636, and was called to the bar in 1640. On 24 April 1638 he married Elizabeth (1620–1698), daughter of Sir James Altham of Oxhey, Hertfordshire, and Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Richard Sutton of Acton, Middlesex. They had seven sons and six daughters.

Annesley played no role in the civil war in its early years but his Calvinist views and the harsh treatment of his father by Lord Strafford when the latter was lord deputy of Ireland no doubt inclined him to the parliamentary side. Thus it is not surprising that his first public act was to serve parliament in 1645 as a commissioner to Ireland to prevent the Scottish army in Ulster linking up with the marquess of Ormond, lord lieutenant of Ireland. The mission succeeded and in 1647 Annesley was again appointed to a commission, this time to receive Ormond's surrender of Dublin. In 1647 he was recruited MP for Radnorshire but he was not a republican and was one of those purged from parliament in December 1648, after which he returned to Ireland.

Apart from occasionally representing Irish interests in England, Annesley played no part in politics while Oliver Cromwell was alive, but sat for Dublin in Richard Cromwell's parliament early in 1659. In March, while parliament was still sitting, he established contact with Charles II and obtained a commission to treat with rebels other than regicides. He avoided involvement in Booth's rising, but when General Monck forced the return of the secluded MPs early in 1660, he returned to Westminster, became president of the council of state from 25 February to 31 May, and sat for Carmarthen Town in the Convention. On the understanding that his Irish estates would be protected he played a leading part in arranging for the king's return, and on 1 June he was sworn a privy councillor.

Annesley inherited his father's Irish titles in 1660, and was created Baron Pagnel and earl of Anglesey in the English peerage on 20 April 1661, but during the initial years of the Restoration his influence was confined mainly to Ireland. He was appointed vice-treasurer and receiver-general of Ireland in August 1660, and was deeply involved in fashioning the Irish land settlement. In May 1663 the secretary of state, Sir Henry Bennet, remarked that Anglesey, the duke of Ormond, lord lieutenant of Ireland, and the earl of Orrery were the three most powerful men in Ireland. Ormond distrusted the puritan Anglesey, but never the less he was given full control of financial affairs. As an Irish landowner he, like Ormond, vigorously opposed the passage in England of the Cattle Acts, protectionist measures against the import of Irish cattle to England, in 1665 and 1666.

In 1667 Anglesey opposed the impeachment of Clarendon, the lord chancellor, on the grounds that he should be given a fair trial, but sensing that his opposition to Clarendon's enemy, the duke of Buckingham, would lead to an investigation of his accounts, in June 1667 he swapped his office in Ireland with Sir George Carteret, treasurer of the navy. As he also resisted the Buckingham faction's attempt to have Ormond dismissed the move did not in fact prevent an investigation and he was temporarily suspended from office, but as Buckingham's influence waned he returned to favour.

Anthony Wood remarked that Anglesey encouraged persons of such differing religious views that it was hard to tell what his own were. In Ireland he gained the reputation of sympathy for Catholics and two of his daughters married Catholic Irish nobles. His diary, however, which starts in 1671, leaves no doubt about his puritan attitudes and although he occasionally conformed to the established church after taking office he retained a nonconformist chaplain in his household between 1661 and 1684 except, significantly, during the period 1674 to 1677 while he served in the strongly pro-Anglican earl of Danby's administration. He was a great admirer of the puritan writers Lucy Hutchinson and Andrew Marvell and was also a protector of the nonconformist publisher Nathaniel Ponder. Anglesey's library of some 30,000 volumes, the largest private library of the time, was probably where Marvell did his literary research for his satires against the high Anglican clergyman Samuel Parker, The Rehearsal Transpros'd (1672) and The Rehearsall Transpros'd: the Second Part (1673). In 1673 Anglesey returned to office as lord privy seal and in the same year used his influence when part of the second edition of The Rehearsall was seized, declaring to the licenser of the press Roger L'Estrange that the king did not wish it suppressed and it must be licensed. He was still associated with Ponder and Marvell in 1676.

In March 1673, after the cancellation of the declaration of indulgence, Anglesey drafted a bill which would have given protestant dissenters some measure of toleration, but it was lost on the prorogation. He opposed Lord Treasurer Danby's non-resisting Test Bill, although may have eventually been pressed into supporting it, and in November 1675 he was reprimanded for his leniency over the publication of the anti-Test Bill tract, A Letter from a Person of Quality, probably the work of the earl of Shaftesbury and John Locke. Unlike Shaftesbury, however, Anglesey remained part of the administration and his opposition to government policies was muted. In 1675, in contrast to all other presbyterian lords, he did not advocate the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament, and two years later he opposed the earl of Shaftesbury's assertion that parliament had lost its legality because it had not sat for over a year.

After the Popish Plot and the exclusion crisis broke upon the political scene in 1678, Anglesey, while maintaining a measure of independence, initially supported the court. He was the only peer to vote that there was no plot in Ireland, and after the first Exclusion Parliament met in March 1679, although he supported Shaftesbury on the issue of the Habeas Corpus Act, he defended Danby during his impeachment, if more to protect the rights of peers such as himself than out of any sense of loyalty to the minister. However, with the popular acclaim given to the king's son, the duke of Monmouth, after his successful suppression of the rebellion in Scotland, there was a change in his approach. In July he was one of the councillors to oppose the dissolution of parliament, and he attempted unsuccessfully to bring about a reconciliation between Charles and Monmouth during November.

As the crisis developed the following year Anglesey found his past associations with Catholics embarrassing and distanced himself from them. After a witness in court declared in November 1680 that his credit with Catholics in Ireland was such that it had led them to include him in their prayers, he joined the minority of peers in voting for a second bill to exclude the duke of York from the throne, one of the few privy councillors to do so, yet he was still numbered by the Commons the following January as being among the king's ‘evil councillors’.

It was in this context that Anglesey became engaged in a dispute with his former colleague, the duke of Ormond. In August 1680 James Touchet, the Catholic earl of Castlehaven, who had served as general to the Catholic confederation during the early years of the Irish rebellion, sent Anglesey some pages of a memoir he had written with Anglesey's encouragement but which he had not yet decided to publish. By February 1681 Anglesey had published excerpts from Castlehaven's work with criticisms attached, thereby establishing his protestant credentials. His real target, however, was Ormond, whom he accused of betraying the English protestant interest in Ireland during the 1640s and, in addition, implied that Charles I had done the same. Initially Ormond wanted to avoid a public dispute with a man for whom he had contempt but his son Lord Arran persuaded him to write a letter in response, which he did almost a year later, on 12 November 1681, and he allowed his son to distribute copies of it at court, one copy going to the king. To this letter Anglesey replied on 7 December and by 14 March 1682 he had published both of them as a pamphlet.

Exacerbating the tension, Anglesey was known to be writing a history of Ireland (now lost) which the duke feared would tarnish his reputation and, moreover, there were rumours of whig manoeuvres to procure Ormond's dismissal as lord lieutenant of Ireland. Anglesey, for his part, appeared to be engaging in opposition politics: he frequently dined with Monmouth during the early months of 1682, and by April had written a tract in which he maintained that the duke of York's ‘perversion’ in matters of religion was the cause of the poor state of the kingdom. This tract was not published until after his death, but his views must have been well known, and he was the last exclusionist to remain on the privy council. Charles, by now, was reported to view Anglesey as a ‘madman’ (Ormonde MSS, 6.324). Thus, when Ormond complained to the council on 17 June 1682 of the earl's behaviour, he probably had the king's approval. The charges and counter-charges were heard in the council over the summer with the king presiding, Anglesey was denounced for scandalous libel and was forced to surrender the privy seal on 9 August.

After his disgrace Anglesey divided his time between his estate at Bletchingdon, Oxfordshire, and his Drury Lane house, the latter being searched on the discovery of the Rye House plot to assassinate the king in 1683. He wrote several works in addition to those mentioned. About 1667 his annual income was estimated at £11,360, but he had financial difficulties at the end of his life. He made efforts to return to royal favour upon James II's accession in 1685, but contracted an inflammation of the throat (quinsy) and died at Drury Lane on 6 April 1686. He was buried at Farnborough, Hampshire, and his library was sold in October 1686.

M. Perceval-Maxwell


Wood, Ath. Oxon., new edn, vol. 4 · The manuscripts of the marquis of Ormonde, [old ser.], 3 vols., HMC, 36 (1895–1909), vols. 1–2 · Calendar of the manuscripts of the marquess of Ormonde, new ser., 8 vols., HMC, 36 (1902–20) · [A. Annesley], A true account of the whole proceedings betwixt … Ormond and … Anglesey (1682) · ‘The earl of Castlehaven's vindication’, c.1682, Bodl. Oxf., MS Carte 118, fols. 266–79 · A. Annesley, earl of Anglesey, siary, BL, Add. MSS 18730, 40860 · GEC, Peerage, new edn · DNB · D. R. Lacey, Dissent and parliamentary politics in England, 1661–1689 (1969) · P. Watson, ‘Annesley, Hon. Arthur’, HoP, Commons, 1660–90 · CSP Ire., 1603–70 · CSP dom., 1660–86 · Pepys, Diary · The manuscripts of Sir William Fitzherbert … and others, HMC, 32 (1893) · A. Patterson and M. Dzeleainis, ‘Marvell and the earl of Anglesey: a chapter in the history of reading’, HJ, 44 (2001), 703–26 · D. Greene, ‘Arthur Annesley, first earl of Anglesey, 1614–1686’, PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1972 · W. P. Baildon, ed., The records of the Honorable Society of Lincoln's Inn: admissions, 1 (1896)


BL, diary and notes, Add. MSS 4763, 4816, 18730, 40860 · Coll. Arms, heraldic collections · PRONI, accounts and papers as treasurer-at-war of Ireland |  BL, letters to Edmund Borlase, Sloane MS 1008, passim · BL, letters to Sir Edward Dering, Stowe MSS 744–745 · BL, letters to earl of Essex, Stowe MSS 200–212, passim · Bodl. Oxf., Carte MSS · Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with duke of Ormond · Inner Temple, London, letters to earl of Essex · NRA, priv. coll., corresp. with first earl of Orrely


oils (after J. M. Wright, c.1676), NPG; versions, Emmanuel College, Cambridge; AM Oxf.