Conway, Edward, first Viscount Conway and first Viscount Killultagh
- Sean Kelsey
Conway, Edward, first Viscount Conway and first Viscount Killultagh (c. 1564–1631), politician, was the son and heir of Sir John Conway (d. 1603), of Arrow, Warwickshire, and Ellen or Eleanor, daughter of Sir Fulke Greville (d. 1560) of Beauchamp's Court, Warwickshire, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Willoughby. His family were substantial Warwickshire landowners by the late sixteenth century. About 1593 Conway married Dorothy (d. 1612), widow of Edward Bray of Great Barrington, Gloucestershire, and daughter of Sir John Tracy of Toddington, in the same county.
Edward pursued a military career, and was knighted by the earl of Essex at the sacking of Cadiz (1596), where he commanded a regiment of foot. Afterwards he served in the Netherlands as governor of the Brill. His time there may help account for the enthusiasm of his protestant convictions, as also the Christian name of his most famous daughter, Brilliana, baptized there in 1598 [see Harley, Brilliana, Lady Harley]. His convictions were shared by his fellow officer Sir Horace Vere, who in 1607 married Dorothy Conway's sister Mary.
In the first parliament held in the reign of James I, Conway sat as member for Penryn. When Brill was delivered up to the states of Holland (1616), he received a pension of £500 per annum. Before 30 December 1619 he married Katherine (d. 1639), widow of John West, grocer and citizen of London, and daughter of Giles Hueriblock or Hambler of Ghent in the Spanish Netherlands. In 1620 he was an ambassador at Brussels and at Prague, and on 28 June 1622 he was sworn of the privy council. On 30 January 1623, under the patronage of the marquess of Buckingham, he was made secretary of state. His admission to Gray's Inn in 1624 was honorary, and there is no evidence to suggest that his lack of formal education had hindered him in his role as secretary, though his first royal master was apt to jest that his secretary of state was illiterate. Conway was returned for Evesham to the parliament which assembled on 19 February 1624. Like his cousin Fulke Greville (1554–1628) he had up until this point shown himself a staunch supporter of a ‘protestant’ foreign policy, and in the Commons he was a keen advocate of Buckingham's policy of war with Spain.
After Charles I's accession continued royal favour kept him in office as secretary, and on 24 March 1625 he was created Baron Conway of Ragley in the county of Warwick; on 8 December he was appointed captain of the Isle of Wight. In the House of Lords he took a hand in co-ordinating the defence of Buckingham in the Commons in 1626. Its proceedings proved a turning point for Conway; not only did he follow Buckingham in abandoning the anti-Spanish policy, but he expressed himself in a letter to the earl of Carlisle on 5 June greatly disillusioned with parliament itself. On 15 March 1627 he was created Viscount Killultagh of Killultagh, co. Antrim, Ireland, and on 26 June Viscount Conway of Conway Castle in Caernarvonshire. In the early stages of collecting the forced loan that year he showed sensitivity to local sentiment, but later he advised a harder line against Gloucestershire refusers. By late 1627 he was arguing for war, mainly against France, and for extra parliamentary supply to fund it. Conway became lord president of the council in December 1628. He died in St Martin's Lane, London, on 3 January 1631, and was buried at Arrow on 12 January.
Notwithstanding his prominence in the affairs of state, Conway's papers reveal the assiduity with which he performed 'the role of linking the county gentry with the government', performing many favours at court for his Warwickshire friends, neighbours, and kinsmen (Hughes, 25–6). He was 'part of the last manifestation of the Elizabethan style of central government which ensured that relatively broad strands of opinion, particularly religious opinion, were represented in the Privy Council' (ibid., 88–9). Their passing marked the end of an era in relations between Warwickshire and the court, and the beginning of a fatal division between court and country. Conway's eldest son, Edward Conway (bap. 1594, d. 1655), who succeeded as second viscount, was much less interested in local affairs.
- G. E. Aylmer, The king's servants: the civil service of Charles I, 1625–1642 (1961)
- R. Lockyer, Buckingham: the life and political career of George Villiers, first duke of Buckingham, 1592–1628 (1981)
- A. Hughes, Politics, society and civil war in Warwickshire, 1620–1660 (1987)
- J. Eales, Puritans and roundheads: the Harleys of Brampton Bryan and the outbreak of the English civil war (1990)
- R. P. Cust, The forced loan and English politics, 1626–1628 (1987)
- J. Foster, The register of admissions to Gray’s Inn, 1521–1889, together with the register of marriages in Gray's Inn chapel, 1695–1754 (privately printed, London, 1889)
- TNA: PRO, PROB 11/160, fols. 409r–410v
- BL, letters to Walter Aston, Add. MSS 36446–36447
- BL, corresp. with Lord Carlisle, Egerton MSS 2593, 2596
- CKS, letters to Lionel Cranfield, U269/1/OE172, 208
Wealth at Death
estate at Ragley valued at £900 p.a.; pension from crown valued at £2000 p.a.; disposed of extensive real estate in Warwickshire and Ulster; made bequests worth several hundred pounds: will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/160, fols. 409r–410v; Hughes, Politics, society and civil war, 26n.