CONWAY, Francis Seymour (1679-1732), of Ragley, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. 28 May 1679, 4th s. of Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, by his 2nd. w. educ. Eton c.1691, Christ Church, Oxf. 1698. m. (1) 17 Feb. 1704, Lady Mary (d. 1709), da. of Laurence Hyde†, 1st Earl of Rochester, ?4da. d.v.p. (2) 1709, Jane Bowden of Drogheda, co. Meath (d. 1716), ?1s d.v.p. 1da. (3) July 1716, Charlotte, da. of John Shorter of Bybrook, Kent (another da. m. Robert Walpole II*), ?2s. ?1da. surv. suc. bro. Popham as h. to estates of Ld. Conway, and took name of Conway, 1699; cr. Baron Conway of Ragley 17 Mar. 1703; Baron Conway and Killultagh [I] 16 Oct. 1712.1
Ranger of Hyde Park 1703–6; PC [I] 1728.
Gov. Carrickfergus 1728–d.
Seymour’s inheritance of the Conway fortune, worth about £7,000 a year, was an unexpected windfall. In 1683 Lord Conway had left his estates to his wife and thereafter to the sons of his first cousin, wife of Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., on the condition that the heir change his name to Conway. In 1697 Popham Seymour, Francis’ elder brother, duly inherited, but died two years later from a wound received in a duel. Francis, thereafter styled Mr Conway, succeeded to the inheritance but had still not yet reached the age of majority, and continued to live with his father until the following May, when he left with Sir Edward on a tour of the newly acquired Irish estates. The young man made a favourable impression there, perhaps because in comparison to his father he was thought ‘more to be depended upon’. He was marked out as one of the most eligible young bachelors in England but despite various marriage proposals he did not in fact marry until 1704, to the daughter of his father’s political ally, the Earl of Rochester.2
As that marriage suggests, Conway was a political cipher for his father’s ambitions and designs. Francis was brought into Parliament in 1701 for Bramber, one of the boroughs where Sir Edward’s enemy, Samuel Shepheard I*, had unsuccessfully tried to corrupt voters. Like his father, Conway was blacklisted as having opposed preparations for war with France in 1701, and listed by Robert Harley* with the Tories in an analysis of the December 1701 Parliament; but it was a measure of Sir Edward’s status and influence, rather than of Conway’s own merit, that Francis was created an English peer in March 1703 as part of the High Tories’ plan to achieve a majority in the Upper House. Expectation of this transfer to the Lords may explain why he and Sir John Cope* offered no evidence in January 1703 in support of the petition which they had lodged against the return at Andover.3
In February 1706 a bill was introduced in Parliament for the exemplification of the 3rd Lord Conway’s will, perhaps because it had been disputed by Sir John Rawdon, who claimed to be the rightful heir. As might have been expected, Lord Conway proved a solid High Churchman over the occasional conformity and schism bills, and the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. Although he was possibly a ‘whimsical’ deserter of the Court over the French commerce bill, there is insufficient evidence to label him a Hanoverian Tory, and there is no record of his activity in the Upper House after 1714. He died on 3 Feb. 1732 at Lisburn, co. Antrim, and was succeeded by his son, Francis, who became the 16th Earl of Hertford on 3 Aug. 1750. Despite his earlier fortune, Conway appears to have died leaving debts of over £22,000 to English creditors, with the result that one of his estates in Gloucestershire had to be sold in order to fund the generous legacies, which included a life pension of £200 to his brother Charles*.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Mark Knights
- 1. H. St. Mawr, Annals of Seymours, 517, gives 2s. and 1 da. by third marriage, but Lodge, Peerage of Ire. iv. 198, gives 4s. 2 d.v.p. 3da.
- 2. Evelyn Diary, v. 331; Add. 30000 C, f. 129; 22186, f. 190; CSP Dom. 1699–1700, p. 226; 1700–2, pp. 112, 114; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 524; v. 715; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Ld. Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†) to James Grahme*, 6 July 1699; Bodl. Carte 228, ff. 335–6; BL, M/799, Dyer’s newsletter 28 Jan. 1703.
- 3. Atterbury Epistolary Corresp. iv. 384–5; Luttrell, v. 257.
- 4. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 427; Party and Management in Parliament ed. C. Jones, 154; Add. 34743, ff. 142–3; 34738, ff. 128–45.