GUY, Henry (1631-1711), of Tring, Herts. and King Street, Westminster.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



8 Mar. 1670
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

bap. 16 June 1631, o.s. of Henry Guy of Tring by Elizabeth, da. of Francis Wethered of Ashlyns Berkhampstead, Herts. educ. G. Inn 1648; I. Temple 1652. unm. suc. fa. 1640.1

Offices Held

J.p. Herts. 1661-?d., St. Albans liberty 1682; commr. for highways, London and Westminster 1662, hackney coaches 1662-7, assessment, Herts. 1665-80, Yorks. (N. and E. Ridings) 1677-80, Westminster 1689, Herts. and E. Riding 1689-90; jt. farmer of excise, Yorks. by 1667-71; commr. for wine licences, London 1668-?71; freeman, Hedon 1669, Portsmouth 1684; commr. for recusants, E. Riding 1675; dep. lt. and maj. of militia ft. Herts. by 1680-9; member, Hon. Artillery Co. 1681; alderman, St. Albans 1685-Oct. 1688, mayor 1685-6.2

Cup-bearer to Queen Catherine of Braganza by 1669-75; groom of the bedchamber 1675-9; member, R. Fishery Co. 1677; receiver-gen. of fee-farm arrears 1677-9; sec. to the Treasury 1679-89, 1689, 1691-5; commr. of the stables 1682-5, customs 1690-1.3


Guy’s father, a tenant on the crown estate, left his widow all his copyholds, valued at £200 p.a., for life. As she survived him by 50 years, Guy received at his coming of age only a lump sum of £1,800. He attached himself to the exiled Court, becoming a personal friend of Charles II and the companion of his pleasures. He applied for a post in the Queen’s household when it was formed, and by 1667 he was associated with his uncle Francis Wethered in the farm of the Yorkshire excise. Their contract was renewed in the following year at an annual rent of £20,750. It was through this grant that he first acquired an interest at Hedon, which he fortified by gifts of plate to the corporation and the purchase of property in the borough.4

Returned to the Cavalier Parliament at a by-election in 1670, Guy was at once appointed to two committees on bills of personal interest, those providing for the sale of fee-farm rents and for reforming the assessment of wines for excise. Listed as a court supporter by the Opposition in 1671, he was described as ‘a privy chamber man, who, for pimping, had the excise farm of Yorkshire, by which he got £50,000.’ He helped to draft the clause transferring the additional impositions from the excise to the customs, and joined the syndicate formed by Lord St. John (Charles Powlett I) which applied unsuccessfully for the customs farm. He contracted to purchase certain fee-farm rents, but there was a technical error in the conveyance. He attached himself to Lord Sunderland, though neither of them could obtain office under Danby’s administration. However, Guy was transferred to the King’s household in 1675 and listed as a court dependant. He was marked ‘thrice vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list in 1677, when he acted as teller for the Court on the Newark election and for the Lords’ proviso on the naturalization bill. In July Danby signed a warrant for Guy’s appointment as receiver-general of fee-farm arrears, though it involved loss of treasury control. He was on both lists of the court party in 1678, when he was teller for the election of Robert Reeve at Eye, and was named to committees for breaking the entail on the estates of Henry Hilyard and of a Hertfordshire neighbour, and for building a new church in Westminster. But he was never an active Member, with only 18 committees in nine sessions.5

Despite his inclusion in the blacklist of the ‘unanimous club’, Guy was re-elected to the Exclusion Parliaments. Shaftesbury naturally classed him as ‘vile’, and he voted against the first exclusion bill, but otherwise left no trace on their records. On the fall of Danby he replaced Charles Bertie as secretary of the Treasury, doubtless on Sunderland’s recommendation. ‘A polished figure, thoroughly acceptable at Court,’ he retained this post for ten years, under several different commissions, thus breaking the tradition that the secretary would be replaced at every change in the Treasury. The reason was probably that whereas Bertie had handled the secret service money for Danby, Guy handled it directly for the King. The office was lucrative, and Guy’s own estimate of his fees as £2,570 p.a. was almost certainly too low. He was probably receiving at least £3,500 p.a. before the death of Charles II and possibly as much as £5,000 p.a. after 1685. Moreover there were other ways of turning the office to account. Lord Keeper Guilford (Francis North) alleged that Guy and his friends made a fortune out of the Treasury by preventing the issue of funds to pay off exchequer tallies, buying them up at a discount, and then obtaining payment in full. Despite the somewhat unsavoury reputation he was acquiring in certain quarters, his friendship was much valued in others. In 1679 Henry Savile wrote to Lord Halifax that Guy’s

steady friendship to me neither has, nor ever can, fail me, and if you knew him as well as I, whatever disadvantages his exterior may show to so nice a man as you, you would not find in England a fitter man to make a friend of.

In 1680 he received most acceptable compensation for the failure of his fee-farm grant, when the manor of Tring, part of the Queen’s jointure, was transferred to him, and in 1683 it was even suggested that he should stand for Hertfordshire at the next election.6

Guy remained in favour under James II. In 1685 he brought in his associate Charles Duncombe at Hedon, and become a moderately active Member of his Parliament, with eight committees, including the committee of elections and privileges. On 30 May he was sent to Lord Treasurer Rochester (Laurence Hyde) to ask for the disabandment accounts, and he was appointed to the committee to inspect them. He also helped to consider a petition from the hackney coachmen and to estimate the yield of a tax on new buildings. Guy helped Sunderland, now lord president of the council, to oust Rochester from the Treasury in 1686, while at the same time safeguarding his own position. A correspondent wrote to the second Earl of Clarendon (Henry Hyde) in November:

If you saw what court Mr Guy makes, not only to my lord president, which is not new, but to others who are now in great credit, you would believe he were sure of keeping his place when the staff is in another hand.

Rochester fell and Guy remained. The King’s agents reported in 1688 that he would be re-elected on his own interest. After the Revolution he stayed at his post throughout the winter of 1688-9, collaborating with the new regime.7

Guy did sit for Hedon in the 1689 Convention, but he was totally inactive apart from a speech on 20 Mar. in reply to a comment that secret service pensions ‘were never heard of till Mr Guy’s time’.

I hear my name mentioned upon the head of great sums, though under the denomination of secret service. The reason was to ease the charge of the great seal. But, be it what it will, I am ready to give account, to a penny, of what I received.

He was dismissed in the following month.8

Guy was re-elected in 1690 and appointed to the customs commission, transferring to the Treasury in the following year. He managed Sunderland’s interest in the Commons, but had to resign office after charges of corrupt practices in 1695 and lost his seat at the general election. He was returned to Queen Anne’s first Parliament, but died on 23 Feb. 1711 and was buried at Tring, the only member of the family to sit. He left a fortune estimated at £40,000 in cash and £500 p.a. in land to the grandson of Sir William Pulteney, the Whig statesman who became Earl of Bath in 1742.9

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Cussans, Herts. xiii. 82; Clutterbuck, Herts. i. 510.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1682, p. 218; 1685, p. 73; C181/7/151, 215; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 144, 348; iii. 1015; iv. 496; G. Poulson, Holderness, ii. 174; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 366; Ancient Vellum Bk. ed. Raikes, 111; Clutterbuck, i. 52.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 200; 1689-90, p. 514; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 437; vii. 674; viii. 162-3, 404; Savile Corresp. (Cam. Soc. lxxi), 129; Select Charters (Selden Soc. xxviii), 198.
  • 4. DNB; PCC 133 Coventry; Clutterbuck, i. 298; SP29/26/78; North, Lives, i. 196; CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 388; Cal. Treas. Bks. vi. 857; Poulson, ii. 154, 174.
  • 5. Harl. 7020, f. 46v; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 1259; v. 437, 674, 695; vi. 393; CJ, ix. 389, 416, 437; Kenyon, Sunderland, 15.
  • 6. H. Roseveare, Treasury: Evolution, 72; Dalrymple, Mems. i. pt. 2, p. I46; Savile Corresp. 120; VCH Herts. ii. 383.
  • 7. CJ, ix. 722; North, ii. 195; Clarendon Corresp. ii. 66; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1-25; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 1, p. 388.
  • 8. Grey, ix. 177.
  • 9. Kenyon, 271; HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 399; DNB; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1700-15, p. 209.