MASSEY, Edward (c.1619-74), of Abbeyleix, Queen's Co., Ireland.

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



18 June 1646
1661 - bef. 5 Dec. 1674

Family and Education

b. c.1619, 5th s. of John Massey of Coddington, Cheshire by Anne, da. of Richard Grosvenor of Eaton, Cheshire. unm. Kntd. 27 May 1660.2

Offices Held

Capt. of pioneers 1639; lt.-col. of ft. (parliamentary) 1642; gov. Gloucester 1643-5; general, western assoc. 1645-6; lt.-gen. of horse 1647; gov. Kirkcaldy (royalist) c.1650; col. of ft. [I] 1661-d.; col. of ft. 1666-7.

Commr. for defence, Glos. 1644, assessment, Gloucester 1644-5, Aug. 1660-d., Glos. 1645, 1661-3, 1664-9, Mdx. and Westminster 1673-d., Cornw., Devon, Exeter, Dorset, Som. and Wilts. 1645, Mdx. and Westminster 1673-d., execution of ordinances, western assoc. 1645; freeman, Gloucester Apr. 1660, commr. for loyal and indigent officers, Glos. 1662; sub.-commr, of prizes, Dover 1665-7.3

Commr. for indemnity 1647-9; PC [I] 1661-d.


Massey came of a family with many branches, settled in Cheshire since the 14th century, members of which had represented Cheshire and Flintshire constituencies in the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. Massey is said to have been a London apprentice and a soldier in the Netherlands before joining the King’s army against the Scots in 1639. But the Coddington Masseys were parliamentarian in sympathy, and in the first Civil War Massey distinguished himself as governor of the outlying stronghold of Gloucester. As recruiter for Wootton Bassett he joined the Presbyterian group in the Long Parliament. He was one of the 11 Members impeached by the Army in June 1647, and took refuge in Holland. He returned in September 1648, but was imprisoned after Pride’s Purge. On 18 Jan. 1649 he escaped and joined Charles II, under whom he served in the Worcester campaign in 1651. He was imprisoned in the Tower, but escaped again in August 1652, and became one of the most active and daring royalist conspirators. He was captured after Booth’s rising, but escaped for the third time, and was entrusted with the seizure of Gloucester for the Royalists. In hiding in London, he helped to foment the mutiny of 1 Feb. 1660.4

On the advice of George Monck, Massey did not reclaim his seat on the return of the secluded Members, but on 27 Mar. he wrote to Sir Edward Hyde, with whom he maintained a regular correspondence, that he was leaving for Gloucester to stand in the general election. Though his candidature was favoured by the corporation, who at once gave him the freedom of the city, the public appearance of so notorious a Royalist provoked a riot among the soldiers. He was sent for by the Council of State, which absolved him of blame. Elected in his absence he was marked as a friend by Lord Wharton, who reserved him for his own management. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he was named to 13 committees, including that appointed to prepare an answer to the King’s letter. On 1 May his friend Silius Titus informed Hyde that ‘Major-General Massey does good service in the House: on his motion the Republican fiddle and cross were ordered to be taken down, and the vote of £3,000 for the King increased to £50,000’. On 7 May Massey himself confided to Hyde that he had been ‘chided today by an eminent fellow Member for making too much haste for the King’s return’. On 16 May the House voted to repay with interest the £994 6s. 2d. disbursed by him for the service of the western association. He was knighted at Canterbury on 27 May. On 16 June he acted as teller for the unsuccessful motion to except Major-General William Boteler from the indemnity and oblivion bill. In July Massey petitioned for the iron works in the Forest of Dean, which had been granted him by the Long Parliament, but there is no evidence that he ever regained them; nor does there seem to be any truth in the report that he had been designated governor of Jamaica. In October, however, he was granted a lease of the manor and abbey of Leix in Ireland for 51 years at a yearly rental of £50, later extended to 99 years with the rent reduced to £12. After the recess he advocated leniency for William Drake, author of The Long Parliament Revived; he presented Drake’s petition on 20 Nov. stating that he ‘looked upon him to be distempered, and desired the favour of the House for him’. On 19 Dec. the House, in consideration of his ‘eminent and faithful services’, voted Massey £3,000 out of the excise. On the same day he urged the House to reward Jane Lane for assisting the King’s escape after Worcester.5

Massey was re-elected in 1661, and was again moderately active in the Cavalier Parliament, being named to 110 committees and acting as teller on seven occasions. On 14 May he was appointed to the committees for the bills for the security of the King’s person and Government and for the confirmation of public Acts. On 18 June he was named to the committee appointed to consider the shortfall in revenue. Wharton still regarded him as a friend, and he acted as teller for the Opposition against the corporations bill. Clarendon, who regarded him as faithful and well-meaning, though wonderfully vain and weak, took tactful but decisive action to remove him from Westminster for a time. He had already been promised a colonelcy in the Irish army when the next vacancy occurred, but on 7 Aug. the King ordered that he should be given the regiment promised to the lord lieutenant’s son (Thomas Butler) and sworn a member of the Irish Privy Council. He probably left for Ireland at once and remained there till after the Christmas recess, for he was named to no committees until 17 Jan. 1662. He was given leave to go to Ireland again on 17 Mar. 1663, and seems to have been absent for the remainder of the second session and for all the third, though his name appears on the 1664 list of court dependants. In the second Dutch war he served in the Dover prize office, and it was suggested that, in view of the reluctance of the local magistracy to execute justice against nonconformists, he might be given authority to act in their stead. During the Oxford session he was appointed to the committees for the five mile bill and the bill to prevent the import of foreign cattle. In the next session he was named to the committee appointed to inspect the accounts of the navy, ordnance and stores and to the revived committee for the Irish cattle bill, against which he twice acted as teller.6

There is no evidence of Massey’s attitude during the attack on Clarendon, but his routine committee appointments indicate that he was present. On 10 Dec. 1667 he spoke against the petition of the Irish adventurers, asserting that

not the twentieth man of the adventurers was acquainted with (and assenting to) the petition, but that a few persons of their own heads brought in this petition.

On 17 Feb. 1668, in the debate on the miscarriages of the war, he said that

it was a great miscarriage and crime in any man to neglect orders given, and had those orders for the fortifying Sheerness been well and truly obeyed and executed the Dutch durst not so securely have come into the river to have fired our ships.

On 11 Mar. Massey sought to answer the argument of (Sir) John Berkenhead that in Poland toleration could only be enforced by a standing army, but according to John Milward, ‘his slight objection ... was of no weight, nor worth taking notice of it; he was [for] referring this debate to the King’. This is the only suggestion that he acted with the dissenters in the House at this time. In the same session, he was appointed to the committees for the conventicles bill and the bill preventing refusal of writs of habeas corpus. Shortly thereafter he returned to Ireland, and the debate of 17 Mar. 1670 on irregularities in the Dover prize office during the war (see Sir Thomas Peyton) took place in his absence. He was back in the House by 27 Oct., when he was appointed to the small committee instructed to bring in a bill for preserving the plantation trade. Later in the session he was named to the committees for the bills for the better observation of the Lord’s day and preventing the growth of Popery. His name occurs on both lists of the court party at this time.7

On 14 Feb. 1673, after the long prorogation, Massey acted as teller against seeking the concurrence of the Lords in the address for ease of Protestant dissenters, and he was later appointed to the committee for the bill. On 17 Mar. he supported the complaint of Lord Arran (Lord Richard Butler) that since the removal of his father, Ormonde, Papists had attained positions of trust in Ireland and constituted a real grievance.

The oath of supremacy has been administered to some of them, and has had ill effect. In Tipperary the Duke of Ormonde suffers no priest, but there are in all other places. They said they should have their religion entire, and would have their lands again. The King sent his letter to the lord lieutenant, signifying that it was never in his heart to alter either the settlement or the government, and orders him to let it be known in the kingdom; so he hopes that has been pretty well allayed.

Massey went on to produce a letter describing the effect of the Declaration of Indulgence:

Constables, when the guards came, told them that Mass was said there, and the people wondered they should be interrupted; but upon search no indulgence was found from the King to have public Popish meetings. You see by this letter, they are confident they may do anything. [On] 14 June last, 144 priests met five or six thousand people, some well armed, and shot at those that came to suppress the meeting. They had Popish authority, and printed several things tending to the Roman jurisdiction.

But he admitted that he knew of no Roman Catholic officers in the army except Colonel Richard Talbot. He was named to the committee to prepare an address on the state of Ireland. In the debate on the general test bill on 6 Feb. 1674, he alleged that the Duke of Norfolk was detained in Italy only because ‘he was a good proficient in the Protestant religion, and they have made him mad and kept him mad for being so’. He died in Ireland later in the year, and was buried at Abbeyleix.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Disabled 27 Jan. 1648, readmitted 8 June and secluded at Pride’s Purge 6 Dec.
  • 2. Burke, Commoners, iii. 45-47; Ormerod, Cheshire, ii. 731-2.
  • 3. Gloucester Guildhall, council bk. 1656-86, f. 131; CSP Ire. 1661-2, p. 392; HMC Ormonde, ii. 200; CSP Dom. 1664-5, p. 245.
  • 4. DNB; Clarendon, Rebellion, iii. 130; v. 537; Thurloe, iii. 165, 177-8; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 261-4, 309.
  • 5. Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 543, 603, 614-15, 620-1, 643, 646; v. 2, 21; Letter from an Eminent Person in Gloucester; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 171; Evelyn Diary, iii. 257; CSP Ire. 1660-2, pp. 72, 159; 1663-5, p. 32; Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 17, 19, 59.
  • 6. Cal. Cl. SP, ii. 177; CSP Dom. 1665-6, p. 225; CJ, viii. 276, 631, 635.
  • 7. Milward, 161, 188, 220; Grey, i. 80, 81; CJ, ix. 141.
  • 8. Grey, ii. 119, 385-6; Portland mss. BL Loan 29/83, Strettell to Harley, 5 Dec. 1674.