HENLEY, Anthony (1667-1711), of the Grange, Northington, Hants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1698 - 1700
5 Feb. 1702 - Aug. 1711

Family and Education

b. 1667, 1st s. of Sir Robert Henley* by his 2nd wife; half-bro. of John* and Robert*.  educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 3 Mar. 1682, aged 15; M. Temple 1684.  m. Feb. 1700 (with c.£30,000), Mary, da. and coh. of Hon. Peregrine Bertie I*, 3s. ?4da.  suc. fa. 1692, bro. Henry, 1692.1

Offices Held


Henley inherited an estate reportedly worth £3,000 p.a. from his father, including the Grange near Andover, and houses in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which came to him on the death of his younger brother only a few days after his father. As a man of fashion Henley took an interest in literature and music, becoming a patron of such men as Dr Samuel Garth, who dedicated the second edition of The Dispensary to him, and Henry Purcell’s younger brother, Daniel, whose opera Alexander Henley helped to finish. Henley himself contributed two songs to the play Pausanias, written by Richard Norton II*, with whom he had been at Oxford and who remained a close friend.2

In the 1690s Henley was taken under the wing of the 2nd Earl of Sunderland. John Le Neve wrote, after Henley’s death, that Sunderland had possessed

a great esteem and affection for him, and every one knowing what a secret influence he [Sunderland] had on affairs in King William’s court, it was thought strange that Mr Henley, who had a genius for anything great as well as anything gay did not rise in the state, where he would have shone as a politician . . . But the muses and pleasures had engaged him. He had something of the character of Tibullius and, except his extravagance, was possessed of all his other qualities; his indolence, his gallantry, his wit, his humanity, his generosity, his learning, his share of letters.

In 1695 Henley was defeated at the parliamentary election at Newtown, Isle of Wight, but this seems rather to have stimulated his interest in politics. By 1697 he was attending meetings of the Whig Rose Club, and later graduated to the Kit-Cat. On 3 Mar. 1697 he was granted a pension of £1,000 for 21 years, and on the same day was appointed sole trustee of another pension of £1,000 for 99 years for a daughter of the 1st Earl of Sunderland. A rumour shortly afterwards that he would be made vice-chamberlain came to nothing. The following year he entered Parliament. Queried as a Court supporter in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments in September 1698, he voted against the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699. It is impossible to disentangle his other parliamentary activities from those of Henry and Robert Henley, also Whigs, although he was clearly not an active Member in this reign. An analysis of the Commons of January–May 1700 marked Henley as possibly being in the Junto interest. On 25 Dec. 1699 it was reported that his marriage negotiations were near completion. The main attraction of the bride, described by one gossip as ‘a mettled jade’, may have been her fortune of about £30,000, necessary to pay off Henley’s debts (reported to amount to £10,000). A large part of these debts may have arisen from providing portions for two of his sisters who married in 1698, one to Sir John Rogers, 2nd Bt.*, and the other to Sir Theodore Janssen†. At about this time there was apparently some cooling in Henley’s friendship with Norton and it is possible that the marriage may have caused disagreements, Norton being one of the trustees of the marriage settlement.3

Henley did not stand in either of the general elections of 1701, although on 7 Aug. he and Norton presented a Whiggish address from the Hampshire grand jury. Henley re-entered Parliament after a successful by-election contest for Weymouth in 1702. After he was re-elected in 1702, it is again difficult to distinguish his activity in Parliament from that of Henry Henley, who also sat for some part of this reign. Five tellerships are recorded for ‘Mr Henley’ in this session, all on the Whig side. Henley voted on 13 Feb. 1703 for agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the abjuration bill. In the next session, on 23 Nov. 1704, he probably acted as a teller against giving the occasional conformity bill a second reading, and he did not vote for the Tack on the 28th. In the same year John Dennis dedicated to Henley his play Liberty Asserted, which was considered very ‘Whiggish’ and even republican. Having successfully contested Weymouth in 1705, Anthony was the only Henley in the House until 1710. He was listed as a placeman and as Low Church, and voted on 25 Oct. for the Court candidate for Speaker. He was also a teller for the Whigs in three contested election cases early in the session. On 4 Dec. 1705 he spoke against the ‘Hanover motion’ and he took part in the debate four days later on the ‘Church in danger’. On 24 Jan. 1706 he told for the Court against accepting the amended ‘place clause’ in the regency bill, and was listed as voting with the Court on this issue on 18 Feb. He was also a teller on 16 Feb. in favour of a motion directing the elections committee to hear the Newcastle-under-Lyme case within a few days, and when the petition was heard on 27 Feb. told in favour of the Whig John Lawton’s* election. His final tellership in this Parliament was on 10 Feb. 1707 for a Whig amendment to the bill for securing the Church of England.4

Continuing to represent Weymouth in 1708, Henley was twice listed as a Whig in this year and supported the naturalization of the Palatines in 1709. On 14 Dec. 1709 it was reported that at the end of the debate on the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell

the House was in a great ferment, and as it is usual for people when in a great heat to go very far, Mr Henley took that opportunity to tell the House that in such licentious times as these it was not sufficient to punish offenders that write against the constitution, but they ought to distinguish those who writ serviceably for it, and therefore he would make them a motion if they would give him leave. Being ordered to go on, he moved that her Majesty might be addressed to confer some ecclesiastical dignity upon the Reverend Mr Ben Hoadley for his excellent defence of the constitution, which was agreed to with a great noise.

Sir John Perceval, 5th Bt.†, observed that ‘it was thought odd by some in the gallery that the Queen should be addressed to reward a man for writing against the bishop of Exeter’s sermon which very sermon she approved, and ordered to be printed’. Naturally, Henley voted for the impeachment. Henley was listed in 1710 as having at least £4,000 invested in the Bank of England on his own account and the same amount as one of a group of investors.5

About this time Henley made some contributions to the Tatler. The letter in no.193 (4 July 1710), under the character of ‘Downes the Prompter’, which ridiculed the new Harley administration, has been attributed to the joint authorship of Henley and Temple Stanyon. Henley is then said to have helped William Harrison in his continuation of the Tatler and contributed to the Medley. He was on friendly terms with Swift, although the latter considered Henley, with his great wealth, not always sufficiently considerate:

The puppy comes here [i.e. to London] without his wife, and keeps no house, and would have me dine with him at eating houses; but I have only done it once and will do it no more. He had not seen me for some time in the coffee house, and, asking after me, desired Lord Herbert [?eldest son of the 8th Earl of Pembroke] to tell me, I was a beast for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Henley successfully contested Weymouth in 1710 and, although a pensioner and a relation by marriage of the first lord of the Treasury, the 1st Earl Poulett, remained a Whig, being listed as such on the ‘Hanover list’. The 3rd Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) had earlier remarked on his ‘constant steadiness’ to his party and in 1711 Henley joked to Swift that ‘the Tories were insupportable people, because they are for bringing in French claret and will not sup-port’. He almost certainly acted as a teller in the disputed elections at Cockermouth and at Weymouth on 3 Apr., 28 Apr. and 22 May. Henley appeared on, but was then crossed off, the list of those voting against the Court amendment to the South Sea bill on 25 May 1711.6

Henley died of ‘an apoplexy’ in August 1711, leaving no will. Bishop Burnet described him as ‘worthy’, on which the Earl of Dartmouth commented: ‘this worthy person was a professed atheist, a zealous republican, and a most obsequious follower of the Earl of Sunderland in all his notions as well as vices’. Speaker Onslow (Arthur†) considered him to be ‘a person of considerable fashion and fortune, of great parts and genius, and lived much with the best men of that sort. He was deemed a man of honour, and very firm to his principles and party’.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Sonya Wynne


  • 1. Hutchins, Dorset, iii. 742; N. and Q. ser. 10, ix. 141–3; W. L. W. Eyre, Hist. Swarraton and Northington, app. p. vii; Post Boy, 15–17 Feb. 1700.
  • 2. Le Neve, Persons who Died in 1711, 534; PCC 9 Coker; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, vi. 152, 724–5; W. H. Cummings, Purcell, 99–100.
  • 3. Le Neve, 532, 534; Ailesbury Mems. 436; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 418; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/49 (Sir) John Verney* (Ld. Fermanagh) to William Coleman, 22 Apr. 1697; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 18, ff. 55–56; Le Neve, 533; CJ, xvii. 203.
  • 4. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 154; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 79; Poems on Affairs of State, 701; Cam. Misc. xxiii. 42, 47.
  • 5. HMC Egmont, ii. 244; G. Holmes, Trial of Sacheverell, 94–95; Egerton 3359 (unfol.).
  • 6. The Tatler ed. Bond, i. 97, 199–201; iii. 42–45; Swift Stella, ed. Davis, 54, 113, 153–4, 236, 240, 254; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 360–1.
  • 7. Swift Stella, 337; Burnet, ii. 475–6.