MUSGRAVE, Christopher (1664-1718), of Swallow Street, Westminster

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



1690 - 1695
1702 - 1705

Family and Education

b. 2 July 1664, 2nd s. of Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.*, by his 1st w.; bro. of Philip Musgrave†, half-bro. of Joseph Musgrave*.  educ. Staple Inn; G. Inn 1683, called 1687, bencher 1715.  unm.1

Offices Held

Clerk of deliveries Ordnance 1689–96, clerk of Ordnance 1696–1714; dep.-gov. Carlisle 1692–?1693; clerk of Privy Council, extraord. 1695–Jan. 1705, ord. Jan. 1705–12; commr. privy seal 30 June 1701–25 Apr. 1702.2

Gov., Q. Elizabeth g.s. Penrith 1689–d.; freeman, Portsmouth 1681, Carlisle 1690, Appleby, 1704; dep.recorder, Carlisle 1687–9.3

Commr. Greenwich hospital, 1695.4


Musgrave’s political sympathies were of the same Tory hue as his more famous father’s, but of as much note as his partisan allegiance was his lengthy administrative career, during which he served continuously from the Revolution until the Hanoverian succession in a number of government posts. On completing his legal training in 1687 Musgrave was nominated by Lord Preston (Sir Richard Graham, 3rd Bt.†) as deputy-recorder of Carlisle, though he confessed to the corporation that his obligations in London would prevent his frequent attendance in Carlisle and he therefore nominated his own deputy-resident in Cumberland. He lost this position in 1689 when the revocation of Carlisle’s 1684 charter ended the post of deputy-recorder, but was nominated the same year to succeed his recently deceased elder brother Philip in the Ordnance office, the appointment being made by Philip’s father-in-law Lord Dartmouth (George Legge†). Musgrave’s hopes of being returned to the Convention for Carlisle were dashed when his father’s withdrawal from the Westmorland election compelled him to take the Carlisle seat originally intended for Musgrave, but he was returned for the borough on his father’s interest at the 1690 election.5

Classed by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in March 1690 as a Tory and a Court supporter, Musgrave was an inactive Member. In December 1690 Carmarthen classed him as a likely supporter in the event of a parliamentary attack on his ministerial position. He was included among the appointees ordered on 6 Dec. to draft a clause appropriating forfeited estates to defray the cost of the war while reserving a proportion to the King. In April 1691 Robert Harley* listed Musgrave as a Court supporter, and in the following year he was included in both a list of placemen and a list of government supporters drawn up by Carmarthen. Musgrave’s most significant parliamentary contribution was seen following events in the summer of 1692. On 29 July the corporation of Carlisle disfranchised Musgrave for striking a gunner at Carlisle Castle, where Musgrave had been appointed deputy-governor the previous year. Sir Christopher Musgrave described the incident to Harley:

Last week Kit was commanded to take the remain of stores at Carlisle Castle, and commanding the gunners to attend him at the castle at six in the morning, one of them came after eight; asking him the reason why he did not observe the hour appointed, [he] said he had other business, which provoked the young man to exercise his cane upon him and broke his head. This gunner happens to be an alderman of the city. To express his resentment of this discipline, he prevails with the mayor who is his father to summon the aldermen to meet by candlelight in the evening in the hall; there were not above five aldermen at the meeting, the whole number consists of twelve; and they disfranchised Mr Christopher for cudg[el]ling an alderman out of corporation, but the castle is not within their liberties. This is a very summary way of proceeding, to take away his birthright – for so his freedom is – and freehold, without summoning or hearing the party. And must offer it to your consideration whether the taking away of a freehold to which several immunities appertain is not a high violation of the privilege of Parliament? I am sure things of far inferior nature have been judged a breach of privilege.

In another letter to Harley Sir Christopher emphasized that he thought the disfranchisement amounted to a ‘great violation of privilege’, and by September Francis Gwyn*, another friend of Musgrave’s father, was writing that he would be ‘very glad to humble the town’ for its treatment of Musgrave. The issue was raised in the House on 14 Nov. by his father’s ally Sir Thomas Clarges, who urged that the disfranchisement be considered a breach of privilege, and Sir Christopher’s influence on the opposition was demonstrated when Harley, Paul Foley I, Simon Harcourt I and Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., all supported Clarges’ call. That the issue had become subject to the tensions between the Court and opposition in this session is evident from the replies by Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II, and Sir Henry Goodricke, 2nd Bt., the former no doubt also determined to prevent censure of the Carlisle corporation in which the Lowther interest was on the rise, but Musgrave’s supporters carried their motion without a division. Once the disfranchisement had been voted a breach of privilege, however, Musgrave intervened to prevent the House censuring the entire corporation, urging instead that only ‘some of the most notorious be sent for in custody’ to answer the charge. Musgrave’s recommendation was accepted and six members of the corporation were sent for. The six journeyed to London and were placed in custody, and on 5 Dec. the Commons received a petition from three of them acknowledging their offence, but, though Lowther and Seymour urged that the men be set free immediately, the absence of Musgrave from the Commons and the corporation’s failure to restore Musgrave to his freedom led the House to order that the six members of the corporation attend in two days’ time when, having received a reprimand, they were released from custody. On the 15th Musgrave was restored to his freedom. For the rest of the session he was inactive, being nominated to only one significant committee. He was included on two lists of placemen in 1693, but made little further impact on the House. His only noteworthy activity in the 1693–4 session was when he told, on 2 Feb. 1694, on the Tory side in a division on the Clitheroe election case, while in the following session he was included on a list of ‘friends’ compiled by Henry Guy*, probably in connexion with the attack of this session on Guy. On 16 Mar. 1695 Musgrave brought a breach of privilege to the attention of the House, informing the Commons that a lawyer of Staple Inn had offered him four guineas to present a petition, which led two days later to a reprimand for this lawyer.6

Although Musgrave’s administrative career progressed in 1695 with his appointment as clerk extraordinary to the Privy Council, he was defeated, despite his ‘unwearied application’, at the Carlisle election the same year, by the combined interests of the Earl of Carlisle (Charles Howard*) and the Lowthers. The following year Musgrave was promoted within the Ordnance, and though no longer an MP his name continued to appear regularly in the Journals as a signatory to Ordnance accounts and other papers. Contradictory reports circulated in 1698 of Musgrave’s intentions concerning the election of that year. In April it was reported that he intended to seek re-entry into the Commons, it being speculated that he would replace his father at Appleby. By July, however, it was claimed that Musgrave had declared he would ‘make no opposition any where’, and his eventual decision to stand at Carlisle was attributed more to the efforts of his supporters in that borough than to Musgrave’s own enthusiasm. He was defeated by the same combination of interests as he had faced three years previously. Despite a report that he was likely to take one of the Carlisle seats in the first election of 1701, Musgrave stood in neither election that year, but his Toryism and family loyalty were demonstrated at a London coffee-house in October 1701 when he took exception to criticism by the Whig Benjamin Overton* of the Westmorland address, which Musgrave’s father had penned, and the two men had to be separated by onlookers. Continued in his Ordnance clerkship, worth £600 p.a., on Anne’s accession, Musgrave was successful at Carlisle in the 1702 election, though it appears he was once more an inactive Member. He was still a staunch Tory, following his father’s lead on 13 Feb. 1703 by voting against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration, and in April the same year he testified before the Cabinet Council that his Whig colleague at the Ordnance John Pulteney* had criticized Secretary Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) for allegedly obstructing the ministry’s foreign policy. A month later rumours circulated that Musgrave’s father had tried and failed to secure Musgrave’s promotion to secretary of the Ordnance. The only other known detail of Musgrave’s parliamentary career was his position on the Tack. Forecast as an opponent of the measure in October, Musgrave was included on Harley’s lobbying list, and on 1 Nov. he assured Bishop Nicolson, a longstanding friend and political ally in Cumberland, of his ‘inclinations to let the bill of occasional conformity sleep’. Musgrave does not appear on any of the surviving lists of the division of 28 Nov. and in all probability was a ‘sneaker’.7

The death of his father in 1704 had left Musgrave the head of the family interest in the north-west during the minority of his nephew Sir Christopher Musgrave, 5th Bt.*, but Musgrave’s lack of local knowledge and profile, having spent most of his adult life in London fulfilling his administrative duties, limited his effectiveness in this role. He was unable to prevent James Grahme* finalizing an agreement to allow the Whig William Fleming* to stand unopposed for Westmorland in the 1704 by-election, and despite his efforts to build his interest in the borough, was defeated at Carlisle in the 1705 election, a loss he blamed upon bribery by his opponents. Out of Parliament Musgrave continued in office, both at the Ordnance, being described by the historian of this department as an ‘efficient and painstaking administrator’, and as clerk of the Privy Council, having been promoted to ordinary clerk in January 1705. The salaries from these posts, together with an inheritance of lands from his father worth £300–400 p.a., combined to secure his financial wellbeing, and in 1706 he was able to advance a loan to his fellow Tory Grahme. His partisan ardour had not, however, diminished, as is apparent from his harsh criticism to Nicolson in February 1708 of ‘Whig’ commissioners of Queen Anne’s Bounty, and in 1708 he made overtures to Carlisle corporation concerning election to Parliament. These proved unsuccessful, Musgrave having forecast that Nicolson’s claim to support his return was ‘a bamboozle’ which would ‘end in nothing’, and though his candidacy for Carlisle was expected in 1710, he never again stood for election. His salary and inheritance had secured his financial position sufficiently for him to be recorded in March 1710 as owning over £2,000 of Bank stock, and in 1712 he resigned his place as clerk of the Privy Council to his nephew. He remained in his Ordnance post until removed at the Hanoverian succession. He died on 10 Sept. 1718, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, leaving his Cumberland and Westmorland estates to the second son of his nephew Sir Christopher Musgrave, 5th Bt.; £4,000 to be divided among his nephew’s other children; his annuities of £400 from the Exchequer to his half-brothers Joseph and George; and the remainder of his estate, after his debts and a number of small legacies were paid, to Joseph.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


  • 1. Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 23; G. Burton, Life of Sir Philip Musgrave, 43.
  • 2. H. Tomlinson, Guns and Govt. 225; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 76–77; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 374, 475; v. 508; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvi. 300; xix. 467; xxvi. 267, 537; xxvii. 534.
  • 3. P. H. Reaney, Recs. of Q. Elizabeth Grammar Sch. Penrith (Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. Tract Ser. x), 29, 31; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 364; Cumbria RO (Kendal), Appleby bor. recs. WSMB/A minute bk. 3, 22 Sept. 1704; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Carlisle bor. recs. Ca/2/161, Musgrave to Carlisle corp. 20 Oct. [1687].
  • 4. Add. 10120, f. 233.
  • 5. Carlisle bor. recs. Ca/2/163, Musgrave to Carlisle corp., [1687]; HMC Lonsdale, 97–98.
  • 6. Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. ser. 2, lxxv. 174–87; HMC Portland, iii. 495, 497, 500; Luttrell Diary, 225–6; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 910.
  • 7. Lowther Corresp. ed. Hainsworth, 229, 626, 631, 636, 649; HMC Downshire, i. 578; Cumbria RO (Kendal), Le Fleming mss WD/Ry 5253, Nicolson to [Sir Daniel Fleming†], 27 Apr. 1698; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 58(1), pp. 17–18; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/141, James Vernon I* to Duke of Shrewsbury, 17 Oct. 1701; Add. 61293, ff. 155–6; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 196; Nicolson Diaries, 218, 235.
  • 8. Hopkinson thesis, 82–83; HMC Portland, iv. 125, 565; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. ser. 2, lxvi. 309; iv. 30–31; Municipal Recs. of Carlisle ed. Ferguson and Nanson (Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. extra ser. iv), 115, 267; Tomlinson, 101; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Musgrave to [Grahme], 19 June 1705, 15 May 1708, John Ward III* to same, 20 June 1706; Egerton 3359 (unfol.); PCC 180 Tenison.