WORSLEY, Henry (1672-1740), of Compton, 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



1705 - 1715

Family and Education

bap. 26 Feb. 1672, 2nd s. of Sir Robert Worsley, 3rd Bt.†, of Appledurcombe, I.o.W. by Mary, da. of Hon. James Herbert† of Kingsey, Bucks.; bro. of Sir Robert Worsley, 4th Bt.†  educ. St. Edmund Hall, Oxf. 1690; L. Inn 1690.  unm.

Offices Held

Ensign, Col. William Beveridge’s Ft. (14 Ft.) 1689, lt. 1693; capt. Col. Francis Fergus O’Farrell’s Ft. 1693; capt.-lt. 1 Ft. Gds. 1700, capt. and lt.-col. 1702–8.

FRS 1705.

Envoy to king of Spain Jan.–Mar. 1708, to Portugal 1713–22; gov. of Barbados 1721–31.1


A younger son, Worsley started out by making the army his career. He had risen to the rank of captain by 1697, but with the signing of peace he was put on half-pay. Back on active service in 1700 with a commission in the foot guards, he served with the forces in Spain during Anne’s reign. In 1705 he was returned for Newtown on the interest of his brother, Sir Robert Worsley. Classed as a gain for the Whigs by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), he was listed as a ‘Churchman’ in an analysis of the new Parliament and voted for the Court candidate as Speaker on 25 Oct. His parliamentary activity is impossible to distinguish from that of his cousin James Worsley and of Thomas Worsley II (not a relation), who were also MPs in this and subsequent Parliaments, though as a serving officer he was not an active MP. In January 1708 he retired from the army when he was appointed envoy to the Archduke Charles in Spain, but, although he received his instructions, his appointment was cancelled in March when it was decided to send back James Stanhope* as envoy and major-general. In early 1708 he was classed as a Whig, and having been returned again for Newtown that year was listed as a Court Whig in an analysis of the returns. He voted for naturalizing the Palatines in 1709 and for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell a year later.2

With the change of administration Worsley switched party allegiance in order to remain a Court supporter, being classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament, as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who detected the mismanagements of the previous Parliament in 1711, and as a member of the October Club. This complete change from Whig to Tory was doubtless influenced by his desire for office, and possibly led him to join the October Club as a means of bringing pressure on Robert Harley*. He even gave his collection of manuscripts to Harley in hopes of office. He accompanied Earl Rivers (Richard Savage*) to Hanover in 1711 to explain the proposed peace terms to that court, but declined accepting a permanent diplomatic post there as financially insufficient. On 9 Jan. 1712 Rivers wrote to Harley, now Earl of Oxford: ‘as for Colonel Worsley . . . give me leave to say that there is not a man in the kingdom who has signalized himself more for the interest of the Queen and this ministry than he has done’. In Parliament he voted for the French commerce bill on 18 June 1713, but was subsequently classed as a Tory who sometimes voted with the Whigs. Having failed to gain a place from Lord Treasurer Oxford he seems to have looked to Lord Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*), who in September 1713 secured Worsley’s appointment as envoy to Portugal. On 19 Sept. Bolingbroke wrote to him:

For my own part nobody can be more sensible than I am of the zeal with which you have hitherto, very unprofitably to yourself, served the Queen; and I can very truly say, that I have done you justice, both to her Majesty and to those who have the honour to be employed by her.

Bolingbroke also reassured Worsley that he need have no concerns about being punctually paid. Worsley arrived in Lisbon in April 1714 and, surviving the changes of 1715, holding his post until 1722, when he returned to England to take up his next appointment, the governorship of Barbados. On reaching the island in 1723 he persuaded the assembly to grant him an annual salary of £6,000, which, it was calculated, with £2,000 paid him at home and £2,000 profits from his place brought him a total income of £10,000 p.a. By 1728 he had become unpopular with the Barbados assembly who submitted a memorial to the Board of Trade complaining of neglect and maladministration. The charge was dismissed, but the petition was renewed in March 1731. Before any further action could be taken he was removed from office and returned to England. Swift, a friend of the Worsley family, wrote to Lady Worsley on 11 May 1731: ‘I hear my friend Harry is returning from the fiery zone, I hope with more money than he knows what to do with; but whether his vagabond spirit will ever fix is a question.’ Back in England he made no further effort to enter public life and died on 15 Mar. 1740.3

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. IGI, London; CSP Col. 1720–1, p. 491; 1731, p. 110.
  • 2. HMC Bath, i. 119, 133; Addison Letters, 97, 103; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 251.
  • 3. Hearne Colls. x. 64; HMC Portland, v. 110, 136; Bolingbroke Corresp. iv. 292–3; CSP Col. 1722–3, pp. 236, 429; 1728–9, pp. 7–9, 105, 318; 1731, p. 72; Swift Corresp. ed. Williams, iii. 464; Gent. Mag. 1740, p. 148.