SHELLEY, Sir John, 4th Bt. (1692-1771), of Mitchelgrove, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1727 - 1741
6 Dec. 1743 - 1747

Family and Education

b. 5 Mar. 1692, 1st s. of Sir John Shelley, 3rd Bt., by his 2nd w. Mary, da. and eventually coh. of Sir John Gage, 4th Bt., of Firle, Suss. m. (1) 21 May 1717, Catherine (d. Sept. 1726), da. of Sir Thomas Scawen of Horton, Bucks., 2da.; (2) 16 Mar. 1727, Margaret, da. of Thomas Pelham, M.P., 1st Baron Pelham of Laughton, sis. of Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, and Hon. Henry Pelham, 1s. 3da. suc. fa. 25 Apr. 1703.

Offices Held


Sir John Shelley came of an ancient Sussex family, settled at Mitchelgrove, near Arundel, since the beginning of the fifteenth century. A Roman Catholic, who conformed in 1716, he married a sister of the Duke of Newcastle as his second wife in 1727, in which year he was returned head of the poll for Arundel. Throughout his parliamentary career he consistently supported the Government.

Though incurring some local odium by voting for the excise bill,1 Shelley was re-elected unopposed in 1734, but in 1741 he came out bottom of the poll. At the beginning of 1742 he had several long conversations with the 1st Lord Egmont about ‘the bad situation of affairs and apprehended a civil war, for if the Parliament is obstinate to have Sir Robert Walpole out, the King is no less determined not to part with him’. He impressed Egmont as ‘a man of very good sense’, who, being ‘brother-in-law to the Duke of Newcastle, and very well with him’, must be assumed to have been in some degree expressing the Duke’s views.2

In 1743 Shelley was brought back into Parliament by Newcastle. Next year his wife, through whom he was accustomed to correspond with his brother-in law, asked Newcastle to make him a lord of the Treasury:

As you have now got the better of all opposition ... [she wrote] Sir John Shelley thinks this a proper time to mention to you that you must be sensible of his having been many years in Parliament and always attached to the Administration without having received any marks of royal favour, never having had or asked any employment for himself during the whole time, and had he been allowed what his birth entitled him to, what everybody must think him so well qualified for, he would not have thought of an employment now. I hope these good reasons won’t have the less weight by his being so near a relation to you.3

But his private life was beginning to excite comment. At a dinner party a few months later Lady Townshend announced:

I have been at Hampstead this morning, and I met Sir John Shelley, who had got a very shabby man with him, but the fellow was handsome; he looked so ashamed, that I fancy it was but just over.4

Dropped at the next general election, he spent the last 24 years of his life in retirement, dying 6 Sept. 1771.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. Lady Shelley to Newcastle, 23 Aug. 1733, Add. 32688, f. 164.
  • 2. HMC Egmont Diary, iii. 235-41, 244.
  • 3. 26 Nov. 1744, Add. 32703, f. 439.
  • 4. Horace Walpole to Geo. Montagu, 12 July 1745; see also Walpole to Mann, 3 May 1749.