PROBY, John, 1st Baron Carysfort [I] (1720-72), of Elton Hall, Hunts. and Glenart, co. Wicklow.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1747 - 1754
1754 - 1768

Family and Education

b. 25 Nov. 1720, 1st s. of John Proby, M.P., by Hon. Jane Leveson Gower, da. of John, 1st Baron Gower.  educ. Westminster 1736; Jesus Camb. 1737; I. Temple 1740.  m. 22 Aug. 1750, Hon. Elizabeth Allen, da. of Joshua, 2nd Visct. Allen [I] and (1745) coh. of her bro. John, 3rd Visct. Allen, 1s. 1da.  cr. Baron Carysfort [I] 23 Jan. 1752; suc. fa. 16 Mar. 1762; cr. K.B. 23 Mar. 1761.

Offices Held

P.C. [I] 4 Aug. 1758; ld. of Admiralty Apr.-July 1757, Dec. 1762-Aug. 1765.


At the general election of 1754 Carysfort and Coulson Fellowes were returned unopposed for Huntingdonshire, as joint candidates supported by the Earl of Sandwich. In Parliament Carysfort adhered to the Bedford-Sandwich-Gower group. The circumstances of his being placed at the Admiralty, after Temple’s dismissal as first lord, are unascertained. In 1758-9 Carysfort was chairman of the select committee ‘to inquire into the original standards and measures in this kingdom, and to consider the laws relating thereto’1—a laborious task well executed. In 1760 he warmly opposed as ‘wrong in its principles’ the qualification bill, brought in by the Tories and favoured by Pitt, but not relished by the Government Whigs.2

At the general election of 1761 Lord Mandeville, eldest son of the Duke of Manchester, having come of age, was going to claim one seat for Huntingdonshire, and for a while there was some apprehension that Fellowes might join him;3 but finally, a compact having been reached between Sandwich and Manchester ‘to agree to a reciprocal nomination during the present Parliament’, Carysfort and Mandeville were returned unopposed. As early as November 1760 Carysfort was introduced to Bute by his Scottish brother-in-law William Mayne;4 and apparently through Bute Carysfort obtained his K.B.5 In the autumn of 1762 Carysfort expressed to George Grenville his ‘desire ... to come into the King’s service’, and on 19 Nov. applied to him for a place at the Admiralty Board;6 this he obtained in the December removals. At the opening of the session, 25 Nov. 1762, he was selected to move the Address, and ‘spoke much in praise of peace, and how necessary in particular to the landed interest’.7 Burke wrote on 25 Nov.: ‘Lord Carysfort began his speech “In the splendour of Athens etc.”—you may judge how it was from the outset.’8 And next it was pointed out by Nicholson Calvert that he ‘had taken a large part of his speech out of a sermon of Bishop Fleetwood's [on the peace of Utrecht], from which he also quoted something that made the best part of the speech’. During the rest of his term in the House, none of Carysfort's speeches was on a major issue (barring perhaps that against the repeal of the Cider Act, 7 Mar. 1766), and 15 are mentioned without being reported in Harris's notes covering the period up to May 1766. He naturally voted with the Bute and Grenville Administrations; went into opposition to that of Rockingham, voting against the repeal of the Stamp Act; also to that of Chatham, voting for the reduction of the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767.

Sandwich, who planned to bring in for Huntingdonshire at the general election his son Lord Hinchingbrooke, together with Carysfort, started his campaign as early as 1765, and carried it on full blast throughout 1767 with Sir Robert Bernard for opponent. But on 22 Aug. 1767 Elizabeth Montagu wrote to her husband Edward Montagu (Member for Huntingdon 1734-68):9

It is said in Huntingdonshire that Lord Carysfort will now decline his pretensions there ... The furniture at Elton was sold yesterday, it was first seized by a butcher at London for a debt of only £219, but his credit has been so bad for a long time that the butcher in the country would not trust him for a joint of meat, nor bakers for a loaf of bread. All this has been brought upon him by an enormous expense in kept women. He used to have one always within a few miles of his country house. His lady is much pitied, poor woman she was far from extravagant. The son is a fine boy. I hope Lady C. will not be so kind a wife as to forget she is a mother ... I remember this fine gentleman was said to have spent £10,000 upon a mistress some years ago. She went mad and squandered all the jewels and fine things he had given her. Since this misfortune of Lord C. Lord Sandwich has taken the whole expense of the county upon himself, and they say it is enormous.

The story seems substantially correct though probably embroidered in detail; Sandwich wrote to Hardwicke, 6 Dec. 1767, that ‘the disagreeable situation of Lord Carysfort's affairs’ had obliged him to withdraw, and that in fact Sir Robert Bernard's ‘whole dependence was that Lord Carysfort could not go through with the contest’.10 When during the next month the Bedfords joined the Chatham Administration, no provision was made for Carysfort, who disappears from politics; and when he died at Lille, 18 Oct. 1772, his aunt, the Dowager Countess Gower, wrote about him with marked disapproval.11

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. CJ, xxviii. 167, 255, 327, 544, 549-50.
  • 2. Add. 32903, f. 94; 32905, ff. 14, 246.
  • 3. Bedford mss 39, f. 252; 40, ff. 4, 8.
  • 4. Mayne to Bute, Nov. 1760, Bute mss.
  • 5. Carysfort to Bute, 20 Mar. 1761, ibid.
  • 6. Grenville to Carysfort, 20 Nov., Grenville mss (JM).
  • 7. Harris’s ‘Debates’.
  • 8. Burke Corresp. (1958), i. 157.
  • 9. Letters of Mrs Montagu, ed. Blunt, i. 159.
  • 10. Add. 35608, f. 78.
  • 11. Mrs Delany, Autobiog. and Corresp. (ser. 2), i. 458.