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Notes on Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper

Anthony ASHLEY-COOPER, First Earl of Shaftesbury, son and heir of Sir John COOPER and Anne ASHLEY, born July 22, 1621, at Winbourne St. Giles, Dorsetshire, inherited a very large estate from his maternal grandfather, yet had the education of a constitutional lawyer at Gray's Inn, from whence he was called from speculation to action, in the parliament of 1640, for Tewkesbury, at the early age of nineteen years. 

On the restoration he was named a commissioner for the trial of the regicides, and was created Baron Ashley, of Winbourne St. Giles, 1661. In 1670 he became a member of the administration called "The Cabal" in which he was a lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer; and on the resignation of the Lord Keeper Bridgeman, November 1672, he was constituted lord high chancellor of England, having been created, April preceding, Baron Cooper, or Pawlett, and Earl of Shaftsbury. 

He married first, Margaret, daughter of Thomas Lord Coventry; secondly, Frances, daughter of David Cecil, third Earl of Exeton; thirdly, August 20, 1655, at St. Paul's Covent Garden, Margaret, daughter William (Spencer) 2nd Baron Spencer of Wormleighton by Penelope, 1st. daughter Henry (Wristhesley 3rd. Earl of Southampton, who delivered him two daughters. His son and heir was by the second lady. The date of death of Margaret is not known. She was living when he was created 20 April 1661, Baron Ashley of Wilbourne St. Giles. 

In 1662 Lord Ashley and others, being apprised of the excellent soil of this country, united and formed a project for planting a colony on it. Charles II granted them all the lands from Lucke Island (southern Virginia) to the river Saint Matthias (Florida) and extending southwest to the Pacific Ocean, which embraced almost the entire "Southern States" of today. Of this immense region the king constituted them absolute lords and proprietors. Anthony died January 21, 1683, at Amsterdam, Holland. 

Other Information:

Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (1621-1683) was a prominent English politician of the reign of Charles II. He was a student of Oxford University, England. Cooper was a member of the commonwealth council of state during the time of Oliver Cromwell.

During the English Civil War he was originally a supporter of the crown but switched sides and joined the parliamentarians in 1644 due to his concerns about Charles I. He supported the restoration of Charles II.

In 1663, the Earl of Shaftesbury was one of eight Lords Proprietors given title to a huge tract of land in North America which became the Province of Carolina.

After the fall of Lord Clarendon in 1667, Cooper, now raised to the peerage as Lord Ashley, became a prominent member of the Cabal, in which he formed the second "A". Ashley became Lord Chancellor in 1672, and was raised to become Earl of Shaftesbury.

Due to his intriguing with the Duke of Monmouth against the succession of the Catholic Duke of York, Shaftesbury fell from favor, and became a leader of the radical Whigs. In 1681, Shaftesbury was charged with high treason, but the charges were later dismissed.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury (1621-83), is Charles II's committed and hard-working chancellor. He ruthlessly exploits the Popish Plot to try and prevent James II becoming king and to generate anti-Catholic feeling. His Deism and love of parliamentary government lead him into conflict with Charles, who increasingly has pro-French and pro-Catholic sympathies. Hounded in his last months on a charge of treason, Shaftesbury dies in Holland.

Miss Massie:

Evidence [that I have yet to locate but many people state] suggests that Anthony ASHLEY-COOPER was the father of illegitimate twin daughters by a daughter of Andrew MASSIE of Edinburgh, Scotland. The mother removed to London with her brother William, who entered the service of Anthony ASHLEY-COOPER around 1646.

Daughters of Anthony Ashley-Cooper by Miss Massie

1.Lucretia -
2.Penelope - b. England; d. VA. Married Peter MASSIE.

Another position is taken by the genealogist of the Johnston family. It is agreed that Anthony ASHLEY-COOPER was the father of illegitimate daughters by a daughter of Andrew MASSIE of Edinburgh, Scotland. But the intent of the visit to London by the mother-to-be and her brother William was to seek passage to Virginia, where William desired to be a surveyor. This version indicates that the twins were born after William and his sister arrived in Virginia. The twins were Sarah, who married William JOHNSTON, and Lucretia, who married William's brother, John JOHNSTON. This position would, of course, remove the ancestral line of ASHLEY-COOPER. No attempt will be made to validate either position. The first stated option, and the MASSIE line narration, seems to better conform with known dates and names.


The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 3rd ed. 1968, Columbia University Press. Pp 1937

Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st earl of, 1621-83, English statesman. In the Puritan Revolution, he supported the crown until 1644, but then joined the parliamentarians. He was an able general, was made a member of the council of state, and supported Oliver Cromwell until 1654. Thereafter, he turned against the Protectorate because of his distrust of autocratic rule. He supported the Rump Parliament against John Lambert and then participated in the Restoration of Charles II. Made a privy councilor and Baron Ashley (1661), he assisted in the trial of the Regicides, but otherwise worked for a lenient settlement. The same year he became chancellor of the exchequer and gained royal favor by his support of religious toleration. Named one of the proprietors of Carolina in 1663, he took much interest in plans for the colony. He joined the opposition to the 1st earl of Clarendon and was a member of the Cabal. Created earl of Shaftesbury, he became lord chancellor in 1672. His name is closely associated with the formation of the Whig party - in its early years a group of men who opposed the designs of Charles II and his courtiers to increase the power of the king at the expense of Parliament. The crown's efforts to improve the position of Roman Catholics were opposed by Shaftesbury, who renounced his earlier belief in toleration and supported the Test Act (1673). He was dismissed from office in 1673. Out of favor at court and embittered by his imprisonment in 1677 for opposing the prorogation of Parliament, he made use of the Popish Plot (see Oates, Tutus) to promote opposition to the earl of Danby and to encourage anti-Catholic feeling. On Danby's fall he became president of the council, pressed for the exclusion bill to keep James, duke of York (an avowed Roman Catholic) from the throne, and supported the claims of the duke of Monmouth. For this he was arrested (1681), and his position became precarious, since his Whig party was now discredited and the king in complete control of government. He was bitterly satirized in John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel. An indictment for treason failed, but he fled (1682) to Holland and soon died. Aided by wealth and an exceptional mind, Shaftesbury has been called the most skillful politician of his day. He was a friend of John Locke. See biography by L. F. Brown (1933).