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Sir Edward Harley, 1749 engraving

Sir Edward Harley KB (21 October 1624 – 18 December 1700) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1646 and 1695. He supported the Parliamentary cause in the English Civil War.


Harley was born in Brampton Bryan Castle, Herefordshire, the son of Sir Robert Harley, KB, and his third wife Brilliana, the daughter of Edward Conway, 1st Viscount Conway.[1] He was educated at Gloucester, Shrewsbury School and Magdalen Hall, Oxford. He was a student of Lincoln's Inn in 1641.[1]

In 1642, he took up arms in the Parliamentary cause against the King in 1642, though disapproving of military supremacy in the nation.[2] He was shot in the arm during a skirmish in Gloucestershire in August 1644.[3] In 1646 he was elected Member of Parliament for Herefordshire as a recruiter to the Long Parliament and was excluded in 1648 under Pride's Purge. In 1656 his father died and he inherited his estates, he was also elected MP for Herefordshire again in the Second Protectorate Parliament.[1]

He was elected MP for Herefordshire again in 1660 for the Convention Parliament. At the Restoration, Charles II made him Governor of Dunkirk in 1660. He was elected MP for Radnor in 1661 for the Cavalier Parliament and was re-elected in February 1679 for the First Exclusion Parliament. In the second election of 1679 he was elected MP for Herefordshire again, and was re-elected in 1681. He supported the revolution of 1688 and was re-elected for Herefordshire in 1689, in 1693 and 1695.[1]

Harley was a conscientious upholder of the rights of the people, who showed their appreciation by sending him continuously to Parliament. Though a churchman himself, he fought against any form of persecution of the dissenters, was without party prejudice, and was remembered more for his practical benefactions than for such theoretical performances as A Scriptural and Rational Account of the Christian Religion (1695). [2]


Harley was married twice. On 26 June 1654 he married, Mary, daughter and coheir of Sir William Button of Parkgate, Tawstock, Devon. They had four daughters,[1] one of whom was called Elizabeth. On 25 February 1661 he married Abigail, daughter of Nathaniel Stephens of Eastington, Gloucestershire. They had four sons (one of whom predeceased his father) and one daughter,[1] Abigail. He had two notable sons Robert (later Earl of Oxford) and Edward (1664–1735).

See also

List of deserters from James II to William of Orange


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  1. ^ a b c d e f Helms & Rowlands 1983.
  2. ^ a b Gilman, Peck & Colby 1905, p. 567.
  3. ^ Noted in the Parliamentarian newsbook Mercurius Civicus, number 63, 1–8 August 1644 (British Library, Thomason Tracts E.4[28])


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1 Annotation

Bill  •  Link

This gentleman, who was knight of the shire for Hereford, at the same time with sir Robert Harley his father, gave many signal proofs of his valour, at the head of a regiment raised at his own expence for the service of Charles I. Upon the Restoration of Charles II. he was appointed governor of Dunkirk, and soon after made a knight of the Bath. He sat in all the parliaments of this reign, and was a distinguished speaker in the house of commons. As he well knew the importance of Dunkirk to the nation, he made a motion for annexing it to the crown. The parliament seemed to listen to this proposal, but it was afterwards over-ruled. He was offered 10,000 l. and a peerage merely to be passive in the sale of it, but he refused the offer with disdain. He had the honesty to tell the king, that the artillery and military stores only, were worth more than Lewis XIV. had ever offered for that fortress. In. the British Museum, is a manuscript by sir Edward Harley, which contains many memorable particulars relative to the government, expences, and sale of Dunkirk. He was author of "A scriptural and rational Account of the Christian Religion," 1695, 8vo. Ob. 8 December, 1700.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.