Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (July 22, 1621–January 21, 1683), known as Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 2nd Baronet, from 1631 to 1661 and as The Lord Ashley from 1661 to 1672, was a prominent English politician of the Interregnum and during the reign of King Charles II.

He is probably best known as the patron of John Locke.


Early life

Cooper, born in Dorset, suffered the death of both his parents at a young age. He was the eldest son and successor of Sir John Cooper, 1st Baronet, of Rockbourne in Hampshire, and his mother was the former Anne Ashley, daughter and sole heiress of Sir Anthony Ashley, 1st Baronet (d. 1628), of Wimborne St Giles in Dorset, Secretary at War in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He was raised by relatives and family friends, while being subjected to financial mulcting through the Court of Wards. He inherited his father's Baronetcy in 1631. Educated largely by Puritan tutors, he attended Exeter College, Oxford. While there he fomented a minor riot and left without taking a degree; nevertheless, he was admitted into Lincoln's Inn. [Lodge, p. 487 ]


Sir Anthony was elected to the Short Parliament for the borough of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, where his family owned land. He was elected to the Long Parliament for Poole in his native Dorset. But Denzil Holles, soon to rise to prominence as a leader of the opposition to the King and a personal rival of Sir Anthony, blocked his admission to the Parliament. It was probably feared that Sir Anthony, as a result of his recent marriage to the daughter of Charles I's Lord Keeper, Coventry, would be too sympathetic to the king.

When the Civil War began, Sir Anthony supported the King (somewhat echoing Holles's concerns), but changed sides soon afterward, citing the King's policies as being "destructive to religion and State". He eventually joined Cromwell's Council of State, but resigned in 1655, protesting against Cromwell's dictatorial politics. Four years later, George Monck, a prominent royalist military officer, recruited Cooper in the Restoration of Charles II.


In October 1660, shortly after the Restoration's success, Sir Anthony was on the commission that controversially tried the Regicides (those who had participated in the trial and execution of Charles I). The commission eventually found ten surviving members guilty, and another four were posthumously convicted (their bodies were exhumed and hanged publicly). One year later, he was created Baron Ashley, of Wimborne St Giles in the County of Dorset, and appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In that position, Lord Ashley served on the Clarendon Ministry as one of its less prominent members; he frequently quarrelled with the head of government, Lord Clarendon, especially upon matters of religious toleration (which Ashley supported but Clarendon opposed). In 1663, Ashley was one of eight Lords Proprietors given title to a huge tract of land in North America, which eventually became the Province of Carolina. Ashley probably collaborated with John Locke to write the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina. Both the Ashley River and the Cooper River in South Carolina were named after Lord Ashley.

In 1666, he met John Locke. Cooper had come to Oxford seeking treatment for a liver infection. Cooper was impressed with Locke and persuaded him to become part of his retinue.Locke had been looking for a career and in 1667 moved into Shaftesbury's home at Exeter House in London, ostensibly as the household physician. Shaftesbury's liver infection became life-threatening. Locke coordinated the advice of several physicians and was probably instrumental in persuading Shaftesbury to undergo an operation (then life-threatening itself) to remove the cyst. Shaftesbury survived and prospered, crediting Locke with saving his life.

After the fall of Lord Clarendon in 1667, Lord Ashley became a prominent member of the Cabal, in which he formed the second "A". Ashley became Lord Chancellor in 1672, and was created Earl of Shaftesbury and Baron Cooper, of Pawlett in the County of Somerset. He was also appointed First Lord of Trade. He served as Chancellor for one year, but remained First Lord of Trade until 1676.

Due to his intriguing with the Duke of Monmouth against the succession of the Catholic Duke of York, Shaftesbury fell from favour, and became a leader of the radical Whigs. In 1681, Shaftesbury was charged with high treason, but the charges were later dismissed. Nonetheless, he fled to the Netherlands, where he died two years later.



* [ Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury]
* [ Leigh Rayment's Peerage Page]
* Edmund Lodge "The Genealogy of the Existing British Peerage", 1859. [ at Googe Books]

{s-ttl|title=Lord President of the Council|years=1679

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