HUNGERFORD, Sir George (c.1637-1712), of Cadenham, Bremhill, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1637, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Edward Hungerford of Cadenham by Susan, da. of Sir John Pretyman of Driffield, Glos. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1653; L. Inn 1656. m. 5 Apr. 1665, Frances (bur. 16 Aug. 1715), da. of Charles Seymour, 2nd Baron Seymour of Trowbridge, 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 3da. Kntd. bef. Apr. 1661; suc. fa. 1667.1
Commr. for assessment, Wilts. 1661-80, 1689-90, corporations 1662-3, dep. lt. 1672-5, by 1696-?d., commr. for recusants 1675, inquiry into recusancy fines Mar. 1688, j.p. 1689-?d.2
Hungerford came from a cadet branch of the family, which had been seated at Cadenham for five generations. A direct ancestor, Robert, sat for Calne, some five miles away, in 1553. Hungerford’s father apparently took no part in the Civil Wars, but both father and son sent their servants to a rendezvous near Bath for the abortive royalist rising in the summer of 1659. No action seems to have been taken against them by the Government. Returned unopposed to the Cavalier Parliament for Cricklade, where his family owned property, Hungerford was an inactive Member, being named to but 15 committees in the first nine sessions, of which only that for the bill against restraints on jurors (19 Feb. 1668) was of any importance. On 21 Feb. 1671 he was sent for in custody as a defaulter. But Shaftesbury marked him ‘doubly worthy’ in 1677, and he made his first recorded speech on 12 Mar., when he ‘jestingly desired that the question might be that the excise might be continued for three years for payment of pensions and nothing else’.3
Hungerford really found his tongue, however, in the summer session of 1678. He was strongly in favour of disbanding the newly-raised forces, ‘that army that has done so much ill’, but loath to grant the necessary supply. He clearly distrusted the King. On I June he was rash enough to say that ‘the army was pretended to be raised against France, but the world says, and I believe, there never was intended a war’. This caused a furore; Sir Thomas Littleton, 2nd Bt. demanded that the words should be written down, and, after various interpretations of them, Hungerford begged the House’s pardon, asserting that he ‘intended no reflection on the King nor on any particular person’. On 8 June, however, when the King in his message to the House reported that peace was at hand but that supply was needed to maintain the forces, Hungerford said that ‘at the latter end of a session, now we are going into the country, this demand of the King’s is the most extraordinary thing that ever was done’. A week later, having heard that Danby had sent his agent, Christian, to Aldborough to procure the election of Sir Thomas Mauleverer against the Whig Ruisshe Wentworth, Hungerford ‘moved that this Christian might receive condign punishment for being employed by the lord treasurer to spend the public money in poisoning corporations’. Danby, it was said, threatened ‘a dreadful revenge for this affront’.4
In the last session of the Cavalier Parliament Hungerford revealed his intense anti-Catholic feelings. He was added to the committees to investigate the mistranslation of the Gazette and to examine Coleman’s papers. He deplored the King’s request for allowing the Duchess of York to keep her priests: ‘the misfortunes of the last King were much from a Popish marriage’, he said. On 18 Nov. he urged sending (Sir) Joseph Williamson to the Tower for countersigning commissions of Roman Catholic officers. When the proviso exempting the Duke of York from the bill to exclude Papists from both Houses was accepted by a narrow margin on 21 Nov., ‘Sir George Hungerford immediately moved for a bill to disable a Papist to succeed to the crown; but whether this was as an effect of rage for the loss of the foregoing question or that matters were not yet ripe, no man seconded this motion’. This seems to be the first formal motion aimed at the exclusion of the Duke of York from the throne. On the next day he expressed his scepticism about resistance to the King if he chose to dispense with laws against Papists, and on 9 Dec. he renewed his concern about the disbanding of the army, desiring to add to the bill a proviso ‘to make it treason to pay the money granted for disbanding the army to any other use of the revenue’. The Speaker asked the House if they would ‘make treason in a rider of a bill without any other solemnity’, several Members spoke against it and the bill was not altered. Hungerford’s last recorded action in the Cavalier Parliament was on 19 Dec. when he served as teller for proceeding with the impeachment of Danby. He was understandably listed as ‘doubly worthy’ by Shaftesbury and became a member of the Green Ribbon Club.5
Hungerford was returned to the Exclusion Parliaments for Calne. On 22 Mar. 1679 he urged the House to proceed with the impeachment of Danby despite his pardon. A moderately active committeeman in the first Exclusion Parliament, he was named to four committees, including those for the security bill and the bill to prevent illegal exactions. In the heated debate over exclusion on 11 May he intervened on the side of the extremists:
I know no law that can bind in this case, unless we can tell who shall be Prince of Wales. If you do anything, you must appoint a person to succeed the King, and I can never think that the Protestant princes will join with us in defence of our religion, unless a third person be named to succeed to the crown. Then the German and French Protestants will join with you, and there is a million of them in France. We ought to do something materially to secure our religion, and it must be either that the King may have an heir to succeed him, or a third person must be named. As long as the Duke is heir to the crown, the kingdom is unsafe, and I believe that the queen will never be capable to children; for when she came into England she had something given her, to be always a red-lettered woman. But something must be done.
He opposed unsuccessfully the motion for adjourning the violent debate of 14 May on the King’s request for money for the fleet.
We are told that the affairs of Christendom are now on foot, since the general peace, and therefore a navy is necessary. The best way of treating is when they see a good union, that they may trust us. We have deceived the Dutch, in taking the Smyrna fleet; and the King owning my lord treasurer’s letters that treated for a peace, for money, with the French when we were preparing for war. When they see a confidence betwixt the King and this House they will trust us.
He voted for the committal of the exclusion bill.6
In the second Exclusion Parliament Hungerford was named to five important committees, including those to consider the exemption of Protestant dissenters from the Penal Laws, and to prepare the addresses advising the King of the dangerous state of the kingdom and demanding the dismissal of Halifax. On 15 Dec. 1680, during the debate on naming the Duke of York in the exclusion bill, he reminded the House, somewhat irrelevantly, that ‘in the Holy League of France the Duke of Guise excluded Henri IV by name’. He was added to the committee to examine the disbandment accounts, and appointed to that for the repeal of the Corporations Act. On 7 Jan. 1681, in the long debate on the necessity of persuading the King to agree to exclusion, he appealed to Scripture: ‘desires the King may be told part of our Saviour’s sermon on the mount, that if thy hand, foot, or eye offend thee, it might be cut off, rather than the whole body perish’. In the short Oxford Parliament Hungerford was named to no committees, but on 25 Mar. 1681, he urged that Sir Leoline Jenkins should be called to the bar for flatly refusing to carry Fitzharris’s impeachment to the Lords, exclaiming: ‘I never heard such words uttered in Parliament before’.7
Hungerford probably did not stand in 1685, but he may have become a Whig collaborator under James II, when he was nominated to the commission of inquiry into recusancy fines. On 19 April. 1688, the King’s electoral agents reported that Calne ‘hath yet proposed only Sir George Hungerford, in whom they had a confidence that he is right’. He represented the county from 1695 to 1702 as a country Whig, though he signed the Association.8
Hungerford had inherited an estate of £1,000 p.a., but at his death his affairs were ‘much entangled’, due largely to the expenses, estimated at more than £2,700, of the ‘groundless and unchristian suit’ brought against him by his younger son Walter. His eldest son George, who was elected for Calne in 1695, had died in 1697. Hungerford was buried at Bremhill on 9 May 1712. Walter Hungerford, who had sat for the borough briefly in 1701, was defeated in 1715, and did not recover the seat till 1734.9
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / Basil Duke Henning
- 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 313; PCC 128 Carr.
- 2. Add. 32324, f. 149; CSP Dom. 1672-3, p. 101; Wilts. N. and Q. vi. 349. Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1805.
- 3. D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 264; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 308-10; Grey, iv. 237.
- 4. Grey, vi. 31, 52, 59-61, 72; CSP Dom. 1678, p. 245.
- 5. Grey, vi. 194, 223, 262, 325; Leics. RO, Finch mss, 21 Nov. 1678.
- 6. Grey, vii. 20, 239, 275.
- 7. Grey, vii. 20, 239, 275.
- 8. Ibid. viii. 168, 305; HMC 12th Rep. IX, III.
- 9. Hoare, Repertorium Wiltonense, 16; PCC 82 Aston.