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Jacobites under the Beds: Bishop Francis Atterbury, the Earl of Sunderland and the Westminster School Dormitory case of 1721

Clyve Jones

Abstract

IN British Library, Harleian MS. 7190 there is a list of names which at first glance seems puzzling, even to an historian of early eighteenth-century Britain. The initial clue to its identification comes from the words 'For the Bp of Rochester' and ' Ag[ain]st' at the foot of the two columns of names. A quick check of the numbers of names reveals that this is a division list of those in the House of Lords who voted for and against Bishop Francis Atterbury's appeal against a Court of Chancery decision to proceed to trial over the building of a new dormitory for Westminster School. The vote on 16 May 1721 went in Atterbury's favour by 26 to 24. The curious nature of the list arises from an analysis of those who supported and those who opposed the Bishop. Atterbury was a high Tory and leading (though secret) advocate in England of the restoration of the Stuart Pretender (James Francis Edward, son of James II). Thus is seems strange that those who voted for him in the hst included several of the high officers of state in the Whig administration, including the 'prime minister', the Earl of Sunderland, while some of Atterbury's opponents were his fellow Jacobites.

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