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Robert Shirley christened 20 October 1650 – died 25 December 1717 was an English peer and courtier. 1st Earl Ferrers

Robert Shirley was the third son of Sir Robert Shirley, 4th Baronet and his wife, Catherine. In 1669, he inherited his baronetcy from his infant nephew and in 1677, he was confirmed as Baron Ferrers of Chartley after the title became abeyant on the death of his kinsman, Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex.

From 1682-85, Lord Ferrers was Master of the Horse to the Queen consort, Catherine of Braganza and her Lord Steward from 1685 until her death in 1705. From 1685-86, he was Colonel of The Princess Anne of Denmark's Regiment of Foot, Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire from 1687-89 and was admitted to the Privy Council in 1689.

In 1711, Lord Ferrers was created Earl Ferrers. On his death six years later, his earldom passed to his second (but eldest surviving) son, whilst his barony passed to his granddaughter, Elizabeth, her father and elder brother having predeceased Lord Ferrers in 1698 and 1714, respectively. source: Wikipedia

Married 1st: Elizabeth Washington b: 1656 daughter of Lawrence Washington; They lived at Garsdon Manor

Married 2nd: Selina Finch daughter of George Finch, of London esq.

Their children inherited the Lordship of Ettington

Children of Robert Shirley and first wife, Elizabeth Washington

1.iv Hon. Robert Shirley b. 4 Sep 1673, He died on 25 February 1698/99 at age 25

married, firstly, Catherine Venables, daughter of Peter Venables.1 He married, secondly, Anne Ferrers, daughter of Sir Humphrey Ferrers, on 27 September 1698.

Children of Robert Shirley and Anne Ferrers

2.i Elizabeth Shirley, Baroness Ferrers (of Chartley) d. 13 Mar 1740/41; married James 5th Earl of Northampton

2.ii Robert Shirley, Viscount Tamworth - Member of Parliament (see below) d. unmarried 5 Jul 1714

1.ii Lady Elizabeth Shirley b Nov 25 1674 died Oct 10 1677, age 3

1.iii Lady Katherine Shirley b May 31 1676 died Aug 18 1679, age 3

1.iv Washington Shirley b June 22, 1677 2nd Earl Ferrers

married Mary Levinge, daughter of Sir Richard Levinge

2.i. Lady Elizabeth Shirley b 1704; died Aug 13 1731; married Joseph Nightingale, esq.

2.ii Lady Selina Shirley, Countess of Huntingdon born Aug 13 1707; died June 17 1791; married Theophilus, Earl of Huntingdon

Selina Shirley married the Earl of Huntingdon. After his death in 1741, Selina devoted her remaining forty years to the establishment of the Methodist Church. Appointing Rev. George Whitefield as one of her chaplains, she established sixty-four meeting houses in England and provided seminaries for the education of ministers to supply them. Up until her death in London, Lady Huntingdon continued to exercise an active, and even autocratic, superintendence over her chapels and chaplains. She successfully petitioned George III about the gaiety of Archbishop Cornwallis' establishment, and made a vigorous protest against the anti-Calvinistic minutes of the Wesleyan Conference of 1770, and against relaxing the terms of subscription of 1772. On the Countess's death in 1791, her sixty-four chapels and the college were bequeathed to four trustees. Amongst these was Dr. Ford, and Lady Ann Agnes Erskine. Lady Ann was requested to occupy and constantly reside in Lady Huntingdon's house, adjoining Spa Fields Chapel, and to carry on all needful correspondence, which was immense. She carried this on dutifully until her own death in 1804, and burial at Bunhill Fields.

2.iii Lady Mary Shirley born Sep 25 1712; died April 12, 1784; married Thomas, Viscount Kilmorey.

1.v Lady Elizabeth Shirley b June 20 1678 died Mar 7 1740, age 62 Lady Anna Elianora Shirley b Nov 12 1679 died May 18 1754, age 75

PCC Will PROB 11/810 - " Mrs Elinor Curzon diamond ring, to neice Pigot to take care of my sister Lady Barbara Shirley who has the misfortune to be bline; to my neice Digby daughter to sister Cotes; to newphew Capt Washington Shirley my hosue in Conduit St; to nephew Earl Ferrers diamond ring; nephew Mr Robert Shirley furniture; to Mr Walter Shirley the living I got of the Earl of Clanrickord; nephew James Cotes and Elinor Curzon executor...."

1.vii Lady Katherine Shirley b Feb 17 1680 died Sept 21 1736, age 56

1.viii Hon. Charles Shirley born ?Apr 9 died May 28 1682, age 1 month

1.viv Lady Dorothy Shirley born May 25 1682 died Mar 24 1721, age 39; married John Cotes of Woodcote, esq.

1.x Hon. Charles Shirley born June 21 1684 died Sept 12 1685, age 1

1.xi Hon. Lewis Shirley born July 13 1685 died 1710, age 25

1.xii Hon. George Shirley born Oct 21 1686 died Nov 1694, age 8

1.xiii Lady Barbara Shirley b Feb 5 1687 died Nov 7 1768, age 81 (died insane, lived in an asylum)

1.xiv Hon. Ferrers Shirley b Apr 23 1689 died June 20 1707, age 18

1.xv Hon. Walter Shirley b May 27 1690 died inf.

1.xvi Sir Henry Shirley, b. 14 Apr 1691, He died on 6 August 1745 at age 54, insane and unmarried 3rd Earl Ferrers

1.xvii Hon. Laurence Shirley b: 26 Sept 1693; He died on 27 April 1743 at age 49. lived at Staunton Harold, Leicestershire, England

Married: Anne Clarges daughter of Sir Walter Clarges, 1st Bt.

2. i. Laurence Shirley, b. 18 Aug 1720, ; hanged May 5, 1760; was the last aristocrat hanged in England. 4th Earl Ferrers

The 4th Earl Ferrers, descendant of an ancient and noble family, was the eldest son of Hon. Laurence Ferres, himself a younger son of the 1st Earl Ferrers-a descendant of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. At the age of twenty, he quit his estates and Oxford education, and during the time he spent in Paris he plunged into every kind of excess. Ferrers inherited his title from his insane uncle in 1745 and with it estates in Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire. He resided, however, at Staunton Harold Hall in northwest Leicestershire. In 1752, he married the youngest daughter of Sir William Meredith. Ferrers was also a cousin to Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, the prominent Methodist lady and supporter of George Whitefield, though he was not involved in the Methodist revival. source: Wikipedia

2. ii.Vice-Admiral Sir Washington Shirley b: 26 May 1722; died October 1778; British Royal Navy officer, peer, freemason and amateur astronomer. 5th Earl Ferrers

Shirley was the second son of Hon. Laurence Shirley (himself the fourth son of Robert Shirley, 1st Earl Ferrers) and his wife, Anne. Circa 1738, he joined the Royal Navy and rose through the ranks as a Second Lieutenant in 1741, First Lieutenant in 1746 and Post-Captain soon after.

Two weeks after the execution of his brother, Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl of Ferrers in 1760, Shirley took his seat in the House of Lords (as the new Earl Ferrers) and in 1763, George III granted him the family estates, previously forfeit by his brother as a felon (much to the surprise of Casanova, then visiting London) and he began to transform the family seat of Staunton Harold in Leicestershire. He was later promoted as a Rear Admiral in 1771 and Vice-Admiral in 1775.

In 1761, Ferrers had been elected to the Royal Society for his work on the observations of the transit of Venus. He died in 1778 at Chartley Manor Place, Staffordshire and was buried at Staunton Harold. As he had no children by his wife, Anne, his title and estates passed to his younger brother, Robert. source: Wikipedia

married Anne Elliot on 1 December 1747 at St George East, Stonehouse Devon. She was the daughter of ____-Elliot, of Plymouth, esq.

no children

2. iii. Robert Shirley b: 18 Jul 1723; He died on 17 April 1787 at age 63. 6th Earl Ferrers

married Catherine Cotton, daughter of Rowland Cotton, on 26 December 1754

3.i Sir Robert Shirley, b. 21 Sep 1756, baptised 25 September 1756 at St Modwin, Burton Upon Trent, Staffordshire. He died on 2 May 1827 at age 70, without surviving legitimate issue. 7th Earl Ferrers

married, firstly, Elizabeth Prentise, daughter of John Prentise, on 13 March 1778. He married, secondly, Elizabeth Mundy, daughter of Wrightson Mundy, on 28 September 1799.

Children of 7th Earl Ferrers and Elizabeth Prentise:

4.i Hon. Robert Sewallis Shirley, Viscount Tamworth b. 9 November 1778, He died on 6 June 1824 at age 45, without issue.

married Hon. Sophia Caroline Curzon, daughter of Nathaniel Curzon, 2nd Baron Scarsdale, on 5 August 1800.

5.i Caroline Shirley, Duchess of Sforza, illigitimate.

Natural born daughter of the Viscount Tamworth and a woman who later married an innkeeper of Syston. Caroline inherited many of the Shirley estates upon the death of the 7th Earl. She married the Duke of Sforza in 1837.

4.ii Eleanor Rose Shirley - illigitimate. She died 13 January 1809. Married Col. Hilton Joliffe MP. (Debretts Peerage)

[Email from Ragdale Hall porter] As part of my talk I mention the illegitimate daughter of the 7th Earl - Elizabeth Rose Shirley who married by special licence in 1804 at the London home of the Earl, one Colonel Hilton Joliffe MP. She died only four years later and I can not find the cause. In 1802 Hylton Jolliffe had formed the civil engineering company Jolliffe and Banks which under his brothers later control built lots of bridges in London for John Rennie including the London Bridge that was rebuilt in Lake Havisu City USA. When Ragdale New Hall was let to tenants after the 7th Earls death Hylton Jolliffe came to live there in 1831 to hunt with the Quorn Hunt in his retirement.

3.ii Lawrence Rowland Shirley baptised November 3 1757 at St Alkmund Parish, Derby. He died Friday 5 February 1773 (possibly 7 days earlier). His portrait, when very young is preserved in Wright's celebrated picture of the Lecture on the Orrery, well known from the engraving; the original is now in the collection of Mr Wright of Osmanston Manor in Derbyshire - source: Stemmata

General Evening Post: Saturday, February 6, 1773 - Page 1 - Died. Last Friday, at the Hon. Mrs Shirley's in Upper Brook Street. Master Lawrence Rowland Shirley, son of Robert Shirley, esq and nephew to Earl Ferrers.

3.iii Sir Washington Shirley b. 13 Nov 1760 at St Alkmund Parish, Derby. He died on 2 October 1842 at age 81. 8th Earl Ferrers

married, firstly, Frances Ward, daughter of Reverend William Ward and Elizabeth Hawkes, on 24 July 1781. He married, secondly, Sarah Davy, daughter of William Davy, on 29 September 1829.

4.i Hon. Robert William Shirley, Viscount Tamworth was born on 24 August 1783. He died on 3 February 1830 at age 46

married Anne Weston, daughter of Richard Weston, on 12 December 1821 at Derbyshire, England.

5.i Rosamond Ann Myrtle Shirley b. 25 Sep 1818 at Brailsford, Derbyshire, England, d. b 1881; She married Henry Hanbury-Tracy, son of Charles Hanbury and Henretta Susanna Tracy, on 19 June 1841

5.ii Sir Washington Sewallis Shirley, b. 3 Jan 1822, He died on 13 March 1859 at age 37 9th Earl Ferrers

married Lady Augusta Annabella Chichester, daughter of Edward Chichester, 4th Marquess of Donegall and Amelia Spread Deane Grady, on 23 July 1844.

          6.i Lady Augusta Amelia Shirley d. 10 Feb 1933 She married Sir Archdale Robert Palmer, 4th Bt. on 19 August 1873

          6.ii Sir Sewallis Edward Shirley, b. 24 Jan 1847, He graduated from Cambridge University, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, with a Master of Arts (M.A.).2 He was invested as a Knight, Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (K.St.J.). He held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for Derbyshire. He died on 26 July 1912 at age 65, without issue 10th Earl Ferrers

          married Lady Ina Maude Hedges-White, daughter of William Henry Hare Hedges-White, 3rd Earl of Bantry and Jane Herbert, on 24 October 1885.
          no children

5.iii Lieutenant Robert William Devereux Shirley b. 14 Dec 1825, Gained the rank of Lieutenant in the service of the 87th Regiment. He died on 4 June 1849 at age 23, without issue.

2. iv. Rev. Walter Shirley b: 28 Sep 1726; He died on 7 April 1786 at age 59

Walter Shirley was born at Staunton Harold in Leicestershire, the grandson of Robert, first Earl Ferrers. He was first cousin to the Countess of Huntingdon and brother to the notorious Earl Ferrers, who was hanged at Tyburn in 1760 for murder. He was educated at Oxford and after his ordination was presented to the Irish living of Loughrea. Shirley was converted by Henry Venn and exercised an evangelical ministry despite the opposition of his bishop. Shirley played a major role in the controversy of 1770 over the relationship of the Methodist Church to the doctrines of Calvinism.Rev. Hon. Walter Shirley graduated from University College, Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.).1 He was the Rector at Loughrea, County Galway, Ireland

Married: Henrietta Maria Phillips, dau of John Phillips esq.

Their children inherited the Earldom

2. v. Mary Shirley

2. vi. Elizabeth Shirley

2. vii. Rear-Admiral Thomas Shirley, b 6 Apr 1733

Rear-Admiral Hon. Thomas Shirley was born on 6 April 1733. He died on 7 April 1814 at age 81, without issue. Thomas Shirley gained the rank of Admiral in the service of the Royal Navy. He lived at Horkstow Hall, Lincolnshire, England.

married, firstly, Mary Elsegood, daughter of W. Elsgood, on 30 March 1773.1 He married, secondly, Anne Hele, daughter of Thomas Hele, on 6 November 1809.

no children

2. viii. Ann Shirley

2. ix. John Shirley, died inf.

2. x. Jane Shirley


SHIRLEY, Robert, Visct. Tamworth (1692-1714), of Staunton Harold, Leics.
Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002

1713 - 5 July 1714
Family and Education

b. 28 Dec. 1692, 1st s. of Hon. Robert Shirley (d.v.p.) of Staunton Harold (1st s. of Robert Shirley, 1st Earl Ferrers) by 2nd w. Anne (d. 1697), da. and h. of Sir Humphrey Ferrers of Tamworth Castle, Staffs. unm. suc. fa. 25 Feb. 1699; styled Visct. Tamworth from 1711.
Offices Held


Staunton Harold had been the Shirley family seat since the 15th century. On his mother’s death in 1697, Shirley inherited the estates of his maternal ancestors comprising Tamworth Castle and other Staffordshire lands valued in 1688 at £2,000 p.a. At the age of seven he found himself heir apparent to his grandfather, Lord Ferrers, who was for many years a principal servant of Catherine of Braganza, formerly as master of horse and latterly throughout her dowagerhood as steward of her household. When Lord Ferrers was advanced to an earldom in 1711, Shirley assumed the courtesy title of Viscount Tamworth.1

Tamworth naturally followed his grandfather’s Tory lead when, aged still only 20, he was put up as a county candidate in January 1713, after Geoffrey Palmer* announced his intention of standing down at the forthcoming election. He campaigned conscientiously in August, at one point anxiously observing to one of his supporters, Lord Guernsey (Hon. Heneage Finch I*), that there had been no canvassing on his behalf in the vicinity of Guernsey’s estate, politely supposing ‘that either your lordship’s letter to your steward miscarried, or that he misunderstood it’. As Sir George Beaumont, 4th Bt.*, later recalled, the threat of opposition from the Whigs persisted for some time until Tamworth, Sir Thomas Cave, 3rd Bt.*, and their well-wishers ‘ply’d’ them with cash and the prospect of a poll quickly faded.2

In the new Parliament Tamworth was listed as a Tory. On 22 June he was teller in favour of agreeing with a supply resolution to grant the Queen additional duties on exported coals and other commodities for 32 years. A fortnight later he was carried to the grave by smallpox, dying in the early hours of 5 July after a week’s illness. In a notice of his death he was described as a ‘gentleman of excellent parts and very much lamented by all who had the honour of knowing him’. The Tamworth estates devolved to his sister Elizabeth, who in 1716 married Lord Compton (James*), heir to the earldom of Northampton. The inscription on Tamworth’s tomb in the family chapel at Staunton Harold includes a classic plaint to the unfulfilled promise of youth:

In him religion with sweet temper join’d
Prudence of thought with fortitude of mind.
In duty strict, just to the ties of blood,
In friendship firm, to all benignly good.3
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Andrew A. Hanham


1. Nichols, Leics. iii. 710, 715, 718–19.
2. Northants. RO, Isham mss IC 1746, Justinian to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 20 Jan. 1713; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/55, Cave to Ld. Fermanagh (John Verney*), 26 Jan. 1713; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, Finch-Hatton pprs., Tamworth to Ld. Guernsey, 28 Aug. 1713; Leics. RO, Braye mss 23D57/2890, Beaumont to Cave, Oct. 1714.
3. Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 6 July 1714; Isham mss IC 1799, Vere to (Sir) Justinian Isham (5th Bt.*), 10 July 1714; Nichols, 720.


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