Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Apsley, Allen (1616-1683)

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APSLEY, Sir ALLEN (1616–1683), royalist leader, holder of minor offices of state under Charles II, and poetical writer, was the eldest son of Sir Allen Apsley, lieutenant of the Tower, by his third wife Lucy, youngest daughter of Sir John St. John of Lydiard Tregooz, Wiltshire, and was baptised at the church of All Hallows, Barking, on 6 Sept. 1616. His sister, Lucy, married, in 1638, John Hutchinson, afterwards a well-known colonel of the parliamentary army. Apsley was educated firstly at Merchant Taylors' School, Where he and a younger brother, William, were entered as pupils in 1626 (Robinson's Merchant Taylors' School Register, p. 115). He afterwards went to Trinity College, Oxford, but did not take his degree of M.A. till 28 Sept. 1663. His father had left his affairs at his death in the utmost confusion, and during Apsley's youth the resources of his family seemed to have been very precarious. His mother married again in the early years of her widowhood, against the wishes of her first husband's relatives, and Apsley played a part in the domestic quarrel that followed. Numerous petitions concerning the financial position of Apsley and his brothers and sisters were presented to the king and his council between 1634 and 1637. But before the outbreak of civil war in 1642, the disputes were apparently settled to Apsley's advantage.

Throughout the king's preliminary struggles with the parliament Apsley supported the royalists, and he received the honour of knighthood. When active hostilities began in 1642, he was placed in command of a company of horse raised in Charles's behalf, and soon afterwards proceeded to the west, where he was appointed ‘governor of the fort of Exeter.’ He was joined in Devonshire by the Prince of Wales in 1645 (Clarendon's History, iv. 49), but before the surrender of Exeter in April 1646 he became governor of Barnstaple. He was, however, unable to hold out against the parliamentary army for many days, and on 10 April 1646 he negotiated a capitulation (Whitelock's Memorials, 435; cf. Sprigge's Anglia Rediviva, p. 243). The articles of surrender enabled him to retire to Nottingham, where he took refuge with his brother-in-law. Colonel Hutchinson, the parliamentary governor of the town. For several years after the king's death Apsley was much harassed by the parliamentary authorities; they pressed him, contrary, as he believed, to the terms originally made with him, to make large compensation for the injuries sustained by parliamentarians in Barnstaple at the hands of royalist soldiers under his command. ‘One wicked woman,’ Mrs. Hutchinson writes in her husband's memoirs, ‘for her revenge and malice against Sir Allen Apsley, which was so venomovis and devilish … stuck not at inventing false accusations and hiring witnesses to swear to them;’ her object was to obtain from him ‘a recompence out of his estate, treble and more than the value of a house of hers in the garrison of Barnstaple, which was pulled down to fortify the town for the king, before he was governor of the place.’ But through the assistance of Colonel Hutchinson, justice was at length obtained from the parliament, and an order, dated 17 Aug. 1654, relieved Apsley of further liability on account of his service in the king's behalf. In 1647 he was engaged with Sir John Berkeley in negotiations between the king and the army (Berkeley's Memoirs in Harl. Miscel. ix. 470-1). He appears before 1655 to have paid 434l. to the parliamentary commissioners in Sussex for permission to retain his lands in that county (Sussex Archæological Collections, xix. 93).

It is probable that during some years of the Commonwealth, Apsley, like other royalists, retired to Holland. It was his brother James—‘one Apseley, a desperate cavalier at the Hague’—who made in April 1651 a ruffianly attempt to murder St. John, the parliamentary ambassador in Holland, and ‘the States’ … ordered Apseley to be apprehended, but he fled away’ (Whitelock's Memorials, 491; Mercurius Politicus, 1651, p. 728).

At the Restoration Apsley was taken into high favour at court. In June 1660 he was appointed keeper of the king's hawks, with a good salary and perquisites. On 2 Sept. 1662 he was made keeper of the North park at Hampton Court, and the management of the king's game-preserves seems to have passed largely into his hands. Shortly afterwards, James, Duke of York, conferred on Apsley the office of treasurer of his household, and when his master became lord high, admiral, large sums of money to be applied to the navy were entrusted to his keeping. In 1667 Apsley was given a colonelcy in the army raised under the Duke of York in view of a threatened war with the Dutch. From 1661 to 1678 Apsley sat in parliament as member for Thetford, and Pepys, who frequently met him in society, notes that on 19 Dec. 1666, he caused much disturbance in the house by coming there in a state of drunkenness.

In the days of his prosperity Apsley's conduct was not always above suspicion. He contrived to make his offices at court as profitable to himself as possible, and Pepys relates how he ‘did make good sport’ at a London dinner party in 1667 by complaining of the reduction of his salary as ‘Master Falconer’ and by declaring that England under Cromwell was hardly worse off than under her present rulers. To all outward appearance he endeavoured at the same time to protect his brother-in-law. Colonel Hutchinson, from the vengeance of the royalists, and Mrs. Hutchinson attributes to him the preservation of her husband's life and property in 1660. But Apsley did not prevent his subsequent imprisonment and cruel death in 1664. He certainly somewhat alleviated his sister's misery during the last years of Colonel Hutchinson's life, by procuring her admission to his prison and other privileges. One of Hutchinson's dying requests to his brother was, in fact, ‘to remember him to Sir Allen Apsley, and tell him that he hoped God would reward his labour of love to him.’ But a letter among the state papers of the time dated 14 Jan. 1663-4, and addressed by Apsley to one of the king's secretaries, proves that he was giving information to the government about his sister and her husband which it is difficult to reconcile with their belief in the sincerity of his regard for their interests (Cal. State Papers, 1664, p. 441).

On 15 Oct. 1683, Apsley died at his house in London in St. James's Square, and was buried two days later in Westminster Abbey. He married Frances, daughter of John Petre of Bowhay, in Devonshire, who died in 1698. By her he had several children, and Apsley secured for his son Peter a reversion to a clerkship of the crown in June 1667. Peter was afterwards knighted, and was frequently employed in the foreign secret service by both Charles II and James II (Secret Services of Charles II and James (Camden Soc), 110, 114, et seq.). Sir Allen's daughter, Frances, married Sir Benjamin Bathurst, whose eldest son, Allen, was created Baron Bathurst in 1712 and Earl Bathurst in 1772. The courtesy title of Baron Apsley was borne by Earl Bathurst's heir.

Sir Allen Apsley published anonymously in 1679 a long poem, which is now rarely accessible, entitled ‘Order and Disorder; or the world made and undone, being Meditations on the Creation and Fall. As it is recorded in the beginning of Genesis,’ London, 4to. A private letter, dated 26 April 1669, from Apsley to John Evelyn, relating to some business of the Duchess of York, is preserved at the British Museum (Addit. MS. 15857, f. 10).

[Wood's Fasti Oxon. (ed. Bliss) ii. 272; Berry's Sussex Genealogies, p. 150; State Paper Calendars from 1634-5 to 1667; Pepys' Diary (1849), ii. 187, iii. 364, iv. 162; Chester's Registers of Westminster Abbey (Harleian Soc), pp. 208, 243; Mrs. Hutchinson's Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson (1846), 123, 301, 354, 408-79; Whitelock's Memorials. Mr. W. H. Blaauw described, in 1851, in the Sussex Archaeological Collections (iv. 219-30, V. 29, et seq.), a collection of documents (the property of Mrs. Mabbott), known as the Apsley MSS., relating to the civil war in Sussex, and containing inter alia a series of interesting letters written by Dame Elizabeth Apsley, wife of Sir Edward Apsley, of Thakenham, to the Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate. Sir Edward Apsley was a cousin of Sir Allen, and the Apsley MSS. contain references to very many members of his family.]

S. L. L.