Anstis, John

, a learned heraldic writer, was of a Cornish family, seated at St. Neot’s, being son of John Anstis of that place, esq. by Mary, daughter and coheir of George Smith. He was born September 28th or 29th, 1669, admitted at Exeter College in Oxford in 1685, and three years afterwards entered of the Middle Temple. As a gentleman of good fortune, he became well known in his county, and the borough of St. Germain returned him one of their members in the first parliament called by queen Anne. Opposing what was called the Whig interest, he distinguished himself by his voting against the bill for | occasional conformity: for which his name appeared amongst the “Tackers” in the prints of that time. He was appointed in 1703 deputy-general to the auditors of imprest, but he never executed this office; and in the second year of queen Anne’s reign, one of the principal commissioners of prizes. His love of, and great knowledge in the science of arms so strongly recommended him, that April 2, 1714, the queen gave him a reversionary patent for the place of Garter. Probably this passage in a ms letter to the lord treasurer, dated March 14, 1711-12, relates to his having the grant. He says, “I have a certain information it would be ended forthwith, if the lord treasurer would honour me by speaking to her majesty at this time, which, in behalf of the duke of Norfolk, I most earnestly desire, and humbly beg your lordship’s assistance therein. If it be delayed for some days, I shall then be back as far as the delivery of my petition. I am obliged to attend this morning at the exchequer, about the tin affair, and thereby prevented from waiting upon your lordship.” If it does relate to the reversionary patent, it is evident that he long wished, and with difficulty obtained it. In the last parliament of Anne he was returned a member for Dunheved, or Launceston, and he sat in the first parliament of George I. He fell under the suspicion of government, as favouring a design to restore the Stuarts, was imprisoned, and at this critical time Garter’s place became vacant, by the death of the venerable sir Henry St. George. He immediately claimed the office, but his grant was disregarded; and, October 26,1715, sir John Vanbrugh, Clarenceux, had the appointment. Unawed by power, fearless of danger, and confident in innocence, he first freed himself from all criminality in having conspired against the succession of the illustrious house of Brunswick, and then prosecuted his claim to the office of garter, pleading the right of the late queen to give him the place. It was argued, that in a contest about the right of nomination in the reign of Charles II. the sovereign gave it up, only retaining the confirmation of the earl marshal’s choice: Mr. Anstis urged, that Charles only waved his claim. The matter came to a hearing April 4, 1717, and the competitors claimed under their different grants; but the controversy did not end until April 20, 1718, when the right being acknowledged to be in Mr. Anstis, he was created Garter. He had, for some time previous to this decision in his | favour, resided in the college, and by degrees gained the good opinion and favour of the government. He even obtained a patent under the great seal, giving the office of garter to him, and his son John Anstis junior, esq. and to the survivor of them: this passed June 8, 1727, only two days before the death of George I. He died at his seat, at Mortlake in Surrey, on Sunday, March 4, 1744-5, and was buried the 23d of that month, in a vault in the parish church of Dulo in Cornwall. In him, it is said, were joined the learning of Camden and the industry, without the inaccuracy, of sir William Dugdale. He was certainly a most indefatigable and able officer at arms; and though he lived to the age of seventy-six, yet there is room to wonder at the extent of his productions, especially as he was a person of great consequence, and busied with many avocations out of the college. In 1706, he published a “Letter concerning the honour of Earl Marshal,” 8vo. “The form of the Installation of the Garter1720, 8vo. “Th Register of the most noble Order of the Garter, usually called the Black-Book, with a specimen of the Lives of the Knights Companions,1724, 2 vols. folio. “Observations introductory to an historical Essay on the Knighthood of the Bath,1725, 4to, intended as an introduction to the history of that order, for which it is there said the Society of Antiquaries had begun to collect materials. His “Aspilogia,” a discourse on seals in England, with beautiful draughts, nearly fit for publication, from which Mr. Drake read an abstract to the Society in 1735-6, and two folip volumes of Sepulchral Monuments, Stone Circles, Crosses, and Castles, in the three kingdoms, from which there are extracts in the Archa?ologia, vol. XIII. were purchased, with many other curious papers, at the sale of Mr. Anstis’s library of Mss. in 1768, by Thomas Astle, esq. F. R. and A. S. Besides these he left five large folio volumes on the “Office, <kc. of Garter King at Arms, of Heralds and Pursuivants, in this and other kingdoms, both royal, princely, and such as belonged to our nobility,” now in the pos session of George Nayler, esq. York herald, and genealogist of the Order of the Bath, &c. “Memoirs of the Families of Talbot, Carew/Granvile, and Courtney.” “The Antiquities of Cornwall.” “Collections, relative to the parish of Coliton, in Devonshire,” respecting the tithes, owing to a dispute which his son, the Rev. George Anstis, the vicar, then had with the parishioners, in the court of | exchequer in 1742. The late Dr. Ducarel possessed it, “Collections relative, to All Souls’ college, in Oxford.” These were very considerable, and purchased by the colllege. Sixty-four pages of his Latin Answer to “the Case of Founders’ Kinsmen,” were printed in 4to, with many coats of arms. His “Curia Militaris, or treatise on the Court of Chivalry, in three books:” it is supposed that no more than the preface and contents were ever published. Mr. Reed had those parts; the whole, however, was printed in 1702, 8vo; probably only for private friends. Mr. Prior mentions this Garter in an epigram:

"But coronets we owe to crowns,

And favour to a court’s affection;

By nature we are Adam’s sons,

And sons of Anstis by election."

In the picture gallery at Oxford is a portrait of him; there is another in the hall of the College at Arms. In the copy of his letters concerning the honour of the Earl Marshal, purchased by George Harrison, esq. Norroy, for 1l. 2s. at the sale of George Scott, of Woolston hall, esq. were many ms letters of Mr. Anstis to Dr. Derham. In Gutch’s Coll. Curiosa is a curious history of visitation books, under the title of “Nomenclator Fecialium qui Angliae et Walliac Comitatus visitarunt, quo anno et ubi autog?apha, seu apographa reperiuntur, per Johannem Anstis, Garter, principal. Regem armorum Anglicanorum,” taken from a ms. in the library of All Souls’ college in Oxford. He married Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Mr. Richard Cudlipp, of Tavistock in Devonshire, by whom he had, 1. John Anstis, jun. esq. who succeeded him as garter; 2. the Rev. George Anstis, vicar of Coliton, in Devon, who became heir to his eldest brother; 3. the Rev. Philip Anstis, born in the college, and the same day, December 15, 1717, baptized and registered at St. Bennet’s Church, Paul’s Wharf;*

*

One of the above brothers, who was in the church, died at Axminster in Somersetshire, October 14, 1758. One of them married Elizabeth, daughter of sir William Pole, of Shute in Devonshire, bart. There was a George Aostis, B.LL. rector of Bradwell in Es sex, November 8, 1736, resigned it March 24, 1737, to another Geoge Anstis, B.LL. He resigned, March 26, 1739, to Henry Anstis, B-LL. who likewise resigned it June 26, 1746. He died LL.D. November 3, 1766, in Fleet street, London.

4. Mary; 5. Catherine; and 6. Rachael, born in the college, May 17, and baptized June 11, 1721, at St. Bennet’s. 1
1

Nichols’s Bowyer, vol. V. p. 269, Noble’s College of Arms.

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