Harley, Robert, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer (1661 -1724)
Robert Harley was the son of Sir Edward Harley, of Bramton Bryan in Herefordshire, and his second wife, Abigail, daughter of Nathaniel Stephens, of Easington in Gloucestershire. Educated at a private school at Shilton, near Burford in Oxfordshire, he entered the Middle Temple, 18 March 1682, but was not called to the bar. He assisted his father in raising a troop of horse in 1688. He was Sheriff of Herefordshire 1689, Major in the Herefordshire Militia 1696, Member of Parliament for Tregony 1689 1690, and for Radnor 1690 1711, Speaker of the House of Commons in 1701, and one of the Principal Secretaries of State in 1704, owing to various jealousies and plots against him he had to resign in 1707. In 1710 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in 1711 Lord High Treasurer. In the same year he was created Baron Harley of Wigmore, Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer 23 May 1711. He held the post of Lord High Treasurer until 1714. In 1715 he was impeached, being finally cleared only in 1717. He married firstly, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Foley, of Witley Court, Worcestershire. They had three children, Edward, who succeeded as 2nd Earl, and two daughters. His second wife was Sarah, daughter of Simon Middleton, of Hurst Hill, Edmonton. They had no issue. Outside politics, his greatest interest was his library. Humfrey Wanley was his library keeper from 1708 1726. Many of the volumes were bound `in Harleian style', that is in red morocco with a narrow dentelle and a diamond shaped centrepiece of small tools. His manuscripts, about six thousand volumes, were purchased by Parliament in 1753 and are now in the British Library. After the death of the second Earl in 1742, the printed books, to the number of some 50,000 were sold to the bookseller Thomas Osborne, of Gray's Inn, London, for £13,000 and were dispersed by him, the tracts and pamphlets in five sales 2 March, 1 April, 2 June, and 1 October 1747 and 1 February 1748.