Anthony Keck (Tiverton MP)
He was born at Mickleton, Gloucestershire, the fifth son of Nicholas Keck, originally of Long Marston, Warwickshire, and Margaret Morris, daughter of John Morris of Bretforton, Worcestershire. Since he was later described as "a man who raised himself by his wits", it seems likely that his family lacked money or influence.
Keck was called to the bar of the Inner Temple in 1659, and was elected a bencher (a member of the governing body) in 1677. He developed a flourishing chancery practice. During the Popish Plot, he acted as counsel for William Howard, 1st Viscount Stafford, who was executed for treason in 1680, and made something of a name for himself in cases before the House of Lords. He published, anonymously, a series of law reports in 1697.
On 4 March 1689 he was named a Commissioner of the Great Seal with Sir John Maynard and Serjeant Rawlinson by the new King William III – these commissioners replaced the notorious Judge Jeffreys as Lord Chancellor, who fled as James II left the country. Knighted the next day, Keck held office till 14 May 1690: his decision to step down was described as a great act of self-denial.
He also served as MP for Tiverton from 1691. Despite being almost crippled by gout, he played a keen part in its debates, but he developed a very poor opinion of the House of Commons, calling it "a bear garden", poorly attended, and with most of the MPs who did attend being drunk or asleep. He did not stand for election in 1695, probably due to his failing health.
He died in his house in Bell Yard, off the Strand in December 1695.
Roger North wrote that Keck was by inclination a republican but would settle in default of a republic for a limited monarchy. He described him in character as "a polite, merry genius", apart from a certain "hardness" caused by his chronic gout.
Keck married Mary Thorne, daughter of Francis Thorne. He died a very rich man, although he had to provide for no less than nine daughters, including-
- Catherine, who married firstly in 1680 Ferdinando Tracy, younger son of John, 3rd Viscount Tracy, who died in 1682, and secondly Edward Chute, who inherited the famous country house The Vyne, Hampshire; she had issue by both marriages
- Mary, who married in 1680 Thomas Vernon MP, of Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire, but had no children
- Elizabeth, who married Richard Freeman, a barrister who ended his career as Lord Chancellor of Ireland; she died in 1699 leaving one daughter, Mary, who married Walter Edwards
- Ann, who married Richard Whitehead
- Margaret, who married Thomas Barber
- Maria, who married Edward Cressenor
- Winifred (died 1740), who married John Nicholl (or Nicol) of Colney Hatch and had a son John. The younger John's daughter, the great heiress Margaret Nicholl (1736-1768), married James Brydges, 3rd Duke of Chandos but had no issue. Margaret inherited from her cousin Robert Keck the famous portrait, allegedly of William Shakespeare, which is now called the Chandos portrait.
Keck's son was also named Anthony Keck and his grandson was Anthony James Keck who was also a politician for Lancashire and Leicestershire. His great grandson was George Anthony Legh Keck of Bank Hall who was also an MP for Leicestershire.
- Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. .
|Parliament of England|
| Member of Parliament for Tiverton
With: Thomas Bere