Anthony Cooper was born in 1621. The son of a large landowner, Cooper was educated at Oxford University and Lincoln's Inn.
In 1640 Cooper was elected to the House of Commons. On the outbreak of the Civil War Cooper initially supported Charles I but changed sides and accused the king of following policies "destructive to religion and State".
Cooper kept in the background until being appointed as a member of a law reform commission in 1652. Later he joined the Council of State. However, in 1655, he resigned in protest against the dictatorial methods of Oliver Cromwell.
In 1659 General George Monck recruited Cooper in his campaign to restore the monarchy. After the Restoration he was rewarded by being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. Cooper was also a member of the commission that tried the Regicides.
Cooper was a strong supporter of religious toleration and this resulted in him clashing with Earl of Clarendon. Cooper survived but Charles II was wary of his religious views and did not inform him of the Treaty of Dover where the king promised to become a Roman Catholic in return for French subsidies.
Cooper continued to support the king's policies and he was created Earl of Shaftesbury and made Lord Chancellor. However, he was later dismissed from office when he expressed doubts about the role being played by the king's brother, James.
Earl of Shaftesbury now argued that Charles II should call a new Parliament to discuss these issues. His supporters began to wear green ribbons (the colours of the Levellers). The king, concerned about this act of rebellion, had Shaftesbury arrested and sent to the Tower of London.
Dissatisfaction with the king continued and after a year Shaftesbury was released and James was sent to live abroad. Shaftesbury was brought back to power as president of the privy Council. In this position he urged Charles II to remarry in an effort to produce an heir to the throne. Charles, who wanted his brother to succeed him as king, refused, and dismissed Shaftesbury from office.
In July 1681 Shaftesbury was arrested and charged with high treason. However, in November, 1681, the grand jury threw the charges out. Shaftesbury was released but fearing he would be arrested again, he fled to the Netherlands where he died in 1683.