Earle, Giles (DNB00)

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EARLE, GILES (1678?–1758), politician and wit, came from a family resident at Crudwell, near Malmesbury. He served in early life in the army, attaining to the rank of colonel, and was attached to John, the second duke of Argyll, who was distinguished both in war and in politics. This connection had lasted in 1716 for twenty years, and was so marked that Sir Robert Walpole, in a letter written in that year, styles him ‘the Duke of Argyll's Erle.’ On the accession of George I he plunged into political life, and in that king's first parliament (1715–22) sat for Chippenham. At the general election of 1722 he succeeded on petition in establishing his right to represent the electors of Malmesbury, and he held the seat until 1747, when he was rejected and his parliamentary career terminated. Through his intimacy with the Duke of Argyll, who was groom of the stole to the Prince of Wales, he exerted himself very actively in the autumn of 1716 in promoting addresses of congratulation from Gloucestershire and the adjacent counties to the prince on his success as regent during the absence of George I in Hanover. For his services in such matters Earle was rewarded in 1718 with the post of groom of the prince's bedchamber; but he resigned this place in 1720, when public differences broke out between the prince and his father. The price of this desertion was promptly paid. He became clerk-comptroller of the king's household at once, and in 1728 was made a commissioner of Irish revenue. When Sir George Oxenden was deprived of his lordship of the treasury in 1737, the vacant place was filled by Earle, and he retained its emoluments until 1742. A soldier of fortune, his readiness to do the minister's bidding ingratiated him with Walpole, and the coarseness of his humour made him an acceptable companion in the minister's happier hours of social life. Through the partiality of Walpole he filled the place of chairman of committees of election in the two parliaments from 1727 to 1741; but his covetous disposition had rendered him unpopular, and his strokes of wit, which he had freely exercised against the Scotch, turned into hatred the distrust with which they had always regarded him for his abandonment of the Duke of Argyll. Lord Chesterfield, when Walpole's fall seemed probable, wrote, with evident allusion to Earle, that ‘the court generally proposes some servile and shameless tool of theirs to be chairman of the committee of privileges and elections. Why should not we therefore pick out some whig of a fair character and with personal connections to oppose the ministerial nominee?’ These tactics were adopted. The ministry proposed Earle, though some thought that his unpopularity would have led to the selection of another candidate, and the opposition proposed Dr. Lee. The struggle came off on 15 Dec. 1741, when Earle was beaten by four votes, polling 238 to 242 for his opponent, a result which showed the imprudence of Walpole's nomination. From that time Earle's name dropped out of notoriety. He died at his seat, Eastcourt House, Crudwell, on 20 Aug. 1758, aged 80. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Rawlinson, knight, serjeant-at-law, and had issue Eleanor and William Rawlinson. The latter, who was also a member of parliament and a placeman, died in 1774, aged 72, and was buried near his sister in the vault of his grandfather at Hendon, Middlesex. A monument in Crudwell Church records the names of Giles Earle and his descendants to 1771. From a marriage license granted by the Bishop of London on 20 May 1702 (Harl. Soc. No. xxvi. 328), it would appear that the wife of Giles Earle died young, and that he proposed to marry ‘Mrs. Elizabeth Lowther, of St. Andrew, Holborn, widow, in chapel at Chelsea College.’ His sordid nature and his broad jokes are the subject of universal comment, and his jests are said to have been ‘set off by a whining tone, crabbed face, and very laughing eyes.’ Two dialogues between ‘G——s E——e and B——b D——n’ (Earle and Bubb Dodington) were published, one in l741, and the other in 1743; the former, written by Sir C. Hanbury Williams, conveyed a ‘lively image of Earle's style and sentiments,’ and in both of them the shameless political conduct of this pair of intriguers was vividly displayed. Three of Earle's letters to Mrs. Howard, afterwards the Countess of Suffolk, are in the ‘Suffolk Letters.’ Lady Mary Wortley Montagu speaks of him as ‘a facetious gentleman, vulgarly called Tom Earle. … His toast was always “God bless you, whatever becomes of me.”’

[Coxe's Sir R. Walpole, i. 691, ii. 77, iii. 582; Suffolk Letters, i. 10–15, ii. 163; Works of Sir C. H. Williams (1822), i. 30–6, 49; H. Walpole's Letters. i. 94, 100, 118; Letters of Mary Lepel, Lady Hervey, p. 11; Hervey's Memoirs, ii. 343–4; Letters of Lady M. W. Montagu, ii. 384; Chesterfield's Letters, iii. 111, 131; Beauties of England and Wales, Wilts, p. 631; Oldfield's Representative Hist. v. 170–1; Gent. Mag. 1758, p. 396.]

W. P. C.