Stanhope, William (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 54
Stanhope, William

by Gerald le Grys Norgate
Contains subarticles Charles Stanhope (1673-1760) & William Stanhope (1719-1779).

STANHOPE, WILLIAM, first Earl of Harrington (1690?–1756), diplomatist and statesman, born about 1690, was the fourth son of John Stanhope of Elvaston, Derbyshire, by Dorothy, daughter and coheiress of Charles Agard of Foston in the same county. His great-grandfather, Sir John Stanhope (d. 1638), was half-brother of Philip Stanhope, first earl of Chesterfield [q. v.]

Of his three elder brothers, the third, Charles Stanhope (1673-1760), succeeded to the family estates on the second brother's death in 1730. He represented Milborne Port from 1717 to 1722, Aldborough (Yorkshire) from 1722 to 1734, and Harwich from 1734 to 1741. He was under-secretary for the southern department from 1714 to 1717, and in 1720-1 was secretary to the treasury. He was charged with making use of his position to gain a profit of 250,000l. by dealings in South Sea stock, and, though the accusation rested on insufficient evidence, the support of the Walpoles only gained his acquittal in the House of Commons (28 Feb. 1721) by three votes. George I in 1722 made him treasurer of the chamber, but George II refused him office on account of a memorial found among his father's papers relating to himself when Prince of Wales, which was in Stanhope's writing, though its real author was Sunderland. Charles Stanhope's name is frequently mentioned in Horace Walpole's 'Correspondence.' An ode to him 'drinking tar water' is among Sir C. Hanbury-Williams's works, and he is also introduced as a character in that writer's 'Isabella, or the Morning.' He died unmarried on 17 March 1760, aged 87.

According to 'Harlequin Horace,' an anonymous satirical epistle in verse, addressed to him in 1738, William Stanhope was educated at Eton and 'half a colledge education got.' He obtained a captaincy in the 3rd footguards in 1710, and served under his kinsman, General James Stanhope, in Spain. In 1715 he was made colonel of a dragoon regiment, and in the same year entered parliament as whig member for Derby. On 19 Aug. 1717 he was sent on a special mission to Madrid, the object of which was to arrange the differences between Philip V and the emperor Charles VI. On 1 July 1718 he announced to Alberoni the determination of England to force Spain to agree to the terms of pacification settled by the quadruple alliance, and had a very stormy interview with him. He was assiduous in urging the grievances of British merchants and gave them timely warning of the outbreak of war. On 17 Nov. 1718 he was appointed envoy at Turin, where he remained during the greater part of the war with Spain. Before returning to Madrid he saw military service as a volunteer with the French army while in Berwick's camp before Fontarabia. Stanhope concerted an attack upon some Spanish ships and stores in the port of St. Andero, and himself commanded the troops which were detached to co-operate with the English fleet. The operation was completely successful. This exploit closed his active military career, but he attained the rank of lieutenant-general in 1739 and general in 1747.

On the conclusion of peace Stanhope returned to Madrid as British ambassador. He remained there for the next seven years, and made for himself a high reputation as a diplomatist. In a series of able despatches he described the abdication of Philip V, his resumption of power after his son's death, the separation of France and Spain resulting from the failure of the match between the infanta and Louis XV, the intrigues between Spain and the emperor, and the rise and fall of their projector, the Baron Ripperda. The latter, when disgraced in 1726, fled to Stanhope's house, and was induced by him to reveal the articles of the recent secret treaty of Vienna. The information was taken down in cipher and sent by special messenger to London. During his second embassy in Spain Stanhope was also engaged in negotiations for the cession of Gibraltar. George I and some of his ministers were not averse to it, and even gave a conditional promise, but dared not propose it to parliament. In an interview with Philip V at the end of 1720, Stanhope denied the king's assertion that an absolute promise to cede Gibraltar had been given as a condition of Philip's accession to the quadruple alliance. Stanhope claimed an equivalent for the surrender of the fortress. He was persuaded that it would be to the advantage of England to yield Gibraltar in exchange for increased facilities for commercial intercourse with Spain and her colonies. To his regret the Spaniards declined to come to terms (letter to Sir Luke Schaub, 18 Jan. 1721, in Coxe, Bourbon Kings of Spain, iii. 22). On a fresh rupture with Spain in March 1727, Stanhope left Madrid and returned to England. On the previous 26 Sept. he had addressed a memorial to the king of Spain justifying the despatch of a British fleet to his coasts on the ground of the intrigues of his court with the emperor, Russia, and the Pretender (Tindal, Hist, of Engl. iv. 698-9). His correspondence with the Marquis de la Paz was published by an opponent of the ministry to show the impolicy of the war (Letters of the Marquis de la Paz and Colonell Stanhope . . . with Remarks, 1726; A Continuation of the Letters, 1727). An answer entitled 'Gibraltar or the Pretender,' by Richard Newyear, appeared in 1727.

In 1727 Stanhope was named by George II vice-chamberlain and a privy councillor. He did not remain long in England, being appointed in August one of the British plenipotentiaries at the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, which subsequently removed to Soissons. Here he seems to have been in favour of the cession of Gibraltar, then undergoing a siege (Lord Townshend to Stephen Poyntz, 14 June 1728). Newcastle, with whom he was in constant correspondence, showed some of his letters to Queen Caroline, who approved their tenor (Coxe, Mem. of Sir R. Walpole, ii. 631). Little way being made with the negotiations at the congress, in the autumn of 1729 Stanhope was sent to negotiate directly with the court of Spain. Horatio Walpole engaged the interest of the queen in his favour, and a peerage was promised as the reward of his mission. Poyntz, one of his colleagues at Soissons, testifies to Stanhope's 'most universal and deserved credit with the whole Spanish court and nation,' and remarks that the fact of his never having taken formal leave at Madrid facilitated the English advances (ib. ii. 653). With the help of France the treaty of Seville was concluded on 9 Nov. 1729 between England, France, and Spain, Holland subsequently acceding. The claim to Gibraltar was passed over in silence, and important advantages were secured to British trade in return for the forwarding of Elizabeth Farnese's wishes with regard to the succession in Tuscany and Parma. Newcastle, a few days later, assured Stanhope that he had never seen the king better satisfied with any one than he was with him, and conveyed him the special thanks of Walpole and Townshend (ib. ii. 665). The administration was much strengthened by the settlement of Spanish affairs, which had left the emperor their single isolated opponent. On 6 Jan. 1730 Stanhope was created Baron Harrington of Harrington, Northamptonshire. On 21 Feb. he was reappointed a plenipotentiary at Soissons, where negotiations with the emperor were still going on; but in May he was declared successor to Townshend as secretary of state for the northern department. His colleague was the Duke of Newcastle, who had done much to forward his promotion. He remained secretary during the remaining years of the Walpole administration. He never cordially coalesced with Sir Robert, but made himself acceptable to George II by favouring his German interests. The British ambassador at Vienna had to officially affirm that Harrington was acting in concert with the Walpoles so early as February 1731 (Thomas Robinson to Horatio Walpole, 3 Feb. 1731). In March a treaty was signed with the emperor, who obtained a guarantee of the pragmatic sanction in exchange for his accession to the treaty of Seville; but Harrington was obliged to instruct Thomas Robinson (afterwards first Baron Grantham) [q. v.] to leave the question of Hanoverian interests for future consideration. On the outbreak of the war of the Polish succession in 1733, he was in favour of supporting the emperor against France, but was overruled by the Walpoles; and in the following year he arranged with George II the sending to England of Thomas Strickland [q. v.], bishop of Namur, as a secret envoy from Charles VI (Horatio Walpole to Sir Robert, 22 Oct. 1734). Harrington had a long and secret conference with Strickland, which gave great uneasiness to the Walpoles; but the mission was discredited by the influence of Horatio Walpole with the queen (ib. pp. 442-4).

The cabinet was much divided on questions of foreign policy, and contradictory instructions were sent to the ambassadors, according as the war policy of Harrington and the king or the peace policy of the Walpoles and the queen predominated. Harrington thought that England had no excuse for not supporting the emperor, and propounded to Horatio Walpole a plan for a joint ultimatum from England and Holland to France (ib. i. 465-6). In the end he was obliged to carry out the peace policy of the premier, and to accept as a basis of negotiation the secret arrangement between France and the emperor. The preliminaries arranged at the end of 1735 won the approbation even of Bolingbroke (ib. i. 470; cf. Hervey, Memoirs, ii. 174).


Soon after this the king became dissatisfied with Harrington, and even proposed to dismiss him. When he went to Hanover in the summer of 1736, he insisted on taking Horatio Walpole with him to act as secretary (Coxe, Walpole, i. 480). This Hervey attributes to the influence of the queen and Walpole, who had been annoyed at Harrington's conduct in the previous year, when he had sent over from Hanover despatches arraigning all the acts and measures of the queen's regency, and had even been suspected of advising the king to sign military commissions which, having delegated his powers, he was incapacitated from doing.

According to Hervey, many thought that at this time Harrington had been worked upon by Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth earl of Chesterfield, to form a plan of becoming first minister. But George II disliked him, although not constantly, as did Queen Caroline. On 1 Aug. 1737 Harrington accompanied Sir R. Walpole to St. James's to attend the accouchement of the Princess of Wales. On this occasion the queen, who always disguised her dislike, joked with him upon his gallantry. Walpole and Harrington also had a conversation with Frederick, prince of Wales, at the bedside, of which they were requested by the king to draw up an account (see Minutes in Hervey's Memoirs, iii. 192-4). In talking of this scandalous incident with the Prince of Wales. Alexander, lord Marchmont, described Harrington as a good-natured honest man, but not of very great reach, adding that he 'did nothing but as directed.'

In the closing years of Walpole's ministry Harrington again opposed him by acting with the party of Newcastle and Hardwicke, who were in favour of war with Spain. In 1741 he negotiated behind the premier's back a treaty with France for the neutrality of Hanover, and was careful not to commit himself to any opinion displeasing to the king (Coxe, Memoirs of Lord Walpole, ii. 27, 35). Nevertheless, it was by Walpole's influence that he retained office on the rearrangement of the ministry on that minister's fall. But he had to give up the secretaryship of state to Carteret, receiving in its place the presidency of the council. He was so dependent on his official salary that in 1740 he had applied both to the king and to Walpole for a tellership of the exchequer, alleging the 'extreme streightness' of his circumstances (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. ii. 274-5). On 9 Feb. 1742 he was advanced to an earldom. In the following year he acted as one of the lords justices. He now joined with the Pelhams in opposing Car teret's foreign policy, and in the summer of 1744 signed Hardwicke's memorial to the king, proposing that an envoy should be sent to Holland declaring that England would withdraw from the war should they refuse to enter into it. Harrington himself seems to have been asked to undertake the mission but to have declined, presumably from the fear of not being well supported (Marchmonts Diary, 28 Oct. 1744). On 23 Nov. the Pelhams succeeded in driving out Carteret and replacing him by Harrington.

In the summer of 1745 he accompanied George II to Hanover, but continued, in concert with the Pelhams, to oppose his desire for more extensive operations against France, and especially Carteret's project of a grand alliance. In January 1746 Harrington again urged the Dutch to declare war against France. He announced that, in consequence of the rebellion, England would have to limit her financial assistance, and would be unable to contribute to the defence of the German empire. The king now tried by means of Pulteney (Bath) to detach Harrington from the Pelhams, and on 7 Feb. 1746 had a personal interview with him. Harrington not only remained loyal to his colleagues, but took the lead in resigning office three days later. According to Chesterfield, he flung the purse and seals down upon the table and provoked the king beyond expression (Marchmont's Diary, 30 Aug. 1747). He had told Bath previously his opinion 'that those who dictated in private should be employed in public' (Coxe, Pelham Admin, i. 289). When, after a few days, the king was obliged to recall Henry Pelham, 'the chief resentment was shown to Lord Harrington' (Newcastle to Chesterfield, 18 Feb. 1746; cf. Marchmonts Diary, 30 Aug. 1747).

Harrington had now irretrievably lost the king's favour, and retained the seals only till the following October. His wish to accept the French proposals as a basis for peace was opposed by Newcastle and Hardwicke, and a warm debate took place between him and Newcastle in the king's presence. Harrington made use of the fact of Newcastle's having carried on a separate correspondence with Lord Sandwich, British envoy at Breda, as a pretext for his resignation, which he really gave because of his treatment by the king. Hardwicke tried to avert this extreme course, and Henry Pelham greatly regretted it, and even hoped that after a time Harrington would be enabled to resume the seals. Both Pelhams concurred in urging on the king Harrington's request for the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland, which office, after some difficulty, they obtained for him. Harrington exchanged offices with his kinsman, Lord Chesterfield. He retained the viceroyalty till 1751. In the previous year, when the Pelhams tried to get him a pension or a sinecure, the king said 'Lord Harrington deserves nothing and shall have nothing' (Coxe, Pelham Admin, ii. 134). Harrington's viceroyalty was disturbed by the agitation headed by Charles Lucas (1731-1771) [q. v.], and saw the beginning of an organised opposition in the Irish parliament. 'Bonfires were made and a thousand insults offered him' on his departure in the spring of 1751 (Chesterfield to S. Dayrolles,27 April 1751). Horace Walpole says that the Pelhams sacrificed him to the king. But this account is unfair, at least to Henry Pelham, who had a high regard for Harrington. In Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams's 'The Duke of Newcastle: a Fable,' Harrington is represented, with more justice, as the duke's cast-off favourite and friend. But it is difficult to see what the brothers could have done for their friend in face of the implacable resentment of the king.

Harrington took no further part in public affairs, and died on 8 Dec. 1756 at his house in the Stable Yard, St. James's.

Harrington shone rather as a diplomatist than as a statesman. Though he never spoke in debate, his advice as a strategist was listened to with respect. Horace Walpole does justice to his career, but Lord Hervey's estimate of his character was probably influenced by a private motive (Memoirs, i. 336, Croker's note). When he was at the court of Spain Hervey says that 'people talked, heard, and read of nothing but Lord Harrington,' who was rapidly forgotten as soon as he returned. In Hervey's 'Political Epistle to the Queen' (1736), Harrington is described as

      An exile made by an uncommon doom
      From foreign countries to his own;

and the statesman's fortune is compared to a piece of old china, bought at an enormous price, never used, and laid by and forgotten. In the satirical piece called 'The Death of Lord Hervey; or a Morning at Court,' extreme indolence is imputed to Harrington by Queen Caroline in words which she appears actually to have used (cf. Memoirs, ii. 42). Hervey, however, admits that he was 'well bred, a man of honour, and fortunate.' Of foreign observers Saint-Simon, who met Harrington in Spain, writes of his taciturn and somewhat repellent demeanour, but credits him with 'beaucoup d'esprit, de con- duite et de sens' (Memoires, xix. 419). Campo Raso says he united the greatest vivacity with a by no means lively exterior (Memorias Politicas y Militares, p. 35); and Philip V of Spain asserted that he was the only minister who had never deceived him.

Two portraits of Harrington—one engraved by Ford, from a painting by Du Pare, the other painted by Fayram and engraved by Faber—are at Elvaston.

Harrington married Anne, daughter and heiress of Colonel Edward Griffiths, one of the clerk comptrollers of the Green Cloth. He was succeeded in the title by the survivor of twin sons, William Stanhope, second Earl of Harrington (1719-1779). Born on 18 Dec. 1719, he entered the army in 1741, and became general} of the 2nd troop of horse grenadier guards in June 1745. He distinguished himself at Fontenoy, where he was slightly wounded (Walpole to Mann, 11 May 1745). He became major-general in February 1755, lieutenant-general in January 1758, and general on 30 April 1770. As Viscount Petersham he represented Bury St. Edmunds from 1747 to 1756. In 1748 he was made customer of the port of Dublin. He was a somewhat eccentric personage, and from a peculiarity in his gait was nicknamed 'Peter Shambles.' He died on 1 April 1779. He married, on 11 Aug. 1746, Caroline, eldest daughter of Charles Fitzroy, second duke of Grafton. She was one of the reigning beauties of the day. Horace Walpole, who was one of her intimates, relates many of her wild doings. She and her friend, Miss Ashe, went to comfort and weep over, James Maclaine or Maclean [q. v.], the gentleman highwayman (to Mann, 2 Aug. 1750). At the coronation of George III Lady Harrington appeared 'covered with all the diamonds she could borrow, hire, or seize,' and was 'the finest figure at a distance.' Walpole's friend, Conway, had been in love with her, and a chanson by Walpole, with English translation, on the subject of their affection has been printed from the Manchester papers (in Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. App. ii. 111-112). One of Lady Harrington's last exploits was an application to Johnson in favour of Dr. Dodd, which produced a considerable effect upon him (Boswell, Johnson, ed. Hill, iii. 141). She died in 1784, and was buried at Kensington on 6 July. Two characteristic portraits of her are at Elvaston. One, by Hudson, depicts her in middle life; the other, by Cotes, represents her in old age with her daughter, the Duchess of Newcastle. She had five daughters and two sons. The eldest daughter, Lady Caroline, who married Kenneth Mackenzie, viscount Fortrose, died in her twentieth year in February 1767, 'killed, like Lady Coventry and others, by white lead' (Walpole to Montagu, 12 Dec. 1766; to Mann, 13 Feb. 1767); Isabella, married Richard Molyneux, first earl of Sefton; Emilia, Richard, sixth earl of Barrymore; Henrietta, Thomas, second lord Foley (the last two inherited a full share of their mother's beauty); the youngest, Lady Anna Maria (1760-1821), married, first, Thomas Pelham-Clinton, earl of Lincoln (afterwards Duke of Newcastle), and, secondly, Colonel (afterwards Sir Charles Cregan) Craufurd, G.C.B. The second son, Henry Fitzroy, served in the army. The elder, Charles Stanhope, third earl of Harrington, is separately noticed.

[Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, iv. 284-90; Doyle's Official Baronage; G. E. C.'s and Burke's Peerages; Coxe's Memoirs of Sir R. Walpole, of the Pelham Administration, of Horatio Lord Walpole, his Bourbon Kings of Spain, vols. ii. iii., and House of Austria, vol. ii.; Lord Hervey's Memoirs of George II, 1884, passim; H. Walpole's Memoirs of George II, i. 3-5, and Letters, ed. Cunningham, passim; Marchmont Papers, i. 44-45, 69, 70, 88, 97 ., 124, 181-5, ii. 88, 416; Tindal's Continuation of Rapin; Ballantine's Life of Carteret, pp. 74-5, 154; Works of Sir C. Hanbury-Williams; Chesterfield's Corresp. ed. Lord Mahon; Evans's Cat. Engr. Portraits; Bedford Corresp. i. 171-3, 178-9. Among Harrington's papers in the British Museum the most important are his correspondence with Sir Luke Schaub, 1721 (Addit. MSS. 22520-1), with Sir Thomas Robinson, 1730-46 (Addit. MSS. 23780-23823). with W. Titley (Egerton MSS. 2683-9), with Newcastle (Addit. MSS. 32686 et seq.), and with Newcastle, Townshend, and Alberoni (Stowe MSS. 252-6). These collections have been used by Mr. E. Armstrong in his Elizabeth Farnese, 1892. Many letters to and from him are among the Weston papers at Somerby Hall, Lincolnshire (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. i.).]

G. Le G. N.