Sutton, Robert (1661-1723) (DNB00)

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SUTTON, ROBERT, second Baron Lexington (1661–1723), born at Averham Park, Nottinghamshire, in 1661, was the only son of Robert, first baron Lexington [q. v.], by his third wife, Mary, daughter of Sir Anthony St. Leger, knt. He succeeded his father as second Baron Lexington in October 1668, and his mother died in the following year. He entered the army when young, and took his seat in the House of Lords for the first time on 9 May 1685 (Journals of the House of Lords, xiv. 4). He appears to have resigned his commission in June 1686, as a protest against the illegal conduct of James II (Luttrell, Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, 1857, i. 381). He attended the meetings of the Convention parliament in 1689, and gave his vote in favour of the joint sovereignty of the Prince and Princess of Orange. In June 1689 he was sent by William on a mission to the elector of Brandenburg, and on 17 March 1692 was sworn a member of the privy council. Lexington had been appointed gentleman of the horse to Princess Anne; but ‘when the difference happened between her and King William’ he left her service, and shortly afterwards became a lord of the king's bedchamber (Memoirs of the Secret Services of John Macky, 1733, p. 101). In 1693 Lexington served as a volunteer in Flanders (Luttrell, iii. 92, 99), and later on in the same year was selected with Hop, the pensionary of Amsterdam, to mediate between the rival claims of the house of Lunenburg and the princes of Anhalt with respect to the succession to the estates of the Duke of Saxe-Lunenburg. In January 1694 Lexington was nominated colonel of a horse regiment (ib. iii. 250), and in June following he went as envoy-extraordinary to Vienna, where he remained in that capacity until the conclusion of the peace of Ryswick in 1697. Though appointed one of the joint plenipotentiaries, Lexington remained at Vienna while his colleagues were at Ryswick (Calendar of Treasury Papers, 1697–1701–2, p. 528; Lexington Papers, p. 235). He was nominated a member of the council of trade and plantations on 9 June 1699, and continued to serve on that board until his dismissal in May 1702. As one of the lords of the bedchamber he was in frequent attendance upon the king, and was present when William died, on 8 March 1702 (see Rapin and Tindal, History of England, 1732–47, iii. 507).

Lexington appears to have lived in retirement during the greater part of Queen Anne's reign. After the opening of the congress of Utrecht he was sent as ambassador to Madrid to conduct the negotiations with Spain. He arrived there in August 1712, and obtained from Philip V the renunciation of his claims to the crown of France, returning to England, on account of his health, towards the close of 1713. Tindal states that, on Oxford's removal from the post of lord high treasurer, Lexington was named as one of those who were likely to hold high office in Bolingbroke's ministry (ib. vol. iv. pt. i. p. 368; see also Swift's Works, 1814, xvi. 196). Whatever may have been Bolingbroke's intentions, which were frustrated by Anne's sudden death, it is certain that Lexington was by no means disposed to promote the cause of the Pretender (Lexington Papers, pp. 8–9). Though he was severely censured in the report of Walpole's secret committee for his share in the peace negotiations, no proceedings were taken against him (Parl. Hist. vol. vii. app. pp. ii–ccxxii). From an undated letter in the British Museum, it appears that Lexington declined a post of honour offered him by the king through the Duke of Newcastle, thinking that it would not ‘look well in the eye of the world to be seeking new honours’ when he was ‘incapacited to injoy even those that’ he had (Addit. MS. 32686, f. 217). Lexington died at Averham Park on 19 Sept. 1723, aged 62, and was buried in Kelham church, where a monument was erected to his memory.

Lexington married, in 1691, Margaret, daughter and heiress of Sir Giles Hungerford of Coulston, Wiltshire, by whom he had three children, viz. (1) William George, who died at Madrid in October 1713, aged 15, and was buried at Kelham; (2) Eleanora Margaretta, who died unmarried in 1715; and (3) Bridget, who married, in 1717, John Manners, marquis of Granby, afterwards third Duke of Rutland, and became mother of the famous Marquis of Granby. On her death, in 1734, her second son, Lord Robert Manners, in accordance with the will of his maternal grandfather, assumed the surname of Sutton, and succeeded to the Lexington estates. On his death, in 1762, he was succeeded by his next brother, Lord George Manners, who thereupon assumed the additional surname of Sutton, and from him are descended all those who bear conjointly the names of Manners and Sutton. The title became extinct upon Lexington's death.

Macky describes Lexington as being ‘of good understanding, and very capable to be in the ministry; a well-bred gentleman and an agreeable companion, handsome, of a brown complexion, 40 years old’ (Memoirs of the Secret Services of John Macky, p. 101). Swift, however, makes the amendment that he had only ‘a very moderate degree of understanding’ (Swift, Works, x. 309).

Lexington entered nine protests in the House of Lords (Rogers, Complete Collection of Protests, 1875, vol. i. Nos. 85, 127–131, 135–6, 166), but there is no record of any of his speeches. Extracts from his official and private correspondence during his mission to Vienna were published in 1851 under the name of ‘The Lexington Papers.’ His letters during his residence at Madrid as ambassador are in the possession of Mr. J. H. Manners-Sutton, the present owner of Kelham Hall. Six of Lexington's letters are preserved in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 27457 f. 9, 32686 ff. 117, 215, 217, 239; Stowe MS. 750, f. 238).

[Authorities quoted in the text; Burnet's History of his own Time, 1833, vi. 138–9; Burke's Extinct Peerage, 1883, p. 523; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage, 1893, v. 73; Quarterly Review, lxxxix. 393–412; Calendar of Treasury Papers, 1557–1696 pp. 42, 393, 1697–1701–2 pp. 53–4, 418–19, 1708–14 pp. 422, 602; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ix. 36, 104, 5th ser. xii. 89, 116, 137, 7th ser. xii. 388, 455.]

G. F. R. B.