Waldegrave, James (1685-1741) (DNB00)

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WALDEGRAVE, JAMES, first Earl Waldegrave (1685–1741), a descendant of Sir Edward Waldegrave [q. v.], was the eldest son of Sir Henry Waldegrave, bart., who on 20 Jan. 1685–6—shortly after the birth of his first-born—was created by James II Baron Waldegrave of Chewton in Somerset. Next year the new peer was made comptroller of the royal household and lord-lieutenant of Somerset (see Ellis, Corresp. i. 338; cf. Evelyn, Diary, 1850, ii. 249). In November 1688 he went over to Paris, taking a large sum of money thither for the king, and he died either at Paris or St. Germain in the following year (cf. Stuart Papers, Roxb. Club, 1889, pp. 104 sq.). Apart from his being a Roman catholic, Waldegrave deserved well of James, for his great-grandfather, Sir Edward, had been created a baronet by Charles I in 1643 for great and conspicuous services to the royal cause. It was, however, to the fact that he had married in 1684 Lady Henrietta Fitzjames, eldest daughter of James II by Arabella Churchill [q. v.], that he owed his elevation. Henrietta, lady Waldegrave, survived her husband many years, and lived to see her son following in the footsteps of her uncle, the Duke of Marlborough, and effectively opposing the interests of her brother Berwick and her half-brother, the Old Pretender. When she died, on 3 April 1730, at the age of sixty-three, the earl erected a monument to her in the chancel of Navestock church, Essex. An interesting little letter written to this lady when she was but fifteen by her father (dated ‘Windsor, 23 April 1682’) is at the British Museum (Addit. MS. 5015, f. 40); it is addressed to ‘Mrs. Henriette Fitzjames of Maubuison.’

James, so named after his royal grandfather, was educated in France. He married in l714 a catholic lady, Mary, second daughter of Sir John Webbe, bart., of Hatherop, Gloucestershire; but upon her death in childbed, on 22 Jan. 1718–19, he declared himself a protestant, and not long afterwards he took the oaths and assumed his seat in the House of Lords (12 Feb. 1721–2). The scandal excited among the Jacobites by his abjuration, and the manner in which it was resented by his uncle, the Duke of Berwick, dispelled all suspicions as to the genuineness of his loyalty to the protestant succession, and his personal qualities soon recommended him very strongly to the Walpoles. Nevertheless it was thought singular that Sir Robert should advance him so promptly to diplomatic posts, and in 1741 one of the articles in the impeachment was that he had made so near a relative of the Pretender an ambassador (Walpole, Corresp. ed. Cunningham, i. 90). At first, however, Waldegrave was only made a lord of the bedchamber to George I (8 June 1723), and it was not until 1725 (11 Sept.) that he was sent as ambassador extraordinary to Paris, conveying congratulations from George I and the Prince of Wales to Louis XV upon his marriage. On 27 May 1727 he was appointed to the more responsible post of ambassador and minister-plenipotentiary at Vienna. He set out next day, and a few days later, while in Paris, heard of the death of George I; but he proceeded without delay, and reached Vienna on 26 June. The appointment had been made with care, Waldegrave being deemed a diplomatist eminently fitted to soothe and conciliate the emperor. His amiable demeanour doubtless contributed to facilitate the execution of the articles agreed upon in the preliminaries recently signed between England, France, and the emperor at Paris. He was at Paris in the summer of 1728 during the congress of Soissons, but he returned to Vienna, and was not recalled until June 1730. In the meantime, on 13 Sept. 1729, he had been created Viscount Chewton of Chewton and Earl Waldegrave. On 7 Aug. 1730 he was appointed ambassador and minister-plenipotentiary at Paris, in succession to Sir Horatio Walpole. His main business at the outset was to hint jealousy and suspicion at any closer rapprochement between France and Spain; and he was urged by Newcastle to keep a vigilant eye upon Berwick and other Jacobites in the French capital, and not to spare expense in ‘subsisting’ Gambarini and other effective spies (see Addit. MS. 32775, f. 283). The position developed into a very delicate one for a diplomatist, and the crossfire to which Waldegrave was exposed was often perilous. Spain wanted to alienate the English government from France, while several of the French ministers actively sought to embroil England with Spain. The tendencies of Fleury were wholly pacific, but the chief secretary, Germain Louis de Chauvelin, left no stone unturned to exasperate him against the English. Chauvelin did not hesitate at intrigues with the Pretender, of which the secret was revealed by his own carelessness, for having on one occasion some papers to hand to the English ambassador, he added by mistake one of James's letters to himself. This Waldegrave promptly despatched by a special messenger to England (to the Duke of Newcastle, 11 Oct. 1736). Walpole recommended the administering of a bribe of 5,000l. to 10,000l. (the smaller sum, he observed, would make a good many French livres). Nothing came of this; but a few months later Waldegrave had the satisfaction of seeing Chauvelin dismissed (February 1737; Flassan, Diplom. Française, 1811, v. 75). Nevertheless, as the tension increased between England and Spain, Waldegrave's position grew more difficult. He described it as that of a bird upon a perch, and wondered it could last in the way it did. His former popularity reached vanishing point when he cracked a joke upon the French marine. Yet even after the declaration of war between England and Spain in October 1739 he had to stay on at Versailles, for Fleury still hesitated to break with England, and talked vaguely of arbitration; and matters continued in this unsettled state until the death of the emperor, Charles VI, on 20 Oct. 1740, which made a great European war inevitable. Shortly after this event, however, Waldegrave had to consult his health by returning to England. After his departure, until the rupture of diplomatic relations, business was carried on by his former chaplain, Antony Thompson, as chargé d'affaires. Thompson remained at the French capital until March 1744; in the following September he was created dean of Raphoe, and held that preferment until his death on 9 Oct. 1756 (Cotton, Fasti Eccl. Hib. iii. 363, v. 265; Walpole Corresp. i. 261, 295).

Waldegrave died of dropsy on 11 April 1741 at Navestock. There is a catholic story, ‘repeatedly heard from a gentleman of most retentive memory and unimpeachable veracity,’ that on his deathbed he put his hand on his tongue and exclaimed, to the terror of the bystanders, ‘This bit of red rag has been my damnation,’ alluding to the oath of abjuration (Oliver, Collections, pp. 69, 70). He was buried in the chancel of Navestock church, and a monument was afterwards erected to him there on the north side of the chancel by his daughter-in-law, who became Duchess of Gloucester [see William Henry, Duke of Gloucester]. The first earl left two sons—James, second earl [q. v.], and John—successively Earls Waldegrave, and a daughter Henrietta, born on 2 Jan. 1716–17, who married on 7 July 1734 Edward Herbert, brother of the Marquis of Powys; becoming a widow, she married, secondly, in 1738–9, John Beard, the leading singer at Covent Garden Theatre, of which he was also for a time a patentee. Lord Nugent wrote of the ‘foolish match’ that ‘made so much ado, and ruined her and Beard’ (New Foundling Hospital for Wit, 1784). Lady Henrietta died on 31 May 1753.

Waldegrave was highly esteemed by Walpole and by George II, who conferred the Garter upon him on 20 Feb. 1738 (cf. Castle Howard Papers, p. 193). Despite his lack of personal advantages, he was held to be most skilful in patiently foiling an adversary ‘without disobliging him;’ and, far from suspecting him of any concealed Jacobitism, Walpole confided in him more than in any other foreign ambassador, with the exception of his brother. He conducted himself in his embassies, says Coxe, with consummate address, and ‘particularly distinguished himself by obtaining secret information in times of emergency. His letters do honour to his diplomatic talents, and prove sound sense, an insinuating address, and elegant manners.’ Waldegrave built for himself the seat of Navestock Hall, near Romford, but this building was pulled down in 1811. Of the great mass of Waldegrave's diplomatic correspondence now preserved among the Additional (Pelham) manuscripts at the British Museum, the more important part is thus distributed: Addit. MSS. 23627, 32687–32802 passim (correspondence with the Duke of Newcastle, 1731–9); Addit. 23780–4 (with Sir Thomas Robinson, 1730–9); Addit. 27732 (with Lord Essex, 1732–6); Addit. 32754–801 (with Sir Benjamin Keene, 1728–1739); Addit. 32754, 32775 (with Cardinal Fleury, 1728–31); Addit. 32775–85 (with Lord Harrington, 1731–4); Addit. 32785–32792 (with Horatio Walpole, 1734–6).

[Harl. MSS. 381, 1154, and 5816 (Waldegrave family pedigree, arms, monuments, &c.); Addit. MS. 19154; Collins's Peerage, iv. 244; Doyle's Official Baronage; Gent. Mag. 1741, p. 221; Edmondson's Baronagium Genealogicum, iii. 233; Herald and Genealogist, iii. 424; Morant's Essex, ii. 232, 318, 592; Wright's Essex, ii. 735; Gibson's Lydiate Hall, 1876, p. 317; Foley's Records of the English College, v. 382; Waldegrave's Memoirs, 1821, pp. vi, vii; Coxe's Memoirs of Walpole, i. 347 seq.; Mémoires du Marquis d'Argenson, 1857, vol. ii.; Filon's Alliance Anglaise, Orleans, 1860; Dangeau's Journal, ed. 1854, ii. 234, 390, iii. 58, v. 134, 172, 303; Wolseley's Life of Marlborough, i. 37; Armstrong's Elisabeth Farnese, 1892, p. 357; Baudrillart's Philippe V et la Cour de France, 1889; Walpole Correspondence, ed. Cunningham; Stanhope's Hist. of England, 1851, ii. 189, 279; Quarterly Review, xxv. 392; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ix. 182, vii. 165, 6th ser. x. 344.]

T. S.