Waldegrave, James (1715-1768) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 59
Waldegrave, James (1715-1768)

by Gerald le Grys Norgate
1904 Errata appended.
Contains subarticle John Waldegrave, third Earl (d. 1784).

WALDEGRAVE, JAMES, second Earl Waldegrave (1715–1763), born on 14 March 1715 (N. S.), was the eldest son of James Waldegrave, first earl [q. v.], by his wife Mary, second daughter of Sir John Webbe of Hatherop, Gloucestershire. He was educated at Eton. He succeeded to the peerage on the death of his father in 1741. Two years later, on 17 Dec. 1743, he was named a lord of the bedchamber to George II. Henceforth till the king's death he became his most intimate friend and adviser. But he took no open part in public business, and Henry Pelham described him to Newcastle in 1751 as ‘totally surrendered to his pleasures’ (Bedford Correspondence, ii. 84). In December 1752 he was induced by the king, much against his own will, to accept the office of governor and keeper of the privy purse to George, prince of Wales, and was made a privy councillor. He tried to give his royal pupil notions of common things, instructing him by conversation rather than books, and always stood his friend with the king. But in 1755 Leicester House resumed its former attitude of hostility to the court, and the princess and her friends made it their aim to get rid of Waldegrave and replace him by Bute. When, early next year, the matter was discussed in a cabinet council, Waldegrave rather favoured the concession of the demand. In October 1756 the king consented to the change, and Waldegrave was relieved from what he terms ‘the most painful servitude.’ He refused a pension on the Irish establishment in reward for his services, but accepted a tellership of the exchequer. He at the same time resigned the place of lord warden of the stannaries, which had been granted him in 1751. During the last five years of the reign of George II he played an important though not a conspicuous part. In 1755 he was employed to disunite Pitt and Fox, who were harassing the government, of which they were nominally subordinate members. As the result of his negotiations, Fox was admitted to the cabinet. Waldegrave smoothed the way by terrifying Newcastle with ‘a melancholy representation’ of the dire consequences of an avowed combination between Pitt and Fox. Early in 1757, after the resignation of Newcastle, the king, who could not endure the new ministers, Devonshire and Pitt, called in Waldegrave's aid to bring him back. Several conferences took place, and both Waldegrave and Newcastle advised delay. But the king was determined, and instructed his favourite to confer with Cumberland and Fox should Newcastle fail him. After some weeks' negotiations Fox was authorised to form a plan of administration in concert with Cumberland. Waldegrave approved it, and talked over the king's objections, though he anticipated its failure. He thought that George II should have negotiated in person with each candidate for office. The plan failed; but in March 1757 the Devonshire–Pitt ministry was dismissed. Thereupon Waldegrave was employed to notify to Sir Thomas Robinson and Lord Dupplin the king's intention of appointing them secretary of state and chancellor of the exchequer. As both refused office, Newcastle was again applied to. The latter showed Waldegrave a letter from Chesterfield, advising him to effect a junction with Pitt. Waldegrave admitted the soundness of the reasons given, adding that he himself, even when nominally acting against them, had always advised George II to reconcile himself with Pitt and Leicester House. But the king, as he had anticipated, refused to take Pitt as minister, and the interministerium continued. At length George II insisted on Waldegrave himself accepting the treasury. Waldegrave in vain pleaded that, though he might be useful as an independent man known to possess the royal confidence, as a minister he would be helpless owing to his entire want of parliamentary connections. He was premier for only five days, 8–12 June 1757. Fox's diffidence and Newcastle's intrigues shattered the embryo administration; and the crisis ended in Mansfield receiving powers to treat with the former and Pitt. On giving in his resignation, he openly admitted to George II that he considered the place of a minister as the greatest misfortune which could hereafter befall him; and in his ‘Memoirs’ he recorded his conviction that as a minister he must soon have lost the king's confidence and favour on account of their disagreement on German questions.

On 30 June 1757 Waldegrave was invested alone with the Garter, this single investiture being a very rare honour. He had been created LL.D of Cambridge and elected F.R.S. in 1749.

Once again, in the next reign, Waldegrave became involved in political affairs. When in 1763 Henry Fox meditated joining Bute, he went to Waldegrave and ‘endeavoured to enclose the earl in his treaty with the court,’ sounding him as to his willingness to accept cabinet office. Waldegrave desired time, and went to Windsor to consult the Duke of Cumberland. The duke would give no advice, and Waldegrave wrote to Fox to cut short the negotiation. He would not, says his relative, Horace Walpole, quit his friend in order to join a court he despised and hated. But he was not to be left at peace. Fox next made use of him to reconcile Cumberland and Devonshire; and shortly afterwards Rigby endeavoured to elicit from him an undertaking to accept the treasury. Waldegrave told Walpole (who was in his house at the time) of the overture ‘with an expressive smile, which in him, who never uttered a bitter word, conveyed the essence of sense and satire.’ A short time afterwards he ‘peremptorily declined’ the choice offered him of the French embassy or the viceroyalty of Ireland. Yet after his death the court boasted that they had gained him.

He died of small-pox on 28 April 1763. Had he lived longer, Walpole thinks he must have become the acknowledged head of the whigs, ‘though he was much looked up to by very different sets,’ and his ‘probity, abilities, and temper’ might have accomplished a coalition of parties. Walpole had brought about the marriage of Waldegrave in 1759 with his own niece Maria, a natural daughter of Sir Edward Walpole and Maria Clements. He was then ‘as old again as she, and of no agreeable figure; but for character and credit the first match in England.’ Lady Waldegrave was, since the death of Lady Coventry, ‘allowed the handsomest woman in England,’ and her only fault was extravagance. Reynolds painted her portrait seven times. After Waldegrave's death she was courted by the Duke of Portland, but secretly married Prince William Henry, duke of Gloucester. The marriage was for a long time unrecognised by the royal family. She died at Brompton on 22 Aug. 1807. By Waldegrave she had three daughters, of whom Elizabeth married her cousin, the fourth earl Waldegrave; Charlotte was the wife of George, duke of Grafton; and Anna Horatia, of Lord Hugh Seymour. Walpole gave Reynolds eight hundred guineas for a portrait of his three grand-nieces painted in 1780.

A portrait of Waldegrave, painted by Reynolds, was engraved by Thomson, S. Reynolds, and McArdell. The first-named engraving is prefixed to his ‘Memoirs.’ In Navestock church, Essex, there is a tablet to him with a lengthy inscription. His ‘Memoirs’ were not published till 1821, when they were issued by Murray in a quarto volume, with an introduction and appendices probably by Lord Holland. They are admirable in style and temper, and their accuracy has never been impugned. Waldegrave admits at the outset that it is not in his power to be quite unprejudiced, but the impartiality shown in his character-sketch of his friend Cumberland may atone for the slight injustice he may have done to Pitt and the satirical strokes he allowed himself when dealing with the princess dowager and Lord Bute. The relations he details as subsisting between himself and George II redound to the credit of both. Waldegrave's insight is proved by the remarkable change he foresaw in the character of his royal pupil when he should become king; and his comparison of the whig party to an alliance of different clans fighting in the same cause, but under different chieftains, is admirably just. The ‘Memoirs’ were reviewed in the ‘Quarterly’ for July 1821, and the ‘Edinburgh’ for June 1822. The writer of the latter notice, probably John Allen, gave, from a manuscript copy discovered after the publication of the work, the passage relating to George III just referred to.

Waldegrave having no male issue, the earldom passed to his brother.

John Waldegrave, third Earl (d. 1784), entered the army and attained the rank of lieutenant-general and governor of Plymouth. He commanded a brigade in the attack on St. Malo in 1758 (Grenville Corresp. i. 238). He greatly distinguished himself at the battle of Minden in the following year; and Walpole ascribes the victory chiefly to a manœuvre conducted by him. In the early years of George III he acted with the opposition, but was in 1765 made master of the horse to Queen Charlotte. When in 1770 Lord Barrington declared in parliament that no officer in England was fit to be commander-in-chief, he ‘took up the affront warmly without doors’ (Walpole). He was named lord-lieutenant of Essex in October 1781. He died of apoplexy in his carriage near Reading on 15 Oct. 1784. He married, ‘by the intrigues of Lord Sandwich’ (Sir C. H. Williams, Works, i. 184, Walpole's note), Elizabeth, fifth daughter of John, earl Gower. She had two sons and two daughters: the second son, William, created Lord Radstock [q. v.] in 1800, is separately noticed; the eldest, George (1751–1789), succeeded as fourth Earl Waldegrave and married his first cousin, Elizabeth Laura Waldegrave, by whom he was father of the fifth, sixth, and eighth earls.

[Walpole's Memoirs of George II, 2nd edit. i. 91, 92, 291, 418, iii. 26–30, 198, 199, Memoirs of George III, ed. Barker, i. 155, 156, 197, 212, 213, ii. 74, 121, 129, iii. 268–71, iv. 62, 63, 68, 130, and Letters, ed. Cunningham, passim; Coxe's Pelham Administration, ii. 130, 238, 239; Waldegrave's Memoirs; Gent. Mag. 1763 p. 201, 1784 ii. 199, 875, 1835 ii. 316, 1859 ii. 642, 643; Evans's Cat. Engr. Portraits; Doyle's Official Baronage; Burke's Peerage; Knight's Engl. Cyclopædia, vol. v.; Stanhope's Hist. of Engl. chap. xxxiv.; authorities cited.]

G. Le G. N.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.273
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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19 i 19f.e. Waldegrave, James, 2nd Earl Waldegrave: for Brampton read Brompton