Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sackville, Lionel Cranfield

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601716Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 50 — Sackville, Lionel Cranfield1897George Fisher Russell Barker

SACKVILLE, LIONEL CRANFIELD, first Duke of Dorset (1688–1765), born on 18 Jan. 1688, the only son of Charles, sixth earl of Dorset [q. v.], by his second wife, Lady Mary Compton, younger daughter of James, third earl of Northampton, and sister of Spencer, earl of Wilmington, was educated at Westminster School. In April 1706 he accompanied Charles Montagu, earl of Halifax, on his special mission to Hanover for the purpose of transmitting to the elector the acts which had been passed in the interests of his family. He succeeded his father as seventh Earl of Dorset and second Earl of Middlesex on 29 Jan. 1706, and took his seat in the House of Lords on 19 Jan. 1708 (Journals of the House of Lords, xviii. 430). In December 1708 he was appointed constable of Dover Castle and lord warden of the Cinque ports, posts from which he was removed in June 1713. He is said to have written the whig address from the county of Kent, which was presented to the queen on 30 July 1710 (Annals of Queen Anne, ix. 177–9), and on 15 June 1714 he protested against the Schism Act (Rogers, Complete Collection of the Protests of the Lords, 1875, i. 218–21). On Anne's death he was sent by the regency as envoy-extraordinary to Hanover to notify that fact to George I.

He was appointed groom of the stole and first lord of the bedchamber on 18 Sept. 1714, and constable of Dover Castle and lord warden of the Cinque ports on 18 Oct. On the 16th of the same month he was elected a knight of the Garter, being installed on 9 Dec. following. He assisted at the coronation of George I on 20 Oct., as bearer of the sceptre with the cross, and on 16 Nov. 1714 was sworn a member of the privy council. In April 1716 he supported the Septennial Bill in the House of Lords, and is said to have declared that ‘triennial elections destroy all family interest and subject our excellent constitution to the caprice of the multitude’ (Parl. Hist. vii. 297). In July 1717 he was informed by Lord Sunderland that the king had no further occasion for his services (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. App. iii. 8).

He was created Duke of Dorset on 17 June 1720, and took his seat at the upper end of the earls' bench on 8 Oct. following (Journals of the House of Lords, xxi. 370). On 30 May 1725 he was appointed lord steward of the household. He acted as lord high steward of England at the coronation of George II on 11 Oct. 1727, and was the bearer of St. Edward's crown on that occasion. On 4 Jan. 1728 he was reappointed constable of Dover Castle and lord warden of the Cinque ports. On resigning his post of lord steward of the household, Dorset was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland (19 June 1730). During his viceroyalty he paid three visits to Ireland, where he resided during the parliamentary sessions of 1731–2, 1733–4, and 1735–6. In 1731 the court party was defeated by a majority of one on a financial question (Lecky, Hist. of England, 1878, ii. 428); but with this exception the political history of Ireland during Dorset's tenure of office was uneventful. In 1735 Sir Robert Walpole appears to have obtained the queen's consent to Dorset's removal, and to have secretly offered the post to Lord Scarbrough. To Walpole's great surprise, Scarbrough refused the offer, and ‘Dorset went to Ireland again, as satisfied with his own security as if he had owed it to his own strength’ (Lord Hervey, Memoirs of the Reign of George II, 1884, ii. 163–4). He was succeeded as lord-lieutenant of Ireland by William, third duke of Devonshire, in March 1737, and was thereupon reappointed lord steward of the household. Dorset continued to hold this office until 3 Jan. 1745, when he became lord president of the council. He was reappointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland on 6 Dec. 1750, being succeeded by Granville as president of the council in June 1751. During his former viceroyalty Dorset had performed the duties of his office to the entire satisfaction of the court party. He had ‘then acted for himself,’ but now ‘he was in the hands of two men most unlike himself,’ his youngest son, Lord George Sackville, who acted as his first or principal secretary, and George Stone, the primate of Ireland (Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George II, 1847, i. 279; see also Letters and Works of the Earl of Chesterfield, 1845–1853, ii. 366, iv. 101). In consequence of their policy, a serious parliamentary opposition was for the first time organised in Ireland; while an injudicious attempt on the part of Lord George Sackville to oust Henry Boyle, the parliamentary leader of the whig party in Ireland, from the speakership led to his temporary union with the patriot party. The most important of the many altercations which arose between the court party and the patriots concerned the surplus revenue. This the House of Commons wished to apply in liquidation of the national debt. Though the government agreed to the mode of application, they contended that the surplus could not be disposed of without the consent of the crown. In his speech at the opening of the session, in October 1751, Dorset signified the royal consent to the appropriation of part of the surplus to the liquidation of the national debt. The bill for carrying this into effect was passed, but the house took care to omit taking any notice of the king's consent. Upon the return of the bill from England, with an alteration in the preamble signifying that the royal consent had been given, the house gave way, and the bill was passed in its altered form (Lecky, Hist. of England, ii. 432). In 1753 the Earl of Kildare presented a memorial to the king against the administration of the Duke of Dorset and the ascendency of the primate; but this remonstrance was disregarded (Walpole, Reign of George II, i. 354). In the session of 1753 the contest between the court and the patriots was renewed. Dorset again announced the king's consent to the appropriation of the fresh surplus. The bill again omitted any notice of the sovereign's consent. It was returned with the same alteration as before, but this time was rejected by a majority of five. Dorset thereupon adjourned parliament, and dismissed all the servants of the crown who had voted with the majority, while a portion of the surplus was by royal authority applied to the payment of the debt (Lecky, Hist. of England, ii. 432; see Walpole, Reign of George II, i. 368–9).

Another exciting struggle was fought over the inquiry into the peculations of Arthur Jones Nevill, the surveyor-general, who was ultimately expelled from the House of Commons on 23 Nov. 1753 (Journals of the Irish House of Commons, v. 196). A curious indication of the feeling against Dorset's administration was shown at the Dublin Theatre on 2 March 1754. The audience called for the repetition of some lines which appeared to reflect upon those in office. West Digges [q. v.], by the order of Sheridan the manager, refused to repeat them. Whereupon ‘the audience demolished the inside of the house and reduced it to a shell’ (Walpole, Reign of George II, i. 389; Gent. Mag. 1754, p. 141).

Alarmed by the discontent which had been aroused, the English government determined at last to make terms with Boyle, and to appoint Lord Hartington in Dorset's place. In February 1755 Dorset was informed that he was to return no more to Ireland. According to Horace Walpole, ‘he bore the notification ill,’ and hoped that, ‘if the situation of affairs should prove to be mended,’ he might be permitted to return (Walpole, Reign of George II, ii. 10). Dorset was appointed master of the horse on 29 March 1755, a post in which he was succeeded by Earl Gower in July 1757. During the riots occasioned by the Militia Bill in 1757, he was attacked at Knole, near Sevenoaks, by a mob, but was saved ‘by a young officer, who sallied out and seized two-and-twenty of the rioters’ (ib. iii. 41). On 5 July 1757 Dorset was constituted constable of Dover Castle and lord warden of the Cinque ports for the term of his natural life. He died at Knole on 9 Oct. 1765, aged 76, and was buried at Withyham, Sussex, on the 18th.

Dorset, says Lord Shelburne, was ‘in all respects a perfect English courtier and nothing else. … He had the good fortune to come into the world with the whigs, and partook of their good fortune to his death. He never had an opinion about public matters. … He preserved to the last the good breeding, decency of manners, and dignity of exterior deportment of Queen Anne's time, never departing from his style of gravity and ceremony’ (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, 1875, i. 341). According to Horace Walpole, Dorset, in spite of ‘the greatest dignity in his appearance, was in private the greatest lover of low humour and buffoonery’ (Reign of George II, i. 98). Swift, in a letter to Lady Betty Germain, an intimate friend of Dorset, writes in January 1727: ‘I do not know a more agreeable person in conversation, one more easy or of better taste, with a greater variety of knowledge, than the Duke of Dorset’ (Works, 1824, xix. 117).

Dorset was appointed a Busby trustee (14 March 1720), custos rotulorum of Kent (12 May 1724), vice-admiral of Kent (27 Jan. 1725), high steward of Tamworth (6 May 1729), governor of the Charterhouse (17 Nov. 1730), and lord-lieutenant of Kent (8 July 1746). He also held the office of high steward of Stratford-on-Avon, and was a member of the Kit-Cat Club. He was created a D.C.L. of Oxford University on 15 Sept. 1730, and acted as one of the lords justices of Great Britain in 1725, 1727, 1740, 1743, 1745, 1748, and 1752. He married, in January 1709, Elizabeth, daughter of Lieutenant-general Walter Philip Colyear, and niece of David, first earl of Portmore. She was maid of honour to Queen Anne, and became first lady of the bedchamber to Caroline, the queen consort, both as princess of Wales and queen. She was also appointed groom of the stole to the queen on 16 July 1727, a post which she resigned in favour of Lady Suffolk in 1731. By this marriage Dorset had three sons, viz. (1) Charles Sackville, second duke of Dorset [q. v.]; (2) Lord John Philip Sackville, M.P. for Tamworth, whose only son, John Frederick, became third duke of Dorset [q. v.]; (3) Lord George Sackville Germain, first viscount Sackville [q. v.]; and three daughters, Lady Anne Sackville, who died on 22 March 1721, aged 11; (2) Lady Elizabeth Sackville, who was married on 6 Dec. 1726 to Thomas, second viscount Weymouth, and died on 9 June 1729; and (3) Lady Caroline Sackville, who was married to Joseph Damer, afterwards first earl of Dorchester, on 27 July 1742, and died on 24 March 1775. The duchess died on 12 June 1768, aged 81, and was buried at Withyham on the 18th.

Matthew Prior dedicated his ‘Poems on Several Occasions,’ London, 1718, fol., to Dorset, out of gratitude to the memory of his father. Some of Dorset's correspondence is preserved among the manuscripts of Mrs. Stopford Sackville of Drayton House, Northamptonshire. Among the collection are several letters addressed to Dorset by Swift (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pt. iii.).

Portraits of Dorset, by Kneller, are in possession of the family. There are numerous engravings of Dorset by Faber, McArdell, and others, after Kneller.

[Horace Walpole's Letters, 1857–9; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. 1812–15; R. W. Sackville-West's Historical Notices of the Parish of Withyham, 1857; Autobiography and Correspondence of Mrs. Delany, 1863–4, vols. i. ii. iii. iv.; Letters to and from Henrietta, Countess of Suffolk, 1824, i. 62, 63, ii. 29, 33–6, 220; Memoirs of the Kit-Cat Club, 1821, pp. 66–9 (with portrait); Plowden's Historical Relation of the State of Ireland, 1803, i. 280–4, 309–16, App. pp. 255–7; Froude's English in Ireland, 1872–4, i. 497–8, 574, 580–2, 610–12, ii. 5; Lyon's Hist. of Dover, 1813–14, ii. 262–3; Doyle's Official Baronage, 1886, i. 628–9; G. E. C.'s Complete Peerage, iii. 152; Collins's Peerage of England, 1812, ii. 174–8; Andrew Philips's Poem, 1765, p. 74; Alumni Oxonienses, 1715–1886, iv. 1241; Alumni Westmonast. 1852, pp. 194, 240–1, 245, 294, 555, 556, 575; Gent. Mag. 1765, p. 491.]

G. F. R. B.