Hill, Richard (1655-1727) (DNB00)

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HILL, RICHARD (1655–1727), statesman and diplomatist, second son of Rowland Hill of Hawkstone, Shropshire, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Richard Whitehall of Doddington in the same county, was born at Hawkstone on 23 March 1655. He was educated at Shrewsbury School, and afterwards at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1675, and became a fellow. While acting as tutor to Lord Hyde, the eldest son of Laurence, first earl of Rochester [q. v.], he became acquainted with Richard, earl of Ranelagh, the paymaster of the forces, by whom he was appointed deputy-paymaster to the army in Flanders, a post which he held for six years. In 1696 he became envoy extraordinary to the elector of Bavaria at Brussels (Luttrell, iv. 37). He succeeded Sir Joseph Williamson in 1699 as ambassador at the Hague (ib. iv. 495, 520, 576), and in the same year went on a special mission to the court of Turin. On 15 Nov. 1699 he was appointed a lord of the treasury, and continued in that office until the accession of Queen Anne to the throne. On 20 May 1702 Hill became one of the council to Prince George of Denmark, the lord high admiral, and in July 1703 was appointed envoy extraordinary to the Duke of Savoy. After meeting with many delays and difficulties Hill succeeded in detaching the duke from Lewis XIV, and induced him to join the grand alliance. In accordance with his instructions he gave his assistance to the Vaudois and other protestants in the duke's dominions, and was successful in obtaining the revocation of the decrees against the Vaudois, and the confirmation in their favour of the secret article of 20 Oct. 1690, and of the edict of 23 May 1694. Hill left Genoa in February 1706, and returned to England early in May. On the death of Prince George of Denmark in October 1708 Hill's connection with the admiralty ceased. In 1710 he was appointed envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Hague and Brussels (ib. vi. 665, 668, 676), but ill-health forced him to refuse the appointment (Lord Bolingbroke, Works, 1798, vi. 31). During the latter part of his life Hill lived at Richmond in Surrey, where he died on 11 June 1727 in his seventy-third year. He was buried in Hodnet Church, Shropshire, where there is a monument to his memory. According to Speaker Onslow (Burnet, History of his own Time, iv. 318), Hill ‘took deacon's orders, which he laid aside while employed in civil affairs; but upon his withdrawing from them he resumed his clerical character, took priest's orders,’ and became a fellow of Eton College on 22 Dec. 1714 (Harwood, Alumni Etonenses, 1797, p. 84). Hill appears to have been strongly pressed to accept a bishopric, but though he refused this preferment he is said to have aspired to the post of provost of Eton. He was an able man of business, and though a tory greatly admired William's foreign policy, and staunchly supported the Hanoverian succession. Macky, in describing Hill, says: ‘He is a gentleman of very clear parts, and affects plainness and simplicity in his dress and conversation especially. He is a favourite to both parties, and is beloved for his easy access and affable way by those he has business to do with’ (Memoirs of the Secret Services, 1733, p. 148). Hill was not married, and died exceedingly rich. He left a considerable portion of his property by his will to his nephews, Samuel Barbour and Thomas Harwood, both of whom assumed the surname of Hill. Thomas, by his second wife, Susanna Maria, the eldest daughter of William Noel, a justice of the common pleas, was father of Noel Hill, who was created Baron Berwick on 19 May 1784. The Hawkstone estate passed to Rowland Hill, another nephew, who was created a baronet in consideration of his uncle's services on 20 Jan. 1727, and was father of Sir Richard Hill [q. v.] and of Rowland Hill, the preacher (1744–1833) [q. v.] Hill left the advowsons of several livings to St. John's College, Cambridge. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and was created an honorary D.C.L. of Oxford University on 13 July 1708. He does not appear to have been knighted, or to have been admitted to the privy council. His correspondence while envoy to the Duke of Savoy, which was discovered about 1840 at Attingham Hall, near Shrewsbury, was edited in 1845 by the Rev. William Blackley, and throws valuable light upon the policy of Victor Amadeus, duke of Savoy, afterwards king of Sardinia.

[Preface to the Diplomatic Correspondence of the Right Hon. Richard Hill, 1845, pp. v–xiv; Luttrell's Brief Hist. Relation of State Affairs, 1857, vols. iv. v. vi.; Burnet's History of his own Time, 1833, iv. 317–18, 386, vi. 77, 120; Historical Register, 1727, Chron. Diary, p. 25; Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. pt. v. p. 306; Blakeway's Sheriffs of Shropshire, 1831, pp. 179–82; Betham's English Baronetage, 1803, iii. 209–10; Wotton's English Baronetage, 1741, iv. 215–16; Burke's Peerage, &c., 1889, pp. 131, 713; Foster's Peerage, 1883, p. 364; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xi. 456, 4th ser. iii. 161.]

G. F. R. B.