Lechmere, Nicholas (1675-1727) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

LECHMERE, NICHOLAS, Lord Lechmere (1675–1727), was the second son of Edmund Lechmere, esq., of Hanley Castle, Worcestershire. His mother was Lucy, daughter of Sir Anthony Hungerford of Farley Castle, Somerset. He was born at his father's seat on 7 Aug. 1675, and was educated at Merton College, Oxford, but left the university without a degree. He was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1698, and sat in the whig interest as M.P. for Appleby, for Cockermouth, and for Tewkesbury from 1708 to 1720. In 1714 he was one of those who assisted Swift in the composition of 'The Crisis.' He was made a queen's counsel in 1708, filled the office of solicitor-general 1714-18, and in 1718 became attorney-general, privy councillor, and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He was one of the managers appointed in 1710 to conduct the impeachment of Dr. Sacheverell [q. v.], and he also was engaged in the trial of Lord Derwentwater and the rebel Scottish lords at Westminster after the rising of 1715. He ceased to be attorney-general in 1720, but held the chancellorship of the duchy for life. He was raised to the peerage by George I in September 1721 as Lord Lechmere of Evesham, Worcestershire. A ballad on his quarrel with his neighbour, Sir John Guise, said to have been written by Gay or Swift, and called 'Duke upon Duke.' was published about 1725 (cf. Swift, Works). In 1727, when Lechmere waited on George H in the discharge of his official duties, he was denied an immediate audience because the king was engaged in an interview with Bolingbroke, who had been introduced through the influence of the Duchess of Kendal with the connivance of Walpole. As soon as Bolingbroke left the royal chamber Lechmere rushed in and unceremoniously reviled both Walpole and Bolingbroke, under the wrong impression that the latter was about to join the ministry. The king took the incident good-humouredly, and jestingly asked if Lechmere were prepared to become prime minister himself (Coxe, Walpole, i. 264). Lechmere was a frequent debater both in the lower and the upper house of parliament, and is said to have been 'a good lawyer, a quick and distinguished orator, much courted by the whig party, but of a temper violent, proud, and impracticable.' His last recorded appearance in the House of Lords was on 19 April 1727, when he protested against an appropriation clause in the Excise Act. In the 'Diary' of his nephew, Sir Nicholas Lechmere, he is described as 'an excellent lawyer, but violent and overbearing.' In No. 25 of the 'Examiner' Swift refers to Lechmere as a possible champion of Tindal, Collins, Toland, and others of the freethinking school. He married the Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Charles, third earl of Carlisle, but died issueless, from a sudden attack of apoplexy, while seated at table, at Campden House, Kensington, on 18 June 1727, when his peerage became extinct. He was buried at Hanley Castle, where there is a tablet inscribed to his memory. There are portraits of him at The Rhydd, Worcestershire, and at the seat of Mr. Ogle at Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire.

It appears from a letter of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu that in 1725, after deep losses at play, Lady Lechmere attempted suicide. Pope probably refers to her under the name Rosamunda in his 'Moral Essays,' Ep. ii. She remarried Sir Thomas Robinson, and died at Bath 10 April 1739.

[Burke's Extinct Peerage, 1883; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1851; Collins's Peerage of England, by Sir E. Brydges, 1812, ix. 431; Nash's Worcestershire, i. 561; Hanley and the House of Lechmere, by E. P. Shirley, 1883; Aitken's Life of Steele, ii. 5; Gent. Mag. 1739, p. 216; Luttrell's Brief Relation, vi. 302, 551 sq.; Rogers's Protests of the Lords, vol. i. passim; Elwin and Courthope's Pope, iii. 101-2, viii. 229; Prior's Life of Malone, p. 253; Swift's Works, ed. Scott, i. 182, 220, 229, iii. 365, iv. 237.]

E. W.