Spencer, Charles (1674-1722) (DNB00)
SPENCER, CHARLES, third Earl of Sunderland (1674–1722), statesman and bibliophile, born in 1674, was second son of Robert Spencer, second earl [q. v.], by Lady Anne Digby, youngest daughter of George, second earl of Bristol [q. v.] Evelyn, after a visit to Althorp in 1688, called him ‘a youth of extraordinary hopes, very learned for his age, and ingenious’ (Diary, 18 Aug.). By the death of his elder brother in the same year he became Lord Spencer. When his father fled to Holland in December 1688, his son went with him, and remained for some time at Utrecht with his tutor, Charles Trimnell (afterwards bishop of Winchester), ‘to study the laws and religion of the Dutch.’ In 1691 he was back at Althorp (ib. 12 Oct. 1691). Two years later he had begun to form a library, and made a tour about England (ib. 4 Sept. 1693). In 1695 he bought Sir Charles Scarborough's mathematical collection (ib. 10 March 1695), and by 1699 had in his possession ‘an incomparable library … wherein, among other rare books, were several that were printed at the first invention of that wonderful art, as particularly Tully's Offices and a Homer and Suidas almost as ancient’ (ib. April 1699).
On coming of age in 1695, Spencer entered public life as member of parliament for Tiverton. During his first two sessions Macaulay says he conducted himself as a steady and zealous whig. According to Swift, when in the House of Commons he affected republicanism, ‘and would often, among his familiar friends, refuse the title of lord, swear he would never be called otherwise than Charles Spencer, and hoped to see the day when there should not be a peer in England’ (Swift, Hist. of Four Last Years of Anne). On 21 Nov. 1696, in the debate on Sir John Fenwick's attainder, he ‘made a very unadvised motion about excluding the lords spirituall from the bill’ (Vernon Corresp. ed. James, i. 69).
Spencer had married, in 1695, Lady Arabella Cavendish, fifth daughter of the second Duke of Newcastle, and soon after her death in June 1698 proposals were set on foot through Godolphin and his sister, Mrs. Boscawen, for a match between Spencer and Lady Anne, second daughter of the then Earl of Marlborough. The latter was at first by no means eager, but Sunderland promised that his son should be ‘governed in everything public and private by him’ (Coxe, Marlborough, ed. Wade, i. 53). The marriage with Lady Anne Churchill, which was agreed upon in the autumn of 1699, was to take place secretly ‘before the writings are drawn and without the king's leave’ (Shrewsbury Corresp. ed. Coxe, p. 592). It was actually celebrated in January 1700. It was a political event of great importance, as through it Marlborough and his wife were gradually drawn towards the whigs. For some time afterwards, however, Spencer and his father-in-law remained political opponents. On 27 Oct. 1702 Spencer took his seat in the upper house as successor to his father (Luttrell, Brief Hist. Rel. v. 320). One of his first acts as a peer was to oppose the proposal for Prince George's annuity. By so doing he gave great offence to Lady Marlborough (Coxe, Marlborough, i. 104; Wyon, Hist. of Reign of Anne, i. 146).
On 9 Dec. 1704 Sunderland read before the lords a report of the committee with reference to the relations between England and Scotland, recommending legislation with a view to the prevention of a recurrence of the situation which had arisen out of recent Scottish legislation (Luttrell, v. 495). Two years later he was one of the commissioners for the union, and acted as a leading ‘manager’ of the debates in the lords (Burnet). During 1705 he took a prominent part in the business of the House of Lords (Luttrell, v. 524, 529). On 16 April of that year he was created LL.D. by Cambridge University. On 17 June he was appointed envoy extraordinary to Vienna on the accession of Joseph I, his chief duty being to arrange the difference between the emperor and the Hungarians (Boyer, Annals of Queen Anne, iv. 94). On 26 June he embarked at Greenwich, ‘being first to goe to our camp to confer with the Duke of Marlborough’ (ib. p. 566). The latter assured the Dutch envoy that his son-in-law would act under his advice (Marlborough's Letters and Despatches, ii. 167). Sunderland soon tired of Vienna. Owing to the machinations of the ‘whig junto,’ which included, besides himself, Lords Somers, Halifax, Wharton, and Orford, the coming triumph of his party at home was evident. On 11 Oct. 1705 the joint exertions of the Duchess of Marlborough and Sunderland procured the appointment of Cowper to the lord-keepership (see his letter to the Duchess of Marlborough in her Private Corresp. 1838, i. 10, 11). Sunderland desired to share the anticipated good fortune of his political friends, and he reached London on 1 Jan. 1705–6.
During the ensuing year Sunderland was in constant correspondence with the Duchess of Marlborough, who was trying to overcome the reluctance of the queen and also of her husband to admit him to office. Marlborough at length yielded to the advice of Godolphin, who felt the need of whig support (Coxe, Marlborough; Private Corresp. Duchess of Marlb.) On 3 Dec. 1706 Sunderland was named secretary of state for the southern department (Boyer, Annals of Anne, v. 481). He appointed Addison one of his under-secretaries (Luttrell, vi. 112).
Sunderland is described by Cunningham at this time as ‘a man bold in his designs, quick in his conceptions, and born for any hardy enterprise.’ Though the youngest of the whig junto of five, he was the first of them to attain office under Queen Anne. He had been refused the comptrollership of the household in 1704, and it was only the combined influence of the Duchess of Marlborough and Godolphin which now overcame the rooted antipathy of Anne and the distrust of Marlborough. In spite of his ability, Sunderland's rashness and temper made him a thorn in the side of his own party. Lord Somers, the only man to whom he would listen, was (according to Cunningham) ‘in constant fear of his bringing all things into confusion by his boldness and inexperience. Sunderland soon began to discredit the old whigs and to form new ones, and endeavoured to raise contention among the nobility, to dictate to the queen, to impose upon the parliament and people, and to ensnare Mr. Harley.’ During 1708 his indiscreet interference in the Scottish elections gave great uneasiness to Marlborough and Godolphin, and even caused the duchess to remonstrate. He was thought to be influenced by Halifax and ‘some underlings of his party,’ but he had also on this occasion the support of Somers (Private Corresp. Duchess of Marlborough, i. 149–50; Burnet, Hist. of his Own Time, v. 389). He, on his part, suspected Marlborough and Godolphin of not being steady whigs, and did not hesitate in parliament to differ from them openly.
Harley and St. John, who had been retained in office by Anne and Marlborough in order to balance the whig junto, were got rid of in February 1708, and the influence of Sunderland and his ally the duchess was necessarily strengthened by the large whig majority that was returned in the following November. Somers, Halifax, and Orford were successively admitted to the cabinet, and the ministry was thus (greatly in opposition to the wishes of the queen, who disliked government by one party) composed exclusively of whig partisans.
Meanwhile the whig position was being seriously undermined by the intrigues of Mrs. Masham and Harley. Early in 1710 Sunderland supported his father-in-law in urging an address to Anne for Mrs. Masham's removal, but Somers opposed this course as without precedent, and was upheld by Godolphin and the other whig leaders. Sunderland also differed from his more prudent colleagues (of whose lukewarmness he complained bitterly to the duchess) in urging on the proceedings against Sacheverell. He gave great offence to the high tories by endeavouring, by means of prosecutions, to stop high-church addresses to the crown, ‘so that they set all engines to work to get him removed’ (Boyer, ix. 187–9). He was considered the most active of the three secretaries of state, and was ‘implacably odious to Mr. Harley’ (Cunningham). Anne hesitated long before she ventured on the momentous step of dismissing one of the all-powerful junto; but the state of feeling in the country, as shown during the Sacheverell trial, gave her courage. Shrewsbury, Somerset, and Mrs. Masham combined to urge this step upon her, and the queen yielded to their solicitations in June 1710. Sunderland himself suspected Godolphin, but without reason. The lord treasurer in fact exerted to the utmost his influence with Anne in order to retain him in office, and as a last resource threatened his own resignation and that of Marlborough. Anne replied that no one knew better than himself the repeated provocations she had received from Sunderland (ib. iii. 83). On 20 June 1710 Marlborough sent a letter to Godolphin to be shown her, begging that Sunderland's removal might at least be deferred till the end of the campaign. A great meeting of whig ministers was held at Devonshire House on the 14th inst. to protest; but Anne had already drawn up the letter of dismissal, and told Godolphin that should he and Marlborough resign, any consequences to the public would lie at their door (ib. pp. 88–90). As no colourable charge could be brought against him, Sunderland was offered by the queen a pension of 3,000l. He refused it, ‘saying if he could not have the honour to serve his country he would not plunder it’ (Boyer, ix. 228–30; Luttrell, vi. 594; Wentworth Papers, p. 118, where the expression is softened). The anticipation that Sunderland's fall would be followed by that of Godolphin caused a panic in the city. These fears were soon realised. Parliament was dissolved in August 1710, and when a large tory majority was returned, though Anne was still anxious for a mixed administration, the whigs were soon wholly excluded. Lady Sunderland, however, did not resign her place as lady of the bedchamber till the fall of the Marlboroughs in January 1712 (Journal to Stella, 30 Jan. 1712; Wentworth Papers).
The extreme tories, who counted on St. John's support, were not long in attacking the late administration. A vote of censure on their conduct of the war in Spain passed the lords by 68 to 48 on 11 Jan. 1711, and Sunderland was especially singled out for attack (Luttrell, vi. 677). He admitted his responsibility, but urged that he shared it with his colleagues; and in the course of the debate the important constitutional point of the collective responsibility of ministers was raised (Parl. Hist. vi. 969–81). According to Burnet, Nottingham and the extreme tory party wished to impeach Sunderland; but Dartmouth, his tory successor as secretary of state, had refused to help them with material from his office. Unable to destroy Sunderland, Nottingham soon sought means of making him useful to him and his following. In the autumn he and a small clique of tories formed an alliance with Sunderland in opposition to the ministry. When, therefore, Nottingham brought forward a motion against the proposed peace on 7 Dec. 1711, Sunderland made a vehement speech supporting him; while, in return, Sunderland moved the introduction of the Occasional Conformity Bill, directed against his own friends, the dissenters. His conduct, says Cunningham, caused great discontent both in city and country. In 1713 he also entered into an intrigue with the Scottish lords, who were discontented with the Malt Bill, and on 1 June declared himself in favour of the repeal of the Scottish union ‘if it had not the good results expected,’ though he had been one of its framers. In the course of the debate he and Harley (now Lord Oxford) indulged in much personal recrimination (Parl. Hist. vol. vi. 1219–20).
During the last years of Anne, Sunderland was in constant communication with the court of Hanover and their agents in England and Holland. He had had his first interview with his future sovereign in 1706, and on 12 April had written protesting his attachment and recommending to him Halifax as having the confidence of the whigs (Macpherson, Orig. Papers, ii. 36; cf. Spence, Anecdotes, 1820, p. 313). In 1710 he and Halifax disclaimed republicanism (Macpherson, Orig. Papers, ii. 202). In 1713 the Hanoverian agent in London was approved for restraining ‘the excessive forwardness and vivacity of Lord Sunderland’ (ib. p. 466). On 10 March, however, the latter was consulted, together with Somers, Halifax, and Townshend, as to what steps should be taken on the queen's death (ib. p. 475). In reply he wrote to Bothmar at The Hague on 6 April, giving him their unanimous advice that the electoral prince should be sent to England, where he could appear without consent of parliament by virtue of his being a peer of the realm. He at the same time sent a form constituting the prince custos regni for the Electress Sophia. A few days later he wrote again deprecating delay (ib. pp. 475, &c., 481–7). On 12 Aug. he reproached Bothmar for having refused to supply the whigs with money for the coming elections (ib. pp. 499, 500). Throughout the year he continued to urge the sending of the electoral prince and to press for money. Meanwhile he opposed in parliament the commercial treaty with France. In the course of a debate in May ‘there were some reparties’ between him and Bolingbroke (Wentworth Papers, p. 332). On 9 April, when Peterborough said there had been a design to make a captain-general for life, Sunderland hotly called upon him to prove it (ib. p. 328). In April 1714 Sunderland proposed the insertion in an address of thanks to the queen of words to the effect that ‘feares and jealousies’ had been ‘justly’ spread about with reference to the security of the protestant succession (ib. p. 369). Meanwhile he was busy with Argyll in reconciling the whigs and the Hanoverian tories; and Bothmar, soon after his arrival in London, testified that Sunderland's attachment to the king (George I) exceeded that of any other (Macpherson, ii. 640). Nevertheless, when, on the death of Anne, the commission of regency was made public, his name and that of Marlborough were left out. ‘He look'd very pale’ when the names of the lords justices were read (Wentworth Papers, p. 409). The all-powerful Bothmar recommended Sunderland's rival, Townshend, for the post of secretary of state in succession to Bolingbroke (Macpherson, ii. 650); and Sunderland had to be content with the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland, then considered a kind of honourable retirement. Sunderland never crossed the Channel, alleging the state of his health, but he was afterwards accused of bestowing both civil and ecclesiastical patronage on natives of the country. On 28 Aug. 1715 he exchanged his viceroyalty for the office of lord privy seal with a seat in the cabinet. He had been made a privy councillor on 1 Oct. 1714, and in July 1716 obtained the sinecure of vice-treasurer of Ireland for life. But he had no real authority, and made use of his position only to foment dissensions in the ministry. He courted the tories and gathered round him the discontented whigs (Coxe, Walpole, i. 139). Yet he joined Townshend in hostility to the Prince of Wales and his favourite, Argyll, and admitted his hostility to the princess herself (Lady Cowper's Diary, 26 June, 10 and 16 July 1716). In the autumn of 1716 he obtained leave to go to Aix-la-Chapelle for his health. His real object was to gain the ear of George I, who was in Hanover, and to induce him to replace Walpole and Townshend by ‘the Duke of Marlborough's friends’ (ib. 16 July). At Gohre, near Hanover, he obtained access to the king, and immediately began to intrigue against his rivals. He persuaded the king that Townshend and Walpole were endeavouring to delay the conclusion of the treaty with France, and were caballing with the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Argyll, and he gained over their own colleague Stanhope, though the latter had been warned of his probable designs. In November he thought his position so secure that he wrote to Townshend a peremptory letter. The latter reproached Stanhope with treachery, and wrote to the king indignantly denying Sunderland's charges. Townshend afterwards aroused the alarm of the king by asking for further powers for the Prince of Wales during his absence from England, thus seeming to confirm Sunderland's charge that the object of the ministry was to keep the king at Hanover (Coxe, Walpole; cf. Stanhope, Hist. of Engl.) Horace Walpole the elder temporarily pacified George I by taking the blame for delay in the negotiation of the French treaty on himself; and Sunderland, on his return to England, acknowledged that his accusations were unfounded. He and Stanhope threw the blame of the king's displeasure on the Hanoverian favourites.
Nevertheless Townshend was dismissed, and on 15 April 1717 Sunderland succeeded him as secretary for the northern department, with Addison as under-secretary. Walpole followed his brother-in-law out of office, and combined with the Jacobite tories to oppose the ministry, who were sometimes defeated in the commons on important questions. On 16 March 1718 Sunderland became lord president of the council. Four days later he was named first lord of the treasury, Stanhope taking over the post of secretary of state. Sunderland zealously supported his colleague's foreign policy, giving his own chief attention to home affairs. He opposed the repeal of the Test Act as impracticable, and induced Stanhope to lay aside his scheme; but bills were carried repealing the Schism Act and the Occasional Conformity Act. The measure which Sunderland had most at heart was the Peerage Bill, limiting the prerogative of the sovereign to create peers. It is not clear whether the proposal originated with Sunderland or Stanhope; they were probably jointly responsible for it, and it is certain that the former was the more active in his support of the measure. It was favoured by Townshend and many other independent whigs who remembered how the peace of Utrecht had been carried, and was opposed by no prominent whig peer except Lord Cowper (cf. Parl. Hist. vii. 590). The motive of its introduction was generally thought to be a desire to restrain the future power of the Prince of Wales, whom the present ministers had made their enemy. The bill encountered strong opposition from Robert Walpole, and, after it had passed the lords, was withdrawn at the second-reading stage in the commons. Sunderland, however, determined to revive it, and advocated its merits to Middleton, lord chancellor of Ireland, in so strenuous a manner that the blood is said to have gushed from his nose. Addison defended the measure in the ‘Old Whig,’ while Steele attacked it in the ‘Plebeian.’ On 25 Nov. 1719 the bill was reintroduced in the upper house, and was sent down to the commons on 1 Dec. On the 18th it was read a second time, but was opposed by Walpole in a powerful speech at the committee stage, and thrown out by 269 to 177. Walpole next year was given a subordinate post in the government. On 25 April 1720 Sunderland had a ‘reconciliation dinner’ of six old and six new ministers (Lady Cowper's Diary).
In 1720 Sunderland revived an old scheme of Harley's for paying off part of the national debt by means of the formation of a company—the South Sea Company—who were to have a monopoly of the trade in the South Pacific. In spite of the opposition of Walpole, the measure passed. The company were to pay a premium of seven millions and to receive at first five, and afterwards four, per cent. interest, instead of eight per cent., which was the rate the debt then carried, and were to take up thirty-two millions of government stock. Some months after the passing of the measure a speculative mania caused a gigantic rise in the price of the stock. A panic followed, the stock fell rapidly, and many people were ruined. On 9 Jan. 1721, when indirectly attacked, Sunderland avowed his responsibility for the scheme, admitted that no act of parliament had ever been so much abused as the South Sea Act, and expressed himself ready to go as far as any one in punishing the offenders, but later in the debate defended the appointment of some of the directors as managers of the treasury (Parl. Hist. vii. 697–8). In February Robert Walpole was appointed chancellor of the exchequer in place of Aislabie, who was implicated. When the secret committee reported that Sunderland had been assigned, before the passing of the bill, 50,000l. fictitious stock without giving payment or security, Walpole obtained the adjournment of the debate till 15 March on the plea of obtaining further evidence, and, probably by the use of profuse bribery, obtained his rival's acquittal by 233 to 172 votes. The public voice held Sunderland guilty, but the evidence against him was inconclusive, and mainly rested on the statement of a fraudulent director; it is certain that neither he nor his immediate friends enriched themselves. Even Brodrick, one of the committee, who had the strongest prejudice against him, represents him merely as a dupe of the directors (Coxe, Walpole, ii. 192–6). Sunderland, however, was forced by popular clamour to resign, and on 3 April 1721 Walpole took his place as first lord of the treasury.
Nevertheless, as groom of the stole and first gentleman of the bedchamber, Sunderland continued to have great influence with George I. He obtained the appointment of Lord Carleton as president of the council, though Walpole had put forward the Duke of Devonshire; and Carteret's nomination as secretary of state in place of Craggs was also due to his suggestion. He even made some overtures to the tories, who seem to have had great hopes of him; but both Hallam and Lord Stanhope refuse to credit the story related in Horace Walpole's ‘Reminiscences,’ that he and Sir R. Walpole consulted to bring in the Pretender. Stanhope prints a letter from the Pretender to Lockhart of 31 Jan. 1722, in which James says categorically that he had never heard directly from him and was far from being convinced of his sincerity (History from Utrecht to Aix-la-Chapelle, ii., Appendix; cf. Lockhart Papers, ii. 68, 70; Hist. of Engl. 2nd ed. ii. 657). Pope stated that he had ‘strong dealings with the Pretender;’ but this and the quite incredible charge made by the poet that Sunderland used to betray all the whig schemes to Harley, are to be accepted only as evidences of his general reputation for intrigue (Spence, Anecdotes, p. 237). Sunderland died on 19 April 1722. A post-mortem examination conducted by Goodman and Mead, with the help of three French surgeons, removed the suspicion of poison. His death is said to have disconcerted the court. The seals put by his executors on his drawers were broken by order of the ministers, and all papers relating to political affairs were examined, in spite of the protest of the Duchess of Marlborough (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. App. p. 190, 10th Rep. iv. 344; Stanhope, Hist. ii. 41).
As a politician Sunderland was a singularly unattractive personage. To the love for crooked ways which characterised his father, he added a violent assertiveness which was entirely alien from the disposition of the elder statesman. Burnet says that he treated Queen Anne rudely, ‘and chose to reflect in a very injurious manner upon all princes before her.’ Yet, according to the Duchess of Marlborough, she forgave him, and even ‘advised some medicine for him to take’ just before his dismissal. Swift, who had known him in early life, and was introduced by him to Godolphin, says that Sunderland learnt his divinity from his uncle (John Digby, earl of Bristol) and his politics from his tutor (Bishop Trimnell). In his annotations on ‘Remarks on the Characters of the Court of Anne,’ Swift denies Sunderland virtue and good sense, but lets learning, honesty, and zeal for liberty pass. The duchess, who quarrelled with her son-in-law on account of his third marriage and his South Sea Bill, set down in her ‘Opinions’ in 1738 that ‘the Earl of Sunderland, it was thought, would be a fool at two-and-twenty; but afterwards, from the favour of a weak prince, he was cried up for having parts, though 'tis certain he had not much in him.’ Lord Hailes contrasts with this her former declaration about ‘the most honest and well-intentioned ministry she ever knew.’ After the settlement made on the third Lady Sunderland, to the detriment of the children of the second, the correspondence between the duchess and Sunderland ‘abounded in terms of mutual obloquy and invective’ (Coxe). The duchess induced Marlborough to join in the general cry against the South Sea directors and their friends; and Sunderland, in return, accused her in December 1720 of a plot to bring in the Pretender. From this time till his death all intercourse ceased between them.
Among modern historians Lord Stanhope is of opinion that Sunderland's character has been unduly depreciated. He allows that his conduct was on several occasions equivocal, but credits him with quickness, discernment, skill, persevering ambition, ready eloquence, and constancy in friendship. Ranke states that foreign diplomatists thought him placable and trustworthy. Defoe and Steele were at different times his protégés, and he gave preferment to Desaguliers, the natural philosopher. Addison twice served under him, and dedicated to him vol. vi. of the ‘Spectator.’ While secretary of state he prosecuted Mrs. Manley for her ‘New Atlantis.’ According to Horace Walpole, Molly Lepel, who became Lady Hervey, obtained a pension from George I, through Sunderland, in return for acting as his spy (Reminiscences, p. cliii). George II was accustomed to speak of Sunderland as ‘that scoundrel and puppy and knave’ who made his father disbelieve his word (Hervey); but in 1720 Sunderland appears to have been one of the ‘reconcilers’ (Marchmont Papers, ii. 410).
Sunderland was Harley's rival as a book-collector as well as a politician. Vaillant, the bookseller, who had an unlimited commission from him, bought for him at Mr. Freebairn's auction in 1721 Zarotti's Virgil for 46l., and gave 40l. for a manuscript of Columella's ‘De Re Rusticâ.’ Markland, in editing Statius, gained much assistance from a folio edition of the ‘Sylvæ’ (1473) in Sunderland's possession. The library at Althorp, described by Macky in 1703 as ‘the finest in Europe both for the disposition of the apartments and of the books,’ was pledged to Marlborough for 10,000l. in part payment of a loan (Coxe). The king of Denmark offered Sunderland's heirs thrice that sum for it. When removed to Blenheim in 1749 it consisted of 17,000 volumes. It was increased by Charles, third duke of Marlborough, but neglected by his successor. A catalogue, with appendix and index, was printed in 1872, and a sale catalogue in 1881–3, when the collection was dispersed. A taste for gambling proved even more expensive to Sunderland than his love of buying books.
Macky describes Sunderland as of very fair complexion and middle height. Boyer, writing of him in later life, says he was inclined to corpulency, and had a fixed and settled sourness in his face. A portrait by Richardson belongs to Earl Spencer. A portrait was painted by Kneller in 1720, and subsequently engraved by J. Simon; and Houbraken engraved one for Birch's ‘Lives of Eminent Englishmen.’ Evans also mentions a portrait engraved by Bakewell. There is a bust of Sunderland at Blenheim.
Sunderland was three times married. Frances, his only child by his first wife, Lady Arabella Cavendish, married Henry Howard (afterwards fourth Earl of Carlisle).
Lady Anne Churchill, Sunderland's second countess, played an important part in the politics of her time. She was credited with converting her mother, the Duchess of Marlborough, to whiggism, and was her father's favourite. She did something to restrain her husband's temper and extravagance, and much to advance his political career. She had both beauty and talent, but was modest and unassuming, though at times she showed great spirit. Paul Wentworth relates a spirited reply that she made to Lady Rochester in 1711, when Sunderland's fortunes had sunk low. Swift about the same time tells ‘Stella’ of a pretty speech he had endeavoured to get delivered to her, as a way of making himself agreeable to the whigs. Lady Sunderland was generally known as ‘the little whig,’ and this title was inscribed on the foundation-stone of the new opera-house in the Haymarket in her honour (Colley Cibber, Apology, p. 257; Walpole, Letters, ix. 91 n.) Some graceful verses by Charles Montagu, earl of Halifax, testifying to her beauty, modesty, and talent, formed an inscription on the drinking-glasses of the Kit-Cat Club, of which her husband was a member. They were printed in Tonson's ‘Miscellany.’ Dr. Watts also ‘wrote some elegant verses upon her’ (Gent. Mag. 1817, i. 343). Walpole, in his ‘Reminiscences,’ calls her ‘a great politician,’ and tells how she would receive those whom she wished to influence while combing her beautiful hair. She died of pleuritic fever on 29 April 1716, aged only 28. Lady Cowper in her ‘Diary’ says: ‘They have talked so much of Lady Sunderland's death, that I have done nothing but cry wherever I have been.’ She left a most touching appeal to her husband on behalf of her children, which he forwarded to her mother. It is printed by Coxe in his ‘Life of Marlborough’ (iii. 395–8). A half-length of her, painted by Kneller, was presented to the National Portrait Gallery by Lord Chichester in 1888. A portrait by Lely at Althorp was engraved by Bond for Dibdin's ‘Ædes Althorpianæ.’ It was also engraved by Picart. Portraits of her by D'Agar and Mignard were engraved by Simon and Van Somer. She left three sons and two daughters. Of the daughters, Anne married Viscount Bateman, and Diana became the first wife of John Russell, fourth duke of Bedford. Of the three sons, Robert (b. 1701) succeeded his father as fourth Earl of Sunderland, and was lord carver at the coronation of George II. He died on 15 Sept. 1729. The second son, Charles [q. v.], who is separately noticed, succeeded him as fifth Earl of Sunderland, and in 1733 became, in succession to his aunt (Marlborough's eldest daughter, Henrietta), third Duke of Marlborough. The third son, John, succeeded to the Sunderland property, and was father of John Spencer, created Earl Spencer on 1 Nov. 1765 [see under Spencer, George John, second Earl].
On 5 Dec. 1717 Sunderland married, as his third wife, Judith, daughter of Benjamin Tichborne, a lady of great fortune and Irish extraction. All of his three children by her predeceased him. After his death she married Sir Robert Sutton, K.B.; she died in 1749.[Besides the authorities cited, the most important of which are Coxe's Marlborough, Walpole's Secret Corresp. of the Duchess, 1838, and Stanhope's Hist. (for the Reign of George I), see Peerage of England, 1710; Doyle's Official Baronage; Dibdin's Ædes Althorpianæ; Eccles's New Blenheim Guide, 14th edit. pp. 34, 35; Atterbury's Memoirs and Corresp., ed. Williams, i. 125, 143, 337–8; Life of Godolphin, by Hon. H. Elliot, chap. viii.; Ranke's Hist. of England, v. chap. iii.; Lecky's Hist. of England, chap. iii.; Macaulay's Hist. 1861, v. 4–6; Bromley's and Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits; Boyer's Polit. State, xxi. 473, xxiii. 452–3; Cunningham's Hist. from the Revolution to the Death of Anne, i. 171, 458–9, ii. 215, 397; Edwards's Memoirs of Libraries, ii. 144–5; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 90, iv. 275 n., vi. 81 n., and Illustr. iv. 126–7; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ii. 49, 50, xi. 442 n. A manuscript memoir among the Spencer Papers, written in 1780, is a compilation from printed authorities. The short memoir in Cunningham's Lives of Eminent Englishmen, vol. iv., is mainly based on Coxe. Sunderland's correspondence while lord lieutenant of Ireland is among Archbishop King's manuscripts (Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep.). His general correspondence is at Blenheim. Some of his letters are among the De La Warr Papers at Buckhurst (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep.)]