Tufton, Sackville (DNB00)

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TUFTON, SACKVILLE, ninth Earl of Thanet (1767–1825), was born at Hothfield House in Kent on 30 June 1767. His ancestor Nicholas, son of Sir John Tufton, bart., of a family sprung from Northiam in Sussex, but long established in Kent, had been created first Earl of Thanet on 25 Aug. 1628. The first earl's youngest brother, William, was created a baronet of Ireland in 1622. When the rival claims of the Earls of Carlisle and Pembroke to the island of Barbados were settled in the former's favour in April 1629, Sir William Tufton was appointed governor (the fifth since the settlement in 1625). He arrived at Barbados with some two hundred colonists on 21 Dec. 1629, but was superseded next June by Captain Henry Hawley, against whose appointment he drew up a memorial. Much incensed at this step, Hawley nominated a fresh council, before which Tufton was arraigned for high treason, condemned, and shot in May 1631 (see Schomburgk, Hist. of Barbadoes, 1848, pp. 264–5). No fewer than fifty members of the family lie interred in the Tufton chapel in Rainham church, Kent, conspicuous among them Nicholas, third earl of Thanet (1631–1679), a liberal contributor to the royalist funds, who upon returning to England in 1655, after a long period of travel abroad, was committed (on a charge of conspiracy against the Protector) to the Tower, and detained, with a short interval, until 25 June 1658 (see Clarendon State Papers, 1876, ii. 303 seq.; Masson, Milton, ii. 47). The family compounded with the parliamentary sequestrators during the rebellion for the enormous sum of 9,000l., and, in consequence of these and other hardships borne in the royalist cause, they adopted from this time their motto of ‘Fiel pero desdichado’ (see Cal. Proc. Comm. for Compounding, 1890, pp. 839, 840).

The ninth earl bore the same names as his grandfather and father, respectively seventh and eighth earls of Thanet. His mother was Mary, daughter of Lord John Philip Sackville, and upon his father's death, on 10 April 1786, his maternal uncle, John Frederick Sackville, third duke of Dorset [q. v.] acted as his guardian during his minority. In early life he spent much time abroad, especially in Vienna, where he formed an alliance with an Hungarian lady, Anne Charlotte de Bojanowitz, to whom he was married, under the Anglican rite, at St. George's, Hanover Square, on 28 Feb. 1811. Some light would appear to be thrown upon their intimacy in a letter from William Windham, dated ‘Paris, 15 Sept. 1791:’ Thanet has arrived here ‘with a Hungarian lady whom as a brilliant achievement he carried off from her husband at Vienna’ (Diary, ed. Baring, 1866, p. 237).

Thanet took no prominent part in politics, but generally supported the Duke of Bedford and the opposition to Pitt. In May 1798 he was present with Fox, Sheridan, Erskine, and other whig sympathisers at the trial of Arthur O'Connor [q. v.] at Maidstone. O'Connor was found not guilty, but was not thereupon discharged, as a warrant for his arrest for another offence was pending. Thanet and others were charged with having created a riot in the court and put out the lights in an attempt to rescue the prisoner, or at least to facilitate his escape. The case was tried before Lord Kenyon at the king's bench on 25 April 1799. Sir John Scott (afterwards Lord Eldon) prosecuted, and Erskine conducted the defence. R. B. Sheridan appeared to give evidence for the accused, and distinguished himself by parrying eight times, and finally evading, the question of EdEdward Law (afterwards Lord Ellenborough), counsel for the prosecution, 'Do you believe Lord Thanet meant to favour the escape of O'Connor?' Having been found guilty of riot and assault at Maidstone, Thanet was brought up for judgment on 3 May, and committed to the king's bench prison, the bail offered by the Duke of Bedford being refused. On 10 June he was sentenced to a year's imprisonment in the Tower and a fine of 1,000l. and on his release he was ordered to give security for his good behaviour for seven years in sureties to the amount of 20,000l. The sentence was excessively severe, if not unjust, for Thanet certainly had no deliberate intention of aiding O'Connor's rescue. After his release the earl lived quietly at Hothfield, and became a popular agriculturist, regularly visiting the stock market at Ash ford, and conversing with the graziers. Latterly he spent much time abroad, and he died at Chalons on 24 Jan. 1825. He was buried on 7 Feb. at Rainham. Leaving no issue, he was succeeded in turn by his brothers Charles (1770-1832) and Henry Tufton (1775-1849), eleventh and last earl of Thanet.

[Ann. Register, 1799, passim, and 1825, Chron. p. 221; Pocock's Memorials of the Family of Tufton, Gravesend, 1800; Addit. MSS. 2955529570, and 34920 f. 40; Berry's Kent Genealogies, p. 352; Hasted's Kent, ii. 224, 638, iii. 253; Archseologia Cantiana, xvii. 56 seq.; Brydges's Peerage, iii. 435; Gr. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage; Burke's Extinct Peerage and Baronetage; Cobbett's State Trials, s.c. 1799. See also The whole Proceedings … against the Rt. Hon. Sackville, Earl of Thanet, and others, 1799, by Robert Cutlar Fergusson [q. v.], and William Firth's Thanet's Case considered, London, 1802.]

T. S.