Wentworth, Thomas (1672-1739) (DNB00)

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WENTWORTH, THOMAS, Baron Raby and third Earl of Strafford (1672–1739), diplomatist, baptised at Wakefield on 17 Sept. 1672, was the eldest surviving son and heir of Sir William Wentworth of Northgate Head, Wakefield. His mother Isabella (d. 1733), daughter of Sir Allen Apsley (1616–1683) [q. v.], treasurer of the household to James, duke of York, was niece of Lucy, wife and biographer of Colonel John Hutchinson (1615–1664) [q. v.] The father, Sir William Wentworth (d. 1692), was son of William Wentworth of Ashby Puerorum, Lincolnshire (who was knighted by Charles I, and died at Marston Moor), and was nephew of Thomas Wentworth, first earl of Strafford [q. v.]

Before 1688 Thomas was appointed a page of honour to Mary, queen of James II, while his mother was a bedchamber-woman to her majesty. Immediately after the Revolution a cornet's commission was bought for Wentworth in Lord Colchester's regiment of horse, and he was sent to Scotland with the expedition against Dundee. Afterwards he served in Holland until the peace of Ryswick. Wentworth was in the vanguard at the battle of Steinkirk in 1692, when his squadron was reduced to forty-three men, and he received a slight wound. In consequence of his bravery William III, on the recommendation of Domfre, lieutenant-general of the Dutch troops, promised him early promotion, and next year he became aide-de-camp to the king. After the battle of Landen (1693), Wentworth was made groom of the bedchamber, and was promoted to be a major of the first troop of guards.

In July 1695 Wentworth was in attendance on the king at the siege of Namur, where his brother Paul, a lieutenant in the footguards, was killed; and in October, on the death of his cousin William, second earl of Strafford, he succeeded to the peerage as Baron Raby, and became at the same time fourth baronet, as heir male of his great-grandfather, Sir William Wentworth of Wentworth-Woodhouse, Yorkshire [see under Wentworth, Thomas, first Earl of Strafford]. Almost all the estates were, however, left by the second earl to his nephew, Thomas Watson, son of Lord Rockingham. In July 1696 the post fines were demised to Raby and his assigns at a yearly rent of 2,276l. (Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers, 1729–30, p. 319), and in 1697 Raby was given the command of the royal regiment of dragoons; he became brigadier in 1703, major-general in 1704, and lieutenant-general in 1707 (Brit. Mus. Add. Charters, 13947–50). In 1698 he accompanied the English ambassador, Lord Portland, to Paris, and in the following year he was placed at the head of a commission to inquire into some riots in the Lincolnshire fens (Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 535).

On the coronation of the elector of Brandenburg as king of Prussia in 1701, William sent Raby as envoy to convey his congratulations, and the mission was very successful. When King William received his fatal accident, Raby was superintending the embarkation of his regiment for Flanders, but he hurried back to his master, and was with him until his death. Queen Anne, on Raby kissing hands on her accession, said she was sorry he offered to resign his regiment, because there was no man she would sooner give it to than him. During the campaign of 1702 Raby had his horse shot under him at Helchteren, and lost his younger brother, Allen, who had been a page to King William, at the storming of Liège. In November the Duke of Marlborough, having been unable to persuade him to go on a mission to the king of Prussia (who desired to have him again at his court), carried him to the queen, who pressed him to accept the post, promising that he should have his promotion in the army as if present. In February 1703 the king of Prussia expressed his great pleasure at learning that Raby was coming as envoy to Berlin; and, after visits to The Hague and Hanover, the envoy reached Berlin in June.

Raby paid a visit to England in July 1704 (ib. v. 460), and in September it was reported that he would be sent to Poland to warn the king of Sweden of the results which would follow if he did not withdraw his troops from that kingdom (ib. v. 468); but by November he was again in Berlin, joining in the reception given to the Duke of Marlborough at that court; and at about the same time he wrote two curious letters to Lord Godolphin respecting a Prussian gentleman who wanted to go to England to carry out some experiments in the transmutation of metals (Addit. MS. 28056, ff. 194, 234). Early in 1706 Raby was advanced from the position of envoy to that of ambassador-extraordinary at Berlin, and in April he made a formal entry into the city in his new capacity. In June he went with the king to Holland, and was much with the Duke of Marlborough during the sieges of Menin and Ostend. Afterwards he accompanied General Cadogan as a volunteer, and in a tussle with some French hussars near Tournay narrowly escaped being taken prisoner. In September it was said that he was to go to the emperor's court, as envoy-extraordinary, in the place of George Stepney [q. v.], but the king of Prussia having requested that he might remain at his court, this plan was abandoned, Baron Spanheim, the Prussian ambassador in London, being by his new credentials directed to continue in that character only so long as Lord Raby stayed at Berlin (ib. vi. 84, 97, 100–1).

In January 1707 Raby returned to Berlin, whence he sent an amusing account of Charles XII of Sweden and his court (Hearne, Remarks and Collections, ed. Doble, ii. 42–3); but he was again in England from May to September 1708 (Luttrell, vi. 309), when he bought an estate at Stainborough, near Barnsley, and represented to Marlborough his desire to be made a privy councillor and Earl of Strafford, being weary of his post abroad. In the autumn he spent two months in Italy, where he bought many pictures, and suffered severely from fever in Rome.

In March 1711 Raby was appointed ambassador at The Hague, in succession to Lord Townshend. Before leaving Berlin he was presented by the king of Prussia with a sword set with diamonds, worth fifteen thousand crowns (ib. vi. 706). On the 15th Swift obtained for his protégé, young William Harrison (1685–1713) [q. v.], ‘the prettiest employment in Europe—secretary to Lord Raby, who is to be ambassador-extraordinary at The Hague, where all the great affairs will be concerted’ (Swift, Journal to Stella, 15 March 1710–11). In June Raby was made a privy councillor, and was created Viscount Wentworth of Wentworth-Woodhouse and of Stainborough, and Earl of Strafford, with special remainder, failing heirs male, to his brother Peter. His mother had for years been suggesting to him eligible matches, and on 6 Sept. he married Anne, only daughter and heiress of Sir Henry Johnson of Bradenham, Buckinghamshire, a prosperous shipbuilder, who had married, as his second wife, Martha, daughter of Lord Lovelace (afterwards Baroness Wentworth in her own right). Through this lady the manor of Toddington, Bedfordshire, afterwards came into Lord Strafford's possession. Swift says that Strafford's wife brought to him a fortune of 60,000l., ‘besides the rest at the father's death’ (ib. 3 Sept. 1711); Strafford's own income at this time seems to have been about 4,000l. a year, with ready money, investments, and plate amounting to 46,000l., besides pictures and furniture. Lady Strafford's letters show that the marriage was in every respect a happy one.

Early in October Strafford returned to The Hague, ‘to tell them what we have done here towards a peace,’ as Swift says (ib. 9 Oct. 1711), and in November he was nominated as joint plenipotentiary with the lord privy seal, John Robinson (1650–1723) [q. v.], bishop of Bristol, to negotiate the terms of a treaty. It appears that Prior also would have been a plenipotentiary but for Strafford's refusal to be associated with him. Swift, on hearing that Prior's commission had passed, wrote: ‘Lord Strafford is as proud as hell, and how he will bear one of Prior's mean birth on an equal character, I know not’ (ib. 20 Nov. 1711; cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 14th Rep. ix. 360). Afterwards Swift said that it was reported our two plenipotentiaries did not agree very well; ‘they are both long practised in business, but neither of them of much parts. Strafford has some life and spirit, but is infinitely proud, and wholly illiterate’ (ib. 15 Feb. 1711–12). Elsewhere (Remarks on the Characters of the Court of Queen Anne) Swift observed, truly enough, that Strafford could not spell; and in June Lord Cowper, replying to an attack by Strafford on the Duke of Marlborough, said: ‘The noble lord has been abroad so long that he appears to have forgotten not only the language but even the constitution of his native country’ (Wyon, History of Queen Anne, ii. 390).

Numerous references to the part taken by Strafford in the negotiations which led up to the treaty of Utrecht in 1713 will be found in Swift's ‘History of the Last Four Years of Queen Anne.’ Early in 1712 he was endeavouring to obtain the post of master of the horse (Wentworth Papers, p. 263), and in the summer he was appointed one of the lords of the admiralty. In October he was made knight of the Garter, and in 1713 a master of the Trinity House. On the death of Queen Anne (August 1714) he was appointed one of the lords justices, but he was soon recalled from his embassy at The Hague, though he did not give up his post until December, after many complaints of the difficulty in obtaining money to pay the expenses of the embassy. In January 1715, by the king's order, Strafford put his papers into Lord Townshend's hands, and in the following month his pension was stopped (Diary of Lady Cowper, p. 45).

On 8 June 1715 Walpole read to the House of Commons the report of the secret committee appointed to report on the events leading up to the treaty of Utrecht. Among those accused in the report was Strafford, and Addison wrote that his ‘politics made the House laugh as often as any passages were read in his letters, which Mr. Walpole humoured very well in the repeating of them. His advices are very bold against the allies, and particularly the Dutch, with some reflections upon Bothmar and the king himself’ (Addison, Works, vi. 654). On the 22nd the house, on Aislabie's motion, resolved to impeach Strafford of high crimes and misdemeanours, and referred it to the committee of secrecy to draw up articles of impeachment [see Aislabie, John]. These articles, which were presented to the house on 31 Aug., charged Strafford with (1) promoting a separate negotiation with France; (2) making scurrilous reflections on the elector of Hanover; (3) advising the queen to treat with the French minister before she was acknowledged by France; (4) failing to insist on the restitution of the Spanish monarchy; (5) advising a cessation of arms and a separation of the English troops from the confederates; and (6) advising the seizure of Ghent and Bruges. Strafford's answer (State Trials, 1816, xv. 1025–44) was delivered to the House of Lords in January 1716, and in June the commons, after considering it, replied that they were ready to prove the charges; but there is no record of any further steps having been taken in the matter, and in 1717 Strafford's name was included in the act of grace granted by the king. In August 1715 he had been among those who protested against the rejection of the motion to inquire whether Bolingbroke had been summoned, and in what manner, and against the passing of the bills for the attainder of Bolingbroke and Ormonde (ib. xv. 1003, 1013).

Strafford lived in retirement for some years after these proceedings, occupying himself with the care of his estates in Yorkshire. He had a house at Twickenham, and in 1725 was in correspondence with Pope (Pope, Works, x. 176–83, 202); the Duke of Bedford asked Strafford to bring Pope with him on a visit to Woburn Abbey (Wentworth Papers, pp. 454–5). In the same year Strafford took an active part on the side of Lord Macclesfield during the proceedings against that peer; and the ‘Stuart Papers’ show that he was in consultation with the Duke of Wharton and others respecting a proposed attempt to do something that summer on behalf of the Pretender (Lord Stanhope, History of England, vol. ii. p. xix). Sir Thomas Robinson, writing in 1734, gives a description of Stainborough and Wentworth Castles; of the former he says that the prospect was fine, but the new castle showed little taste (Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rep. vi. 136). In 1736 Strafford was in correspondence with another Twickenham neighbour, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu [q .v.] (Letters, ii. 21, 23).

Strafford spoke from time to time in the House of Lords, though he was no orator. Lord Hervey (Memoirs, ii. 148–9) describes him in 1735 as ‘a loquacious, rich, illiterate, cold, tedious, constant haranguer in the House of Lords, who spoke neither sense nor English, and always gave an anniversary declamation’ on the subject of the army. ‘There was nothing so low as his dialect except his understanding,’ and he constantly referred to his connection with the treaty of Utrecht. In a debate on the civil list in 1737 ‘Lord Strafford diverted the house with a true account of his situation, declaring he was bad with the last ministry, worse with this, and he did not doubt but he should be worse with the next, should he ever see another; therefore, as an unbiassed man, he gave his vote for the king’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rep. vi. 179).

Strafford was ill in 1736, and tried his constitution by sea-bathing and other things, contrary to his doctor's advice (Wentworth Papers, p. 527). His brother Peter died suddenly on 10 Jan. 1739 as he was playing at quadrille (Gent. Mag. ix. 47); he had for long given way to drink, and he left his affairs in great disorder; ‘'twas a mercy it pleased God to take him,’ wrote Lady Strafford (Wentworth Papers, pp. 533–4). Strafford died of the stone at Wentworth Castle on 15 Nov. 1739, and was buried on 2 Dec. at Toddington (Gent. Mag. ix. 605). His widow died on 19 Sept. 1754. He left one son, William (b. 1722), who became the fourth earl; and three daughters—Anne, Lucy, and Henrietta. In 1741 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu met the young earl in Rome, and wrote that he ‘behaves himself really very modestly and genteelly, and has lost the pertness he acquired in his mother's assemblies’ (Letters, ii. 86). Afterwards he was an intimate friend of Horace Walpole. He married Lady Anne Campbell, but died without issue in 1791.

Strafford's portrait was painted by Kneller in 1714, and an engraving by Vertue is reproduced in the ‘Wentworth Papers.’ By her will Lady Strafford left to her son ‘my late lord's picture (drawn by Lens) set with diamonds’ (Add. Charters, 13647). A very large collection of Lord Strafford's correspondence is in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 22192–22267, 31128–52, besides single letters in other volumes). Family correspondence will be found in Additional MSS. 22225–9, 31143–5, and private letters in Additional MSS. 31141–31142. Papers about the peace negotiations are in Additional MSS. 22205–7, 31136–8; general correspondence in Additional MS. 31140; papers respecting income, property, funeral expenses, &c., in Additional MS. 22230; papers about post fines in Additional MS. 22255; papers about the impeachment in Additional MS. 22218; and letters from agents in Additional MSS. 22192, 22232–4, 22237–8. An interesting selection from these papers, consisting chiefly of letters to Lord Strafford from his mother, brother, wife, and children, was published by Mr. J. J. Cartwright in 1883. Other letters of Lord Strafford are among the manuscripts of the Dukes of Ormonde and Marlborough respectively.

[Memoir by Mr. Cartwright in the Wentworth Papers, 1883; Luttrell's Brief Relation, vols. iv. v. vi. passim; Swift's Works; Wyon's Queen Anne; Lord Stanhope's Queen Anne; Bolingbroke's Correspondence; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th and 8th Reps. passim, 14th Rep. pt. ix, 15th Rep. pts. i. ii. vi.; Calendar of Treasury Papers, 1702–30; Foster's Yorkshire Pedigrees; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage; Preambles to the patents for advancing … Thomas, Lord Raby, Viscount Wentworth, 1711.]

G. A. A.