Colonel Waldegrave

Another high-powered, and intriguing, subscriber of Kirby’s Historical Account was “Hon. Col. Waldegrave”. This was John Waldegrave (1718—1784), a career soldier. Waldegrave was close to the centers of power, especially in the 1740s and 1750s. Born in 1718, the third son of the 1st Earl Waldegrave, he joined the Foot Guards as Ensign in 1735, aged sixteen (his father withdrew him from Eton on the grounds that he “would never be a scholar” and a desire to “sound out [his] dispositions whether for the Sea or Land Service”).

The Waldegraves had been a prominent Catholic family (John Waldegrave’s grandmother was an illegitimate daughter of James II) who had been exiled to France. His father, James Waldegrave, had married in 1714 a wealthy Catholic, Mary Webb, who came with a £12000 dowry. Not long after his wife died in childbirth in January 1719, he took his place in the House of Lords, swearing allegiance and abjuring his former faith. By 1723, he had been appointed a Lord of the Bedchamber to George I, a position he retained under George II and held until his death in 1741. Much more important than the, admittedly handy, £1000 salary was direct personal access to the king. Waldegrave also became friendly with the Walpoles. Horace Walpole (1717—1797) was a contemporary of Waldegrave’s two sons, James and John (the other son died young), a playmate and lifelong friend; the elder son James married Maria Walpole. Along with his personal service to the king came diplomatic service: he was Ambassador at Vienna 1728—1730, and Ambassador in Paris 1730—1740, a posting occasionally a little sticky given his background.

James Waldegrave, 1st Earl Waldegrave

On the death of the 1st Earl in 1741, his eldest son James inherited the title. Although he was very close to George II, he had little political background and few connections. He hated the machinations involved with party politics and, while discreet and respected in personal diplomacy, was not a faction-builder. When, very reluctantly, he did become Prime Minister in 1757, his administration lasted all of five days. Interestingly enough, he was (also reluctantly) for a time tutor to the Prince of Wales (the future George III) and his brother before the takeover by Bute. James died in 1763 and his brother inherited the title as the 3rd Earl.

James Waldegrave, 2nd Earl Waldegrave

And so we come to the Hon. Col. Waldegrave. John Waldegrave proceeded steadily in the Army. He was promoted to Colonel in 1748, the year after becoming aide-de-camp to the Duke of Cumberland. He, too, became a Groom of the Bedchamber to George II and George III. He joined Parliament as member for Orford in Suffolk in 1747, and held a seat in the Commons until succeeding his brother in 1763. Thus was his status when Kirby’s book appeared. Ahead of him were a scandalous marriage in 1751 to Elizabeth Leveson-Gower, daughter of the Earl of Gower, without her father’s consent, leading the British infantry at the Battle of Minden in 1759, promotion to General in 1772, and appointment as Lord-Lieutenant of Essex in 1781. He died in 1784.

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One thought on “Colonel Waldegrave

  1. Pingback: A Clique of Politicians | Kirby and his world

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