Tag Archives: Orford

A Clique of Politicians

Joshua Kirby was a surprisingly well-connected guy, albeit within a fairly limited geographical reach. One example is the Suffolk Members of Parliament. Kirby’s Twelve Prints and accompanying Historical Account were published in 1748. There was an election in 1747, and it is instructive to look at the members returned.

At the time, Suffolk returned two members who represented the county, and there were seven boroughs within the county, each of which also returned two members. Kirby seems not to have had any contacts in Bury St. Edmunds, Dunwich, or Eye, which were further away from Ipswich. However, of the ten politicians representing Suffolk, Aldeburgh, Ipswich, Orford, and Sudbury, fully eight were subscribers. The representatives were:

The two who did not subscribe were both newcomers to the political scene. Zachary Philip Fonnereau was Thomas Fonnereau’s younger brother; and Richard Rigby was the person sent in from London on the Prince of Wales’ interest.

While some people subscribed as a matter of public duty, and the antiquarian nature of Kirby’s book may have been attractive, others on this list seem to have rarely subscribed. Kirby had corralled quite a collection of subscribers.

In graph theory a clique is a complete subgraph. The term comes from social network theory, and in Kirby’s context means a collection of subscribers all of whom knew each other. Given the intimate nature of Suffolk politics, and the fact that some of these men were politically active for decades, we can assume that they were all acquainted. Kirby’s subscriber graph has an 8-vertex MP clique.

And here is a draft showing the clique with names.

Henry Legge

Another colorful subscriber to Kirby’s Historical Account was Henry Legge. Styled in the subscriber list as “Hon. Henry Legge, Esq.” he was at the time the other MP for Orford. Orford was a pocket borough in the gift of the Treasury, with few, and carefully-chosen voters. According to the Parliamentary History Online in 1764 only six out of 21 [voters] were resident in Orford, and 18 held places under Government. Its expenses were paid from secret service funds. Henry Legge (1708—1764) was the fourth son of the 1st Earl of Dartmouth. He later added the surname Bilson as the result of a bequest. Horace Walpole (a not-unbiased observer) said of him that “[his father] had early turned him into the world to make his fortune, which he pursued with an uncommon assiduity of duty. Avarice or flattery, application or ingratitude, nothing came amiss that might raise him on the ruins of either friends or enemies”. In fact, his father had early sent him to Christ Church in Oxford, from whence he disappeared to join the Navy, taking a berth as an ordinary seaman on a convoy protecting the Newfoundland fishing fleet. He repeated the voyage as a midshipman, before returning to land. He apparently never went to sea again, although this did not prevent him obtaining a later position as Lord of the Admiralty. As a young man he entered the circle around the Walpoles, becoming secretary to Sir Robert Walpole in 1736, then at the peak of his power. Legge was awarded a seat in the House of Commons first for Looe in Cornwall in 1740, and then for Orford from 1741 onwards, shortly after he was appointed Treasury Secretary. Also in 1741, he seems to have made an unfortunate attempt to woo Maria Walpole, which did not go down well with the family, but then Walpole fell spectacularly the following year. Dismissed from his post in the purge of Walpole’s followers, he promptly acquired a position as Surveyor-General of Woods and Forests in 1742, and joining the Admiralty Board in 1745. In 1748 he was sent off to Berlin as envoy to Frederick the Great, taking the blame for the failure of negotiations. Perhaps the appearance of Kirby’s book was a consolation. Returning to England, he married, and pursued his hobby of shooting, then became Chancellor of the Exchequer three times in the 1750s. He died in 1764. Portrait by William Hoare As noted above, Horace Walpole was not particularly enamored of Legge. Another choice quote is the Legge “wormed himself into every intrigue where his industry and subservience could recommend him”. The DNB article on him, written by P. J. Kulisheck (who wrote her dissertation on Legge), rehabilitates him, noting “his character and actions have in the past been judged unfavourably primarily on the basis of statements, now known to be biased, in Horace Walpole’s writings. Legge’s letters reveal a man no better or worse than other younger sons who made their fortune through holding office under the crown, but one with a better sense of humour and less vindictiveness than his contemporaries”.

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.

Viscount Hereford

Another of Kirby’s titled subscribers to the Historical Account was the Viscount Hereford. In Kirby’s case, this was Price Devereux, 10th Viscount Hereford (1694—1748). He was MP for Montgomeryshire (in Wales) from 1719 until he inherited the title on his father’s death in 1740 and was an ardent Tory. According to the History of Parliament site, he voted “against the Administration in all recorded divisions until he became a peer”.

At first blush he might not seem an obvious candidate for a subscriber. However, there were links to Suffolk, as we saw with the “Unqualitied Persons” post. In 1720, he married a cousin, Elizabeth Martin, who brought him Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich, although he sold it in 1735 after she died.

When his wife died, she was buried at Sudbourne as the Devereux family also held manors at Sudbourne, Orford and Earl Soham. In some documents of the 1730s, he is listed as living at Sudbourne Hall, now lost, and he also owned the rather splendid Orford Castle.

Sudbourne Hall

He remarried in 1740, to Eleanor Price, a Welsh woman, shortly before his father died, but he never had any children, and on his own death in 1748, the year that Kirby’s book came out, the title passed to a distant relative and the Suffolk estates were sold off.