BENNET, Charles (1674-1722)

BENNET, Charles (1674–1722)

suc. fa. 11 Feb. 1695 (a minor) as 2nd Bar. OSSULSTON; cr. 19 Oct. 1714 earl of TANKERVILLE

First sat 12 Dec. 1695; last sat 31 Jan. 1722

b. c.1674 o.s. of Sir John Bennet, later Bar. Ossulston, of Dawley, Harlington, Mdx. and 2nd w. Bridget (d. 21 July 1703), da. of John Grobham Howe (1625-79) of Langar, Notts. educ. unknown. m. 3 July 1695, Mary (d. 31 May 1710), da. and h. of Ford Grey, earl of Tankerville, 3s. (1 d.v.p.), 3da. KT 28 Mar. 1721. d. 21 May 1722; will 31 July 1721-16 Apr. 1722; pr. 12 June 1722.1

C.j. in eyre, Trent S. 1715-d.; PC 6 July 1716-d.

Col. militia ft. Mdx. 1690-?95.2

Associated with: Dawley, Harlington, Mdx., Ossulston House, St James’s Square, Westminster;3 Up Park [Uppark], Suss. (from 1701);4 Chillingham Castle, Northumb. (from 1706).5

Charles Bennet had Whiggish antecedents and influences from many sides in his early development. In August 1690, when as a fifteen-year old he was made a colonel of militia in Middlesex, he was noted by Roger Morrice as being ‘prejudiced against King James who dealt severely with his father’, John Bennet, Baron Ossulston.6 James II had called Ossulston to account for peculation in his role as deputy postmaster general in the 1670s and had compounded with him ‘a little before his flight’ for the large sum of £12,000. On his mother’s side Charles Bennet’s uncles were the Howes—Scrope Howe (later Viscount Howe [I]), John Grobham (‘Jack’) Howe, and Emanuel Scrope Howe—who were known for their Whiggish support of the Revolution settlement, and for their opposition to William III’s court in the later years of his reign. When Ossulston died on 11 Feb. 1695 Charles inherited his Whiggish principles as well as a great fortune and houses in Middlesex and St James’s Square.7 The early 1690s had seen the young man linked matrimonially with a succession of wealthy heiresses. In July 1694 it was reported that he was to marry ‘Mrs Thomas of Wales, the greatest fortune in England, having £5,000 p.a. land, besides £50,000 in money’, and later that year he was said to be on the point of marrying the eldest daughter of John Crew, Baron Crew, who possessed a similar dowry.8 In July 1695 the new 2nd Baron Ossulston entered instead into an advantageous marriage that further cemented his relationship to the Whig hierarchy. His new father-in-law, Ford Grey, 3rd Baron Grey of Warke, had been promoted in the peerage as earl of Tankerville barely a month earlier.

On 12 Dec. 1695, now of age, Ossulston first took his seat in the House and began a long political career. At this point Tankerville was one of the leading spokesmen for the Whigs in the House of Lords. Although Ossulston appears to have been under the influence of his energetic and flamboyant father-in-law, he was not at this point an active member of the House. He diligently attended for the rest of December 1695 and the first week of January 1696, but then his attendance became sporadic; in total he came to only 28 sitting days of the 1695-6 session and was named to only two committees. He left the House on 13 Feb. 1696 and was absent when the Association was introduced in the House. He had to be summoned by a special letter addressed to him on 27 Feb. before he indicated his belief in William III’s ‘lawful and rightful’ rule with his signature to the Association on 14 March. He maintained the same attendance rate of just under a quarter of the sittings in the following session of 1696-7, when he was named to five committees. Ossulston voted on 23 Dec. 1696 in favour of the bill to attaint Sir John Fenwick, in the passage of which Tankerville played a major role. Ossulston registered his proxy with his father-in-law on 1 Mar. 1697, and again on 12 Feb. 1698 in the 1697-8 session, when Ossulston came to just over a third of the sittings.

He probably used Tankerville as his proxy at other times during the succeeding Parliaments of 1698-1700 and early 1701, but the relevant proxy registers are now missing. For the Parliament elected in the summer of 1698, Ossulston took his seat on 9 Dec. 1698, but after this late start he attended regularly and came to 45 per cent of the 1698-9 session’s sitting days when he was named to 12 committees on legislation. His attendance dropped steeply in the following session of 1699-1700 when he came to only 16 sittings from 20 Feb. to 22 Mar. 1700. He may have been summoned specifically to take part in the debates surrounding the bill to continue the old, Tory-led, East India Company as a corporation, and on 23 Feb. 1700 he voted against the motion to adjourn into a committee of the whole House to discuss amendments that would further the bill’s progress through the House. He did not, however, join the many Whigs who signed the protest of that day against the bill’s passage.

His attendance dropped even further, to only 13 sittings, in the Parliament which met in early 1701. He first sat on 24 Feb. 1701, when he was named to a committee, and then absented himself until 26 Mar., whereupon he sat for five successive days until leaving the House again on 1 April, the day of his second committee nomination in that session. He did not return for over two months but was probably urgently summoned to return, for he sat again on 17 June, the day of the controversial trial of the impeached Junto peer John Somers, Baron Somers. Over the next week he did his duty by the Junto and voted to acquit both Somers and Edward Russell, earl of Orford. On the day after that latter vote, 24 June 1701, the earl of Tankerville died and bequeathed to his daughter, Ossulston’s wife Mary, a share of his property, including most notably the estate and manor house at Up Park in Harting, west Sussex.9

Ossulston first sat in the following Parliament of the first half of 1702 on 9 Jan. 1702 and proceeded to come to exactly half of this Parliament’s sitting days and was named to 15 committees on legislation. He also acted as a teller on 23 Feb. 1700 on the question of whether to add a clause to the bill for the oath of abjuration providing that those clergymen who refused to take the oath by the deadline should nevertheless be allowed to retain their livings for another three months.10 At the death of William III on 8 Mar. 1702, he was, along with the rest of the House, appointed a manager for a conference to discuss arrangements for the succession of the new queen.

He attended half of the sittings of Anne’s first Parliament of 1702-5, although he was more diligent in the first two sessions, coming to 63 per cent of the sittings of each, while his attendance slipped to 25 per cent during the 1704-5 session. He subscribed on 9 Dec. 1702 to the House’s resolution against accepting bills with ‘tacked’ clauses and showed the extent of his opposition to this tactic when he joined the Whig protest against retention of a clause in the bill to settle a revenue on George, prince of Denmark (also duke of Cumberland) which stipulated that he could retain his place in the House and in the Privy Council even after the queen’s death, despite his foreign birth. The Whigs considered this clause to be an unnecessary ‘tack’ on a supply bill which could cast doubt in the future on the rights of a number of other peers of foreign birth, such as William III’s Dutch followers, to sit in the House.

Three days before this protest Ossulston cast his vote in favour of the Whig amendment to the penalty clause in the occasional conformity bill. In this and the following sessions Ossulston was closely involved in proceedings on this controversial bill. On 24 Feb. 1703 he dissented from the resolution that, in the wake of the bill’s defeat in the Commons because of the House’s amendments, the text of these amendments and of the reasons for their inclusion given during a conference should be printed and made publicly available. The household account book of the Junto leader Thomas Wharton, 5th Baron (later marquess of) Wharton, shows that Ossulston was present at a meeting of ten Whig peers at Wharton’s house on 29 Jan. 1703, most likely to discuss the strategy to take at the free conference on the bill which had been scheduled for 1 February.11 Ossulston’s own social diary, which survives from November 1703 to December 1712, reveals that from at least late 1703 he was well acquainted with the members of the Whig Junto, and that they relied on his support to help defeat the bill when it came up before the House again in the 1703-4 session.12 On 4 Dec. 1703, Ossulston recorded that his maternal uncle, the Whig comptroller of the excise Scrope Howe, Viscount Howe [I], delivered a blank proxy form for his signature at the specific request of the Junto leaders Wharton, Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland and Charles Montagu, Baron Halifax (later earl of Halifax).13 As the proxy registers for this session are missing we cannot know whose proxy the Junto leaders assigned to him, or even if one was registered to him at all, but it is noteworthy that Ossulston obediently started attending the House for the first time that session two days after receiving this letter. He was clearly there specifically for the purpose of acting against the bill, as he noted its delayed progress up from the Commons in his diary, and he voted against it on 14 Dec. 1703, most probably armed with the proxy of a fellow Whig. He even noted that it was thrown out by a majority of eleven.14 Over the following days, Ossulston continued to meet with the Junto members and other Whigs at meetings in their houses or in eating establishments, meetings which were probably intended in equal part for socializing and political strategizing. For just one example, on 17 Dec. he had dinner at the house of Charles Powlett, 2nd duke of Bolton, accompanied by Halifax, Algernon Capell, 2nd earl of Essex, Evelyn Pierrepont, 5th earl (later duke) of Kingston, Charles Lennox, duke of Richmond, Charles Beauclerk, duke of St Albans and the Member ‘Mr. Morgan’, probably Anthony Morgan, the Whig burgess from Yarmouth. Later that evening Ossulston supped at the house of his London neighbour Sunderland (who lived at no. 31 St James’s Square) with an even larger number of fellow Whigs: Wharton; Halifax; William Cavendish, duke of Devonshire; Charles Seymour, 6th duke of Somerset; Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun; Ralph Grey, 4th Baron Grey of Warke; Charles Cornwallis, 4th Baron Cornwallis; Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend; Arthur Herbert, earl of Torrington; Thomas Howard, 6th Baron Howard of Effingham; Charles Mordaunt, 3rd earl of Peterborough; Lewis Watson, 3rd Baron (later earl of) Rockingham; John Holles, duke of Newcastle; and ‘some others I do not remember’.15

He continued to attend the House regularly following the defeat of the occasional conformity bill. On the day of that vote, 14 Dec. 1703, his wife’s uncle Ralph, 4th Baron Grey of Warke, petitioned to bring in a bill to compound with various parties to settle the affairs of the troubled estate left to him by his late brother Tankerville. By the terms of the bill Ossulston was to receive a composition of £15,000 to release various estates in Northumberland and London in which his wife had a reversionary interest. Ossulston was absent from the House after 18 Dec. 1703, during the preliminary stages of Grey of Warke’s bill but was present on 12 Jan. 1704 when it was reported as fit to pass with amendments. On 13 Jan. Ossulston met with Grey of Warke ‘about our act of Parliament’ and the following day the bill was passed in the House. It received the royal assent on 24 Feb. 1704.16

On 14 Jan. 1704 Ossulston also recorded that he called on his wife’s uncle Charles Berkeley, 2nd earl of Berkeley, to accompany him to the House ‘where there was a cause heard of a writ of error from the King’s Bench in a cause of an elector of Aylesbury in Bucks. The House did not rise till 9 of the clock’. He was on a committee to draw up an address to the queen concerning this matter, better known as the case of the Aylesbury men, as he noted for 15 Jan. that he was in Westminster although the House was not meeting, and ‘there was a committee to draw up a representation but it was adjourned till Monday’. That he had a part in this is suggested by his note three days later that ‘we carried the representation’ to the queen.17 In this period Ossulston had almost daily meals taken after meetings of the House with a small group of peers who were his close friends and companions.18 Ossulston also attended a number of sizeable gatherings hosted by the Junto lords to discuss political tactics. On 13 Feb. 1704 he was at Sunderland’s house in the evening with a large number of Whig peers, where ‘tea drunk and our discourse was only about the Scotch Plot [of] which the papers was before the House of Lords’.19 Throughout the first half of March he recorded his regular attendance in Parliament during the hearings of the Scotch Plot, although he almost never stated the business of the day or his own views. Earlier, on 13 Jan. 1704 he had been appointed to a committee to draw up a representation to the queen objecting to the Commons’ complaint that the House was arrogating the royal prerogative to itself by examining witnesses and taking evidence in this case, independent of the Privy Council and officers of the crown. He noted in his diary the report on the address on 17 January.20 Ossulton later recorded that on 1 Mar., a day when there was a debate on the Plot, he remained in the House until nine in the evening and that on 3 March,

there was a report from a committee of seven lords that there was a man who would decipher the gibberish letters and a debate thereupon arose. I was against the man’s deciphering the letters only to the lords [of the committee established to examine the papers on the Plot] and not to the whole House.21

Political meetings and dinners hosted at Sunderland’s or Somerset’s came in rapid succession in late March, perhaps especially as Ossulston and his dining companions were placed on the large committee established on 22 Mar. to draw up a statement for the queen of the many resolutions taken by the House regarding the discoveries made in their examination of the Plot.22

Clearly by 1704 Ossulston was seen by the Junto as a key member of the House on whom they could rely to assist in prosecuting their political strategies. As the occasional conformity bill came up before the House again in the following session of 1704-5, Ossulston received a letter from Somers on 15 Dec. 1704 requesting his presence in the House that day to help throw out the bill on its first reading.23 Yet Ossulston did not attend the House regularly until 5 Feb. 1705, and he only came to a quarter of the sittings of this session. On 26 Feb. Ossulston went to yet another gathering to discuss Whig strategy with Somerset at Northumberland House, ‘where there was a great many other Lords, none but Lords’.24 This probably concerned the continuing dispute with the Commons over the case of the Aylesbury men, for the day following this meeting, Ossulston and many of these companions were placed on a large committee to consider heads for a conference regarding the continuing dispute. On 7 Mar. he was placed on a smaller committee of 18 members assigned to draw up a representation to the queen of the state of proceedings in the matter.

He came to 45 per cent of the sitting days of the following session of 1705-6, the first of the new Parliament elected in the summer of 1705, and first sat on 27 Nov. 1705. He is recorded as being in the House on 6 Dec. when he almost certainly voted in favour of the motion that the ‘Church was not in danger under the queen’s administration’, for five days after this vote he was one of 12 members appointed to a committee to draft an address to the queen asking her to punish those spreading such reports. When he left the House on 5 Mar. he registered his proxy in favour of Sunderland, who held it for the remaining two weeks of the session. 25

Ossulston was in Bath during the summer between sessions, and there he first met William Johnstone, marquess of Annandale [S], with whom he struck up a lifelong and close friendship. Their friendship was further cemented when they discovered they had a common interest in the borderlands of England and Scotland. On 20 June 1706, two weeks after the first mention of Annandale in the diary, Ossulston became a major landowner in the north through the death without heirs of his wife’s uncle Grey of Warke, whose estate of Chillingham (as well as property in Charterhouse Yard and elsewhere) fell to the Ossulstons.26 Through his continuing friendship with Annandale Ossulston was to become acquainted with a great many Scottish peers, and he may have been one of the few English lords of Anne’s reign who maintained friendships with his peers from north of the border.

This may explain his renewed interest in the business of the House during the 1706-7 session which saw the passage of the Act of Union, and when he attended almost three-quarters of the sittings. Ossulston was active in the Whig strategizing for the debates on the Union, and throughout January and February 1707 was a regular member of several mealtime gatherings of peers and Members, consistently listed in detail in his diary, that inevitably would have discussed the proceedings of the House. On 24 Jan. he hosted a Whig dinner in his own house in St James’s Square.27 On 19 Feb. 1707 Ossulston was a teller on a division in the House for the question that the ninth article, regarding Scotland’s proportion of the land tax, should be included among the articles of the bill. As the opposite teller was the resolute Tory William North, 6th Baron North, Ossulston almost certainly told for the Whig side of the question.28

The Act of Union having passed into law, Ossulston came to only 40 per cent of the sittings of the session of 1707-8, only sitting regularly from 16 Jan. 1708 until the last week of March. He returned to the House most likely to keep an eye on proceedings on the bill, first read on 23 Jan. 1708, of his former brother-in-law John Cecil, 6th earl of Exeter, a measure which affected him. Exeter’s first wife had been Ossulston’s sister Annabella. She had brought a £30,000 dowry to the marriage, as well as a detailed marriage settlement involving her jointure lands. She died within two years of the wedding and after her death Exeter, then styled Lord Burleigh, quickly remarried. However, according to the terms of Annabella’s marriage settlement, if she died within five years of the marriage (as she did), £10,000 of the original dowry was to revert to the Ossulstons. Burleigh had entered into his second marriage on the understanding that he and his father John Cecil, 5th earl of Exeter, would take steps to revoke the terms of this settlement. The death of Burleigh’s father in August 1700 had delayed these proceedings, although it is not clear why it took seven years for the new earl of Exeter to bring a bill in Parliament to accomplish the revocation. Ossulston, only a week back in the House, was named to the committee on this bill on 24 Jan. 1708. Despite the threat to a portion of the large dowry originally bestowed at Annabella’s marriage, Ossulston does not appear to have objected to the bill, perhaps because the jointure lands would revert to him, for it went through both houses fairly easily and received the royal assent on 11 Mar. 1708.29

His recent inheritance of the Chillingham estate gave Ossulston some electoral influence in Northumberland, which he determined to put to use in the elections of May 1708 when he supported the candidacy of his kinsman and man-of-business Sir John Bennet for a seat for Morpeth.30 On 21 Apr. 1708 Ossulston wrote ‘letters to several people in Morpeth [to] set Sir John Bennet up to stand for Parliament man’ and on 11 May, two days before the election, it was reported that Edmund Maine, a Tory army officer and the incumbent of the contested seat, ‘has desisted at Morpeth to Lord Ossulston’s friend’.31 Ossulston does not appear to have tried to influence subsequent elections at Morpeth, probably content to leave his political associate, neighbour at St James’s Square, and frequent dining companion, Charles Howard, 3rd earl of Carlisle, who controlled the principal interest for that borough, to handle elections there single-handedly.32

Ossulston maintained his association with the Junto and other Whigs during the Parliament of 1708, while also increasing his contacts with his Middlesex neighbour John Walker, the clerk assistant to the House of Lords, and with Scottish peers and Members in Westminster. He was present at 62 per cent of the sittings of the session in 1708-9, and first took his seat for continuous attendance on 11 Jan. 1709 (after a token appearance on the first day of the Parliament to take the oaths). That same evening he was at Devonshire House and recorded that ‘here there was a great many other Lords to consult about the Scotch election, as the duke of Newcastle and several other lords’.33 Ossulston and a number of Whigs, such as his host William Cavendish, 2nd duke of Devonshire, were apparently galvanized when the issue of the validity of the recent elections of the Scottish representative peers came to a head early in 1709. It may have been at this meeting of Whigs in the house of the new duke of Devonshire that plans were laid for the attack on the parliamentary alliance between the lord treasurer Sidney Godolphin, earl of Godolphin, and the leading Scottish politician James Douglas, 2nd duke of Queensberry [S], for Ossulston returned to regular attendance on the House after this meeting, and on 21 Jan. joined the Junto and the Scottish ‘Squadrone’ in voting against the motion that Queensberry, created duke of Dover in the British peerage after the Union, had a right to vote in the elections of the Scottish representative peers. This would have gratified Ossulston’s friend and dining companion, Annandale, who was one of Queensberry’s fiercest enemies in Scottish politics.34 On 26 Mar. Ossulston also reported to the House from committee with the amended estate bill of Sir Roger Bradshaigh, which was duly passed.

From early March 1709 Ossulston began to associate with the Scottish peers in Westminster and their allies, to the point where by 1710 they had become his principal dining companions. On 2 Mar. 1709 he was at dinner at the residence of James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], where was also Annandale, Charles Douglas, 2nd earl of Selkirk [S], and the Scottish Member, Lord Archibald Hamilton; four days later Ossulston had the same company in turn over to his house for dinner. On 15 Mar. he was at Annandale’s residence in an even larger company of Scottish peers: Hamilton, John Ker, duke of Roxburghe [S], James Graham, duke of Montrose [S], Thomas Livingstone, Viscount Teviot [S], as well as the English peer Basil Feilding, 4th earl of Denbigh.35 Ossulston came to just over half of the sittings of the 1709-10 session and did not begin to sit regularly until 17 Jan. 1710, probably in order to take part in the proceedings against Dr. Henry Sacheverell. On 22 Jan. 1710 Ossulston dined at the duke of Somerset’s, ‘where there was a great deal of company, too many to enumerate’, and where the gathering most likely discussed the action to be taken against Sacheverell and his incendiary sermon.36 Ossulston recorded on 27 Feb. 1710, with more than usual fanfare, ‘Monday the 27 was the first day of Dr. Sacheverell’s trial’, and his diary shows that he took a keen interest in the proceedings from that point. On 10 Mar. he noted that ‘the managers against Dr. Sacheverell made an end of the reply this night’, and he frequently recorded when he had spent ‘the whole day’ at the trial and on two occasions indicated that he was so involved in the proceedings that he ate his dinner in the House itself, with food that was brought to him from his St James’s residence.37 On 14 Mar. he was a teller in the question whether to agree with the motion ‘that by the law and usage of Parliament’ it was not necessary to include the actual words supposed to be criminal in a written impeachment and six days later, on 20 Mar., Ossulston voted Sacheverell guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours.38

After the death of his wife in May 1710, and the sense of isolation it appears to have brought him, Ossulston became even closer with the Scots in London and from the autumn of 1710, when the political landscape was changing greatly with the dissolution of the Parliament and the breakup of the ministry of the ‘duumvirs’, Ossulston became a central member of what has been dubbed a ‘Westminster Anglo-Scottish dining group’. Between 25 Nov. 1710 and 26 June 1711, when Ossulston left London for his Northumbrian estates, he was at 136 mealtime meetings of this group, which had as its inner core the Scottish peers Annandale, John Elphinstone, 4th Baron Balmerino [S], William Livingstone, 2nd Viscount Kilsyth [S], William Keith, 8th earl of Marischal [S], and Archibald Primrose, earl of Rosebery [S], the Scottish Members John Montgomerie, William Cochrane, Sir James Abercromby, George Hamilton, Sir Hugh Paterson, and John Houston, and the English peer William Ferdinand Carey, 8th Baron Hunsdon.39 It was clearly Annandale who was making these other Scottish contacts for Ossulston, who noted upon meeting Kilsyth, Marischal and Sir James Abercromby in November 1710, ‘They are gentlemen that I am not at all acquainted with, only upon Lord Annandale’s account’ and again upon meeting some new faces on 28 Jan. 1711, he remarked, ‘I don’t at all know any of ’em than drinking sometimes with ’em. They are Lord Annandale’s acquaintance’.40

Against this socio-political background, Ossulston attended 56 per cent of the sittings of the 1710-11 session, the first of the Tory-led Parliament elected in the autumn of 1710. He was this time a fairly regular attender from the first day of the session but on 2 Feb. 1711Ossulston registered his proxy with Dorchester for the following three days.41 From 9 Feb. he was involved in a number of dinner meetings with Whig leaders, perhaps discussing moves against the attack on the previous ministry’s conduct of the Spanish war, and after such gatherings he frequently joined his Scottish friends Annandale and Kilsyth (as well as Hunsdon) in their favourite haunt, the British Coffee House, for supper.42 Most of his companions among the Scots in Westminster were Tory, or in the case of Kilsyth and Balmerino, committed Jacobites. That he had frequent meetings, often in the same day, with both English Whigs and Scottish Tories, suggests that he could have been acting as a link between the two groups, a conduit through which the Junto Whigs—with whose policies he was always far more in sympathy—could sound out and approach the Scottish Tories in the House. This is suggested by a letter of June 1711 from Balmerino to Henry Maule in Scotland where, commenting on growing Scottish disenchantment with the Union, Balmerino added, ‘I find by Lord Ossulston that discourses of this kind are beginning to be common among the Whig Lords’.43 So close was Ossulston becoming to his Scottish friends that in early August 1711, while he was at his estates in Northumberland, he briefly went over the northern border to visit Edinburgh—probably one of the only English peers to make this trip.44

Ossulston was back in time to attend the 1711-12 session on its first day, 7 Dec. 1711, when he voted against the ministry of Robert Harley, earl of Oxford, by supporting the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion. On these first days of the session he followed his parliamentary activities with dinners with leading Whigs.45 On the other hand, Ossulston on 20 Dec. 1711 voted against his Whig friends and in favour of the right of the duke of Hamilton to sit in the House of Lords as a British peer, under the title duke of Brandon. He was on the losing side here, and in protest at the House’s disenabling of Hamilton, many of the Scottish peers with whom Ossulston associated boycotted the House early in the new year. One day in late January 1712, when Balmerino and Annandale were refusing to enter the House, Ossulston and Henry Herbert, 2nd Baron Herbert of Chirbury, did them the favour of leaving the chamber early and providing them with an account of that day’s proceedings, after which the two English peers went off to dinner with the two Scottish ones.46 His diary, which ends on 19 Dec. 1712, records 23 meetings with the Anglo-Scottish dining club in 1712, but this is undoubtedly an underestimate: there are large periods in that year, usually during the parliamentary sessions, which are unaccounted for because the entries are in a now lost ‘London diary’. The diary for this period which survives is the diary maintained at his country residence, Dawley House. He was away from the House from 21 Feb. 1712, but his proxy (registered with Bolton on 28 Feb.) was vacated by his return to the House on 10 March.

The treatment of his Scottish friends may have alienated Ossulston temporarily from the Whigs. Ossulston’s closest companion among the Scots, Annandale, was so incensed by the vote of 20 Dec. that he and Hamilton himself continued their boycott of the House far longer than any of the other Scottish members of Parliament—. For a brief time in the latter stages of this turbulent session, Ossulston supported the Oxford ministry, and he may even have brought his friend Herbert of Chirbury, who had joined him in associating with the boycotting Scottish peers, over too. On 28 May 1712 Ossulston (and Herbert) surprisingly sided with the ministry by voting against the motion for an address to the queen over the ‘restraining orders’ issued to the captain general James Butler, 2nd duke of Ormond.47 Later on 7 June Ossulston and Herbert were two of the ‘young lords’ who ‘went off’ from the Whigs and voted with the ministry against the address to the queen urging her to work with the United Provinces in forging a ‘mutual guaranty’ to ensure the Hanoverian succession in Britain. As the parliamentary correspondent of William Wake, bishop of Lincoln (later archbishop of Canterbury), commented

These [peers] had made a sort of agreement that the court should prevent a division, by which means they should not be discovered, but they were gudgeons, for the Court wanted not a majority, but a triumph, to show the people the disparity of numbers, and so they were caught like fools. A great deal of money and promises were spent to work this apostacy.48

This was certainly a triumph for the ministry, which had a majority of 45 in the Lords of this vote, one of the largest Whig defeats in the session and one which marked the end of concerted Whig opposition to the peace terms negotiated in Utrecht. The session was prorogued two weeks later, on 21 June.

Nevertheless, Jonathan Swift still considered Ossulston an opponent of the ministry in the months preceding the following session of spring 1713 when the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht were formally presented to the House. Ossulston came to half of the meetings of that session, when Oxford fully expected him to oppose the French commercial treaty, if it ever arrived in the House from the Commons. In the first session, in spring 1714, of the following Parliament, Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, saw him as an opponent of the schism bill. Ossulston was present at less than a quarter of that session’s sittings and on 16 Apr. 1714 he registered his proxy with Somerset, but this was vacated two weeks later by his return to the House. He was present for much of the first half of June during the proceedings on the schism bill but did not sign the protest against it on 15 June, and then absented himself from the House for a period of two weeks after the bill’s passage. After returning briefly for one day, he registered his proxy with Bolton on 3 July, who was only able to hold it for a week before the Parliament was prorogued. Ossulston arrived in the House again on 1 Aug. 1714, the first day of the brief session charged with seeing a peaceful transfer of the crown to the elector of Hanover following the death of the queen, and sat in a further eight sittings of that session before the prorogation at the end of August.

In September 1714 Ossulston rented a portion of his townhouse on St James’s Square to the Hanoverian envoy Hans Caspar von Bothmer, and this favour to his representative, as well as Ossulston’s long allegiance to the Whigs, may have prompted George I on 19 Oct. 1714 to create Ossulston earl of Tankerville, his father-in-law’s old title.49 Ossulston had been petitioning for this title since at least 1712 but had been blocked during the Oxford ministry by the counterclaims of the previous earl of Tankerville’s cousin, the staunch Tory, Lord North.50 In November 1715 the new earl was given a further honour by being appointed chief justice in eyre south of Trent, an ancient and lucrative office which by this point was largely a sinecure. Nevertheless, Tankerville appears to have been active in it and generated a great deal of records, mostly licences for felling trees, during his tenure.51 On 6 July 1716 he was sworn to the Privy Council.

Tankerville maintained his Whig loyalties in George I’s new Parliament. On 4 Mar. 1721, Tankerville received the green ribbon of the specifically Scottish Order of the Thistle, fittingly replacing his old friend Annandale, who had died in 1721. He was only the second English peer to receive the honour, which was a tribute to his long association with the Scottish nobility and political class.52 Tankerville died on 21 May 1722. In his will of 31 July 1721 he bequeathed the entailed estate to his eldest son and heir, Charles Bennet, 2nd earl of Tankerville, but appointed trustees to raise from that estate portions of £8,000 each for his four younger children, including the unpaid part of the marriage portion of his daughter Bridget, wife of John Wallop, Viscount Lymington (later earl of Portsmouth).53 A dispute over the administration of the estate later led to a suit in Chancery, and all the first earl of Tankerville’s papers were submitted as exhibits. They are now in the National Archives, including the five volumes of his diary.54


  • 1 TNA, PROB 11/585.
  • 2 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. v. 497.
  • 3 Dasent, Hist. of St. James’s Sq. app. A.
  • 4 VCH Suss. iv. 16.
  • 5 M.H. Dodds, Hist. of Northumb. xiv. 328-9.
  • 6 Ibid.
  • 7 Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 438; Add. 46527, f. 54.
  • 8 Luttrell, iii. 340, 368; Add. 46527, f. 8; HEHL, HM 30659 (37); Lexington Pprs. 76-77; HMC Hastings, ii. 244, 245.
  • 9 VCH Suss. iv. 16.
  • 10 HMC Lords, n.s. iv. 480.
  • 11 C. Jones, ‘Parliamentary Organization of the Whig Junto… an Additional Note’, PH, xvi. 209.
  • 12 TNA, C104/113, C104/116, Ossulston Diary.
  • 13 Ossulston Diary, 4 Dec. 1703.
  • 14 Ibid. 9, 14 Dec. 1703.
  • 15 Ibid. 16, 17 Dec. 1703; C. Jones, ‘Parliamentary Organization of the Whig Junto’, PH, x. 170, 177.
  • 16 PA, HL/PO/JO/10/6/1938; HMC Lords, n.s. v. 291; Ossulston Diary, 5, 13 Jan. 1704.
  • 17 Ossulston Diary, 14, 15, 18 Jan., 7 Feb.1704.
  • 18 Ibid. 20 Jan., 11, 16, 18, 21, 22, 24 Feb., 7, 8, 9 Mar. 1704.
  • 19 Ibid. 13, 17 Feb. 1704; PH, x. 171.
  • 20 Ossulston Diary, 12, 17 Jan. 1704.
  • 21 Ibid. 1, 2, 3, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18 Mar. 1704.
  • 22 Ibid. 18, 21, 23, 24 Mar. 1704; PH, x. 171-2, 178.
  • 23 Ossulston Diary, 15 Dec. 1704.
  • 24 Ibid. 26 Feb. 1705; PH, x. 173.
  • 25 Ossulston Diary, 8, 12 Feb. 1706; PH, x. 178.
  • 26 Ossulston Diary, 6, 20 June, 10 July 1706.
  • 27 Ibid. 24 Jan., 3, 6, 7, 15, 16, 24 Feb. 1707; PH, x. 173-4.
  • 28 HMC Lords, n.s. vii. 20.
  • 29 Ibid. n.s. vii, 336-7.
  • 30 Ossulston Diary, 17 Mar., 27 May 1708, 27 June 1711; PROB 11/585; HP Commons, 1690-1715, iii. 179.
  • 31 Ossulston Diary, 21 Apr. 1708; Arch. Aeliana, ser. 4, xxxiv. 17; HP Commons, 1690-1715, ii. 453-4.
  • 32 Ossulston Diary, 25 June-9 Aug. 1708.
  • 33 Ibid. 11 Jan. 1709.
  • 34 Ibid. 23 Jan. 1709; Riley, English Ministers and Scotland, 93-94.
  • 35 Ossulston Diary, 2, 6, 15 Mar., 3 Apr. 1709; PH, x. 179-80.
  • 36 Ossulston Diary, 22 Jan. 1710; PH, x. 180.
  • 37 Ossulston Diary, 27, 28 Feb. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 20 Mar. 1710.
  • 38 HMC Lords, n.s. viii. 343.
  • 39 C. Jones, ‘A Westminster Anglo-Scottish Dining Group’, SHR, lxxi. 114-15, 124-8.
  • 40 Ossulston Diary, 28 Nov., 20 Dec. 1710, 26, 28 Jan., 2 Feb. 1711.
  • 41 Corresp. of Sir James Clavering (Surtees Soc. clxxviii), 108.
  • 42 Ossulston Diary, 7, 9, 15, 18 Feb. 1711; PH, x. 175-6.
  • 43 NAS, GD 45/14/352/11.
  • 44 Ossulston Diary, 6 July-27 Sept. 1711.
  • 45 Ibid. 7, 8 Dec. 1711; PH, x. 176-7.
  • 46 NAS, GD 45/14/352/14.
  • 47 PH, xxvi. 177-8.
  • 48 Christ Church, Oxford, Wake mss xvii. f. 329; C. Jones, ‘The Vote in the House of Lords’, PH, xxvi. 169-71, 182-3.
  • 49 Survey of London, xxix. 78-79.
  • 50 HMC Portland, v. 246; Add. 70030, f. 81; Bodl. North mss a.3, f. 147.
  • 51 TNA, C104/113, 114.
  • 52 HMC Polwarth, i. 373; iii. 52; iv. 234.
  • 53 TNA, PROB 11/585.
  • 54 C104/81, 82, 83, 113, 114, 116, 147, 148, 149, 150.