HARLEY, Robert (1661-1724)

HARLEY, Robert (1661–1724)

cr. 23 May 1711 earl of OXFORD and Earl MORTIMER

First sat 25 May 1711; last sat 14 Apr. 1724

MP Tregony 1689-90, New Radnor Boroughs 12 Nov. 1690- 23 May 1711

b. 5 Dec. 1661, 1st s. of Sir Edward Harley and 2nd w. Abigail, da. of Nathaniel Stephens, of Eastington, Glos., bro. of Edward. educ. Shilton sch. 1671-80 (Samuel Birch, master); Mons. Foubert’s Academy 1680-81;1 M. Temple 1682. m. (1) 14 May 1685, Elizabeth (d.1691), da. of Thomas Foley of Witley Court, Worcs. 2s. (1 d.v.p.), 2da.;2 (2) 4 Oct. 1694, Sarah (d.1737), da. of Simon Middleton of Edmonton, Mdx., s.p. KG 26 Oct. 1712. d. 21 May 1724;3 will ?, pr.1724.

Speaker of the House of Commons, 1701-5.

Commr. public accounts, 1691-7; sec. of state (north) 1704-8;4 PC 23 Apr. 1704-May 1708, 13 Aug. 1710-Sept. 1714; commr. union with Scotland 1706; chan.of the Exchequer 1710-11; ld. treasurer May 1711-July 1714; housekeeper, St James's Palace May-July 1714.5

Sheriff, Herefs. Mar.-Nov. 1689; maj. of militia ft. Herefs. Dec. 1688-1696;6 freeman, New Radnor 1690, Ludlow 1701;7 steward of crown manors, Rad. 1691-1714; dep. lt. Herefs., by 1694-1714, Rad. by 1701-1714;8 custos rot. Rad. 1702-14; warden, Sherwood Forest 1712-14.9

Commr. Greenwich Hosp. 1695, Q. Anne’s Bounty 1704; gov. S. Sea Co. 1711-14;10 gov. Charterhouse by 1716.11 FRS 1712.12

Associated with: Brampton Castle, Herefs., and Albemarle Street, Westminster.

Likenesses: oil on canvas, aft. J. Richardson, c.1711, Palace of Westminster; oil on canvas, aft. G. Kneller, 1714, NPG 4011; J. Richardson, oils, c.1718, Christ Church, Oxf.

Midway through the ministry of 1710-14, Prince Eugene wrote of Robert Harley (by then earl of Oxford), that he ‘steers the helm of state with as great sway as ever Richelieu or Mazarin did in France.’13 Just over two years later, he was out of office and within three years he was in the Tower on a charge of treason.14 Dramatic as was Harley’s fall, it also served to emphasize the extent to which he had dominated affairs while he was in the ascendant and the degree of animus that he had inspired in those he had outmanoeuvred. Long before his promotion to the Lords, Harley had acquired an unparalleled reputation as a commanding politician of rare deviousness, with a series of soubriquets that reflected it: ‘Robin the Trickster’, ‘the Colonel’ or simply ‘the Great Man’.15

Scion of an old dissenting family, having started out as a Whig follower of Country principles, by the accession of Queen Anne Harley was already spoken of by Whig colleagues with unease, as someone of whose ideology they were no longer sure.16 By the middle of the decade he had migrated to emerge as the effective leader of the Tories. His apparent change of tack was not as bizarre as might first appear. Once he had distanced himself from the Country Whigs, he tended to eschew party labels and preferred to think of himself as the queen’s ‘manager’, willing to work with members of both parties. In this role of court broker he emulated his erstwhile patron, Robert Spencer, 2nd earl of Sunderland, but it was a stance that, in the charged atmosphere of the last years of Queen Anne, made him appear to be all the more slippery and unreliable.

Harley came from a long-established marcher family with links to the influential Foley family. His paternal estate was valued at £1,500 in the mid-1650s; he was able to supplement it with additional fees and salaries from his various offices.17 Physically, he was unimpressive, being short with a ‘hard and dry’ voice.18 An assiduous list-maker and collector of intelligence, Harley’s great gift was for understanding the value of information of all kinds.19 Introduced to John Toland through the auspices of either Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd earl of Shaftesbury, with whom he was initially on good terms, or John Methuen, he would later add Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift to an array of journalists and propagandists producing work for him.20 Such qualities brought him early recognition in the Commons and soon also brought him to the notice of the Court. Although his election for Radnor in 1690 had been supported by the Junto leaders, Thomas Wharton, 5th Baron (later marquess of) Wharton, and Edward Russell, later earl of Orford, Harley soon fell out with the more dogmatic members of the Whig party. Early in Queen Anne’s reign he emerged at the head of affairs as one of a triumvirate with Sidney Godolphin, Baron (from 1706 earl of) Godolphin, and John Churchill, duke of Marlborough. Having initially resisted the blandishments of King William and shunned office in the late 1690s, he eventually gave way and accepted both election as Speaker of the Commons and (in May 1704) appointment as one of the secretaries of state.21 Acceptance of office and his increasing identification with Tory members caused him to part company with Shaftesbury and by 1707 the alliance with Marlborough and Godolphin was also faltering. In April of that year, his fellow secretary, Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, accused him of being ‘the author of all the tricks played here’, while in July Godolphin complained that matters were growing ‘worse and worse’, identifying Harley as the cause of the dissension.22 By the beginning of February 1708 relations between Harley and his ministerial colleagues (especially Sunderland between whom and Harley there was said to be ‘mortal antipathy’) had soured so severely that it was widely reported that he would have to give way.23 Damaged by the revelation in late 1707 of the activities of Greg, his former secretary, in passing confidential documents on to the enemy Harley was pushed out of office in February 1708 amid bitter recriminations on all sides.24 Marlborough was said to have brought matters to a head by threatening to step down himself, refusing to continue in post with ‘so vile a person as Mr Harley.’25

The Establishment of the New Ministry 1710-11

Convinced that his fall had been the result of the overweening dominance of ‘the family’ (Marlborough, his duchess, and their son-in-law, Sunderland), Harley set about plotting the removal of his former allies and their replacement by a coalition ministry of Tories and moderate Whigs with him at its head. In this he was aided by striking up an alliance with his kinswoman, Abigail Masham, who had replaced the duchess of Marlborough in the queen’s affections and who, according to Godolphin, was responsible for placing the queen in the hands of Harley and his confederates.26 He was also aided by the active co-operation of Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury, and Charles Seymour, 6th duke of Somerset, the first of whom Harley had begun courting back in 1703 during the duke’s voluntary exile in Italy.27 Like Harley, Shrewsbury had become convinced of the need to extract Britain from its participation in the War of the Spanish Succession and it was this peace policy that was to prove the focus of Harley’s administration.28 A series of meetings between Shrewsbury and Harley ensued following the duke’s return to England.29 Harley was able to disguise their manoeuvrings so effectively that as late as the end of April 1710 the Whig associate of the duchess of Marlborough, Arthur Mainwaring, was still unwilling to believe that Shrewsbury could have been persuaded by Harley to forsake the duumvirs. Godolphin was also kept in the dark and seemed convinced in May that Somerset was the central figure responsible for undermining Marlborough.30 Having already secured Shrewsbury the household office of lord chamberlain, Harley’s apparently miraculous manipulation of events in the later spring and early summer of 1710 saw the replacement of Sunderland in June with the moderate Tory, William Legge, 2nd Baron (later earl of) Dartmouth.31 It reached a climax in August with the dramatic removal of Godolphin from office as lord treasurer. It confirmed Harley’s already well-established reputation as a diabolical figure: he was later dubbed by the duchess of Marlborough (and others) ‘the sorcerer’.32

In reality, the ministry that had emerged by the autumn of 1710 was far removed from that which Harley had originally envisioned and the process by which the administration of Marlborough and Godolphin was unravelled proved more protracted than Harley had probably expected. His initial scheme, worked out in alliance with Shrewsbury and the leading Tory in the Commons, William Bromley, and heavily influenced by the queen’s own preferences, appears to have aimed at little more than the removal of ‘the family’ and their replacement by figures from both parties, with Shrewsbury the public face of the new ministry.33 The appointment of Dartmouth as secretary was very definitely a compromise and there is some doubt as to whether or not Harley himself intended to emerge from ‘behind the curtain’ as early as he did.34 The refusal of Whigs such as William Cowper, Baron (later Earl) Cowper, Charles Montagu, Baron (later earl of) Halifax, and Orford, to serve alongside the ‘Trickster’ also disappointed Harley in his hopes of constructing a thoroughly mixed ministry. Although Halifax remained on friendly terms with Harley throughout, once it was plain that Harley would not guarantee the continuance of the current Parliament none of the Junto felt able to remain in place. Their refusal, set alongside Shrewsbury’s unease with his new responsibilities, made it impossible for Harley to avoid taking a central role earlier than he had anticipated.35 It also made it difficult for him to deny senior posts to members of the High Church wing of the Tory party such as Laurence Hyde, earl of Rochester, along with others whom he had hoped to keep in subordinate positions.36 The result was a more thoroughgoing Tory administration than he had intended.37 Harley’s manoeuvring had another detrimental effect, for although he eventually agreed to bring in Henry St John, later Viscount Bolingbroke, as one of the secretaries of state, his earlier efforts to keep St John out of the cabinet helped make his ambitious colleague into a bitter rival.38 Thus, although Toland wrote from Leiden towards the end of August to congratulate Harley on his ‘happy return to the management of affairs and the disgrace of his enemies’, all was not as well as it seemed and within six months of the ministry’s formation, it was under threat from serious internal divisions.39

The extent of the changes both at Court and in local offices was reflected in a report of September 1710 that asserted

there is no doubt but there will be a most universal change of the ministry as ever was and all places that can any ways influence elections are putting as fast as may be into the hands of the high party who have directions everywhere to make their utmost efforts, but that would not turn the Parliament without a great squadron of courtiers going over from Godolphin to Harley.40

Harley’s own assessment was similar, in a memorandum of 12 Sept. 1710 noting the need to provide places for members of the Commons while also sketching out offices for the peers. These included the posts of lord president for Rochester and lord steward for John Sheffield, duke of Buckingham, though Buckingham was eventually appointed to the post of lord privy seal.41 Still hoping for a ministry founded on moderation, he wrote in a letter of the same day to John Holles, duke of Newcastle, that he believed Halifax might still prove ‘very useful’, but despaired of being able to carry with him any of the other members of the former ministry. Subsequent letters of 14 and 16 Sept. from Harley to Newcastle confirmed the plans for the imminent dissolution as well as the determination of Cowper and others not to remain in office.42 Cowper’s diary also acknowledged Harley’s efforts to persuade him to remain as chancellor but, finding that ‘things were too far gone towards the Tories’, Cowper declined the invitation.43

Harley’s room for manoeuvre was restricted still further by the general election that autumn. The result was a swingeing victory for the Tories, many of whom, according to Peter Wentworth, were returned by nonconformist electors who had been assured by Harley that ‘there shall be nothing this Parliament done against them, but their toleration [kept] inviolable.’ The strength of the Tory party in the lower House may have given rise to rumours that Rochester was to be made lord treasurer and Harley restricted to the office of master of the rolls.44 Matters in the Lords were more finely balanced. Harley himself calculated that 63 members of the upper House might be expected to support the ministry with 51 likely to oppose. A further 19 lords were listed as doubtful, but the majority of these proved hostile to his administration, leaving the (English) Lords fairly evenly matched between court and opposition. The Scots peers also proved a challenge. Difficulties arising from the efforts of James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], to secure an ‘English’ (British) dukedom and thus a writ of summons to the Lords provoked a number of his countrymen to refuse to attend.45 The result, according to Swift, was but ‘a weak and crazy [unreliable] majority’ for the ministry in the upper House. In spite of this, the first few months of the new ministry witnessed a number of government successes in the Lords, largely thanks to Rochester’s leadership.46 Harley was also able to deter for a while expected opposition from the Finch family by appointing Dartmouth as secretary and by extending an olive branch to Heneage Finch, Baron Guernsey (later earl of Aylesford), brother of Harley’s bitter enemy, Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham.47 Despite this, by the spring of 1711 rumours abounded of difficulties at the heart of the administration. The formation of the October Club demonstrated the unease with which Harley’s leadership was viewed by the immoderate Tories and its ‘testy, unmanageable, hotheaded’ membership ‘of young country squires’ was said to ‘fright their friends and leaders more than they do their enemies.’48

Harley was, paradoxically, thrown a lifeline in March 1711 when he survived an assassination attempt that for a while cowed his critics within the administration and also earned for him the anxious concern of the queen. The occasion was a meeting of the Privy Council held on 8 Mar. to interrogate a French spy, the marquis de Guiscard. Towards the end of the meeting, Guiscard pulled out a small penknife and thrust it into Harley’s chest. Guiscard was then run through by St John and other council members in the ensuing mêlée.49 Although Harley’s thick coat and brocaded waistcoat took the brunt of the blow, he was seriously injured in the assault.50 He was then fortunate to survive the incompetent ministrations of his surgeon and remained ill for several weeks after the attack.51 By the end of the month he was able to walk with the aid of a stick and on 1 Apr. he made his first public appearance after the attack.52 Soon after, it was reported that both he and the lord keeper, Simon Harcourt, later Viscount Harcourt, were to be made peers.53

Promotion to the Lords, 1711

The Guiscard assault assisted Harley in a variety of ways, not least by silencing those who had been intent on spreading rumours that Harley was working ‘in the French interest’.54 There seems little doubt that it also accelerated his promotion to the Lords. Although rumours of his advancement had been put about prior to the events of March 1711, his creation as earl of Oxford at this juncture was directly linked to the queen’s relief at his survival.55 It may also have been seen as a necessity at this point to bolster the ministry’s leadership of the Lords following Rochester’s unexpected death on 2 May. Promotion to the peerage was not without its difficulties. It removed Harley from his natural territory in the Commons and as a letter from Swift to Stella implied, Harley also purported to be reluctant to accept the honour on account of his financial situation. He, wrote Swift:

makes only one difficulty which is hard to answer: he must be made a lord, and his estate is not large enough, and he is too generous to make it larger; and if the ministry should change soon by any accident, he will be left in the suds.56

Harcourt’s situation was similar and Arthur Mainwaring took pleasure in noting that the promotion of Harley and Harcourt to the Lords was a poor deal for the queen as she would have to give estates to both of the new peers to enable them to maintain the dignity of their titles.57

While removal to the Lords contained an element of risk, in that it required Harley’s detachment from the lower House of whose procedures he was a noted master, it did offer Harley the opportunity of reshaping the ministry. He was also now in a stronger position to exert himself following the successful passage of the bill establishing the South Sea Company.58 In early May Mainwaring commented on the possibility of a return to government for the ‘lord treasurer’s Whig’, Henry Boyle, later Baron Carleton, whom Harley had hoped to keep in office the previous year. Mainwaring thought that this might indicate that a ‘middle scheme is aimed at’. He also predicted that the treasury would be brought out of commission with Harley taking the reins as lord high treasurer.59 As before, though, Harley found himself unable to model the ministry quite as he would have liked to do. Boyle did not resume office and Newcastle, another moderate Whig, refused the offer of the lord presidency, ‘thinking it a place of less consequence of that he has’. The question of how to manage the Finch family was another dilemma, with John Poulett, Earl Poulett advising that it would be better to offer a place to Nottingham’s son, Daniel Finch, styled Lord Finch (later 8th earl of Winchilsea and 3rd earl of Nottingham), rather than make space for Nottingham himself.60 By the middle of May, Mainwaring was happy to conclude that Harley faced grave difficulties ahead and that no matter whether he preferred Whigs or Tories, both sides would take offence.61

Harley’s choice of title also caused problems. On 8 May it was speculated that he was to be made earl of Oxford and this report was repeated over the next few days along with the additional gloss that with the peerage would come appointment as lord treasurer.62 The selection of Oxford provoked the indignation of the Bertie family, who believed that they had a claim to the earldom as descendants of the de Vere family, while Harley himself could claim only a very tenuous connection to a previous holder of the title. The dispute was welcomed by Mainwaring, who told the duchess of Marlborough that ‘nothing has pleased me in all this but to hear the Bertie family is all in arms upon his taking the title of Oxford.’63 On 17 May Peregrine Bertie sought a meeting with Harley to discuss the issue, warning him that his family had previously forestalled an attempt made by Buckingham and Normanby to take the title and they now intended to enter a caveat against Harley assuming the style too.64 Mainwaring thought that Buckingham would also have made ‘a sad splatter about it’, but that ‘his concern for his place keeps him silent.’65 Harley answered the Bertie challenge by pointing out that both the queen and the council considered the title to be in the crown’s gift, but that he would not take it amiss if they entered their caveat. Nevertheless, he remained adamant that the Berties’ caveat would not stop the grant and reiterated his intention of taking the title, insisting that if he did not someone else would do so soon after.66

In the midst of his efforts to settle the question of his title, Harley remained focused on his efforts to make what alterations he could in the administration. Towards the end of May Harcourt sent him a list of likely contenders for county lieutenancies, noting under Herefordshire ‘why not the earl of Oxford?’67 Harley was also subjected to a series of petitions from others eager to secure preferment of one sort or another. On 17 May, George Compton, 4th earl of Northampton, irritated that he was now the only one of those who had waited on the Queen at the Revolution still to be wanting a place, wrote to Harley to remind him of his claim.68 The following day Harley wrote to Marlborough to assure him that he would do what he could to ensure that the new palace at Blenheim would be completed as planned.69 On 21 May it was reported that Harley’s promotion to the Lords would proceed as soon as the South Sea scheme had been passed. Two days later, he was created earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer (the latter title being included as a sop to the other claimants on the earldom of Oxford).70 The patent, drawn up by Dr Robert Friend, provoked some derision, at least one commentator noting that it was symptomatic of Oxford’s ‘excessive vanity’.71

On 24 May, Oxford wrote to the deputy earl marshal (Thomas Lennard, earl of Sussex) advising him of his creation and requesting that preparations might be made for his introduction into the House the next day.72 He took his seat on 25 May, introduced between Poulett, and Richard Savage, 4th Earl Rivers. One of the disconsolate Berties, Montagu Venables Bertie, 2nd earl of Abingdon, dragged himself from his sickbed to officiate at the ceremony as deputy to the lord great chamberlain.73 Commenting on the event, Ralph Bridges reflected ‘the ring of changes at court &c. it’s thought will now begin.’74 Four days after being introduced, Oxford was appointed lord treasurer.75 He attended the House on a total of seven days before the prorogation brought the session to a close on 12 June. Writing to Marlborough at the time of his appointment, Oxford confessed somewhat disingenuously that he conceived it to be a ‘difficult’ post for which he considered himself ill qualified save for being cognisant of ‘the dangers which attend it, as well as how unequal I am to it.’76 On 31 May he was ordered to attend the queen with the House’s report concerning public records and on 2 June he reported back with the queen’s response.

Oxford’s transformation was reflected in his inclusion within a list of ‘Tory Patriots’ of the first session of the 1710 Parliament. For the time being he appeared to be in the ascendant, the subject of a paean declaring it to be ‘the opinion of all the philosophers and unprejudiced men… that whilst the earl of Oxford… holds the scales of the contending parties he will produce harmony out of discord’. The apparently optimistic appraisal hinted, though, at the inherent difficulty of his position. His removal from the Commons, where he had the benefit of over 20 years experience, to the Lords, whose procedures were less familiar to him and which was dominated by members hostile to his interests, made his task doubly challenging.77 Physical absence from the Commons meant that he was reliant upon others to manage that House and, as happened the day after his introduction in the Lords, to send him the results of the Commons’ business.78 This may have encouraged a series of challenges to his authority from several directions. As early as 12 June, the day of the prorogation, it was reported that he now stood on ‘slippery ground’.79 Many of his problems stemmed from trying to make appointments which would not further upset the delicate balance of the ministry. In July, he was compelled to accede to a request from the Dutch not to appoint Edward Villiers, earl of Jersey, to the office of lord high admiral as Jersey was believed to be hostile to the Hanoverian succession.80 The difficulty of finding an appropriate role for Jersey left Oxford subjected to a string of petitions from the earl before Jersey’s death put an end to the problem.81 The office of lord privy seal, to which Jersey had eventually been appointed, was then awarded to John Robinson, bishop of Bristol (later bishop of London).82 The death of other prominent members of the administration further complicated matters for the lord treasurer. The demise of James Douglas 2nd duke of Queensberry [S], left vacant the office of secretary of state for Scotland, while that of Newcastle shortly afterwards eroded still further the number of Whigs on whom Oxford was able to rely.83 In a letter to Marlborough, Oxford pondered how best to manage Queensberry’s replacement, particularly because ‘a third secretary is so new a thing in England, and so much out of the way of doing business here, that it ought to be put upon some other foot.’84 The death of Queensberry was no doubt part of the reason for Oxford receiving a number of requests from other Scots peers, who were disgruntled at the way in which they had been treated over measures in the session and now threatened to move for the Union to be dissolved.85 It also meant additional difficulties in managing Hamilton, who had been eager to succeed Queensberry in the secretaryship but whom neither the queen nor Oxford were willing to appoint.86 His reluctance to employ the Tory Hamilton, alongside his continuing friendly relations with Halifax, may have encouraged rumours at the close of July that Oxford had been successful in persuading both Halifax and John Somers, Baron Somers, to realign themselves with him and even speculation that other members of the Junto were willing to negotiate an alliance on the condition that Parliament was dissolved and a new one elected.87 The rumours proved inaccurate.

Oxford continued to suffer from his injuries sustained in March. His right arm remained ‘so weak that I have no use of it and only strength enough to write a letter’.88 He was nevertheless effective in promoting the interests of members of his own family, securing places as tellers of the exchequer for both his brother, Edward Harley, and son-in-law, George Hay styled Viscount Dupplin [S], later Baron Hay and 8th earl of Kinnoull [S].89 Towards the end of the summer the first reports circulated of a match in prospect between Oxford’s heir, Edward Harley, styled Lord Harley, later 2nd earl of Oxford, and Newcastle’s daughter. It was also reported (prematurely) that Oxford was shortly to be created a knight of the Garter.90 Such perceived nepotism and continuing self-aggrandisement only increased the growing criticism of his conduct and at the beginning of September it was reported that ‘there are great bickerings among the great ones, the earl of Oxford is said not to carry it amongst his meritorious friends so acceptably as was expected’.91

Oxford’s attention was divided in the late summer and early autumn of 1711 between domestic affairs—negotiations with the dowager duchess of Newcastle—and and preparations for the forthcoming session, particularly concerning the efforts to secure a peace. The early stages of the peace negotiations had been entrusted to Jersey, whose death led even Marlborough to wish for ‘a speedy end of the war, that I may enjoy a little repose before my own time comes’.92 Settling matters with the duchess involved Oxford in a dispute that had developed between her and Thomas Pelham, Baron Pelham, over the inheritance of her late husband’s estate. The duchess, struggling to deal with Pelham, whom she found ‘so fickle’, sought both Oxford and Harcourt’s interest in ensuring that the ‘prerogative court will please to give me all the time possible’ in sifting through the mountain of paperwork generated by the case.93 One of his correspondents assured him of the duchess’s eagerness to accede to the Harley-Cavendish match in return for Oxford’s assistance.94 Although he professed himself grateful for Oxford’s willingness to mediate, Pelham remained committed to the legal action, ‘not doubting of success in so just a cause’.95

The weight of business and his uncertain health compromised Oxford’s ability to remain on top of affairs. Towards the end of September, James Brydges, later 9th Baron and duke of Chandos, believed that Oxford was too busy to deal with changes in the commissioners of customs, although among Oxford’s principal concerns was the state of the Treasury, which he complained was in dire need of reformation.96 The ministry’s efforts to extract Britain from the war was a constant refrain in his correspondence, not least the difficult task of convincing the allies (particularly the Dutch and Hanoverians) to end the conflict.97 On 19 Oct. he complained to Marlborough that

Ours is a very unlucky situation that everyone is shrinking from the war and at the same time casting the burden upon Britain, and yet unwilling to let her have the least advantage. I would to God that our allies would resolve either to make a good war, or a good peace.98

Oxford’s continuing efforts to collaborate with some members of the former ministry met with apparent encouragement from Halifax, who declared that Oxford and Somers should ‘act in concert and take measures together in this great affair which I am confident may end gloriously if we do not mistake each other in pursuing the same intentions.’99

From the middle of October to the beginning of November, in the run-up to the new session of Parliament, Oxford was troubled by pains in his stomach and on occasion confined to his house by attacks of gout.100 By 19 Nov. he was still said to be ‘a little lame’. Some suggested that the ill health of both Oxford and the queen at this point was diplomatic.101 Oxford was early on alerted to the prospect of the new session being far from harmonious. He attended the House on four of the days on which it sat just to be prorogued, on two of which he assisted in introducing allies to the House. On 9 Oct. he joined Edward Hyde, 3rd earl of Clarendon, in introducing the newly promoted earl of Dartmouth, and on 27 Nov. he introduced Robert Shirley, promoted to an earldom as Earl Ferrers. As secretary of state Dartmouth’s loyalty was presumably not in question, but the promotion of the Tory Ferrers was no doubt intended to help bind him to the ministry. Such tokens did little to alleviate the problems facing the ministry. In the middle of November, William Bromley encouraged Oxford to rally the ministry’s supporters in the Lords, though Archibald Campbell, earl of Ilay [S], considered it his ‘duty’ to warn Oxford that although he had done his best to contact the other Scots peers he had found them not to be ‘in so good temper as I could wish.’102 This assessment was echoed by Dupplin, who informed Oxford that the Scots seemed disgruntled that they had not been given earlier notice that they would be required back in London.103 Several of the bishops advised that they would be unable to attend in person, though most such excuses came with promises of proxies being lodged so that their votes would not be lost.104

The Session of 1711-12

Given his reputation as a master of parliamentary management, Oxford’s initial preparations for the session that finally opened on 7 Dec. 1711 appeared uncharacteristically haphazard. A combination of unfamiliarity with the Lords, ill health and bad luck seems to have been at the root of his problems. Attempts to meet Halifax and Somers were subjected to continual postponements through the ill health of each of the participants.105 By the end of the month, Oxford was still described as looking ‘very badly’ and Brydges noted that he had hardly been seen in his offices at the Cockpit since he had become ill.106 A planned meeting with Somers and Halifax was again postponed early in December, though Halifax insisted that the two were sincere in their desire to meet Oxford.107 Oxford’s efforts to maintain his alliance with the Tories in the Commons appear to have met with greater success. Both Bromley and Sir Thomas Hanmer expressed themselves satisfied with his debriefing concerning the peace and by the draft of the queen’s speech.108 By the beginning of December 1711, efforts to rally the ministry’s supporters in the upper House also appeared to be paying off at last. Through the mediation of Dupplin, Scots members of the Commons and representative peers undertook to turn out in time for the start of the session and Oxford was regaled with assurances from several English peers of their commitment to be present.109 But on the first day of the session (7 Dec.), Oxford was narrowly defeated in the Lords when the opposition’s amendment to the address of thanks to the queen insisting on ‘No Peace without Spain’ was carried by a single vote (the motion was rejected in the Commons where the government majority held firm). The result was a shock: according to one commentator, the ministry had reckoned it would defeat the motion in the upper House by 30 votes.110 Peter Wentworth recorded that some ascribed the government’s reversal to Oxford’s miscalculation of his level of support. Although this was evidently the case, it would appear that Oxford had been deliberately misled by at least eight peers who had promised him their support only to vote the other way. The ministry was also severely affected by Nottingham’s decision to rally to the opposition and by the refusal of some Scots peers to assemble in time.111 The defeat, though close, threatened to upset the ministry at the beginning of the session. As the peers left the chamber, it was reported that Oxford’s Junto adversary, Wharton, clapped his hand on his rival’s shoulder and declared, ‘By God, my lord, if you can bear this you are the strongest man in England.’112 On 8 Dec. Oxford was subjected to a second humiliation when he oversaw a misguided attempt to reverse the previous day’s defeat, which was abandoned without a division. Less than a fortnight later Nottingham’s occasional conformity bill, a measure for which Oxford had no liking, was passed through Whig acquiescence.113 Having abandoned his former co-religionists to their fate, Oxford advised those who had approached him to help to stop the bill to do what they could to ‘recover their reputations of sobriety, integrity and love of their country.’114 He may have felt their predicament a just reward for hitching their carts to the Junto bandwagon.

News of the ministry’s setbacks led to reports of further alterations, among them rumours that St John was to join Oxford in the Lords. It was also speculated that the government’s defeat on the address had emboldened the Tories to force Oxford to dispense with the remaining Whigs in the administration. Yet another crisis was caused by Hamilton’s attempt to take his seat as duke of Brandon, a British peerage to which he had been raised in September. On 20 Dec. Oxford spoke in Hamilton’s favour and moved that the opinion of the judges might be sought to settle the matter. He then voted against barring Scots peers holding post-Union titles from sitting in the House.115 Once again, the ministry failed to carry the point and Oxford was left with little to do but subscribe the protest when the motion to bar Hamilton was carried.116 Two days later, Oxford was entrusted with Sussex’s proxy.

The Christmas adjournment gave Oxford an opportunity to attempt to reshape his administration. An unlikely offer of support from Halifax, who once more insisted on his desire ‘to promote the good of my country in your lordship’s hands’, seems not to have been taken seriously. On 31 Dec. Halifax wrote again by then professing himself to be ‘in a most desponding way’ and no longer convinced that it was in Oxford’s ‘power to save this nation.’117 In the absence of a real prospect of assistance from Whigs such as Halifax, Oxford turned to other potential allies. Young peers were offered places in the ministry in the hopes of buying their support, but it soon became clear that a more radical solution was called for.118 Faced with a hostile Whig majority in the Lords that had been reinforced by Nottingham’s defection, he persuaded the queen to tackle the problem head-on with a mass creation of peers to bolster the numbers of ministry supporters. Between 31 Dec. 1711 and 1 Jan. 1712, 12 new peerages were awarded to a combination of Tories and Harleyites, among them Oxford’s son-in-law, Dupplin, and his kinsman, Thomas Foley, Baron Foley. Although the mass creation excited criticism from a number of quarters and concerns that the peerage had been diluted as a result, most of those selected were well qualified to be promoted. Three were sons of peers. Only one (Masham) might be said to have been anything other than a substantial gentleman and Masham, who had been turned down for a peerage earlier in the year, was included on the list only after one of those approached, Sir Michael Warton, declined his proffered barony on the grounds of age.119 The creation added to the tensions between Oxford and St John, who was not offered a peerage, in part because Oxford recognized the need to maintain at least one senior cabinet member in the Commons.120

Oxford resumed his seat in the House on 2 Jan. 1712 to witness the introduction of the dozen new peers. After he had communicated the queen’s answer to the Lords’ address of 22 Dec. over negotiations for the peace, it was then moved (on the basis of a recommendation from the queen) that the House should adjourn to 14 January. The motion was carried by 13 votes, though not before the Whigs had made plain their disquiet at the presence of the new peers in the chamber and threatened Oxford with impeachment for his actions.121 Wharton took the opportunity to enquire mockingly whether the new jury of peers would vote singly or do so en bloc. The time between the adjournment and resumption was dominated by renewed furtive negotiations between Oxford and potential supporters: on 8 Jan. he met Halifax, and two days later, Halifax reported that he had passed on what they had discussed to ‘the two persons’ (possibly Cowper and Somers) ‘who are very desirous to serve your lordship and promote the good of their country.’ Halifax proposed meeting again on 11 January.122 The following day Oxford was warned of trouble ahead in the Commons, where Marlborough hoped to turn criticism of his activities against Oxford.123

Oxford took his seat in the House when it resumed on 14 January. Two days later he wrote to Hamilton, assuring him that he had done everything in his power to prevent the vote against him sitting in the Lords and that he was still resolved to get the decision reversed. To do this he would require the assistance of Hamilton’s countrymen:

I will take any part either of beginning a motion or supporting others in it and I have not been a negligent solicitor of the English peers on this occasion, but then I shall desire to know what assistance is like to be expected from the northern peers for it will be very ridiculous in me to put myself in the forefront of a matter so displeasing to the bulk of the English noblemen and at the same time not to be sure of pleasing the northern lords.124

Soon after, Oxford received an acknowledgement from James Ogilvy, 4th earl of Findlater [S] and earl of Seafield [S], who hoped that the Scots peers ‘will always retain a grateful sense of your lordship’s justice to them’, but complained that they had ‘received a fatal stroke and sentence of perpetual incapacity.’125 On 21 Jan. 1712, having informed the House that he had conveyed to the queen the House’s further address of 18 Jan. on the peace, and relayed her answer, Oxford attempted once more to settle the question of the Scots peerage. The House adjourned into a committee of the whole in which Oxford and Harcourt proposed that the system of electing 16 representative peers be done away with and that the same number should be admitted as hereditary peers. The ministry’s proposals lacked clarity and Oxford’s motion was rejected ‘with scorn’: the business was laid aside without a division. Oxford could only propose that the House resume, which was carried in a division by eight votes.126 Towards the end of the month the House debated the question of the Scots peerage once more, and on 25 Jan. resolved that Parliament could determine the right to sit of peers of Great Britain who had been Scots peers before the Union without infringing the terms of the Union.127 Although he was unable to make progress in settling the question of the Scots, Oxford, ‘glad of an opportunity to express his zeal and affection for the Protestant heir’, enjoyed greater success in addressing issues relating to the succession. On 17 Jan. he presented the House with a bill for confirming the precedence of the Electress Sophia, her son (later George I) and her grandson, Prince George, duke of Cambridge (later George II), which passed the House within two days, and met with similar support in the Commons.128

Towards the end of January Oxford, beset with further difficulties relating to the settlement of the Newcastle estate, struggled to remain on top of the business before him, and was chided by his brother Edward for ‘going so late to bed and losing the morning.’129 The extent of Oxford’s problems in early 1712 was emphasized in a report at the beginning of February in relation to the Scots toleration bill, that John Hutton (a former agent of Rochester’s) was now the only Scots Member of the House of Commons still in his favour, while the English Whigs were united in opposition to his administration.130 Later that month, Oxford was warned that some of his opponents had begun discussing the possibility of having him sent to the Tower, the rumour emanating from Halifax’s household.131 However, having survived the crises of December and January, Oxford’s administration did manage to steer much of its business through Parliament over the following months.132 At the end of February the court was credited with carrying ‘a nice point’ in order to throw out the place bill by five votes.133 In April 1712 Prince Eugene judged that Oxford continued to be successful in managing ‘the caballing parties with that dexterity that he keeps in with both.’134

Oxford was involved as well in much of the more routine business of the House. On 7 Apr. he was entrusted with the proxy of James Butler, 2nd duke of Ormond. On 12 Apr. he reported to the House the queen’s consent to one private bill, and two days later, he reported that the queen had also agreed to resign her personal interest in the estate referred to in another: he did the same for a third bill on 6 May. On 7 May, the Lords ordered him to lay before them the report of the commissioners for customs. On 12 Apr. the court was successful in carrying the motion to commit the Scottish patronage bill by 50 votes to 28 (Halifax being among those ranged against Oxford on this occasion).135 Although it was reported on 14 May that Oxford had resolved to employ the court’s interest to ensure the passage of the Tory-sponsored grants resumption bill, the bill was later defeated in the Lords following a tied vote on its third reading on 20 May.136 After the defeat, Bromley wrote to Oxford thanking him for his efforts and assuring him that it ‘must give an entire satisfaction and convince everyone that your lordship has used your utmost powers to have it pass’.137 In spite of Bromley’s conviction that Oxford’s support for the bill would serve to restore the Tories’ confidence in him, however, Thomas Bateman thought the outcome would be the opposite.138

On 22 May 1712, the day after the loss of the grants bill, Oxford acted as one of the sponsors of Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford, at his introduction into the House in his new dignity, an award that Oxford no doubt hoped would help to secure the demanding Strafford’s support for the administration. Six days later, Oxford spoke in the debate on the opposition motion to address the queen to order the duke of Ormond to resume the offensive against the French. He sought to assure the House that ‘in a very few days her Majesty… would lay before them the conditions on which a general peace may be made.’139 The court succeeded in securing the defeat of the motion by 20 votes. Strafford was among those who supported the ministry. Various commentators noted that the opposition had planned to renew calls for Oxford to be sent to the Tower had they carried their point.140 The rumour was repeated early the following month in the Post Boy. The ministry’s decision not to permit Ormond to engage in active hostilities persuaded some that, despite his assurances, Oxford had settled for a separate peace with France and abandoned Britain’s allies.141

On 9 and 21 June, the final day of the session, Oxford reported back to the House after attending the queen with messages. Following the end of the session, it was said that he was to be promoted to the dukedom of Newcastle. St John, it was thought, would be made earl of Bolingbroke.142 The dukedom failed to materialize and St John was (much to his annoyance) granted the lesser title of Viscount Bolingbroke. He was introduced as such on 8 July by Oxford and Thomas Trevor, Baron Trevor. The reports of Oxford assuming another prestigious title were perhaps the result of continuing negotiations with the dowager duchess of Newcastle for the marriage of Lord Harley to Lady Henrietta Cavendish.143 Although Oxford was not promoted duke, as the summer progressed he was honoured with the wardenship of Sherwood Forest. It was also rumoured that he would be made a knight of the garter.144 Encouraging reports of the progress of the peace negotiations provided a brief respite from Tory sniping. In notes of 10 July he commented that there was now ‘nothing for the queen to do but to draw herself out of the war’ and justified the peace as being both ‘just and necessary.’145 Ferrers remarked that ‘the whole kingdom must be ungrateful if they do not acknowledge your lordship’s indefatigable labours’ in procuring the peace. Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth, asserted fulsomely that

such a blessing was never more wanted, or prayed for, and the steady measures wherewith your lordship conducted, and at last obtained it, convince us, that we owe as much to your prudence as to your courage, which no arts could frighten you out of.146

Later in the summer, Oxford received £700 from Rivers’ will, in which he was named as one of the trustees along with Shrewsbury. The trustees also stood to gain an additional £10,000 should Rivers’ daughter die before marriage. With the trust came an inevitable string of requests for preferment to offices left vacant by Rivers’ death and for the swift payment of the late earl’s debts. With it too came entanglement in a series of disputes between various members of Rivers’ family who all hoped to benefit from the estate.147 Oxford’s efforts to secure lucrative matches for his son, Lord Harley, with the Newcastle heir, and for his daughter, Lady Elizabeth Harley, with Peregrine Osborne, styled marquess of Carmarthen, later 3rd duke of Leeds, dominated much of his attention from the late summer onwards.148 Although his negotiation with the duchess of Newcastle continued to involve him in her legal dispute with Pelham, it also offered the prospect of significant political rewards: the duchess claimed to be in a position to ensure the return of eight county members in the court interest at the next election (at a cost of £1,000).149 The match with Carmarthen also brought problems, even though Carmarthen was said to be ‘sincerely pleased’ with his bride, on account of the marquess’s poor relations with his father, Peregrine Osborne, 2nd duke of Leeds.150 To add to his travails, Oxford was once more troubled by a return of ill health at the beginning of the autumn.151 In the first week of October, he was suffering from rheumatism and said to have been so unwell that he had not been at Westminster for 10 days.152 On 9 Oct. he was still unable to leave his chamber, though by the middle of the month he appeared to be on the road to recovery, receiving renewed offers of service from Halifax and at the end of the month facilitating Marlborough’s journey abroad, though his health seems to have declined again, putting a stop to much business until the first week of November when he finally rallied.153 The Carmarthen match made satisfactory progress: on 18 Nov. it was reported that Lady Elizabeth Harley was to have £10,000 on her marriage.154 But with matters between the two families all but settled, in early December Leeds intervened, expressing himself amazed at news of the alliance, ‘it being contrary to your word to me [and] without my consent, which I told your lordship I should never give till he [Carmarthen] had reconciled himself to me’.155 Oxford hastened to assure Leeds that there was no intention of the marriage being concluded until all such problems had been attended to.156 In the event, it was celebrated on 16 Dec. with a number of issues unresolved.157

The Session of 1713

Oxford was present in the House for a series of prorogation days in early 1713 before the new session, delayed by the negotiations over the Treaty of Utrecht, finally began in April. In the intervening period he continued to struggle with his health while attempting to mediate between the various factions and to satisfy the continual demands for preferment from his supporters in both Houses.158 He was also faced with a series of legal actions and petitions relating to the settlement of Rivers’ estate.159 The lengthy prorogation threatened to upset relations between Oxford and the normally amenable Bromley. On 22 Dec. Bromley had written for information on the recall of Parliament, alerting Oxford to rumours being spread by the Whigs.160 Reports of meetings of senior Whigs at Pontack’s club in late January 1713 increased pressure on the ministry.161 Although Oxford announced on 9 Feb. that the session was to commence imminently, the queen’s ill health caused a further delay.162 By 18 Feb., with the session once more put off for a week, Bromley made plain his annoyance at having to inform his followers in the Commons of yet another postponement to proceedings:

I hope there was an absolute necessity for a longer prorogation because it gives great dissatisfaction to country gentlemen to be kept thus in an uncertain attendance, and an opportunity to others to make ill impressions on them in which no art or industry are wanting.163

Such tensions within the alliance may have been the reason for a rumour towards the end of the month that another six peers were to be created to bolster the ministry’s numbers in the Lords. In the event, there were no further creations until the summer, with the elevation of Robert Benson, Baron Bingley.164 Oxford was able, though, to take advantage of the translation of Philip Bisse, bishop of St Davids, to the bishopric of Hereford, to press the claims of his own kinsman to succeed Bisse. Adam Ottley, the new bishop of St Davids, was at least one sympathetic member of an Episcopal bench that had so far proved largely hostile to the administration.165 He also ensured that the barons’ bench was strengthened by the summoning of Carmarthen to the House by a writ of acceleration and took care to remind the archbishop of York that his proxy had been vacated by the prorogation and needed to be registered again.166

At the beginning of March 1713 a further postponement of the new session was announced, as Oxford was now intent on waiting for the signed peace treaty from Utrecht before facing Parliament again.167 The delay, while adding to the frustration of some, provided further opportunities for pre-sessional meetings. On 7 Mar. Dartmouth requested that Oxford call on him the next day to meet some of his (Dartmouth’s) friends, and on 8 Mar. Benson reminded Oxford of the efficacy of including Guernsey in a meeting the following day, as a compliment to Nottingham.168 The same day, Halifax undertook to give what support he could and hinted that Somers would also be willing to attend a meeting to concert measures relating to the peace.169 On 15 Mar. Cowper noted a meeting with Oxford, at which Oxford had been intent on assuring him that the Protestant succession was safe in his hands. Cowper seems to have come away from their meeting far from reassured, recording that Oxford had spoken ‘as always, very dark and confusedly’: ‘Upon the whole his discourse was either obscure and broken hints, or imposing or absurd to the highest degree; and as far different from the manner of his predecessor’s discourse, as darkness from light and in the same manner.’170 Oxford’s tendency to obfuscate appears, indeed, to have become more pronounced as his ministry progressed and was no doubt exacerbated by his increasingly desperate efforts both to hold together a disparate group of individuals and to attract back to his colours others who had little sympathy for his programme. Constant bouts of poor health and increasing reliance on alcohol no doubt added to the impression that he had lost his touch. By the end of 1713 the problem had become a general topic of conversation.171

With the opening of the new session postponed once more in the middle of March, Oxford was said to have been cursed by Tories who had lost money by returning to London too soon.172 They were also angered by his meeting with Halifax, Somers, Wharton and Orford, a move that seemed to confirm their suspicions that he was not to be trusted. Suspicion was not confined to the Tories. When Halifax attempted to hold a dinner party for members of the former administration, Oxford’s presence there caused Sunderland to refuse to enter Halifax’s house, while other Junto members declined breaking their bread with their arch-nemesis.173 Even so, negotiations between Oxford and the Whigs continued, though little progress was made in them.174 At the end of March, Oxford drafted one of a series of letters to the Electress Sophia, insisting on his ‘true zeal’ for her service and advising her to distinguish between those who were in her interest out of principle and those ‘who make use of your name only to express their anger against those who are in power’.175 His efforts to convince the court at Hanover of his sincerity were rendered more difficult by the signing of the treaty of Utrecht that month, which delighted the Tories but infuriated the Whigs and the Hanoverians.176 They were also contradicted by hostile reports from his critics later that summer, notably Marlborough, who insisted that Oxford was ‘too deeply engaged in another interest to do anything which would promote that of the Protestant succession.’177 The ministry’s ability to appeal across the factions was also compromised by the dismissal of several Whigs, among them Sir Richard Temple, future Viscount Cobham, and Hugh Cholmondeley, earl of Cholmondeley, for speaking out against the peace.178

With his base of support appearing ever more vulnerable, Oxford took his seat at the opening of the long-delayed new session. There was controversy at once when it was debated whether it was appropriate for the House to vote the queen thanks for her speech relating to the peace before the terms of the agreement were known. At the forefront of those criticizing the proposed address were Oxford’s contacts Halifax and Cowper. Oxford responded that a vote of thanks in no way precluded a subsequent enquiry into the settlement and that he hoped questions would be asked about those who had been at pains to obstruct ‘so good a work’. The ministry secured the passage of the address by 32 votes.179 The following day, there was renewed talk of Oxford’s promotion to a dukedom, with Bolingbroke expected to be advanced as an earl and Masham a viscount, but none of the suggested honours materialized.180 By now, the relationship between Oxford and Bolingbroke had all but collapsed amidst mutual suspicion. Swift was present at a dinner hosted by Oxford on 11 Apr., which was attended by the lord treasurer’s ‘Saturday company’, but (perhaps significantly) neither Bolingbroke nor Ormond.181 Throughout the session, Oxford compiled a series of memoranda detailing matters of policy, and individuals to be contacted in his efforts to shore up the ministerial alliance. As early as 29 Apr., however, a sense of pessimism, and of his complete reliance on the queen’s good-will, seemed to have crept into his reckoning underscored by his admission ‘I have no interest’.182 Dependent on his brother for information from the Commons, Oxford was warned by Edward on 9 May of the numbers of those seeking to have the place bill tacked to the malt tax.183 Two days later, he was contacted by George Booth, 2nd earl of Warrington, whose support he had bought with a promise of the payment of his pension arrears, and who was concerned that Oxford would not approve of the arrangements he had made for exercising his proxy.184

Oxford failed to use his interest in the chancery dispute between the dowager duchess of Newcastle and Thomas Pelham, 2nd Baron Pelham (later duke of Newcastle), in the middle of May.185 His attention was perhaps more focused on attending to the disgruntled Scots members, intent on introducing a bill into Parliament for dissolving the Union, partly in response to the imposition of the malt tax, which they claimed was contrary to the terms of the Union Treaty.186 On 1 June, having heard Findlater move for the dissolution of the Union during the debate on the state of the Nation, Oxford proposed that an expedient should be found to redress the Scots’ grievances. His suggestion was rejected by Charles Mordaunt, 3rd earl of Peterborough. It also attracted a snide remark from Sunderland that Oxford appeared to be suggesting the establishment of ‘a despotic dispensing power’. When Oxford riposted that ‘his family had never been for promoting and advising arbitrary measures’, a reflection on the career of Sunderland’s father, Sunderland retorted by remarking on Oxford’s parvenu antecedents.187 The court narrowly managed to have the bill for the dissolution of the Union rejected by four (proxy) votes.188 Four days later, it secured the second reading of the malt bill by a slender majority of two. One of those siding with the ministry was Warrington, whose support seems to have been secured at a meeting with Oxford earlier in the day.189 Once again, proxies were crucial in securing the victory, the ministry being in possession of 19 against the opposition’s eighteen.190 It did not mean the pressure on the administration had relaxed, with the controversy in the middle of June over the bill for implementing the Anglo-French commercial treaty (the French commerce bill). Later that month Carmarthen confessed that he had been approached by a number of people intent on turning him against his father-in-law.191 Carmarthen’s letter resulted in a swift response from Oxford, insisting on his continuing friendship for him and of his support in settling affairs with Leeds, even if it meant going to law.192

The loss of the French commerce bill by nine votes in the Commons on 18 June appeared once more to hint that Oxford may have lost his touch. It was suggested that the measure would have passed with ease had it been brought before the House a few days earlier.193 Oxford was said to have suffered from ‘convulsion fits’ on hearing the news of the bill’s rejection.194 Some, however, speculated that he had been privy to the agreement made between Sir Thomas Hanmer and Arthur Annesley, 5th earl of Anglesey, to throw the bill out, though others thought the move had been a deliberate snub intended to demonstrate to Oxford that the Tories would no longer ‘be put off with a trimming management, or longer endure the mingling of parties, for God or Baal is the word’.195 The latter interpretation was supported by one observer (R.W.), who declared that the failure of the commerce bill had been the work of the high churchmen, intent on making

the lord treasurer shake at root. The truth is he acts as if he were absolute and as if no body understood common sense besides himself… The loyal party [the Tories] have complained many times of his not altering the greatest part of the Whig lieutenancy… if there is not a clean house of all the Whigs before next Parliament: it will go hard with him.196

The prevailing view was that Oxford now had no option but to make his peace with the Tory October Club if he wished his ministry to survive, and that he would shortly be forced to undertake a reshuffle to the benefit of the Tories.197 This no doubt gave rise to rumours towards the end of June that Sir Thomas Hanmer would replace Bolingbroke as secretary, with Bolingbroke removed to the lesser if still influential court position of master of the horse.198 Pressure on Oxford came from outside the ranks of his supposed allies as well: soon after the loss of the commerce bill it was said that the Lords had agreed to consider a motion to bring an action against him.199

In the face of these difficulties, Oxford marshalled his resources as best he could. Both he and Bolingbroke spoke in the debates in the House at the end of the month over the commerce bill. On 29 June he wrote to William North 6th Baron North and 2nd Baron Grey of Rolleston, alerting him to ‘an attack being designed [next day] directly against the queen’s message for payment of her debts’ and requesting North’s presence in town to help defeat the attempt.200 The following day (30 June) Oxford spoke in the debate resulting from the motion for an address calling for the Pretender to be expelled from Lorraine (engaging in ‘warm’ exchanges with Wharton). He also wrote to the duchess of Newcastle asserting his ‘attachment to your real interest’.201 Soon after, Oxford was once more prostrated with ill health, which presumably explains his absence from the House for several days in the first week of July.202 Although he rallied sufficiently to attend the final few days of the session, which was prorogued on 16 July, by the 20th he was said to be very much indisposed, suffering from gravel and sore eyes.203 While ill, he had to deal with renewed manoeuvrings in the various cases in which he was involved, concerning the Newcastle estate and the settlement of affairs between Carmarthen and Leeds, as well as further pressure from Warrington to see to the payment of his arrears.204 On 24 July he was still too unwell to leave his house, which in turn led to a postponement of the Garter ceremony at which he was to be installed as one of the new members.205 Although he was expected to be well enough to go out toward the end of the month, Poulett sought to persuade him to agree to be installed by proxy so as not to risk his health any further.206

The extent of the challenge facing Oxford at the close of July was underlined by one letter which spoke of his refusal ‘to be wise to himself’ by leaving business at a stand, with the ministry riven with internal feuding and his own fall spoken of as merely a matter of time.207 Reports of likely alterations in the ministry, designed by Oxford to counter future rebellions such as that which had overturned the commercial treaty, only contributed further to the tension within the ranks of the government. Henry Somerset, 2nd duke of Beaufort, was said to be dismayed by the news that Bolingbroke was to be master of the horse, a post Beaufort hoped to secure for himself, and although by the close of July it was thought that Bolingbroke would instead be appointed lord privy seal, Beaufort remained disappointed in his ambition and the office of master of the horse was eventually restored to Somerset (the former holder) the following year.208 Other changes made later in the summer, such as the advancement of Bromley to the place of secretary of state in place of Dartmouth, who had been ‘out of humour a good while’, and of Hanmer to be Speaker of the Commons (not to the chancellorship of the exchequer as had been speculated) proved more effective in restoring to Oxford a degree of control.209 It may have been indicative of the hostility to Oxford, though, that several of his colleagues excused their attendance at the delayed ceremony at Windsor of his installation as a knight of the Garter.210

Retreat from the Court, 1713-14

Oxford seems to have suffered a minor relapse of his illness in August 1713, but it was not serious enough to prevent him from waiting on the queen at Windsor on several days that month.211 Later in August he removed to Wimpole for the marriage celebrations of his son and Lady Henrietta (Harriet) Cavendish, and he did not return to London until the first week of September.212 The Harley-Cavendish-Holles match inspired Ralph Bridges to comment that Oxford had ‘indeed provided for his family without putting the public to any charge, which will cut off many occasions from the foul-mouthed gainsayers of this age.’213 Bridges’ apparent compliment, if sincere, was out of line with the growing criticism of Oxford from all sides. It may have been an oblique reference to Oxford’s efforts to secure the dukedom of Newcastle for his son. In doing so, Oxford seems to have miscalculated badly: his request was refused out of hand by the queen. Despite Oxford’s (hardly credible) insistence that Lady Henrietta’s ‘virtues’ were ‘more valuable than any estate’ his pretensions for his son served to fuel tales of his increasingly overweening ambition.214 According to Ralph Wingate, ‘neither Whig or Tory either love him or trust him’. On 7 Sept. Oxford compiled a memorandum referring to a combination being designed against him by his own friends.215

A strong Tory showing in the elections of September 1713 added to Oxford’s difficulties, even though there were private successes, among them the re-election of his heir, Edward Harley, at New Radnor. The queen’s refusal of Oxford’s petition for the dukedom also appears to have affected him deeply. He castigated himself for reaching too far and the affair may have contributed to him turning to drink later that autumn.216 On the surface, he continued with business as normal, resuming his regular attendance at Windsor for much of the remainder of September. Towards the end of the month he wrote to Findlater, welcoming him back into the queen’s service.217 But divisions within the ranks of the ministry continued to develop. On 26 Sept. Russell Robartes wrote to Oxford seeking his assurance that he would be allowed to keep his place at the exchequer, which he hoped would not be imperilled by the disloyal behaviour of his brother, Charles Bodvile Robartes, 2nd earl of Radnor.218 Oxford’s authority was further compromised towards the end of the month when it was put about that the court of Hanover had released a declaration announcing that ‘they have no aversion to the Tories, but only to those concerned in making and forwarding the peace, that they are never to be forgiven.’219 The Hanoverian announcement appeared to leave Oxford little room for manoeuvre, and diminished the prospect of him being able to maintain his position following the queen’s death. Even so, he seems not to have had anything but the most desultory negotiation with the Jacobites and from this point onwards (if not before) his overriding intention appears to have been a desperate effort to keep the Jacobite Tories from wresting control and to enable a smooth transition to the new royal house, even though he could expect few favours in return. This being the case, maintaining the support of a core in both Houses in the coming sessions became more significant than ever. Thanking Weymouth for his congratulations on the marriage of Lord Harley to Lady Henrietta, as well as taking the opportunity to congratulate Weymouth’s successes in the elections, Oxford insisted that he knew ‘not how to continue so valuable a friendship but by devoting myself and family to the interest, the true interest of my country, and therein to concur in measures with your lordship.’220

Despite the professed friendship of men like Weymouth, Oxford’s difficulties showed no signs of diminishing by the autumn of 1713. Relations between Leeds and Carmarthen soured and Oxford was also troubled with an appeal by the Catholic John Savage, 5th Earl Rivers, that he employ his interest to ensure that a dispute with Harcourt and Trevor was resolved.221 On 3 Oct. he wrote to Leeds insisting that:

I am sure I have made it my study with no small pains to obtain peace in your family and to procure that for your grace which [would] have made you easy… I am very sorry to find by your grace’s letter that I am an unprofitable servant, I am sure I had no view but the zeal of making peace.222

With his health once more on the wane, the same day Oxford recorded in one of his many memoranda how, ‘I am now ill spoken of by all sides – Why? Because some of both are against making peace.’223 By the beginning of the second week of the month he confessed to be ‘very often in pain’ and was once more suffering from ‘the gravel’. Even so he rallied himself to travel to Windsor, where he was at last able to arrive at a settlement with Leeds.224

With Parliament unlikely to meet until after Christmas, the final three months of the year were spent once more in a round of negotiations with wavering ministry supporters and Whigs whom Oxford hoped once more to attract to his colours.225 Oxford’s memoranda reveal the efforts he made to remain in contact with a variety of individuals such as Bromley, Bolingbroke, Poulett, Somerset, General James Stanhope, later Earl Stanhope, and Warrington.226 Although he was assured of the support of some of the Scots such as John Campbell, earl of Breadalbane [S], Charles Douglas, 2nd earl of Selkirk [S], and other members of the Hamilton clan, the elections of the summer offered Oxford no hope of a more balanced administration.227 The poll returned an even stronger Tory House of Commons, despite the efforts of some Whig candidates to ‘deceive the people’ by standing as ‘Church Tories’, though there were some personal successes such as the return of Paul Foley for Aldborough on the interest of the duchess of Newcastle (to whom he had been recommended by Oxford).228 Oxford was also able to reply on the faithful support of another kinsman, Thomas Foley.229 Early in November, Warrington appealed once again to Oxford for his arrears of pay, promising that this would ‘lay such an obligation on me’ and heavily underlining his view that he had ‘hitherto kept my word to your lordship in some things where I was much pressed to the contrary.’230 Oxford’s continuing efforts to moderate the administration resulted in renewed grumbling from the Tories, who let it be known that the lord treasurer had failed to meet their expectations.231 Such matters were thrown into sharp relief by the sudden death of Lady Carmarthen in mid-November.232 The loss of his favourite daughter, who had recently given birth to a son, left Oxford inconsolable.233 Prostrated with grief, he was reported to have immured himself within his home refusing to see anyone except his son-in-law, whom he advised to ‘moderate your grief for the sake of the dear little one’.234

The timing of Oxford’s loss and retreat from court could not have been worse. It permitted his rivals to inveigle themselves back into favour, damaging irreparably Oxford’s relationship with the queen. Even so, the bereavement in no way stemmed the constant flow of requests and petitions to the lord treasurer, which forced him back to his office at the treasury for two days in the first week of December, as well as into making the journey once more to Windsor.235 On 9 Dec. he responded to a petition from Henry Grey, duke of Kent, and explained that his ‘misfortune’ had prevented him from attending the council the previous day, but that he had seen to it that Kent’s request about the shrievalty of Bedfordshire had been attended to.236 The next day, he attended Parliament when it was prorogued to the following month. A further round of demands from Warrington resulted in a warning from Russell Robartes (who credited himself with having persuaded Warrington to support the ministry) about the consequences of failing to gratify Warrington.237

The series of afflictions that Oxford had endured over the previous few months no doubt added weight to rumours put about by the Whigs shortly before Christmas that he was on the point of resigning and that the treasury was to be put back into commission, although this was dismissed as ‘groundless whimsy’. A new round of quarrels were triggered by disputes over the disbursement of funds from a new lottery.238 Oxford was quick to take political advantage of the windfall, seeking to secure the continued support of those in possession of household offices by ordering the payment of several pensions and two years’ worth of back wages.239 News of the queen’s illness and unfounded reports spread shortly after Christmas of her death produced a new crisis, sending Oxford scurrying once again to Windsor to take control of the crisis.240

The year 1714

The queen’s ill health appears to have been the reason why Oxford drew up a further memorandum in the middle of January 1714 listing those against and in support of the Hanoverian succession. Among the latter, he emphasized the presence of the queen and her servants.241 In mid-January he joined Bolingbroke, Bingley and other commissioners of the South Sea Company at a dinner at Merchant Taylors’ Hall, which was also attended by representatives from the Africa Company to discuss the Asiento.242 With Parliament due to reassemble in the coming weeks, he set about making preparations for the new session, inviting his son-in-law Carmarthen to lodge with him while he was in town, which he hoped would make the prospect of the return to London less melancholy.243 Preparing for Parliament coincided with renewed wrangling over the settlement of the Newcastle estate, and Oxford gratefully accepted Pelham’s suggestion of Cowper to act as mediator. Clearly at pains to flatter the former lord chancellor, Oxford expatiated on his talents, declaring that ‘the world is full of those who out of envy or interest will promote strife and disputes amongst relations: but your lordship has that rare quality of studying peace and to do good.’244

Not everyone could expect such effusiveness. A renewed appeal from Warrington towards the end of January for payment of part of his arrears, elicited a cautious response from Oxford, and Warrington was disappointed in his request once more.245 On this occasion, he appears to have accepted Oxford’s explanation of the cause of the continued delay, and undertook to be patient and to remain in the lord treasurer’s interest for the time being.246 The end of the month found Oxford struggling once more with poor health, though on 30 Jan. 1714 he compiled a memorandum reminding him to write to seven of the Scots peers as well as noting that ‘the same principle which made me so active for the first act of Parliament will continue me to act for the Protestant Succession.’ He also trusted that the recent alarm caused by the queen’s illness had demonstrated ‘how steadfast everyone is for the queen’s interest and that of the succession.’247 On 7 Feb. another memorandum noted that an article about Hanover should be included in the queen’s speech.248

Oxford took his seat at the opening of the new Parliament on 16 Feb. 1714. He attended on 72 per cent of all sitting days. His efforts to keep the administration’s supporters in line once more proved a frustrating challenge. Reports that Hanmer, irritated by the ministry’s behaviour towards Hanover, meant not to stand as Speaker in the Commons, precipitated a brief crisis, but this was averted through the interposition of both Oxford and Bromley, and Hanmer was elected according to plan.249 Oxford was also preoccupied with ensuring that other supporters of the ministry turned out in time for the first day. Having initially promised to be in attendance soon after the opening of Parliament, George Hooper, bishop of Bath and Wells, was late in returning to London.250 Others plagued Oxford with constant demands for favours. Henry Paget, 8th Baron Paget, later earl of Uxbridge, proved a perennial irritant with his demands for promotion in the peerage. Paget (one of Oxford’s dozen, who had sat in the House as Lord Burton before succeeding to his father’s barony) expressed surprise at having to ask again for the award: ‘I cannot but think myself treated with great unkindness and therefore hope your lordship will pardon me for now desiring to know whether I have done anything to deserve it.’ A few days later, Paget wrote again, blaming Oxford squarely for the lack of progress in his suit.251 At the same time, Oxford faced continuing problems with the Scots peers and with his efforts to maintain relations with the court of Hanover. On 20 Feb. 1714 his frustrations relating to the former spilled over in a new memorandum, in which he complained that ‘I have done the utmost to support the [Scots] peers and at the same time to secure their reputations. They do all they can by their distrust to authenticate all the scandals that their enemies lay on them.’ On the following day, a further memorandum indicated his disquiet at the stance being taken by Hanover: ‘They have… showed only their desire to come in by a party and not by the whole which will never last in England.’252

A week’s adjournment at the end of February offered Oxford space to review the situation further. In a memorandum of 24 Feb. he expressed his desperate resolution to ‘confine all to their respective offices and charge them to live well together.’253 A rumour that there was to be another mass creation of eight peers reflected the precarious state of the ministry; although by the beginning of March it was reported that the idea had been laid aside, there was talk aplenty of some of the older peers being so disgusted at the progress of affairs that they had opted to retire: ‘never so much ill humour was seen at the beginning of a session.’254 As ever, part of the reason for the Tories’ disgust was Oxford’s continuing negotiations with men like Halifax, but he faced equal criticism from the opposite side. Later that month he was lampooned, along with Bolingbroke, in a pamphlet that declared the two men were ‘given to drinking and whoring and are Jacobites and in the interest of France.’255

Oxford resumed his seat following the adjournment on 2 Mar. 1714, on which day he was entrusted with the proxy of George Fitzroy, duke of Northumberland. Later that month he was also entrusted with that of John West, 6th Baron De la Warr. Following the queen’s speech he moved adroitly to Swift’s aid by seconding Wharton’s motion for The Public Spirit of the Whigs to be censured and then supporting the motion for the publisher to be committed to black rod. Swift had penned the Public Spirit with Oxford’s connivance in response to Richard Steele’santi-ministerial The Crisis and Oxford’s apparent support for Wharton’s proposal was in fact a subtle piece of misdirection: while apparently co-operating with Wharton’s demands for an investigation he was careful to disown all knowledge of the identity of the author of the Public Spirit and to do all in his power to ensure that no progress was made in unearthing those responsible for it. He slipped Swift £100 to help defray any resulting legal costs in case of discovery.256 At the same time, Oxford’s attention was also occupied with his private concerns. On 5 Mar. he joined Shrewsbury in submitting a joint answer to a legal bill relating to the Rivers estate that had been brought in by Rivers’ son-in-law, James Barry, 4th earl of Barrymore [I].257

Perhaps unnerved by the tense opening of the session, browbeaten, suffering from poor health and drinking heavily, Oxford seems to have all but given up the struggle. On 15 Mar. he wrote to Harcourt conveying his intention to step down.258 Although it is possible that this was intended as a bluff to jolt the warring factions back into line, there is good reason to believe that Oxford meant what he wrote.259 Harcourt believed so, and responded the next day, begging Oxford not to act rashly.260 Oxford meanwhile penned a further memorandum in which he bemoaned his current situation. Entitling it ‘Mr R.H. case’, he listed his grievances and concluded that ‘now is the time to retire.’261 Oxford was not the only politician of his time to compile forecasts and assessments: Nottingham was also a copious record keeper. But Oxford was perhaps unusual in the degree to which he committed such personal thoughts and concerns to paper. He echoed the sentiment in a letter later that month, in which he asserted that for the past twelve months he had been seeking out an appropriate time to retire, ‘for though I do not fear the rage of my enemies… yet I neither love to be undermined; nor am so fond of anything as to stand in my friends’ way.’262

In spite of his apparent readiness to throw in his hand, Oxford stepped back from the brink and turned his mind again to government business. On 17 Mar. he drafted his speech in response to the motion for an address to be presented to the queen seeking the Pretender’s expulsion from France and Lorraine.263 The same day he was entrusted with the proxy of John Cecil, 6th earl of Exeter. Two days later, he managed to rally sufficient numbers of courtiers to attend the House’s debates concerning the Catalans to ensure the failure of an intended assault on the ministry by the Whig opposition.264 Oxford’s reluctant decision to carry on did not prevent former allies from continuing their efforts to displace him. Although Harcourt had appeared dismayed at Oxford’s intention to resign only days before, on 19 Mar. he summoned the lord treasurer into his chambers once the House had risen for the day to warn him that his position was indeed growing untenable: he had lost the support of Lady Masham and the queen was annoyed by his constant lateness when waiting on her.265 Harcourt’s warning was probably delivered at the bidding of Bolingbroke, with whom the lord chancellor appears to have been in uneasy alliance.266 Although Oxford seems to have been utterly unaware of his old friend Harcourt’s change of allegiance, he was clearly well aware that he was now under serious threat from Bolingbroke. His actions over the ensuing months appear to have been focused solely on impeding Bolingbroke’s seizure of the initiative. With this in mind, he proposed on 20 Mar. that a bill be brought in to make it treason to land foreign forces in Britain. Although some feared that this might be interpreted by the Hanoverian court as a move against the elector, it was correctly assessed elsewhere as an attempt to underwrite the Hanoverian succession and to obstruct efforts to bring in the Pretender.267 It did not, of course, prevent his old foe, the duchess of Marlborough, spreading a rumour that ‘the sorcerer’ had sought to deter people from speaking out against the Jacobite court: he had, she alleged, spread his own rumour that the Pretender had offered £2,000 to anyone who brought him the head of the man responsible for offering a reward for the Pretender’s capture.268

While Oxford may have been deserted by Harcourt, he was able to rely throughout the final months of his ministry on the support of Bromley, who also assured Oxford of Anglesey’s desire to use his interest on the ministry’s behalf. In return, Anglesey hoped for assistance in his efforts to prevent William Jephson, dean of Cashel in Ireland from being promoted to the bishops’ bench.269 Oxford’s efforts in the House were focused on safeguarding the succession and protecting himself from assault by the Whigs. On 22 Mar. 1714, in response to a proposal by Wharton that an address be presented to the queen requesting that all pardons granted in the last three years should be laid before the House, Oxford was succeeded in amending it to include all pardons during the reign.270 The challenge he faced, though, was emphasized by the narrowness of his majority in the Lords: towards the end of the month it was estimated that he was able to carry his business in the Lords by no more than six or seven votes.271 Allies attempted to steel him to carry on: Ilay urged him to accept that it was in his ‘power to save the nation and yourself’ insisting that ‘whoever would serve their country at this juncture would be unwilling… to disserve your lordship.’272 His brother Edward also sought to stiffen Oxford’s resolve with the evidence of divine intervention: ‘You have been protected and prospered almost miraculously, the favour of the Almighty has been your sole confidence which never forsakes those that trust in him.’273

By the end of March, however, it was widely reported that divisions within the ministry were continuing to grow and that Oxford was to be turned out.274 Evidently, the pressure on him to resign or be removed came from both sides. In his letter of 30 Mar. to his son-in-law, Carmarthen, he confessed to having ‘undergone a very sincere trial’ since he last saw him, and the same day he complained to Cowper that ‘the way your people drive is as extravagant and [as] unlikely to last as what our mad folks would have been at.’275 On 1 Apr. it was rumoured that the alliance of Bolingbroke, Harcourt and Trevor was proving too potent for Oxford to combat. The state of indecision and disharmony was probably reflected in reports of 2 Apr. that the court was not ready to proceed with its business and that the day had been taken up with a series of cabinet meetings.276 At the same time Oxford faced continuing demands for satisfaction from Rivers and Warrington. On 10 Apr. Warrington appealed, once more, for payment of his arrears, reminding Oxford how helpful he had been to the ministry and professing not to believe that he had only been promised his pension by Oxford in order to secure his vote. 277

With the ministry once again on the brink of collapse, Oxford was made aware of renewed requests from Hanover for the electoral prince of Hanover, Prince George, to be granted his writ of summons to the Lords as duke of Cambridge.278 As Oxford had anticipated, the request infuriated the queen, but perhaps more significantly, as one of Oxford’s memoranda made plain, it also threatened to disturb the delicate balance within the Tory party. Tales of Tory members appearing on a black list compiled by the Hanoverian minister, Schütz, risked forcing some of them into the arms of the Jacobites.279 Oxford feared this might be exacerbated by the rumours that Lady Masham and the queen were secretly opposed to the Hanoverian succession, an idea repeated to him earlier in the month by the dowager duchess of Hamilton.280 He proposed that the queen summon a general assembly to assure them of her true interests.281 Debates in the House on 20 Apr. 1714 touched on the question of the Pretender, and the proposal for a reward to be granted to anyone taking him dead or alive. When it was queried whether killing the pretender would be murder, Oxford confirmed that it would, and proposed an amendment, so that the reward would go to anyone who apprehended the Pretender on his landing.282 The following day, he received another encouraging letter from Halifax, assuring him of his desire to help in making Oxford ‘the happy instrument of saving our country.’283

Oxford was absent from the House from 21 Apr. to 7 May 1714. The intervening period found Bolingbroke insisting to Strafford that in spite of their disagreements he (Bolingbroke) remained Oxford’s friend and had proved it during the first part of the session. Tellingly, he also related that Oxford had been on the point of resigning but had been prevented by the queen. According to Bolingbroke, Oxford now had ‘the ball at his foot to drive as he pleases’.284 A report of early May suggested that Oxford was enjoying a temporary rapprochement with Lady Masham. Nevertheless, he continued to be beleaguered on other fronts, fielding increasingly angry and frustrated petitions from Warrington and Paget, the latter now also irritated by the delay in his departure for Hanover on an embassy to dissuade the duke of Cambridge from coming to England. His decision to summon John Sharp, archbishop of York, to the queen so that she could make public her support for the Hanoverian succession was regarded as a mistake.285 In early May, the Whigs began to put it about that the discredited scheme to bring over the duke of Cambridge had been Oxford’s and on 3 May it was reported that although Oxford had for the while got the better of Bolingbroke, his credit with everyone else was spent.286 Oxford’s memorandum of 5 May 1714 suggested that he was still striving to patch together some sort of alliance: it listed figures such as Halifax and Nottingham to be consulted, as well as making mention of a Hanoverian-backed scheme for Argyll to be appointed generalissimo of Scotland.287 A week later, he wrote to Cowper relaying a conversation he had had with Harcourt about Cambridge’s summons to the House, fretting that what ‘is now in agitation about the duke of Cambridge will drive everybody to the wall’. He attempted to assure Cowper that ‘I speak the sense of many sober Whigs.’288 In an account compiled the following day, Thomas Bateman, a regular correspondent of the former secretary Sir William Trumbull, speculated whether Oxford would succeed in making his peace with his former party or whether the Whigs would simply make use of him to regain and power and then discard him.289 He continued to be troubled by affairs relating to the Rivers estate and on 12 May he was warned that Barrymore had decided to take matters into his own hands and to take possession of the Rock Savage rents;290 and he was subjected to yet another reproachful letter from Warrington, in which Warrington cautioned the lord treasurer to remember that ‘my poor service was once wanted, and may be so again, neither your lordship nor I know the future.’291

In mid-May Oxford decided to reach out to the Hanoverian Tory, Sir Thomas Hanmer, with whom he hoped to able to unite in ‘joint endeavours’.292 At the same time, Cowper advised Oxford to remove those from power ‘who will not so much as profess themselves to be for the true interest of their country.’ The reward for this, along with the benefit to the nation, would be Oxford’s personal security: ‘When that is done and there is a ministry of one mind in that great point, nothing of this nature can then drive you to the wall.’293 The continuing uncertainties and concern about the duke of Cambridge’s imminent arrival in England gave rise to rumours that the Court was by now eager to see the session closed, even at the risk of losing supply.294 The subsequent news that Cambridge no longer intended to make the journey from Germany may well have come as a relief to Oxford, who was said to have entangled himself in a muddle by trying to satisfy both Hanover and the queen over the question of Cambridge’s writ of summons.295 But less reassuring were reports that he had once more fallen foul of Lady Masham, that she was again working closely with Bolingbroke, and that both of them had advised the queen that Oxford was responsible for all of the recent difficulties relating to Cambridge. The result, according to one commentator, was that Oxford would soon see ‘what condition double dealing and insincerity will bring anybody into.’ 296

Matters failed to improve over the following days. Oxford’s own memoranda confessed that ‘the public affairs are in great disorder’ and stated the need to ‘know whence these disorders spring in order to find the remedy’.297 A further memorandum on the following day (23 May), considering his response to the schism bill and other matters, struck a more melancholy note still. Querying whether there had been anything he had ‘done or brought in but in concert’ the note concluded disconsolately, ‘I am useless. Let me be either in or out.’298 Although one report of the time suggested that Bolingbroke might be dismissed, few seemed in any doubt that it was Oxford who would go.299 On 25 May, Trevor informed the treasurer that he would be in town the next day, lamenting that Oxford appeared so apprehensive.300 Pinioned between the Whigs and Tories, on 27 May Oxford was forecast by Nottingham as being a likely supporter of the schism bill, but there is no doubt that it was not a measure with which he would ordinarily have cared to be associated. Towards the end of May, news of a temporary reconciliation between Oxford and Bolingbroke was reported, but by then Oxford seems to have all but given up.301 In a memorandum of 2 June he noted, ‘I stand still and let them attack me. I desire rather to withdraw/go out than [resist].’302 The following day, it was reported that he would shortly be removed from his post, having once more fallen out with Lady Masham. According to the letter writer (the Scottish Whig, James Johnston), Oxford’s own friends by now were advising him to quit while his belated and apparently half-hearted overtures to the Whigs were viewed with little interest: ‘He is tampering with the Whigs, but words will not do.’303

News of the death of the Electress Sophia on 4 June coincided with the first reading of the schism bill.304 It also offered the court at Hanover a convenient excuse for suspending the duke of Cambridge’s planned journey.305 Unwilling to give any more than the slightest countenance to the schism bill, Oxford left the House on 11 June before the vote on the dissenters’ petition for relief, but four days later, conforming to Nottingham’s assessment, he joined the slim majority that voted to pass the measure.306 Although his grudging acceptance of this bill bought him more time with the Tories, by then his quarrel with Bolingbroke had become a matter of such public knowledge that it was referred to openly in the Commons. In a memorandum of 8 June, Oxford had noted, perhaps in preparation for an audience with the queen, ‘Madam: Godolphin is out, Harley out. Who will trust after that?’ Two days prior to the vote on the schism bill (13 June), he had pondered in another of his private jottings, ‘Can anyone that will not live with me live with anyone else?’307

By the middle of June 1714 it was believed that Parliament would be prorogued within a fortnight, amidst rumours that Shrewsbury had at last come off the fence and made common cause with Bolingbroke against Oxford. Oxford, having failed to lay ‘a foundation for support or pity’, was thus unsurprisingly thought at the end of the month to be on the point of being replaced by Bolingbroke, though some thought that the treasury was to be put back into commission with Bolingbroke taking the place of first commissioner rather than lord treasurer.308 Peter Wentworth recorded the general confusion and how the changes at court seemed not to be proceeding as some had assumed. He also noted how, embittered by his treatment, Oxford was said to have assured the Whigs that he would not oppose them if they tried to impeach the man intent on displacing him.309 Despite this, Oxford remained unwilling to join wholeheartedly with the Whigs and some vestiges of collaboration within the ministry continued. On 30 June the House gave a first reading to the bill for examining accounts. It was then voted to be read a second time, by a majority of 11, the margin falling to just five on the subsequent motion to appoint a specific day for considering the measure. Thomas Bateman reckoned that it was ‘so tender a point, that… the two great ones [Oxford and Bolingbroke] will think it more prudent to unite their face in it, rather than by their disagreeing in it, let the Whigs get a censure passed upon the proceedings.’310 Two days later, on 2 July, Oxford and Bolingbroke were both reported to have made ‘excellent speeches’ during the debate on the commerce bill.311

There was no disguising, though, Bolingbroke’s steady rise and Oxford’s inexorable decline. Although, in a memorandum of 4 July, Oxford suggested that he still hoped to convince the queen to facilitate another reconciliation between himself and Lady Masham, the final weeks of his tenure of office were marked by reports of a new triumvirate emerging, comprising Bolingbroke, Harcourt and Francis Atterbury, bishop of Rochester.312 Oxford himself, snubbed by his former colleagues, was now said to be ‘endeavouring to retrieve himself with the Whigs… a-courting them in order to save himself in that herd’.313 His interest in terminal decline, he waited on the queen on three occasions on 9 July, the final day of the session, to secure her answer to the Lords’ address concerning the Asiento.314 By the middle of the month alterations in the administration were anticipated daily. There were renewed rumours that Oxford was to be promoted to the dukedom of Newcastle and granted a pension of £4,000 or £5,000 as compensation for his removal from office.315 Oxford himself seemed resigned to the inevitable but unwilling to act, behaving with ‘a negligence that looks like despair’.316 On 21 July yet another report of him being soon to be turned out was qualified with the assessment that this was a state of affairs ‘he seems not averse to, though he will not lay down.’317 This appears to have been Oxford’s attitude in the final weeks of his administration and, arguably, since the beginning of the year. However marginalized and disgruntled he seemed, convinced that the queen’s health could not hold out for long, his policy was to await his dismissal but to refuse to provide Bolingbroke with a moment longer in control than necessary by resigning.

Present at a meeting of the cabinet held at the Cockpit on 22 July, five days later Oxford’s wait was at last brought to a conclusion when his white staff was taken from him.318 Although it was rumoured that Poulett and (improbably) Harcourt were to join him in laying down their places, by 30 July it was apparent that Oxford was to be the only senior casualty of the reorganization.319 According to one report the queen remained ‘loath to part with’ him ‘but was teased into it’, the chief mover being Trevor rather than Bolingbroke.320 Even though Oxford had long anticipated this eventuality he seems to have been genuinely dismayed by the vituperative nature of the queen’s criticism of his conduct. Reluctant to part with him or not, Queen Anne lambasted her former favourite for coming before her drunk, late, and garbling his reports to her.321 Completely out of favour, he left office without compensation.322

Out of office and final years

Oxford’s only satisfaction was that it was not Bolingbroke but Shrewsbury who succeeded him as lord treasurer, and a mere four days after being put out of office he was able to witness the safe succession of King George.323 There his satisfaction no doubt ended. Omitted from the list of regents, Oxford was stripped of his remaining offices within days of the king’s accession and, following the king’s arrival in England, he was made more than aware that his presence was undesirable.324 The following year, he was impeached and imprisoned in the Tower, where he remained for the following two years.325 On his release in 1717, he resumed his attendance in Parliament, but there seems little doubt that, out of favour and suffering from the effects of a constitution wrecked by years of hard drinking (as well as his two years of confinement), he was less than a shadow of his former self. In January 1724 he complained that his recent attendance of the House and the ‘rudeness of the season’ had brought on poor health.326 Even so, he continued to sit until April of that year before finally succumbing the following month at his house in Albemarle Street. According to Bromley he was ‘delivered from a miserable life, made so by the cruel effects of malice, ingratitude, and the iniquity of the times.’327 The final decade of his career will be considered in detail in the second part of this work.

For all the hectic quality of the last months of his ministry, Oxford’s achievement in the last years of Queen Anne should not be doubted, first as chancellor of the exchequer and latterly as lord treasurer. His management of the Lords was never as adept as his management of the Commons. He was wrong-footed by procedural differences and found his style of leadership less well suited to the formality of the upper chamber. But to exaggerate his loss of control once he had left the Commons is to miss the point. Even before his promotion to the Lords his manipulation of both the administration and Parliament had been a hand-to-mouth operation, making it all the more remarkable that he was able to keep together for as long as he did such a disparate group of people. That he was able to hold back the tide of the immoderate Tories until within a few days of the queen’s death ensured the peaceful accession of George I. Accusations of latent Jacobitism are unconvincing.328 He may, like many other courtiers, have engaged on occasion in desultory discussions with agents of the Jacobite court, but neither party was fooled. Oxford had as little interest in seeing a partial Catholic, ‘bred up in French measures’, on the throne as he did either a Junto or ultra-Tory ministry dominating the government.329 The Jacobites were equally clear that as far as they were concerned, Oxford was ‘not to be trusted’.330 Obfuscation may have been the hallmark of the man but for all his reputation as a devious and slippery politician, Oxford inspired affection and loyalty as well as dislike and suspicion. His administration was undoubtedly hampered by over-reliance on expediency but he remained a consummate parliamentary operator and a master of the arts of court management.


  • 1 HMC Portland, v. 204.
  • 2 HP Commons 1690-1715, iii. 1056.
  • 3 Add. 70087, ‘An account of Lord Oxford’s death put in the Evening Post’, 23 May 1724.
  • 4 CSP Dom. 1704-5, p. 26.
  • 5 Add. 72502, f. 13.
  • 6 HMC Portland, iii. 492; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 489.
  • 7 Salop RO, Ludlow borough recs., min. bk. 1690-1712.
  • 8 CSP Dom. 1696, p. 488; CSP Dom. 1700-1702, pp. 254-5.
  • 9 Add. 70247, W. Levinz to Oxford, 8 July 1712.
  • 10 Carswell, South Sea Bubble, 57.
  • 11 Al. Carth. 78.
  • 12 Hunter, Royal Society.
  • 13 HMC Portland, v. 156-8. This biography draws on G. Holmes, ‘The Great Ministry’; D.W. Hayton, ‘Robert Harley’, HP Commons 1690-1715; B.W. Hill, Robert Harley: Speaker, Secretary of State and Premier Minister; S. Biddle, Bolingbroke and Harley; and E.S. Roscoe, Robert Harley, earl of Oxford.
  • 14 Tory and Whig, ed. S. Taylor and C. Jones, (1998), 203.
  • 15 Hill, Robert Harley, vi.
  • 16 TNA, PRO 30/24/20, nos. 55, 57 .
  • 17 Hill, Robert Harley, 1; Holmes, British Politics, 259, 261.
  • 18 Feiling, Tory Party, 315.
  • 19 Wentworth Pprs. 132.
  • 20 A. Downie, Harley and the Press, 37.
  • 21 Add. 61120, ff. 98-9.
  • 22 Add. 61126, ff. 37-8; Add. 61479, f. 9.
  • 23 Beinecke Lib. OSB MSS fc 37, vol. 13, no. xviii.
  • 24 Beinecke Lib. OSB MSS fc 37, vol. 13, nos. xix, xxii, xxiii; TNA, PRO 30/24/21/146; Cumbria RO, D/Lons/W2/1/41.
  • 25 TNA, PRO 30/24/21/146.
  • 26 Marlborough-Godolphin corresp. 1584.
  • 27 HMC Bath, i. 54.
  • 28 Wentworth Pprs. 128; D. Somerville, King of Hearts, 254-55.
  • 29 HMC Bath, I. 191, 195, 196.
  • 30 Add. 61461, f. 32; Marlborough-Godolphin corresp. 1509-10.
  • 31 Add. 70295, Harley to [Rev. H. Aldrich], 5 June 1710.
  • 32 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 13; Add. 72499, ff. 185-6; Add. 61118, ff. 47-8; Add. 61463, ff. 116-17, 120-3, 124-7; Add. 61465, ff. 9-10.
  • 33 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 12-16, 19, 22.
  • 34 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 14, 16; Hamilton Diary, 15.
  • 35 Biddle, Bolingbroke and Harley, 182.
  • 36 HMC Portland, ii. 212-13.
  • 37 E.L. Ellis, ‘The Whig Junto’ (Oxford D.Phil, 1961), i. 42.
  • 38 Biddle, Bolingbroke and Harley, 169, 185.
  • 39 HMC Portland, iv. 573.
  • 40 Cumbria RO, D/Lons/W2/1/43.
  • 41 Add. 70333, memorandum, 12 Sept. 1710.
  • 42 HMC Portland, ii. 218-20.
  • 43 Cowper Diary, 42-3, 45.
  • 44 Wentworth Pprs. 151, 154.
  • 45 HMC Portland, ii. 222-3.
  • 46 Party and Management, ed. Jones, 124.
  • 47 Leics. RO, DG 7, Box 4950, bundle 23, letter E22.
  • 48 Add. 72495, ff. 57-8; Add. 72541, f. 2.
  • 49 SCLA, DR 671/89, pp. 8-9; Add. 72500, ff. 54-5; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 700.
  • 50 C. Jones, ‘Robert Harley and the Myth of the Golden Thread’, eBLJ, (2010), 1-15.
  • 51 Add. 70144, E. to A. Harley, 17 Mar. 1711.
  • 52 Add. 70144, E. to A. Harley, 27 Mar. 1711; Surr. Hist. Cent. 371/14/O/1/2, J. to C. Cocks, 1 Apr. 1711.
  • 53 Longleat, Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 47, ff. 201-2.
  • 54 Add. 70149, Lady A. Pye to A. Harley, 18 Apr. 1711.
  • 55 Pols in Age of Anne, 197.
  • 56 Swift, Journal to Stella, 22 Apr. 1711.
  • 57 Add. 61461, ff. 122-3.
  • 58 Carswell, South Sea Bubble, 53-6.
  • 59 Add. 61461, ff. 112-13.
  • 60 HMC Portland, iv. 684.
  • 61 Add. 61461, ff. 122-3, 131-4.
  • 62 Worcs. RO, Hampton (Pakington) mss, 705:349/4739/1 (i)/53; Add. 61461, ff. 120-1; Add. 70149, Lady A. Pye to A. Harley, 16 May 1711.
  • 63 Add. 61461, ff. 124-5.
  • 64 Add. 70027, f. 168; HMC Portland, iv. 689.
  • 65 Add. 61461, ff. 124-5.
  • 66 HMC Ancaster, 442-3.
  • 67 HMC Portland, iv. 693-4.
  • 68 Add. 70027, f. 165.
  • 69 Add. 61125, f. 86.
  • 70 Add. 72495, ff. 71-2.
  • 71 Add. 61418, ff. 150-4; Daily Courant, 19 June 1711.
  • 72 HMC Portland, iv. 696.
  • 73 Add. 70282, Abingdon to Oxford, 23 May 1711; Post Boy, 24-26 May 1711.
  • 74 Add. 72495, f. 73.
  • 75 Add. 70145, E. to A. Harley, 29 May 1711.
  • 76 Add. 61125, f. 90.
  • 77 HMC Portland, iv. 697.
  • 78 Add. 70249, Atholl to Oxford, 26 May 1711.
  • 79 Bodl. MS Eng. misc. e. 180, ff. 83-6.
  • 80 Verney ms mic. M636/54, M. Lovett to Lord Fermanagh, 7 July 1711.
  • 81 Add. 70261, Jersey to Oxford, 1 Aug. 1711; HMC Portland, v. 69.
  • 82 Add. 61125, ff. 106, 113-14.
  • 83 Add. 70263, Sir T. Willoughby to Oxford, 18 July 1711.
  • 84 Add. 61125, ff. 96-7.
  • 85 NAS, Mar and Kellie, GD124/15/1024/11; HMC Portland, v. 26.
  • 86 NAS, GD 124/15/1024/15.
  • 87 Add. 70249, Halifax to Oxford, 12 Aug. 1711; SRO, Hamilton MSS GD406/1/5729.
  • 88 Add. 70278, Oxford to Argyll, 24 July 1711.
  • 89 Add. 70146, Oxford to A. Harley, 24 July 1711; HMC Portland, v. 72.
  • 90 Longleat, Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 47, ff. 267-8.
  • 91 Verney ms mic. M636/54, R. Palmer to Lord Fermanagh, 4 Sept. 1711.
  • 92 Add. 70295, Oxford to Queen Anne, 16 Aug. 1711; Hill, ‘Oxford, Bolingbroke and the Peace of Utrecht’, HJ xvi, 248; Add. 61125, ff. 113-14.
  • 93 Add. 70242, duchess of Newcastle to Oxford, 4, 11 Aug. 1711.
  • 94 Add. 70278, ? to Oxford, 14 Sept. 1711.
  • 95 Add. 70251, Pelham to Oxford, 17 Sept. 1711.
  • 96 Add. 72491, f. 42. Add. 70278, Oxford to Argyll, 19 Oct. 1711.
  • 97 Add. 61125, f. 119; Add. 70295, Oxford to electress dowager of Hanover, 5 Oct. 1711.
  • 98 Add. 61125, ff. 127-8.
  • 99 HMC Portland, v. 108.
  • 100 Add. 70145, E. to A. Harley, 13 Oct. 1711; Add. 72491, f. 47.
  • 101 Add. 72500, ff. 63-4; Add. 22226, f. 21.
  • 102 Add. 70214, W. Bromley to Oxford, 15 Nov. 1711; Add. 70215, Ilay to Oxford, 24 Nov. 1711.
  • 103 HMC Portland, v. 115.
  • 104 HMC Portland, v. 117-18; Add. 70257, J. Sharp to Oxford, 28 Nov. 1711.
  • 105 HMC Portland, v. 115-16.
  • 106 Add. 72491, ff. 55-6.
  • 107 HMC Portland, v. 120.
  • 108 Add. 70028, ff. 283-4.
  • 109 Add. 70241, Dupplin to Oxford, 3 Dec. 1711; Add. 70214, W. Bromley to Oxford, 3 Dec. 1711; Add. 70282, Lord Conway to Oxford, 3 Dec. 1711; Add. 70294, F. Gwyn to Oxford, 4 Dec. 1711.
  • 110 Add. 72488, f. 73.
  • 111 Add. 72491, ff. 59-60; Party and Management, ed. Jones, 134.
  • 112 Verney ms mic. M636/54, R. Palmer to R. Verney, 11 Dec. 1711.
  • 113 C. Jones, ‘The Vote in the House of Lords’, PH xxvi, 160-1;Party and Management, ed. Jones, 135.
  • 114 Add. 70263, Oxford to [D. Williams], 21 Dec. 1711.
  • 115 Add. 70269, 20 Dec. 1711.
  • 116 HMC Polwarth, i, 3; Timberland, ii. 359.
  • 117 HMC Portland, v. 131-3.
  • 118 Add. 70250, Leeds to Oxford, 31 Dec. 1711.
  • 119 Pols in Age of Anne, 214-15; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 709.
  • 120 C. Jones, ‘Lord Oxford’s Jury’, PH xxiv; Biddle, Bolingbroke and Harley, 233-4.
  • 121 Lincs. RO, Massingberd Mundy mss, 2MM/B/5, T. Namelesse to B. Massingberd, 24 Jan. 1712.
  • 122 Add. 70249, Halifax to Oxford, 7, 10, 11 Jan. 1712.
  • 123 Add. 70207, J. Thrupp to Oxford, 12 Jan. 1712.
  • 124 Add. 70278, Oxford to Hamilton, 16 Jan. 1712.
  • 125 Add. 70294, Findlater to Oxford, 24 Jan. 1712.
  • 126 NLS, Advocates’, Wodrow pprs. Wod. lett. qu. 6. f. 94; Haddington Mss, Mellerstain letters V, G. Baillie to his wife, 22 Jan. 1712.
  • 127 HMC Polwarth, i. 6.
  • 128 ‘Letters of Lord Balmerino to Harry Maule’, ed. C. Jones, Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 140; Add. 72491, ff. 71-2; Timberland, ii. 363-4.
  • 129 Add. 70236, E. Harley to Oxford, 26 Jan. 1712.
  • 130 Wodrow, Analecta, ii. 5; HP Commons 1690-1715, iv. 461.
  • 131 Add. 70294, R. [Poyke] to Oxford, 20 Feb. 1712.
  • 132 Add. 70214, W. Bromley to Oxford, 23 Feb. 1712.
  • 133 Add. 72495, ff. 128-9.
  • 134 HMC Portland, v. 156-8.
  • 135 NLS, Advocates’, Wodrow pprs. Wod. lett. Qu. 6, f. 162.
  • 136 Add. 72495, ff. 143-4; NLS, Advocates’, Wodrow pprs. Wod. lett. qu. 6, f. 183.
  • 137 Add. 70294, W. Bromley to Oxford, 21 May 1712.
  • 138 Add. 72500, f. 91.
  • 139 Bodl. Ballard 36, f. 127; Timberland, ii. 372.
  • 140 PH xxvi, 160, 178; Bodl. Ballard 36, f. 127.
  • 141 Add. 72495, ff. 149-50; NAS, Seafield Muniments, GD248/561/47/11.
  • 142 Add. 72495, f. 155.
  • 143 Add. 70249, Halifax to Oxford, 21 July 1712.
  • 144 Add. 70247, W. Levinz to Oxford, 8 July 1712.
  • 145 Add. 70332, memorandum, 10 July 1712.
  • 146 Add. 70282, Ferrers to Oxford, 16 Aug. 1712; Add. 70260, Weymouth to Oxford, 18 Aug. 1712.
  • 147 Add. 61461, ff. 187-8; Add. 70214, Bromley to Oxford, 23 Aug. 1712; Add. 70282, f. 207, Denbigh to Oxford, 23 Aug. 1712; Add. 70282, countess of Barrymore to Oxford, 26 Sept. 1712.
  • 148 Add. 70212, T. Boteler to Oxford, 2 Sept. 1712.
  • 149 Add. 70242, duchess of Newcastle to Oxford, 13 Sept. 1712.
  • 150 Add. 70211, P. Bisse to Oxford, 1 Oct. 1712; Add. 70250, Carmarthen to Oxford, 6 Oct. 1712.
  • 151 Add. 70282, Cardigan to Oxford, 3 Oct. 1712.
  • 152 Add. 72492, ff. 11-12; Add. 72496, ff. 14-15; Christ Church, Oxf., Wake Mss 17, ff. 340-1.
  • 153 Add. 70295, Oxford to Northampton, 9 Oct. 1712. Add. 70249, Halifax to Oxford, 16 Oct. 1712. Add. 61125, ff. 135, 137. NAS, GD124/15/1024/25; NAS, GD248/561/47/34.
  • 154 Verney ms mic. M636/55, Fermanagh to R.Verney, 18 Nov. 1712.
  • 155 Add. 70250, Leeds to Oxford, 10 Dec. 1712.
  • 156 Add. 70250, Oxford to Leeds, 10 Dec. 1712.
  • 157 Add. 70288, Lansdowne to Oxford, 18 Dec. 1712; Add. 70257, Beaufort to Oxford, 19 Dec. 1712; Add. 70199, T. Hewett to Oxford, 22 Dec. 1712.
  • 158 Add. 72500, ff. 125-6; Add. 70288, Lansdowne to Oxford, 26 Dec. 1712; Add. 70249, Atholl to Oxford, 30 Dec. 1712; Add. 70206, C. Strangeways to Oxford, 1 Jan. 1713; HMC Portland, x. 484.
  • 159 Add. 70320, memorial of R. Surridge, 1 Jan. 1713; Add. 70287, W. Bromley to Oxford, 16 Jan., 19 Feb. 1713.
  • 160 Add. 70214, W. Bromley to Oxford, 22 Dec. 1712.
  • 161 Add. 70213, W. Bramston to Oxford, 26 Jan. 1713.
  • 162 Add. 70249, Oxford to Eglintoun, 9 Feb. 1713.
  • 163 Add. 70030, ff. 142-3.
  • 164 HEHL. HM 44710, ff. 125-6.
  • 165 NLW, Ottley corresp. 1619, 1620; Add. 72496, ff. 41-2; Pols in Age of Anne, 399.
  • 166 Eg. 3385, ff. 41-2; Add. 70250, Carmarthen to Oxford, 2 Feb. 1713; Glos. Archives, Lloyd Baker mss, D3549/6/1/03.
  • 167 Add. 72496, ff. 50-1.
  • 168 Add. 70246, Dartmouth to Oxford, 7 Mar. 1713; Add. 70282, R. Benson to Oxford, 8 Mar. 1713.
  • 169 Add. 70030, f. 158.
  • 170 Cowper Diary, 54-6.
  • 171 McInnes, Harley, 146-7.
  • 172 Add. 61463, ff. 95-7.
  • 173 Verney ms mic. M636/55, R. Palmer to Fermanagh, 24 Mar. 1713.
  • 174 Add. 70220, Cowper to Oxford, 30 Mar. 1713.
  • 175 Add. 70330 (microfilm), Oxford to Princess Sophia, 30 Mar. 1713.
  • 176 HP Commons 1690-1715, i. 460.
  • 177 HEHL HM 44710, ff. 61-4.
  • 178 Swift, Letters, 3 vols. (1766), ii, Swift to Mrs Dingley, 7 Apr. 1713; Add. 22220, ff. 62-3.
  • 179 Add. 22220, ff. 62-3; Wentworth Pprs. 328-9.
  • 180 Add. 72496, f. 61.
  • 181 Swift, Letters (1766), ii, Swift to Mrs Dingley, 7 Apr. 1713.
  • 182 Add. 70332, memorandum, 29 Apr. 1713.
  • 183 Add. 70236, E. Harley to Oxford, 9 May 1713.
  • 184 Add. 70212, Warrington to Oxford, 11 May 1713.
  • 185 Add. 72500, f. 170; Berks. RO, D/EN/F23/2.
  • 186 Bolingbroke corresp., ed. Parke (1798), iv. 137-41.
  • 187 Timberland, ii. 398.
  • 188 Bodl. Carte 211, ff. 128, 132.
  • 189 Add. 70212, Warrington to Oxford, 5 June 1713; Pols in Age of Anne, 397.
  • 190 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 158.
  • 191 Add. 70331, list, c.13 June 1713; Add. 70250, Carmarthen to Oxford, 18 June 1713.
  • 192 Eg. 3385 A, ff. 47-8.
  • 193 Bodl. Ballard 31, f. 104.
  • 194 Bodl. Carte 211, ff. 126-7.
  • 195 Bodl. Ballard 31, f. 104; Bodl. North mss, c.9, ff. 5-6.
  • 196 Bodl. Carte 211, ff. 133-4.
  • 197 Bodl. Carte 211, ff. 126-7.
  • 198 NAS, GD248/561/48/47.
  • 199 Add. 70225, R. Ferguson to [J. Netterville], 22 June 1713.
  • 200 Bodl. North mss, b.2, f. 17.
  • 201 Timberland, ii. 400; Add. 70295, Oxford to [duchess of Newcastle], 30 June 1713.
  • 202 Morgan Lib. Misc. English, Oxford to [Sir], 8 July 1713.
  • 203 Add. 72501, ff. 25-7.
  • 204 Add. 70230, Harcourt to Oxford, 22 July 1713; Eg. 3385 A, ff. 49-50. Add. 70212, Warrington to Oxford, 23 July 1713.
  • 205 Add. 72501, ff. 28-9.
  • 206 Add. 72501, f. 32; Add. 70252, Poulett to Oxford, 29 July 1713.
  • 207 Bodl. Carte 211, f. 129.
  • 208 Badminton, Beaufort mss, muniment room, lower floor, I shelf 2, number 16.
  • 209 Add. 70290, Lady Masham to Oxford, 6 Aug. 1713; Add. 72501, f. 33; HP Commons 1690-1715, i. 461.
  • 210 Add. 70230, T. Hanmer to Oxford, 1 Aug. 1713; Add. 70248, Mansell to Oxford, 1 Aug. 1713.
  • 211 Add. 70031, f. 79; Add. 72501, f. 33; Add. 70332, itinerary, 15 Aug.-17 Sept. 1713.
  • 212 Add. 72501, ff. 35-41; Eg. 3385 A, ff. 51-2.
  • 213 Add. 72496, ff. 98-9.
  • 214 Add. 70140, Oxford to E. Harley, 13 Aug. 1713.
  • 215 Bodl. Carte 211, f. 138; Add. 70332, memorandum, 7 Sept. 1713.
  • 216 Biddle, Bolingbroke and Harley, 256.
  • 217 NAS, GD248/571/6/16.
  • 218 Add. 70031, ff. 161-2.
  • 219 HMC Portland, v. 338.
  • 220 NUL, Portland mss, PW2Hy 1377, Oxford to Weymouth, 3 Oct. 1713.
  • 221 Add. 70256, Rivers to Oxford, 31 Oct. 1713.
  • 222 Eg. 3385, ff. 61-2.
  • 223 Add. 70332, memorandum, 3 Oct. 1713.
  • 224 Add. 70145, Lady Carmarthen to A. Harley, 10 Oct. 1713; Add. 70147, Lady Dupplin to A. Harley, 14 Oct. 1713; Add. 70250, Leeds to Oxford, 13 Oct. 1713.
  • 225 Add. 70261, Thanet to Oxford, 2 Nov. 1713.
  • 226 Add. 70332, memoranda, 22 Oct. 1713, 7 Dec. 1713.
  • 227 Add. 70215, Breadalbane to Oxford, 8 Oct. 1713; Add. 70233, duchess of Hamilton to Oxford, 8 Oct. 1713.
  • 228 Bodl. Carte 211, f. 160; HP Commons 1690-1715, iii. 1074.
  • 229 HP Commons 1690-1715, iii. 1084.
  • 230 Add. 70212, Warrington to Oxford, 10 Nov. 1713.
  • 231 Add. 70031, ff. 212-13.
  • 232 Add. 72501, f. 64; British Mercury, 25 Nov. 1713.
  • 233 Add. 70236, E. Harley to Oxford, 9 Nov. 1713; Add. 72501, ff. 61, 64.
  • 234 Add. 72501, ff. 65-66; Eg. 3385 A, f. 67.
  • 235 Add. 72492, ff. 131-2; Add. 70147, Lady Dupplin to A. Harley, 5 Dec. 1713.
  • 236 Beds. Archives, L30/8/41/2.
  • 237 Add. 70255, R. Robartes to Oxford, 20 Dec. 1713.
  • 238 Add. 70070, newsletter, 24 Dec. 1713.
  • 239 Add. 61125, f. 143.
  • 240 Add. 70250, Carmarthen to Oxford, 27 Dec. 1713; Eg. 3385 A, ff. 68-9.
  • 241 Add. 70332, memorandum, 14 Jan. 1714.
  • 242 Add. 70070, newsletter, 14 Jan. 1714.
  • 243 Eg. 3385 A, ff. 72-3.
  • 244 Herts. ALS, DE/P/F97, duke of Newcastle’s case, 22 Jan. 1714.
  • 245 Add. 70212, Warrington to Oxford, 25 Jan. 1714.
  • 246 Add. 70280, R. Robartes to Oxford, 26 Jan. 1714.
  • 247 Eg. 3385 A, f. 74; Add. 70332, memorandum, 30 Jan. 1714.
  • 248 Add. 70332, memorandum, 7 Feb. 1714.
  • 249 Add. 72501, ff. 94-5; HP Commons 1690-1715, iv. 195.
  • 250 Add. 70242, bishop of Bath and Wells to Oxford, 10, 17 Feb. 1714.
  • 251 Add. 70251, Paget to Oxford, 19, 22 Feb. 1714.
  • 252 Add. 70332, memoranda, 20, 21 Feb. 1714.
  • 253 Add. 70332, memorandum, 24 Feb. 1714.
  • 254 Add. 72501, ff. 101-2, 103-4.
  • 255 Add. 70249, Halifax to Oxford, 27 Feb. 1714; Add. 72496, ff. 117-18.
  • 256 Add. 72501, ff. 106-7; Bodl. Ballard 36, f. 157; Timberland, ii. 406; Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 337-8; C.A. Robbins, ‘ “Honest Tom” Wharton (Univ. of Maryland PhD 1990), 332-3.
  • 257 TNA, C 9/342/16.
  • 258 Add. 70230, Oxford to Harcourt, 15 Mar. 1714.
  • 259 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 351.
  • 260 Add. 70230, Harcourt to Oxford, 16 Mar. 1714.
  • 261 Add. 70332, memorandum, 16 Mar. 1714.
  • 262 Add. 70295, Oxford to [my Lord], 21 Mar. 1714.
  • 263 Add. 70330, draft speech, 17 Mar. 1714.
  • 264 Pols in Age of Anne, 389.
  • 265 Add. 70332, memorandum, 19 Mar. 1714.
  • 266 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 353-4.
  • 267 NLS, Advocates’, Wodrow lett., qu. 8, ff. 67-9.
  • 268 Add. 61463, ff. 120-3.
  • 269 HMC Portland, v. 403.
  • 270 Add. 72501, f. 108.
  • 271 NAS, Eglinton Mss. GD3/5/897.
  • 272 Add. 70215, Ilay to Oxford, 30 Mar. 1714.
  • 273 Add. 70032, ff. 122-3.
  • 274 Haddington Mss, Mellerstain letters, vi, Baillie to his wife, 30 Mar. 1714.
  • 275 Eg. 3385, ff. 75-6. Herts. ALS, DE/P/F60, Oxford to Cowper, 30 Mar. 1714.
  • 276 Add. 72488, ff. 85-8, 77-8.
  • 277 Add. 70256, 2 Apr. 1714; Add. 70256, Rivers to Oxford, 5 Apr. 1714. Add. 70212, Warrington to Oxford, 10 Apr. 1714.
  • 278 Add. 70230, Harcourt’s memo. to Oxford, 12 Apr. 1714.
  • 279 HMC Portland, v. 417.
  • 280 Add. 70331, Oxford memorandum, 19 Apr. 1714; Add. 70223, duchess of Hamilton to Oxford, 9 Apr. 1714.
  • 281 Add. 70331, memorandum, 19 Apr. 1714.
  • 282 Wentworth Pprs. 373.
  • 283 Add. 70249, Halifax to Oxford, 21 Apr. 1714.
  • 284 Add. 49970, ff. 2-3.
  • 285 Add. 70212, Warrington to Oxford, 24 Apr., 10 May 1714; Add. 70251, Paget to Oxford, 8 May 1714; Add. 72488, ff. 79.80.
  • 286 Verney ms mic. M636/55, Lord Fermanagh to [?], 1 May 1714; Add. 72501, f. 120.
  • 287 Add. 70331[-3], Oxford memorandum, 5 May 1714.
  • 288 Herts. ALS, DE/P/F60, Oxford to Cowper, 12 May 1714.
  • 289 Add. 72501, f. 122.
  • 290 Add. 70213, Sir R. Bradshaigh to Oxford, 12 May 1714.
  • 291 Add. 70212, Warrington to Oxford, 13 May 1714.
  • 292 Bodl. MS Eng. lett. c. 144, f. 91.
  • 293 HMC Portland, v. 440.
  • 294 Add. 72501, f. 123.
  • 295 Add. 70144, Lord Harley to A. Harley, 18 May 1714; Add. 72501, f. 124.
  • 296 Add. 72501, f. 124.
  • 297 Add. 70331, memorandum, 22 May 1714.
  • 298 Add. 70333, memorandum, 23 May 1714.
  • 299 Bodl. North mss. c. 9, ff. 74-5.
  • 300 Add. 70261, Trevor to Oxford, 25 May 1714.
  • 301 Add. 72488, ff. 83-4.
  • 302 Add. 70331, memorandum, 2 June 1714.
  • 303 Add. 72488, ff. 87-8.
  • 304 Add. 72501, f. 127.
  • 305 Add. 72496, ff. 143-4.
  • 306 NLS, Advocates’, Wodrow pprs., Wod. lett. qu. 8, f. 131; Haddington Mss., Mellerstain letters , vi, Baillie to his wife, 15 June 1714.
  • 307 Add. 70331, memoranda, 8, 13 June 1714.
  • 308 Add. 72501, ff. 130-1, 132-3; NLS, Advocates’, Wodrow pprs. Wod. lett. qu. 8, f. 138.
  • 309 Wentworth Pprs. 394-5.
  • 310 Add. 72502, f. 68.
  • 311 Add. 70070, newsletter, 3 July 1714.
  • 312 Add. 70331, memorandum, 4 July 1714.
  • 313 Add. 72496, ff. 147-8.
  • 314 Add. 70330, memorandum, 9 July 1714.
  • 315 Add. 72501, ff. 147-8; Bodl. North mss, c.9, ff. 80-1.
  • 316 Add. 70253, M. Prior to Oxford, 18 July 1714.
  • 317 Add. 72488, ff. 89-90.
  • 318 Add. 70331, minutes, 22 July 1714; Add. 70144, Lord Harley to A. Harley, 27 July 1714; Bodl. MS Eng. th. c. 25, f. 65; Eg. 3385 A, f. 79.
  • 319 Add. 72501, ff. 152-3.
  • 320 Add. 22220, ff. 121-2.
  • 321 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 429.
  • 322 Add. 72501, ff. 152-3.
  • 323 Add. 70082, ‘letter on occasion of the queen’s illness’, 31 July 1714.
  • 324 Add. 72501, f. 155; Add. 70331, memorandum, 10 Aug. 1714; Add. 72502, ff. 6-7.
  • 325 HMC 12th Rep. pt. ix, 97-8.
  • 326 Add. 70146, Oxford to A. Harley, 11 Jan. 1724.
  • 327 Add. 70034, f. 289.
  • 328 Hill, Robert Harley, viii.
  • 329 Add. 70331, memorandum, 11 May 1714.
  • 330 Add. 70088, copy memorandum, 23 Apr. 1711.