FITZROY, George (1665-1716)

FITZROY (alias PALMER), George (1665–1716)

styled 1670-74 Ld. George Fitzroy; cr. 1 Oct. 1674 (a minor) earl of NORTHUMBERLAND; cr. 6 Apr. 1683 (a minor) duke of NORTHUMBERLAND

First sat 22 Jan. 1689; last sat 5 Mar. 1716

b. 28 Dec. 1665,1 3rd illegit. s. of Charles II and Barbara Palmer, countess of Castlemaine [I] (later suo jure duchess of Cleveland); bro. of Charles Fitzroy, duke of Southampton, and Henry Fitzroy, duke of Grafton. educ. travelled abroad 1676, 1679-81 (France, Italy).2 m. (1) by 13 Mar. 1686 Catherine (d.1714), da. of Robert Wheatley, poulterer of Bracknell, wid. of Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, s.p.; (2) by 10 Mar. 1715 Mary (d.1738), da. of ?Henry Dutton, s.p. KG 1684. d. 28 June 1716; will 12 Mar. 1715, pr. 18 July 1716.3

Gent. of bedchamber 1688-89; PC ? Aug. 1713-?Oct. 1714.

Ld. lt,. Surr. 1702-14, Berks. 1712-14; high steward, Windsor 1701-14; constable, Windsor Castle 1701-14.4

Col., 2nd Tp. of Horse Gds. 1685-89, R. Regt. of Horse Gds. 1703-12, 2nd Tp. of Horse Gds. 1712-15;5 maj.-gen. 1708; lt.-gen. 1710.

Associated with Frogmore, Berks. and St James’s Square, Westminster.6

Likenesses: mezzotint by R. Williams (aft. W. Wissing), c. 1683-1704, NPG D3736.

George Fitzroy was the youngest son of Charles II and his then principal mistress, Barbara, countess of Castlemaine, and the last of the five children resulting from the liaison to be acknowledged by the king. Evelyn thought him ‘of all his majesty’s children… the most accomplished and worth knowing’; William of Orange considered him ‘a blockhead.’7 Although more talented than most of his siblings, Fitzroy appears to have been easily gulled and had a tendency for getting himself into scrapes. From 1670 when his mother was created duchess of Cleveland in her own right, he was styled Lord George Fitzroy and on 1 Oct. 1674 was raised to the peerage as earl of Northumberland. The award came soon after the grant of the earldom of Lichfield to Cleveland’s son-in-law, Edward Henry Lee, who had married Lady Charlotte Fitzroy, and also coincided with the promotion of Thomas Lennard, husband of Lady Anne Fitzroy, as earl of Sussex. Northumberland’s title was undoubtedly intended to convey Cleveland’s intention that her youngest son should secure a match with the Percy heiress, the widowed Elizabeth, Lady Ogle. Over the following years, interspersed with periods of Northumberland’s education abroad in France, there were constant rumours that such a prestigious and lucrative match would be effected.8 In October 1681, Northumberland having returned from his foreign travels, rumours of the match with Lady Ogle, who was then herself in Flanders, re-emerged. Although these persisted until the spring of the following year, such expectations were finally dashed by her marriage to Charles Seymour, 6th duke of Somerset, at the end of May 1682.9


After plans for Northumberland to campaign with the Imperialists in Hungary during the summer of 1683 fell through, he was promoted in the peerage, being made duke of Northumberland on 6 Apr. 1683.10 The king further ensured his election as a knight of the Garter on 10 Jan. 1684 and he was installed on 8 April.11 Almost immediately after, he and his brother Henry Fitzroy, duke of Grafton, travelled to France, where a number of high-ranking English nobles participated as volunteers in Louis XIV’s army at the siege of Luxembourg.12 Northumberland was back in England by the end of October, when he acted in concert with his brother Grafton to disentangle their mother from her current lover, Cardell Goodman. The dukes claimed that Goodman had plotted to have them poisoned but although they were successful in securing his conviction on 7 Nov., he escaped the gallows and they failed to end the liaison, which was terminated only when Goodman’s Jacobite activities forced him into exile in the 1690s.13

The plan, first hatched in 1683, to make Northumberland colonel of the 2nd troop of Horse Guards, was finally realized in early February 1685, when the position became vacant following the appointment of its colonel, Sir Philip Howard, as governor of Jamaica.14 Rumours had also circulated throughout 1683-4 linking Northumberland matrimonially with a variety of wealthy heiresses, but none of these ever came to anything.15 It was presumably through his military duties that Northumberland met Catherine Lucy, widow of Captain Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, who had died on 1 Nov. 1684. He was ‘bubbled’ into a clandestine marriage with her, of which he informed James II in mid-March 1686, much to his uncle the king’s fury, as it was said he had intended to provide Northumberland with one of the daughters of Henry Cavendish, 2nd duke of Newcastle. The new duchess, ‘rich only in beauty’, was considered unsuitable being both a Catholic and the daughter of a tradesman, reputedly a poulterer. 16 There followed a farcical attempt by Northumberland to disentangle himself from his parvenu bride when he, acting again with his brother Grafton, effectively kidnapped his duchess and conveyed her to a nunnery in Flanders. The episode caused a great stir at court and it was thought by some that the dukes would be arrested for their actions, though according to another report, when the duchess’s mother complained to the king, he refused to take any positive steps against his nephew and merely advised her that she might ‘take her course at law’. 17 Dr Owen Wynne believed the king was more concerned that his nephew ‘should be imposed upon by the lady’. Northumberland was eventually prevailed upon to release his wife from her confinement, following which the king in early May ordered Grafton to bring her back to England.18 At least one satirist made the most of the affair, portraying Grafton, with it would appear good reason, as the driving force behind the kidnapping:

That the lady was sent
To a convent in Ghent
Was the counsel of kidnapper Grafton;
And we may foretell
That all will do well,
Since the rough blockhead governs the soft one.19

An alternative interpretation was that the entire escapade had in fact been intended to give Northumberland time to reconcile the king to his mésalliance, though there is also reason to believe that Grafton took advice to ascertain whether a divorce might be obtained for his brother.20 The eventual acknowledgement of the duchess at court was signalled by her reception by the queen on 16 June 1686 amid rumours that she was to be appointed a lady of the bedchamber.21 Northumberland and his wife thereafter lived in apparent harmony until her death in 1714.

Northumberland was still a minor at the time of his uncle’s Parliament in May-November 1685. Throughout 1687-8 contemporaries estimated that the duke, now of age and with a vote in the House, was one of those in favour of repealing the Test Acts; he is included among the king’s supporters in four of the lists drawn up in this period on that question. This view may have derived from, or given further credence to, the common belief that he shared his wife’s Catholicism, though reports of his attendance at church in July 1687 dampened such speculation.22 The close of 1687 found Northumberland named in the case brought by James Percy before the court of chivalry in his efforts to be recognized as the true heir to the earldom of Northumberland, though Percy’s claims were treated with disdain by the courts and Parliament alike.23

Of far greater concern to Northumberland was the prospect of William of Orange’s invasion the following year, which found James II’s army divided in its loyalties. The close association between Northumberland and Grafton presumably accounts for reports of Northumberland having joined his brother in deserting his uncle for William’s camp, though these were hastily corrected. 24 Indeed four days after Grafton’s defection, Northumberland was appointed a gentleman of James’s bedchamber, on 28 Nov. 1688, probably as a means to shore up his loyalty. Northumberland remained at his uncle’s side and was on duty the night the king made his escape from London on his first attempt to flee the country. Reports differed as to whether he had been privy to the king’s flight and dutifully kept the chamber door secured until morning to give the king time to make good his escape, or whether he had simply fallen asleep and thus missed the event.25 Whatever his private convictions, once the king had gone he bowed to circumstances and declared for William of Orange. On 11 Dec. it was reported that he had given orders for all papists to be put out of his regiment.26


Northumberland took his seat in the House for the first time on 22 Jan. 1689, though it was not until 25 Jan. that he was formally introduced between Somerset and James Butler, 2nd duke of Ormond.27 He thereafter attended on approximately a quarter of all sitting days and on 29 Jan. he joined with Grafton in voting in favour of a regency. On 31 Jan. he voted against inserting the words declaring William and Mary king and queen in a committee of the whole and on 4 Feb. he voted against concurring with the Commons’ use of the term ‘abdicated’. Two days later he voted against employing the phrase ‘that the throne is thereby vacant’ and subscribed the protest when the resolution was carried.28

Despite his opposition to the Revolution settlement, in late February 1689 Northumberland’s regiment presented the king and queen with an address congratulating them on their accession.29 According to George Savile, marquess of Halifax, the king had ‘some suspicions of him [Northumberland] which made him treat him coarsely’ as well as calling him ‘a great blockhead’, although he did maintain the duke’s pension of £3,000 p.a. throughout his reign. By early April William was keen to dismiss both Northumberland and Grafton from their military commands, and on 20 Apr. Northumberland was replaced as colonel of the 2nd troop of Horse Guards by Ormond.30 Northumberland last sat in the House for the session on 6 June, and registered his proxy that day with Thomas Osborne, marquess of Carmarthen (later duke of Leeds), with whom he appears to have been closely associated at this point. Two days later Northumberland, ‘now mightily in his majesty’s favour’, according to one newsletter writer, embarked for Holland on the king’s service to fight under Ormond.31 Both men were subsequently praised for their conduct on campaign.32 On 30 July Carmarthen employed Northumberland’s proxy in his absence to vote in favour of adhering to the Lords’ amendments to the bill reversing the judgments of perjury against Titus Oates.33

During her husband’s absence, the duchess of Northumberland was one of those to visit the Catholic James Cecil, 4th earl of Salisbury, during his imprisonment in the Tower.34 In a list drawn up between October 1689 and Feburary 1690, Carmarthen classified Northumberland as a supporter of the court. Excused at a call of the House on 28 Oct. 1689, Northumberland returned from Holland on 8 Dec. and resumed his seat on 16 Dec. in the second session of the Convention; he was present for just over 30 per cent of all its sitting days.35 He does not appear to have exerted his interest in the elections for the new Parliament, but took his seat at its opening on 20 Mar. 1690, after which he was present for approximately 27 per cent of all sitting days of its first session. The same day it was reported that he was to be restored to the colonelcy of his former troop of Horse Guards, though in the event this was not forthcoming. On 22 Mar. he was named to the committee for examining irregularities in the courts of Westminster Hall and to that concerning the bill for the better execution of the poor law. Absent on 24 Mar. when the House took into consideration the various protections issued by members, he was one of those given notice about the nine people to whom he had granted such certificates. Excused at a call on 31 Mar., he resumed his seat on 9 Apr., after which he continued to sit until 23 May. Northumberland returned to the House on 2 Oct. for the subsequent session of 1690-91, of which he attended a little over one quarter of all sitting days, and he was again named to just two committees. On 6 Oct. he voted for the discharge of James Cecil, 4th earl fo Salisbury and Henry Mordaunt, 2nd earl of Peterborough from their imprisonment in the Tower. The matter of protections was again the subject of debate towards the close of December and on 26 Dec. Northumberland was one of four peers ordered to attend about the matter. The following day he admitted issuing protections to two people but insisted that he had ordered his steward to vacate three more. After consideration, the House ordered that all Northumberland’s protections should be voided.36

Northumberland returned to the House 22 Oct 1691 for the opening of the following session of 1691-2. Again absent at a call on 2 Nov., he resumed his seat on 11 Nov. when he introduced his half brother, Charles Beauclerk, as duke of St Albans. He then proceeded to attend for just over 38 per cent of sitting days in the session. On 9 Dec. Northumberland was one of those accused in the Commons by William Fuller, formerly a page to Queen Mary Beatrice, of conspiring to restore the exiled King James but it was noted that ‘the discovery did not produce the fervour in the House which might have been expected’.37 The affair was widely thought to have been ‘dreamed up’ by Carmarthen to deflect attention away from himself.38 Towards the end of 1691 Northumberland was included in a list of those thought likely to support the bill promoted by William George Richard Stanley, 9th earl of Derby, to recover estates his family had lost after the civil war.39

Northumberland took his seat on 4 Nov. 1692 for the 1692-3 session, after which he was present on 59 per cent of all its sitting days, and during which he was named to four committees. He was excused at a call on 21 Nov., despite having been ordered to attend on that day along with several other peers to explain a number of protections that had been entered in their names. Commanded to attend the following day to account for the 14 protections (the most of any of the peers summoned) that he had signed, Northumberland was compelled to beg the House’s pardon. He evaded answering directly his reason for having made out so many of the certificates but assured the Lords that ‘I have now struck out those protections that were entered; and, now I know the sense of the House, I humbly beg pardon for my offence; and I assure your lordships, I will take care to prevent the like for the future’.40 On 28 Nov. he received the proxy of St Albans, which was vacated by St Albans’s return to the House on 6 December. On 9 Jan. 1693 the House ordered the arrest of four men for breaching Northumberland’s privilege by arresting his hunting groom, John Smith. The House eventually ordered on 13 Mar. that Smith should be discharged from his imprisonment. In January it was also rumoured that Northumberland was to succeed Aubrey de Vere, 20th earl of Oxford, as colonel of the Horse Guards, but the appointment was (again) not forthcoming.41 He defended Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun, against a charge of murder and signed the protest of 31 Jan. against the decision to proceed with the trial and then on 4 Feb. found him not guilty of murder.42

Northumberland took his seat once more on 7 Nov. 1693, after which he was present on 30 per cent of all sitting days in the 1693-4 session. On 14 Nov. he introduced his half-brother, Charles Lennox as duke of Richmond. In spite of his previous undertakings, Northumberland was again reprimanded over misuse of protections in March 1694 and on 14 Mar. several of his protections were struck out. He returned to the House on 12 Nov. 1694, after which he was present on just over 43 per cent of all the sitting days of the 1694-5 session. On 26 Nov, although his name was omitted from the attendance list, he was not among those noted as missing at the call of the House held that day, so it may be assumed that he arrived after the clerks had taken the roll. Towards the end of the year it was again suggested that he was to be appointed to command one of the Guards regiments.43 On 14 Jan. 1695 Northumberland was named to the committee for the bill to compel the Williams brothers to produce Sir Paul Pindar, bt. and on 11 Apr. he was named to that for examining Sir Robert Clayton and John Morice as part of the House’s investigations into the allegation that the corporation of London had accepted bribes.44

During the summer of 1695 Northumberland’s name was mentioned in Jacobite correspondence under the cipher ‘Mr Walden’ but there seems little reason to believe that he was actively involved in plotting with the exiled court.45 He returned to the House on 22 Nov. 1695 for the new Parliament, after which he attended on a third of all sitting days of its first session. Northumberland was one of those peers noted as absent when the entries in the book of protections were read on 27 Jan. 1696. On 27 Feb. he signed the Association and on 9 Mar. was named to the committee on the bill to allow Wriothesley Russell, styled marquess of Tavistock (later 2nd duke of Bedford), permission to develop his interests at Rotherhithe.46 That summer he was one of several peers deprived of their licence to hunt in the royal forest at Windsor on the orders of James Bertie, earl of Abingdon, acting in his capacity as chief justice in eyre, in an effort to prevent over-hunting, ‘so that if his majesty’s game does not increase it is not my fault’.47 Northumberland took his seat once more on 20 Oct. 1696, after which he was present on 44 per cent of all sitting days of the 1696-7 session and was named to three committees. On 18 Dec. he entered his dissent from the resolution to read the bill to attaint Sir John Fenwick, 3rd bt. a second time and on 23 Dec. he voted against passing the bill, subscribing the protest when the resolution to pass it was carried.

Northumberland returned to the House on 3 Dec. 1697, after which he was present on approximately 36 per cent of all the sitting days of the 1697-8 session. Named to seven committees, on 15 Mar. 1698 he voted in favour of committing the bill for punishing Charles Duncombe. On 18 June, while returning from a day spent at the wells at Richmond-upon-Thames, Northumberland was one of several peers to be beset by highwaymen on Hounslow Heath, though according to one report the robbers subsequently returned the duke’s possessions to him.48 Shortly after, on 20 June, he was named one of the managers of the free conference to be held with the Commons the following day concerning the impeachment of Goudet and others.49

Northumberland returned to the House on 6 Dec. 1698 for the first day of the new Parliament, after which he was present on approximately 36 per cent of the sitting days of its first session. He was, however, named to just one committee. On 24 Mar. 1699 his hunting groom, John Smith, was again the subject of an investigation by the privileges committee following his arrest by one Jacob Broad at the suit of Thomas King, a wine merchant, in spite of Northumberland’s intervention on Smith’s behalf. Broad had then compounded his error by speaking ‘very opprobrious words’ against the duke, as a result of which the House gave orders for Broad to be attached and arranged for Smith’s release.50

Northumberland’s good standing at court was reflected in reports in May 1699 that he was to be appointed to a vacancy in the bedchamber, though in the event this did not come to pass.51 Having taken his seat once more on 16 Nov. 1699 for the 1699-1700 session, Northumberland proceeded to attend on approximately 40 per cent of all sitting days in the session. On 1 Feb. 1700 he was forecast as being in favour of the bill to continue the old East India Company as a corporation, but on 23 Feb. he voted against adjourning into a committee of the whole to help further progress the bill. In August he served as one of the supporters to the chief mourner, Henry Howard, 7th duke of Norfolk, at the funeral of Princess Anne’s son, William, duke of Gloucester.52

Northumberland took his seat in the first Parliament of 1701 on 10 Feb., after which he was present on approximately 54 per cent of all sitting days and was named to three committees. Having been excluded from office since the Revolution, Northumberland was at last rewarded with the lord lieutenancy of Surrey and with the place of constable of Windsor Castle.53 On 19 May he also elected high steward of Windsor in succession to Norfolk.54 His appointments coincided with an improvement in Tory fortunes represented by the impeachment of John Somers, Baron Somers. Northumberland, siding with the Tory-dominated Commons against the Whig-dominated Lords, on 17 June subscribed the protest against the resolution to proceed to Westminster Hall for the trial. The same day he voted against the resolution to acquit the former lord chancellor.

The elections of November 1701 saw the sitting members returned for New Windsor, following which Northumberland presented an address from the corporation expressing its thanks for the Acts of Toleration and Settlement. In Surrey, although Northumberland’s interest was perhaps the cause of a less amicable contest, the sitting candidates were also re-elected.55 Northumberland’s attendance declined slightly in the Parliament of 1701-2 and, having taken his seat on 30 Dec. 1701, he was present on 31 per cent of all sitting days.


Following the king’s death on 8 Mar. 1702 Northumberland was named to the conference considering matters arising from the king’s demise and the accession of Queen Anne. The new reign appeared to offer him the expectation of continuing preferment and in April it was reported, again without foundation, that he was to replace Arnold Joost van Keppel, earl of Albemarle, in the command of the first troop of Horse Guards.56 He took his seat in Queen Anne’s first Parliament on 21 Oct. 1702, of whose first session he attended approximately 52 per cent of all its sitting days. In January 1703 he was forecast by Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, as being in favour of the occasional conformity bill and on 16 Jan. he demonstrated his support by voting against adhering to the Lords’ amendment to the bill’s penalty clause. He was clearly in line for military promotion. In February it was rumoured that he would replace Ormond and be restored as colonel of the 2nd troop of Horse Guards. While that did not immediately come to fruition, upon the death of the earl of Oxford Northumberland was on 13 Mar. appointed to replace him as colonel of the Royal Horse Guards, a place thought to be worth £2,000 per annum.57

In advance of the new session of 1703-4, Northumberland was again assessed as a supporter of the occasional conformity bill in two forecasts compiled by Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland. He took his seat on 6 Dec. 1703 but he was then absent from the House on 14 Dec., the day of the vote on the bill. He was noted as having voted in favour of the bill by proxy, though no record of the proxy survives. At the close of the year, the laxness with which Northumberland was willing to allow use of his name by his agents was highlighted when he was informed by Nottingham of a case involving his gentleman of the horse, Charles Mildmay. Mildmay had procured on Northumberland’s authority passes to Holland for two people who it later transpired had assumed false names to secure their passage to France. Mildmay was later prosecuted for his activities.58

Northumberland was unsuccessful in his efforts to have one Charles Harman elected a freeman of Windsor in May 1704, though the corporation was at pains to explain their refusal on the grounds of his election being likely to injure the already large number of wine retailers in the borough and hoped that the duke would ‘not take it amiss’.59 He took his seat in the new session on 24 Oct. 1704, after which he was present on 23 per cent of all of the sitting days of the 1704-5 session. On 1 Nov. he was noted among those thought likely to support the tack but he was marked ‘uncertain’ in an analysis of 13 Apr. 1705 relating to the succession. He took his seat in the new Parliament on 25 Oct. 1705, after which he was present on 40 per cent of all sitting days of its first session. Excused at a call on 12 Nov., he resumed his seat on 27 Nov. and on 3 Dec. officiated as lord great chamberlain at the introduction of John Campbell, 2nd duke of Argyll [S], as earl of Greenwich.

In June 1706 Northumberland was reprimanded by the queen for awarding a cornet’s commission to a young boy (Edward Bird) considered to be far too young for the position. He was forced to offer the commission to a more mature candidate instead (Edward Reading).60 At the beginning of the new legal term in November, Northumberland, along with his nephews Charles Fitzroy, 2nd duke of Grafton, and Edward Henry Lee, styled Viscount Quarendon, introduced the duchess of Cleveland at the Old Bailey. Cleveland was engaged in a case against her estranged husband, Robert ‘Beau’ Feilding, who had been indicted for bigamy and from whom she claimed she feared ‘personal hurt’.61 In spite of her pleas, Feilding was continued on bail, though he was later found guilty both of bigamously marrying Cleveland and one Mary Wadsworth as well as of an incestuous liaison with Quarendon’s sister. Cleveland secured an annulment of their marriage the following year.62

Northumberland took his place in the House on 13 Dec. 1706 and was present for approximately 38 per cent of all sitting days in the 1706-7 session. He then attended just one day of the brief session of 14-24 Apr. 1707 but returned to the House at the opening of the first Parliament of Great Britain on 23 Oct., after which he was present on approximately 45 per cent of all sitting days in the 1707-8 session. In November 1707 the borough of New Windsor demonstrated their appreciation for their high steward by electing Alexander Monk, Northumberland’s butler, a freeman, and by waiving the usual fees.63 In early April 1708 Northumberland was included (with a query) in a list of colonels to be promoted to the rank of brigadier and later that same month, on 27 Apr., he was promoted major-general.64 As in the case of the list relating to the succession, an assessment of the members of the first Parliament of Great Britain, compiled in May 1708, failed to classify Northumberland in terms of party.

Northumberland returned to the House for the new Parliament on 16 Dec. 1708, after which he was present on approximately 46 per cent of all sitting days of the first session of 1708-9. On 21 Jan. 1709 he voted against permitting Scots peers with British titles to vote in the elections for Scots representative peers. In May he approached Robert Walpole, the secretary at war, and later earl of Orford, and requested to be advanced another step in the army as a lieutenant-general. Although Northumberland had only recently been appointed a major-general, Walpole recommended to John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, that he ‘is so very old a colonel, that I believe if this favour should be granted him nobody would think himself much concerned or affected by it’.65 In the event the promotion was delayed until 1710. In the meantime efforts seem to have been afoot to persuade Northumberland to part with his regiment. In attempting to effect this the duchess was played upon, who seemed very willing to concede the point given that the money associated with the regiment did not come near her and was ‘wasted’, as the duchess thought, ‘in evil courses and wicked infidelity to herself.’ Shortly before his attempt to secure promotion, Northumberland’s duchess had also attempted to intervene on his behalf following a complaint about the management of the deer in Windsor Great Park. Her defence can hardly have done him much good as she attempted to stress that he had ‘always endeavoured to have the game preserved from other people’ while being ‘too lazy to do anything that could destroy it himself.’66

Northumberland took his seat in the House again on 28 Nov. 1709, following which he was present on approximately 48 per cent of all sitting days of the 1709-10 session. He enjoyed Marlborough’s good opinion but the latter’s declining interest with the queen meant that his recommendation was insufficient to secure Northumberland the lieutenancy of the Tower of London in early January 1710. Instead he was promoted to lieutenant-general.67 Marlborough’s absence from Parliament at the time was also credited for Northumberland’s defection on 20 Mar. 1710 when he rebelled against his commander’s direction and voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.68 By October 1710, Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford and Mortimer, counted Northumberland among the potential supporters of the new ministry he was trying to form. Northumberland took his seat in the new Parliament on 25 Nov. and on 16 Dec. registered his proxy with his military colleague, Ormond, which was vacated by his return to the House on 11 Jan. 1711. Four days later (15 Jan.), although present at the opening of the day’s proceedings, Northumberland registered his proxy with John Poulett, Earl Poulett, which was vacated two days later on 17 January. William Nicolson, bishop of Carlisle, noted that Northumberland’s cause about the prisage of wine ended on 29 Jan. and on 5 Feb. the duke entered his dissent from the resolution to reject the bill repealing the General Naturalization Act.69

In spite of reports at the beginning of 1711 that he would participate in the new campaigning season on the continent, Northumberland failed to resume his military career.70 The death of the sitting Member of Parliament William Paul in May offered him an opportunity of exerting his interest in the borough of New Windsor at a by-election but here too he was compelled to leave aside his aspirations for his friend and correspondent, the Jacobite Charles Aldworth, once it became clear that the court interest intended the seat for Samuel Masham, later Baron Masham, husband of the queen’s favourite.71 Listed in June 1711 among the Tory patriots of the previous session, in July Northumberland suddenly fell sick and later that month he was reported dead of an apoplectic fit.72 His apparent demise encouraged a number of competitors to solicit for his offices, but the report proved to be premature and by October Northumberland was sufficiently recovered to engage in correspondence with his agents in Berkshire about his expected appointment as lord lieutenant of the county.73 The following month Charles Aldworth lobbied the lord privy seal, Simon Harcourt, Baron Harcourt, and Henry St John, later Viscount Bolingbroke, about the lieutenancy, and by 5 Nov. he was confident that ‘all matters will go as your servants desire they should in relation to Berkshire’.74

In the meantime, Northumberland took his seat in the House on 7 Dec. 1711, after which he was present on 54 per cent of all sitting days in the 1711-12 session. He had been listed among those to be canvassed by the earl of Oxford (as Harley had become) over the attempt to reject the motion insisting that there could be ‘No Peace without Spain’, and on 8 Dec. he subscribed the protest at the resolution to present the address to the queen with the clause included. Northumberland was thought likely to support James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], in his attempt to sit in the House as duke of Brandon and on 20 Dec. he voted against the motion denying Scots peers the right to sit in the House by virtue of post-Union British peerages.

Oxford clearly saw Northumberland as a supporter, someone to be conferred with during the recess of Christmas 1711, and Northumberland’s loyalty was rewarded in the new year with his restoration to the colonelcy of the 2nd troop of Horse Guards, following Ormond’s promotion to command of the 1st troop on 4 Jan. 1712.75 His growing interest in Berkshire was also underlined by his successful championing of Charles Aldworth to succeed Samuel Masham as Member for New Windsor following Masham’s elevation to the Lords on 1 Jan. 1712 as one of ‘Oxford’s dozen’. As a recognition of this local influence, Northumberland was appointed lord lieutenant of Berkshire, to which office he was sworn 5 May 1712. The House was again called upon to uphold Northumberland’s privilege on 2 Feb. 1712 when George Willan was reprimanded on his knees at the bar for breaching Northumberland’s privilege. Aldworth further advised Northumberland in April to be in the House during the proceedings on the bill for satisfying the creditors of John Dann and John Coggs, in which Northumberland was involved as a trustee for one Thomas Brerewood.76 Northumberland was duly in attendance on 5 June when the bill was considered in a committee of the whole but he was then absent from the remainder of the session after 6 June. He registered his proxy on 7 June with Montagu Venables Bertie, 2nd earl of Abingdon, and following further debate, the bill was ordered to be engrossed on 11 June. Northumberland was again present at the prorogation of 8 July.

On the death of Richard Savage, 4th Earl Rivers, on 18 Aug. 1712, Northumberland was reportedly in line to resume his old command of the Royal Horse Guards, which Rivers had commanded since Northumberland’s move to the 2nd troop of Horse Guards earlier that year.77 He took his seat in the House for the long-delayed session on the peace on 16 Apr. 1713, after which he was present on 59 per cent of its sitting days. In May his protégé Aldworth penned an inflammatory address on the peace for the New Windsor corporation, which Northumberland refused to present at court.78 In June Oxford forecast that he would be in favour of the eighth and ninth articles of the French commerce treaty. In August Northumberland was sworn to the privy council.

Northumberland returned to the House on 2 Mar. 1714 for the new Parliament. He registered his proxy with Oxford the same day: it was vacated by the resumption of his seat on 31 March. The death of his duchess on 25 May again curtailed his attendance but he ensured that his proxy was registered with Poulett on 26 May. Northumberland wrote to thank Oxford for his sympathy at his loss, which he acknowledged ‘is a sensible one, which will prevent my attending the House at this time’, but he assured Oxford of having ‘left my proxy with my Lord Steward, who I doubt not will be for the bill.’79 The bill in question was the schism bill, and Nottingham assessed Northumberland as a likely supporter of it. He resumed his seat on 9 June and continued to attend until 9 July.

Northumberland attended just three days of the brief session that met in the wake of the queen’s death on 1 Aug. 1714. As a supporter of the Oxford ministry his expectations under the new regime were unpromising but although he was turned out of his offices at Windsor in October, on 26 Jan. 1715 he was noted among those Tories still in office.80 He took his seat in the new Parliament on 21 Mar. but sat on just four occasions. In the following year of 1716 he attended on just two days, sitting for the last time on 5 March. On 13 Apr. he registered his proxy with John Ashburnham, 3rd Baron Ashburnham. It was vacated by Northumberland’s death on 28 June at Epsom.

Northumberland lay in state in the Jerusalem chamber at Westminster before his interment in Westminster Abbey.81 In his will he provided for the payment of a third of his annual pension of £3,000 to his widow Mary Dutton, whom he had married within a year of the death of his first wife. He left no legitimate children, so at his demise the dukedom of Northumberland became extinct.


  • 1 HMC Laing, i. 445.
  • 2 CSP Dom. 1676-77, p. 25; CSP Dom. 1679-80, pp. 320-1; Eg. 3352, f. 176.
  • 3 TNA, PROB 11/553.
  • 4 First Hall Book of ... New Windsor 1653-1725, i. 103; CSP Dom. 1700-2, p. 316; Add. 70305, govs of garrisons, 1 Dec. 1711.
  • 5 CSP Dom. 1685, p. 10; CSP Dom. 1703-4, p. 267; Haddington mss, Mellerstain Letters, 4, G. Baillie to Montrose, 3 Jan. 1712.
  • 6 Dasent, History of St James's Sq., app. A; Add. 22267, ff. 164-71.
  • 7 Evelyn Diary, iv. 391-2; Add. 75367, ff. 26-7.
  • 8 CSP Dom. 1676-77, p. 25; CSP Dom. 1679-80, pp. 320-1; HMC Ormond, iv. 443.
  • 9 Verney ms mic. M636/36, C. Gardiner to Sir R. Verney, 14 Oct. 1681; HMC Ormond, vi. 355.
  • 10 Bodl. Carte 222, ff. 324-5; Beinecke Lib. OSB mss 1, box 1, folder 29, [Yard] to Poley, 6 Apr. 1683.
  • 11 NRS, GD 406/1/3260; Beinecke Lib. OSB mss 1, box 1, folder 45, Yard to Poley, 4 Apr. 1684; HMC Buccleuch, i. 339-40.
  • 12 Bodl. Carte 232, f. 141; NRS, GD 406/1/3245; Luttrell, Brief Relation, i.307.
  • 13 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. ii. 487, 494; Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 319, 322.
  • 14 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. ii. 344; Beinecke Lib. OSB mss 1, box 1, folder 57, E. Chute to Poley, 28 Nov. 1684; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 10.
  • 15 Verney ms mic. M636/38, J. Stewkeley to Sir R. Verney, 27 Aug. 1683; Beinecke Lib. OSB mss 1, box 1, folder 41, Yard to Poley, 22 Feb. 1684; Add. 63776, ff. 63-4.
  • 16 Ellis Corresp. i. 67-8; Add. 72482, f. 69; HMC Rutland, ii. 84-5, 106-7; Verney ms mic. M636/40, J. to Sir R. Verney, 17 Mar. 1686.
  • 17 Ellis Corresp. i. 71-2, 86-7, 94; Add. 72523, ff. 58-9; Verney ms mic. M636/40, J. Stewkeley to Sir R. Verney, 24 Mar. 1686.
  • 18 HMC Downshire, i. 141, 146, 164, 169.
  • 19 POAS, iv. 69.
  • 20 HMC Downshire, i. 151, 167-8.
  • 21 HMC Rutland, ii. 110.
  • 22 Add. 34526, ff. 48-56; HMC Portland, iii. 400.
  • 23 HMC Downshire, i. 275.
  • 24 Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 479, 482; Add. 34510, ff. 186-8.
  • 25 Works of … Duke of Buckingham, ii. 73; Add. 72516, ff. 77-8; Verney ms mic. M636/43, J. Verney to Sir R. Verney, 13 Dec. 1688.
  • 26 Ellis Corresp. ii. 346.
  • 27 HMC Portland, iii. 423.
  • 28 Bodl. Rawl. D 1079, f. 14.
  • 29 Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 505.
  • 30 Halifax Letters, ii. 204, 213, 217; HMC 13th Rep VI, 166-9; HMC Kenyon, 246.
  • 31 Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 544; HMC Le Fleming, 242; Bodl. Carte 79, f. 230.
  • 32 CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 187.
  • 33 Eg. 3337, f. 159.
  • 34 CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 241.
  • 35 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. v. 307.
  • 36 HMC Lords, iii. 12, 14, 232-3.
  • 37 HMC Portland, iii. 485.
  • 38 Horwitz, Parl. Pol. 71.
  • 39 Lancs. RO, DDK 1615/9.
  • 40 HMC Lords, iv. 249.
  • 41 Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 6.
  • 42 State Trials, xii. 1048-9.
  • 43 Add. 17677 OO, f. 420.
  • 44 HP Commons 1690-1715, iv. 936-7.
  • 45 HMC Downshire, i. 487.
  • 46 HMC Lords, n.s. ii. 372.
  • 47 UNL, PwA 148.
  • 48 Verney ms mic. M636/50, Sir J. Verney to W. Coleman, 21 June 1698; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 394.
  • 49 HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 230.
  • 50 Ibid. 394.
  • 51 Add. 75370, E. Southwell to Halifax, 11 May 1699; Add. 75368, Nottingham to Halifax, 14 May 1699.
  • 52 Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 675; Add. 61101, ff. 68-9.
  • 53 Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 46.
  • 54 Hall book of New Windsor, i. 103.
  • 55 HP Commons 1690-1715, ii. 17, 571-2.
  • 56 Add. 70073-4, newsletter, 28 Apr. 1702.
  • 57 Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 268, 277-8; CSP Dom. 1703-4, p. 267.
  • 58 CSP Dom. 1703-4, pp. 240, 247; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 374.
  • 59 Hall Book of New Windsor, i. 111.
  • 60 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. 598.
  • 61 HMC Portland, iv. 345.
  • 62 Oxford DNB, ‘Robert Feilding’.
  • 63 Hall Book of New Windsor, i. 118.
  • 64 Add. 61389, ff. 77-8.
  • 65 Add. 61133, f. 174.
  • 66 Add. 61460, ff. 19-22; Add. 61474, ff. 171-2.
  • 67 Gregg, Queen Anne, 300.
  • 68 Holmes, Sacheverell, 115; Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. iii. 1445-6.
  • 69 Nicolson, London Diaries, 539.
  • 70 HMC Downshire, i. 893.
  • 71 Wentworth Pprs, 197-8; HP Commons 1690-1715, ii. 17.
  • 72 Verney ms mic. M636/54, W. Viccars to Fermanagh, 17 July 1711.
  • 73 HMC Portland, v. 69; Add. 70282, Denbigh to Oxford, 22 July 1711; Berks. RO, D/EN/F23/2, C. Aldworth to Northumberland, 30 Oct. 1711.
  • 74 Berks. RO, D/EN/F23/2, C. Aldworth to Northumberland, 1, 5 Nov. 1711.
  • 75 Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 711.
  • 76 Berks. RO, D/EN/F23/2, C. Aldworth to Northumberland, 22 Apr. 1712.
  • 77 Add. 70282, f. 207.
  • 78 Berks. RO, D/EN/F23/2, Aldworth to Northumberland, 20 May 1713; HP Commons 1690-1715, ii. 18.
  • 79 Add. 70225, Northumberland to Oxford, 2 June 1714.
  • 80 HMC Portland, vii. 205.
  • 81 Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 7, ff. 500-1.