POULETT, John (1675-1743)

POULETT, John (1675–1743)

suc. fa. 26 June 1679 (a minor) as 4th Bar. POULETT; cr. 24 Dec. 1706 Earl POULETT

First sat 24 Nov. 1696; last sat 21 Apr. 1743

b. 26 Apr. 1675,1 o. s. of John Poulett, 3rd Bar. Poulett and 2nd w. Susan, da. of Philip Herbert, 5th earl of Pembroke. educ. unknown. m. lic. 23 Apr. 1702, with £30,000,2 Bridget (d.1748) da. and coh. of Peregrine Bertie of Waldershare, Kent, 4s. 4da. KG 1712.3 d. 28 May 1743; will 30 Oct. 1741; pr. 11 Nov. 1743.4

PC 10 Dec. 1702-Sept. 1714; commr., union with Scotland 1706;5 first ld. of treas. Aug. 1710-May 1711; ld. steward, June 1711-Aug. 1714.

Ld. lt. Devon, 1702-14; custos rot., Devon, 1711-14, Som. 1713-14.6

FRS 1706.

Associated with: Hinton St George, Som; Albemarle St. London;7 St James’s Sq. London.8

Likenesses: oil on canvas by unknown artist, c.1740, National Trust, Saltram, Devon; portrait bust by J. Rysbrack, c.1745, St George’s, Hinton St George, Som.

Poulett succeeded his father in 1679, at about four years old, and seems to have inherited a good estate, worth about £4,800 p.a., together with poor health. In December 1678 he was described as a ‘very weak child till very lately’, and in August 1680 as ‘so marvellous infirm of the king’s evil that his life is under great suspicion (unless his present ague helps to lengthen it)’.9 On 25 Aug. 1680, his uncle, Sir John Sydenham, 2nd bt. arranged for James Scott, duke of Monmouth to visit Hinton during his tour of the west, and there were subsequent reports of Elizabeth Parcet touching Monmouth and being cured of the king’s evil, though it is not known whether there was any intention that Poulett himself should receive the same treatment.10

Poulett was excused attendance on the Lords on 10 Oct. 1680 and 26 May 1685 because he was under-age. As a minor, Poulett’s estates were managed by trustees, including Sydenham, Francis Poulett, Sir Thomas Putt, bt., and Colonel Edward Cooke.11 They were forced to defend Poulett from an appeal by his mother to the Lords on 1 June 1685 from a chancery suit in which she claimed the portion due to her deceased daughter, Vere.12 On 29 June they petitioned successfully on his behalf for a postponement of the hearing on the grounds that one of his trustees, Francis Poulett, living in the West could not be found because of the Rebellion. When the House eventually heard the case on 19 Nov. 1685 they decided in favour of Poulett, dismissed the appeal and affirmed the Chancery decree. On 16 Nov. 1685 Poulett was again excused attendance on the grounds of age.

The Prince of Orange stayed at Crewkerne in Somerset and hunted in Poulett’s park on his way to London in late November 1688.13 On 25 Jan. and 28 Oct. 1689 and 31 Mar. 1690 Poulett was again excused attendance on the grounds of age and on 19 June 1690 Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham noted that he was a minor.14 He was also excused attendance on the House because of age on 2 Nov. 1691. Rumours in September 1692 linked the seventeen-year-old Poulett to a possible marriage alliance with a daughter of William Cavendish, 4th earl of Devonshire, but this proved unfounded.15 Poulett’s mother had died by November 1693 when the administration of her will was granted to a creditor.

Last years of William III, 1696-1702

Poulett’s writ of summons was dated 31 Oct. 1696 and he took his seat on 24 November.16 On 23 Dec. Poulett voted against the passage of the attainder bill against Sir John Fenwick, 3rd bt, though he did not sign the protest of that day. He last sat on 31 Mar. 1697, having attended on 60 days of the session, 53 per cent of the total, and had been named to 12 committees. By the time Poulett took his seat he already had important links with many old Whig families. In June 1696 his aunt had married James Johnston, the Scottish secretary of state, and the following year Poulett bought a house in Twickenham, possibly on behalf of Johnston, who took up residence there.17 Poulett’s long-standing friendship with the Harleys appears to have begun around this date. On 30 Mar. 1697 Edward Harley wrote to his father that he had an appointment to meet Poulett at Court de Wyck in Claverham in Somerset on 6 Apr., and Harley’s sister Abigail noted that he was hoping to be at Lord Poulett’s on that date.18 In September of that year Sir Edward Harley himself visited Poulett.19 Poulett’s close friendship with Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, was probably the most influential in his political career. Poulett also knew influential Tories such as Francis Gwyn of Forde Abbey in Dorset, who on 22 May 1697 wrote to William Savile, 2nd marquess of Halifax, that ‘my neighbour’ Poulett ‘sets up for living close and says the times are hard, but he begins to affect being a rich man a little too soon. He is very cautious and meddles with nothing and makes very few visits’. On 21 July Gwyn further wrote that Poulett had ‘turned a highway lately upon the act of Parliament’, perhaps a reference to the permissive legislation passed in April 1696 for the better amending and repairing the highways.20

Poulett was present on 3 Dec. 1697, the opening day of the 1697-8 session. On 15 Mar. 1698 he voted in favour of committing the bill punishing Charles Duncombe. He last attended the Lords on 3 May having been present on 60 days of the session, 46 per cent of the total, and been named to 12 committees. By this date he was resident at 14 St James Square, although after 1705 he was recorded as residing at his house in Albemarle Street near Piccadilly.21 For the 1698-9 session, Poulett only attended at the very end, taking his seat on 14 Apr. 1699 and sitting on eight occasions, 10 per cent of the total. Although Robert Harley reported that Poulett had gone out of town on the 29 Apr., he was listed as present on 1 and 2 May.22 He was also appointed to four committees. On 4 Sept. 1699 Gwyn reported that he had spent 10 days attending the musters at the residences of Poulett and of Henry Portman, the brother of Sir Edward Seymour, 4th bt.23 On 15 Jan. 1700 Poulett wrote from Hinton to Robert Harley apropos of the report of the commissioners into Irish forfeitures that ‘all the country hereabouts shows a concern for applying the forfeited estates in Ireland to the use of the public as if it would save every particular man’s estate from any more oppression or taxes during this reign.’24 Poulett first sat in the 1699-1700 session on 7 Feb. 1700. On 23 Feb. he voted to adjourn the House, allowing it to go into a committee of the whole on the East India Company bill. Having last attended on 9 Apr., a couple of days before the end of the session, by 17 Apr. he was writing to Harley from Hinton.25 He had attended on 36 days, 46 per cent of the total and been appointed to six committees.

On 10 July 1700 Gwyn wrote from Forde Abbey to Harley to offer the condolences from himself and Poulett over an illness of Harley’s brother Edward and on 6 Aug. Gwyn dined ‘with my noble neighbour’, later telling Harley that they both hoped ‘we may see you at this end of the world before your return to London.’26 On 21 Sept. Edward Harley wrote to his brother Robert from Hinton of Poulett’s plans to go to Court De Wyck on the 30th, until 7 Oct., ‘and so return hither, will be very glad to see you here’. On 25 Sept. Edward Harley and Poulett were at Fulford, where they found Francis Fulford, who had married, as his first wife, Poulett’s half-sister, Margaret, on his deathbed. This delayed Poulett’s journey to Court De Wyck, but he was expected back at Hinton on 17-18 Oct. to meet Sir Edward Seymour.27 On 30 Nov. 1700 Poulett wrote to Robert Harley that ‘it is a great comfort to all in the country that we are not likely to be engaged in a new war, which, reflecting on what we now pay, is dreaded as double taxes’.28 In the elections of December Poulett supported the abortive candidacies of Henry Thynne and Nathaniel Palmerfor the Somerset seats, but was successful in the borough of Ilchester where his cousin Sir Philip Sydenham, 3rd bt, was returned.29

Poulett attended on 10 Feb. 1701, the opening day of the 1701 Parliament. On 8 Mar. he protested against the resolution to address the king to remove the suspension imposed on Captain John Norris, the future admiral, for neglect of duty. A week later he protested against the resolution to reject the second head of the report concerning the Partition Treaty, which stated that the ‘Emperor was not a party to this treaty, though principally concerned’ and on 20 Mar. he protested against the decision not to send the address on the treaty to the Commons for their concurrence. He was among those who protested on 16 Apr. against the resolution to address the king to ask that no censure be passed against the four Whig peers while their impeachments were pending in the Commons. When the House took exception to two reasons given by the protesters and ordered them to be expunged from the record, Poulett protested against that decision as well. On 9 May 1701 Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd earl of Shaftesbury, who lived not far from Poulett at Sherborne, wrote to Benjamin Furly, a merchant in Rotterdam, that ‘all our young men are drawn away by the specious actions of these present managers’. He noted in particular that Poulett ,‘well known amongst you, is a man of great influence and is a little entangled in the nets I tell you of: the other party making it their chief game to work on such men as these who have great interest both in country and Parliament’.30 Poulett last sat on 17 May, and thereby missed the denouement of the impeachments. He had attended on 63 days, 60 per cent of the total, and been named to 18 committees.

Poulett attended on the opening day of the 1701-2 Parliament, on 30 Dec. 1701. On 1 Jan. 1702 he duly signed the address concerning the Pretender being recognized by France. As he was present on 8 Mar. he was named to the conference with the Commons on the accession of Queen Anne. He last attended on 12 May, having sat on 72 occasions, 72 per cent of the total, and been named to 20 committees.

Under Queen Anne, 1702-10

Towards the beginning of Anne’s reign, Poulett was described as:

one of the hopefullest gentlemen in England; is very learned, virtuous, and a man of honour; much esteemed in the country, for his generous way of living with the gentry, and his charity to the poorest sort. He makes but a mean figure in his person; is of a middle stature, fair complexion, not handsome.31

Despite this latter limitation, Poulett married in April 1702, Bridget the daughter of the Hon. Peregrine Bertie. The exact date of the marriage is uncertain. Narcissus Luttrell recorded on 18 Apr. that he had married the week before, while an unsigned licence was dated 23 April.32 A settlement of 11 Apr. again signified his connections, including his ‘cousin’ Edward Harley, his ‘uncle’ Henry Bertie, his ‘kinsman’ Robert Bertie and his ‘uncle’ James Johnston.33 In June 1702 Poulett was appointed lord lieutenant of Devon, during the minority of William Granville, 3rd earl of Bath, and, as one newsletter reported, in place of Thomas Grey, 2nd earl of Stamford, who had gone to Holland.34 This appointment led to a dispute with Jonathan Trelawny, bishop of Exeter, over the command of the militia of Plymouth, with the bishop pressing the claims of his brother, Charles Trelawny.35 Trelawny was just one of the existing powerful interests in Devon and Poulett does not appear to have exercised much of a role in the elections of that county. He had more electoral influence in Somerset where in the elections of July 1702 his preferences, the moderates Sydenham and Palmer were victorious.

At the beginning of September 1702, Poulett and ‘the gentlemen of Somerset and Dorset’ went to Bath to pay their respects to the queen and to solicit a delay in the assembly of Parliament, due to convene on 8 Oct., chiefly so they could attend the quarter sessions.36 As a result, Sidney Godolphin, Baron Godolphin, wrote from Bath on 11 Sept. to Harley of the postponement of Parliament to 20 Oct., ‘for the reason you mention, of which all the gentlemen of these parts, my Lord Poulett at their head, were so full that it would have been an unaccountable perverseness not to have indulged them 12 or 14 days‘ time’.37 On 10 Dec. Poulett was sworn to the queen’s new Privy Council, part of the general influx of Tories into the government.

According to the presence lists Poulett first attended the 1702-3 session of Anne’s first Parliament on 7 Dec. 1702, although he had been named to a committee on 4 December. On 24 Dec. William Nicolson, bishop of Carlisle, recorded his presence at ‘a committee for three private bills; all made ready for reporting’.38 In about January 1703 he was forecast by Nottingham as likely to support the bill against occasional conformity, and on 16 Jan. he duly voted against adhering to the Lords’ wrecking amendment to the penalty clause of the bill. On the bill to enable the queen to settle revenue for the support of her husband Prince George, duke of Cumberland,in case he should survive her, Poulett protested on 19 Jan. against the decision to leave in a clause which was meant to ensure the prince could serve as a Privy Councillor, sit in the House of Lords, hold various military offices and enjoy various grants, after the queen’s death. On 21 Jan. he acted as a teller in opposition to John West, 6th Baron De la Warr, on the question whether to hear the cause between the Haberdashers’ Company and the attorney general, while the following day he protested against the Lords’ decision to dismiss the appeal of Robert Squire and John Thompson against Thomas Wharton, 5th Baron Wharton. Bishop Nicolson administered the sacrament to Poulett at St Martins-in-the-Fields on 24 January.39 Poulett acted as a teller on 19 Feb., again in opposition to De la Warr, on the question whether to reverse the decree in the cause of the attorney general v. the mayor of Coventry. On 20 Feb. he acted as a teller in opposition to Henry Yelverton, Viscount Longueville, on the question whether the exchequer order in the case of Dent v. Buck should be reversed, and two days later he protested against the rejection of the bill introducing a landed qualification for members of the Commons.40 He attended on the last day of the session, 27 Feb., having sat on 46 days of the session, 53.5 per cent of the total, and been named to 18 committees.

In November 1703 Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, forecast Poulett as a likely supporter of the occasional conformity bill, although with a query against his name. By December he had confirmed his opinion that Poulett would indeed support the bill. Poulett first attended the 1703-4 session on 22 Nov. 1703. On 14 Dec. he voted in favour of a second reading of the occasional conformity bill, before it was rejected by the House. He dissented on 21 Mar. 1704 from the rejection of a rider to the recruiting bill which would have required recruits to obtain the consent of churchwardens and overseers of the poor in their parishes, and that same day he protested against the passage of the bill. He last sat on 25 Mar., having attended on 70 days of the session, 71 per cent of the total and been named to 30 committees.

The spring of that year saw his friend Harley appointed secretary of state following the dismissal or resignation of the High Tories from office.41 Poulett attended on the opening day of the 1704-5 session, 24 Oct. 1704, and in November he was listed as likely to support the Tack of the occasional conformity bill. In a debate in committee of the whole of 8 Nov. on whether to install galleries in the chamber Poulett seconded the motion of Francis Newport, earl of Bradford, that the old orders excluding the public should be maintained, saying that ‘he was not for turning the House into a sight’. When the masons reported that a gallery accommodating about 100 people would not be difficult to build, he retorted that ‘this would be against the known rules of all public shows; where the spectators are always more in number than those that make the spectacle’. On 17 Nov. he was one of the peers at the Tower to view ‘the method the clerks were in towards putting the records in good order’.42 Given Poulett’s links to James Johnston, it seems likely that he was one of two peers on 6 Dec. who defended the former Scottish secretary in the committee of the whole on the state of the nation with regard to Scotland. When the House considered the motion to prepare new laws to counteract the ill effects of the act of security, Poulett challenged it on the grounds that ‘half of this preamble was not necessary and that he thought that it had been agreed to, to shun irritations as much as possible’. However, the peers were ‘weary’ and the motion passed unopposed.43 On 15 Dec. he spoke in favour of giving a second reading to the bill against occasional conformity.44

Poulett was named on 18 Jan. 1705 to the committee for a bill to allow him and his wife, with the consent of their trustees, to sell their estates in Kent and purchase other land of like value. Laurence Hyde, earl of Rochester, reported from the committee on 1 Feb. recommending that the bill pass with minor amendments. On 27 he was placed on the committee to draw up heads for a conference to be held with the Commons about the case of the Aylesbury men and on 28 Feb. and again on 7 Mar. he was named to manage a series conferences on this matter. He was again appointed to manage conferences on 12 and 13 Mar. on the Lords’ amendments to the militia bill. Further on 13 Mar. he was named to manage a conference on the bill for naturalizing Jacob Pechells and others. He attended on the last day of the session, 14 Mar., having sat on 85 days of the session, 86 per cent of the total, and been named to 38 committees.

In early April he was listed as a Hanoverian on an analysis relating to peers’ attitudes towards the succession. Poulett was closely involved in west country business during the elections of that spring. On 2 May 1705 he wrote to Harley in detail about elections and politics in Exeter, particularly the possibility that Francis Gwyn would succeed the ailing Sir Edward Seymour, whom Poulett referred to as ‘Sir Chuffer’, as recorder of the city. He also commented on the dangerous role of those clergymen in the cathedral chapter who preached that the Church was in danger and that Bishop Trelawny was its enemy.45 In the Somerset election his candidates, Palmer and John Pigott, a kinsman of Poulett’s, who had previously campaigned as a Whig, were victorious. As Poulett described to Edward Harley in a letter of 30 June, the selection of these two court Tories drove the county’s High Church party into a frenzy:

since their defeat they flame more fiercely as if only a little water was thrown on them, and they rage with the overcoming hopes this next session to destroy our friends and their moderate interest as they phrase it; but here their loudness proved but a sign of weakness in reason and numbers, and I believe they are made of the same stuff [as] all their party.46

Later, on 25 July, Poulett agreed to be a godfather of the third son of William Legge, 2nd Baron (later earl of) Dartmouth, along with Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend.47

Poulett was absent from the opening of the 1705-6 session and was excused attendance on 12 Nov. 1705, but attended for the first time on the following day. He was listed as voting on 6 Dec. in favour of the motion that the Church was not in danger in the current administration.48 On 22 Dec. 1705 and 18 Jan. 1706 Nicolson again noticed his attendance at a committee dealing with the public records.49 On 7, 11 and 19 Feb. he was appointed to manage conferences on the place clause the Commons had inserted in the regency bill. He was also named on 22 Feb. to manage a conference on a private bill relating to the import of French wine. As he was present on 11 Mar. he (along with the rest of the House present) may have been appointed to manage two conferences on the published letter of Sir Rowland Gwynne to Stamford. He attended on the last day of the session, 19 Mar., having sat on 68 days of the session, 72 per cent of the total, and been named to 36 committees.

In April 1706 he had been appointed one of the commissioners for the Union with Scotland but by late May he was back at Hinton where on 22 May news of the victory at Ramilles produced a euphoric letter of congratulation to Harley:

this is a miracle to open the eyes of many honest men who by their unfortunate behaviour became so unworthy that nothing less than a glorious victory could subdue them to understand how much they are obliged to their true friends in saving them and all England from the ill fate which their destructive leaders deserve.50

He was still away from the capital in early July as the Treaty of Union was being finalized, for arrangements were made to send out a copy to him and Godolphin, while never doubting Poulett’s willingness to sign the treaty, feared that he would be unwilling to ‘come up in the dust and the heat’. Nevertheless on 13 July Poulett indicated to Harley that he would soon leave Hinton for London, where he duly signed the treaty on 22 July.51

On 18 Sept. 1706 Poulett wrote from Hinton to Harley complaining about one local opponent who was ‘so much the officious drudge of the tacking party that he very insolently and impertinently thwarts your friends here in everything’. Sufficient time had passed since the last election for it to seem not a ‘personal resentment’ if this man was now left out of the commission of the peace ‘for want of a sufficient estate’, being ‘desperately contemptible in his family and fortune’. Poulett was still at Hinton at the end of the month when he penned a letter soliciting Harley’s interest for him to succeed Christopher Hatton, Viscount Hatton, as governor of Guernsey. 52 Poulett was clearly in line for further honour. He was under consideration in November as a replacement for the aged Bradford, should the treasurer of the household die, while a paper in Godolphin’s hand of 29 Nov. had Poulett slated for a promotion in the peerage.53 This was eventually effected and on 24 Dec. he was created Earl Poulett, a promotion Thomas Wentworth, 2nd Baron Raby later attributed to Harley, and one of 11 creations or promotions of court supporters passed in December 1706.54

Poulett, having attended the House for seven days of the 1706-7 session since its opening on 3 Dec. 1706, was introduced to the Lords in his new honour on 30 Dec. by Sunderland and Scroop Egerton, 4th earl (later duke) of Bridgwater. He was appointed on 27 Mar. 1707 to manage a conference on the Formhill and Stoney highway bill. He sat on the last day of the session, 8 Apr. 1707, having attended on 71 days, 83 per cent of the total, and been named to 36 committees. He attended on seven of the nine days of the short session of April 1707. On 23 Apr., in discussions on the bill to prevent the fraudulent use of drawbacks, he entered his dissent to the resolution to consider on the following day the judges’ refusal to answer the question of whether existing laws were sufficient to prevent such frauds. He attended for 78 per cent of the session, being named to two committees. Pondering the political situation during the summer he wrote from Hinton to Harley on 16 July that ‘enemies’ actions have made in general all of the character of Churchmen more reasonable than any words of friends could do’, surely in tune with Harley’s beliefs at the time.55

Poulett attended on the opening day of the 1707-8 session, 23 Oct. 1707. He was present on 13 Nov. but set out for the west a short time later with the intention of returning in mid-January. He quickly turned back, resuming his seat on 28 November. He appears to have been told to return, presumably by Harley, because ‘a rupture betwixt the court and the Whigs ... is again upon the anvil’.56 He last attended the session on 28 Feb. 1708, having sat on 54 days of the session, just over half of the total and been named to 15 committees. Having already been apparently summoned back in order to defend the ministry against the attacks of the Junto, Poulett also soon became involved in the internecine battles between the ‘duumvirs’ and his friend Harley. Poulett was perceived as one of the men Harley hoped to employ should he win the political battle against Godolphin, it being widely believed that he would have been appointed secretary of state in Harley’s planned ‘moderate’ ministry.57 Poulett maintained his close connection with Harley after the latter’s dismissal from office, especially during the elections in April. Early that month he was approached by Harley to see if he could accommodate the former secretary-at-war Henry St John, later Viscount Bolingbroke, presumably at Ilchester. Poulett, though, responded that he had ‘entirely engaged this place and very lately returned assurances for it which will oblige me in honour to stand by it’.58 He continued to promote Nicholas Wood at Exeter, asking Harley to use his interest with Offspring Blackall, the new bishop of Exeter, to get him to recommend Wood. He also wanted Harley to speak to his cousin Nathaniel Palmer to discourage ‘young’ Giles Hayne from standing a candidate at the next election.59 In the county of Somerset his interest appears to have been weakened by Harley’s fall and he was also put under pressure by Tories such as Gwyn to abandon Pigott for a more hardline Tory. For Ilchester, though, his uncle Johnston was returned for the first post-Union Parliament. Not surprisingly, on a printed list of about May 1708 detailing the composition of the new Parliament Poulett was classed as a Tory.

Despite a plea from Harley in mid-October, Poulett was missing from the opening of the 1708-9 session on 16 Nov. 1708 and first attended on 3 December.60 His growing importance in political circles is suggested by his presence at a dinner on 26 Dec. hosted by John Sheffield, duke of Buckingham, whose other guests included Johnston, James Douglas, 2nd duke of Queensberry [S], Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury, Charles Mordaunt, 3rd earl of Peterborough, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, and Matthew Prior.61 Poulett’s electoral interest at Ilchester remained solid. On 10 Jan. 1709 Johnston reported the withdrawal of the election petition against his election at Ilchester, noting that ‘Lord Wharton chiefly, and Sir Peter King [the future Baron King] for him, having acted like themselves in the matter, but my Lord’s [Poulett’s] interest, and the gentry’s in the country proved so strong against them that they were betrayed in everything, so I must now be Church whether I will or no.’62 In the House on 21 Jan. Poulett voted for the motion permitting Scottish peers with British titles – and particularly Queensberry, created duke of Dover in the British peerage in May 1708 – to vote in the election of Scottish representative peers. He protested on 28 Mar. against the failure to read for a second time the rider proposed for the bill to extend English treason law to Scotland that would have required those accused of treason to have a copy of their indictment five days before their trial. He last attended on 2 Apr. (Johnston reported that he would be leaving London on 5 April).63 He had sat on 58 days of the session, 63 per cent of the total, and been named to 20 committees.

Poulett wrote on 6 Apr. 1709 to Sir William Trumbull while travelling into the country, discoursing extensively on foreign affairs and on the bill for treason trials in Scotland, which had been ‘imposed in so short a time and so little consideration had to adapt it to the manners of Scotland, that it has quite broke all the Scotch from Lord Somers [John Somers, Baron Somers] and his English friends’. Somewhat hopefully he added that Somers ‘finds himself sinking so fast he will go out of Court and turn in opposition so as to make a Hanover party’.64 Rather pessimistically, on 1 Oct. 1709 he wrote from Hinton to Harley that

the signing the preliminaries being in the Gazette before they were returned into Holland convinced me here that nobody expected the like from France and that the peace was not at hand for I easily believe there can be no change during this war and that there will be no return to any settled good, but thro’ the extremity of evil[.] We have so over loaded a healthy constitution with physic to prevent distempers that nothing but falling into a chronic disease can give us again a chance for the recovery of a regular state of health, unless the man alone, who now begins you say to think he stands upon his own legs, does reform us. But I am confident this master of the beasts is the very reverse of Mr Horner in the play with his mistress.65

Poulett was absent from the opening of the 1709-10 session. On 18 Feb. 1710 he wrote from Hinton to Trumbull to arrange ‘to come to your house and drink tea’ on 4 Mar. on his way to London.66 He first attended the House two days after this appointment, on 6 Mar., and in time to participate in the key votes in the Sacheverell trial. On 14 Mar. he dissented from the decision not to adjourn, whereupon the House resolved that in prosecutions by impeachments for high crimes and misdemeanours, the particular words supposed to be criminal need not be expressly specified. On 16 Mar. he protested against the resolution to put the question whether the Commons had made good the first article of impeachment, and on the following day he protested against the House’s acceptance of the Commons’ second, third and fourth articles against Sacheverell. He protested on 18 Mar. against the resolutions limiting peers to a single verdict of guilty or not guilty upon all the articles of the impeachment and two days later voted Sacheverell not guilty, and protested against the guilty vote. On 21 Mar. he further protested against the censure passed against the doctor. In other matters, Poulett was lobbied by Ralph Bridges, a chaplain of Henry Compton, bishop of London, in the cause of the inhabitants of Hammersmith against the bishop. Bridges, in Trumbull’s name, sent Poulett information on the case and desired his attendance, and reported that ‘I find his Lordship was so kind to give and I suppose voted for us’, the cause being won by a single vote on 1 Apr. 1710.67 Poulett attended on the last day of the session on 5 Apr., having sat on 23 days, 25 per cent of the total, and been named to six committees.

In a break with his previous practice, probably associated with the political ferment of the time, he attended the prorogations on 18 Apr. and 2 and 16 May 1710. On 6 May he had written to Trumbull ‘here is nothing certain, for should I write news true in the morning, by night it would be absolutely false’, and that although Shrewsbury’s appointment as lord chamberlain had raised expectations of further changes, that was ‘so long since that I have no patience any longer to wait for it in writing to my friend’.68 An undated letter from Harley to John Holles, duke of Newcastle, indicates Poulett’s important role in the manoeuvring which preceded the change of ministry in 1710; Shrewsbury and Poulett were ‘sensible of your favour in desiring to speak with them before you have the conversation you are pressed to’; if Newcastle had to see them before they went out of town, they were willing to ‘put off their intended journey and will meet you at Mr Paget’s house’, presumably the abode of Henry Paget, the future Baron Burton and earl of Uxbridge.69

Oxford’s ministry, 1710-14

In the first days of June 1710 Godolphin wrote to both John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, and his duchess with the news that the queen had offered Poulett the secretaryship of state in the place of Sunderland, who was about to be dismissed, but Poulett had turned it down because of Godolphin’s concern about the impact of Sunderland’s dismissal abroad.70 On 7 June Poulett sent Harley a long missive about the replacement of Sunderland in which he responded to Newcastle’s criticism of his preferred candidate, John Annesley, 4th earl of Anglesey.71 As the search went on for a successor to Sunderland, rumours continued to link Poulett to the post: following Dartmouth’s appointment Lady Rachel Russell thought it was ‘a surprise’ that Poulett ‘would not’ take the seals; ‘he holds to his point – a porter’s life is a better thing’.72

Poulett was at the heart of the ministerial ‘revolution’ of the summer and autumn of 1710. One of his tasks was apparently to gain converts for the new ministry. Already on 8 Aug. 1710 Lady Anne Clavering had reported an unsuccessful attempt by Poulett to entice his distant relative John Ashburnham, 3rd Baron Ashburnham, to ‘be a zealous server of his country and join the queen and her party’.73 Poulett, among others, offered reassurance to James Brydges, the future duke of Chandos, that the queen had confidence in him, thereby allowing Brydges to retain his position as paymaster with a clear conscience.74 It also seems that Poulett was seen as an important link between Marlborough and the ministry. John Dalrymple, 2nd earl of Stair [S], reported to the duke on 22 Sept. that Poulett ‘professes himself your grace’s servant with great kindness and affection’.75 At the beginning of December John Drummond informed Harley that Adam Cardonnel ‘has had half a squabble with his duke for not accepting of your proposal by Earl Poulett’; were he to do it again, he thought, ‘his grace would not refuse so favourable an opportunity.’76 It is unclear how much influence Poulett had in the 1710 elections in Somerset, though at Ilchester he was able to oversee the return of Samuel Masham, later Baron Masham, husband to Harley’s ally at court, Abigail Masham.

Poulett’s own reward for his long-term support for Harley was to be appointed the nominal head of the new treasury commission, with Harley himself as chancellor of the exchequer. Godolphin thought the composition of the new treasury board, packed as it was with Harley’s friends, would ‘utterly distaste’ the Tories.77 This may have been the case, for Poulett sent a conciliatory letter to Nottingham on 10 Aug., the day of his appointment as first lord, in which he hopefully expressed ‘a confidence of being supported by your favour and great interest’.78 Poulett attended the first meeting of the new treasury commission, on 12 Aug. 1710, and rarely missed a meeting until 28 May 1711, when the commission met for the last time; even Guiscard’s attack on Harley on 8 Mar. 1711 had no discernible impact on his attendance.79 On 13 Aug. 1710 Poulett, Harley and Anglesey were summoned to the cabinet as well.80 Again, he was an assiduous attender of the cabinet and of the lords of the committee, only missing two cabinets and nine committees before he left the treasury.81 He also involved himself in organizing the new commission for the lieutenancy of London.82

On 3 Oct. 1710 Robert Harley listed him, not surprisingly, as expected to support the ministry. Poulett spent some time in the country in October, John Bridges reporting on the 23rd that Poulett had ‘been in the country this fortnight and not expected back in some time.’83 He nevertheless attended the opening day of the 1710-11 session on 25 November. According to Peter Wentworth’s account, on 9 Jan. 1711, it was Poulett who asked Henry de Ruvigny, earl of Galway [I], in the committee of the whole House considering the state of the war in Spain, the question of who else at the council of war held at Valencia on 4/15 Jan. 1707 agreed with the opinion of Galway, Charles O’Hara, Baron Tyrawley [I] and James Stanhope, the future Earl Stanhope, in favour of an offensive war. He later asked Tyrawley the same question. He also intervened to insist that the focus of the questioning remain the council of war, rather than including other matters as desired by Peterborough. Before the House adjourned, Poulett proposed a question to be debated in the committee of the whole next time, that Galway, Tyrawley, and Stanhope, by insisting in the council of war in January 1707 on an offensive war, ‘contrary to the king of Spain’s opinion, and that of all the general officers and public ministers’, and by pursuing that objective in the following campaign, were responsible for the ‘unhappy occasion of the battle of Almanza, and one great cause of our misfortunes in Spain, and of the disappointment of the duke of Savoy’s expedition before Toulon’. After a short debate this question was entered ‘in the book’, and the House adjourned. When the committee resumed on 11 Jan., Poulett made a ‘long speech’ introducing the motion he had announced on the 9th,

that the nation having, for many years, been engaged in an expensive war, it was necessary to give the people the satisfaction to let them know how their money had been spent, and who deserved thanks and who was to be blamed; that it appeared the service of Spain had been very much neglected; that many officers upon that establishment looked on their employments as sinecures, being favourites of the party; and that the Council held in Valencia, being the spring of all our misfortunes, the Lords ought to censure those that influenced it.

When petitions from Galway and Tyrawley were presented, Poulett argued that ‘they had already been heard and had declared they had no more to say: so that the design of these petitions was only to delay’, although he later relented, saying that ‘if they were ready to be heard, he readily agreed they should’. He intervened twice before the committee proceeded to debate his motion. He then made two recorded contributions to this debate, firstly, that ‘the French could not have relieved Toulon if the war in Spain had been defensive’, and secondly, that ‘5,000 men out of Spain might have made a strong diversion’ and contributed to the capture of Toulon. The motion was duly carried by a majority of 21. In committee of the whole House on 12 Jan., Poulett ‘moved the debating of the second question’, which was the revised motion of Nicholas Leke, 4th earl of Scarsdale, arguing that Sunderland’s letters showed that an offensive war had been ‘approved and directed by the ministers, notwithstanding the design of attempting Toulon, which the ministers at that time knew was concerted with the duke of Savoy’, and that the ministers were ‘justly to be blamed, for contributing to all our misfortunes in Spain’ and to the disappointment of the Toulon expedition. In the debate on the merits of using the term ‘ministers’, rather than ‘cabinet’, Poulett intervened twice, firstly to argue that there was ‘no distinction between the ministry and the cabinet council, for those who were of the cabinet were ministers’, and secondly to suggest that ‘this nice distinction between cabinet council and ministry’ was merely a delaying tactic. On the substantive question, Poulett was recorded as saying that ‘the battle of Almanza was a necessary consequence of the opinion and directions of the ministry’.84 The motion was carried by 22.

Harley (by then earl of Oxford) later recollected that Poulett was present at a dinner in February 1711 aimed at reconciling ministerial factions following St John’s ‘listing a party and setting up for governing’ the Commons.85 He was also present at a meeting between Tory ministers and Nottingham, an unsuccessful attempt to appease the latter.86 On 2 Feb. 1711, when the Lords dismissed the place bill passed by the Commons at first reading, Poulett rubbed salt into the wounds, remarking that the bill was like ‘a phantom that had haunted both Houses for several years and arose from the dregs of the discontented of both parties’.87

On 8 Mar. 1711 Poulett was present at the cabinet meeting when Guiscard stabbed Harley. According to Harley’s daughter, Abigail, Poulett ‘walked home by my father’s chair and showed a vast deal of tenderness and care of him’.88 He was named on the following day to manage a conference on the safety of the queen’s person in the wake of the attack. When Poulett wrote to Marlborough on 13 Mar. about it, he added the important financial news that the subscription to the lottery was more than the act admitted, so that the treasury had been forced to seek directions from Parliament. He hoped that ‘the news of it will have a good effect abroad in showing the world the present administration has as good a credit and is as much in earnest to support your grace in all your glorious undertakings as ever.’ He wrote further to Marlborough on financial matters on 30 Mar., particularly on the leather duty, which had been rejected and reintroduced as a tax on hides and skins, a scheme by which, he wrote, William Lowndes had ‘showed himself as nice a casuist as any doctor that wears a scarf and ’tis I think an instance of as ready a discipline in the House as your grace can have in the army.’89 On 10 Mar. he received the proxy of Charles Finch, 4th earl of Winchilsea, which was vacated at Winchilsea’s return on 12 Apr., while on 20 Mar. he also received that of John Campbell, duke of Argyll [S] and earl of Greenwich, which he maintained for the remainder of the session. On 18 Apr. Poulett had to write to Harley (who had retreated to the country) on treasury business to obtain instructions about financial legislation and also on the parliamentary response to the death of the Emperor.90 As a minister he occasionally acted as a messenger for the queen to the Lords. Thus on both 9 and 20 Apr., Poulett signified to the House the queen’s agreement to bills which had just received their first readings.

On the death of Rochester at the beginning of May 1711 the lord steward, Buckingham, was touted as his successor as lord president of the council in order to create a vacancy for Poulett, since Harley’s expected appointment as lord treasurer would displace him.91 On 4 May, in what Harley endorsed as ‘a prudent letter’, Poulett laid out the case against Nottingham taking the lord presidency and promoted the claims of Buckingham.92 On 12 and 17 May it was reported that Poulett would succeed Buckingham as lord steward.93 Poulett, however, wrote to Harley on 14 May thanking him for the offer of Townshend’s post as captain of the yeomen of the guard, albeit with a seat in the cabinet, but declining it as it seemed rather ‘setting me aside in that place’.94 If this threat to retire was intended to concentrate Harley’s mind, it was successful, for in the ministerial reshuffle Buckingham become lord president and Poulett succeeded as lord steward on 11 June.95

While these negotiations were underway, Poulett was named a manager for a conference on 9 May 1711 on the bill for repairing the highway between Dunstable and Hockley, and on 12 May was named to conferences on the bill for the preservation of game, as he was again on 17 and 31 May. On 25 May Poulett and Richard Savage, 4th Earl Rivers, introduced Harley into the Lords in his new title as earl of Oxford. On that same day Poulett wrote to Marlborough, sending him £50,000 and noting ‘that is I think the last business I shall do in the treasury, which, I thank God, I shall leave in a much better condition than I found it.’96 He attended on the last day of the session, 12 June, sitting on that day for the first time as lord steward. He had sat on 94 occasions, 83 per cent of the total, and had been named to 21 committees. Following the session, Poulett was listed as a Tory ‘patriot’.

The appointment of the Member for Ilchester, Samuel Masham, as cofferer of the household presented a problem for Poulett, as Masham was re-elected to the Commons for Windsor instead. This necessitated the provision of a new candidate at Ilchester, and on 6 June 1711 Poulett informed Oxford that the London financier Sir James Bateman, a Whig who was supportive of the ministry’s financial schemes, had been chosen for the borough.97 Poulett attended the prorogation on 10 July. On 4 Aug. it was reported that the queen had stood (by proxy) as god-mother to Poulett’s fourth son, Anne Poulett.98 He attended the prorogations on 21 Aug. and 13 November.

With the Whigs expected to attack the ministry’s peace policy, Poulett appears to have been active in trying to get peers to attend the opening of the next session of 1711-12. On 16 Nov. 1711 Lady Strafford wrote to her husband Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford, that ‘I was told today that Lord Poulett said he hoped the queen would desire you to come over, for your vote would be very much wanted, for a great many Whigs will oppose this peace.’99 On 23 Nov. Shrewsbury wrote to Oxford that he had heard from Poulett that Basil Feilding, 4th earl of Denbigh, and Edward Leigh, 3rd Baron Leigh, ‘stayed in the country, ready to attend if sent for but not unless they had notice’.100 In the last week of November, Poulett revealed his disquiet to Oxford over the effect that fear of the Pretender and the succession might have in the Lords: ‘I am a great deal concerned how your numbers may answer in our House’.101 On 4 Dec. he received the proxy of Nathaniel Crewe, 3rd Baron Crewe and bishop of Durham, which he held until Crewe’s return to the house on 14 Jan. 1712.

Poulett attended on the opening day of the 1711-12 session, 7 Dec. 1711. In the debates on the Address on that day, Poulett joined Oxford in advancing procedural points in an effort to ward off discussion of the Whig ‘No Peace without Spain’ amendment: their argument was that it was not appropriate in the address of thanks to insert unasked for advice to the sovereign.102 It may have been on one of these occasions when the queen told Dr Hamilton that Poulett opined that ‘there was no credit in gaining a question when it was not debated’, to which William Cowper, Baron Cowper responded that ‘it was debated, only they who had nothing to say, hit on forms and words’.103 Lady Strafford reported that Poulett ‘I hear is very zealous for a peace and has spoke several times in the House very well on that subject in answer to Lord Nottingham’.104 On 19 Dec. Poulett was forecast by Harley as likely to support the pretensions of James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], to sit in the House under a British peerage as duke of Brandon in the division expected on the following day. Poulett indeed voted on 20 Dec. against the motion that aimed to deny Hamilton his seat as a British peer, and signed the protest against it. His reaction to recent defeats that winter was shown in a letter of 20 Dec. to Strafford, in which he complained that ‘we are beaten for want of the queen declaring for herself’: ‘none knows who are really the queen’s servants or what her mind is, so that the House of Lords prevails over the queen’s management with us and the strongest House of Commons that ever met’.105 On 22 Dec., the day the Lords adjourned until the new year, the Whigs passed several resolutions, including an address asking that the plenipotentiaries at Utrecht should treat in concert with the Allies, who should also guarantee the Hanoverian succession. To this Poulett successfully appended the clause ‘in case her majesty has not given such orders to them’.106 He appeared on the list used by Oxford to plan his counter-moves during the Christmas recess. He may also have been used by Oxford in lobbying peers in an attempt to regain the initiative in the Lords, particularly in applying pressure to Charles Mildmay, 18th Baron Fitzwalter.107

When the House reconvened on 2 Jan. 1712, Poulett was one of those arguing for a further adjournment of the House, which was seen as a key matter if the ministry was to regain control of the chamber. He specifically answered Sunderland’s point that an adjournment under such circumstances was against the orders of the House and should be looked into, suggesting that they might look into any prejudice that had been done to their privileges when the House met again.108 Poulett and the Tories carried the point and the House was adjourned until 14 January. The following day Poulett dined with Prince Eugene, who described him later as ‘a man of a very good estate but never much bred to business, especially affairs of state, of a good and easy and modest temper, much bigoted to the Church of England, and a true patriot in the opinion of the Tory party, which renders him popular’.109 Poulett also received the proxy of George Fitzroy, duke of Northumberland, on 15 Jan. 1712, which was vacated by the duke’s return to the House two weeks later. Later in the session, he also held the proxies of Arthur Annesley, 5th earl of Anglesey, from 21 to 28 May, and of Montagu Bertie, 2nd earl of Abingdon, from 23 to 27 May. The return of both Anglesey and Abingdon by 28 May was probably for the important vote of that day on the ‘restraining orders’ sent to the captain-general James Butler, 2nd duke of Ormond, restricting him from taking offensive military action against France. Despite not being listed as present on that day, Poulett apparently both spoke and voted against the motion for an address asking the queen to lay before the House the orders sent to Ormond and to order him to act offensively.110 According to Ralph Bridges, after Marlborough had reflected upon the present generals, Poulett responded by saying ‘that the duke of Ormond’s courage was clear and unquestionable and that as to his conduct he showed a great deal more of it in saving the lives of 10 or 20,000 men, than other generals did by losing of them in order to gain their pay’. Another observer reported that Poulett had said, more offensively, that Ormond ‘had no such views in fighting as a late general had, who would send his army against stone walls that the officers might be knocked in the head that he might fill his pockets with their commissions’. The charge ‘that the present general did not think fit to throw away men’s lives unnecessarily with a view to the advantage of filling up their vacancies’ was ‘so highly resented’ by the duke that Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun, was sent with a challenge to Poulett. Some contemporaries reflected that Marlborough showed ‘very much his good generalship, having attacked the enemy in the weakest side; Earl Poulett not being able to see to the end of his sword’ while Argyll, Anglesey and Strafford had ‘at least an equal title’ to Marlborough’s ire. Poulett was certainly known to have poor eyesight, being referred to as an owl in some verses in 1711, and his countess took steps to ensure that the secretary of state intervened to prevent a duel. Indeed, ‘three minutes after’ the challenge, Poulett ‘was attended by the captain of the guards, whilst another party paid the same compliment to the challenger’.111 Perhaps Marlborough felt the jibes more sharply because of the cordial exchanges the two men had had while Poulett was at the treasury and Marlborough in command of the army.112 On 7 June 1712 Poulett joined Oxford in objecting to a Whig amendment to the address thanking the queen for her speech on the peace, which sought to have the allies ‘guarantee’ any peace.113 On 13 June he again received Annesley’s proxy for the remainder of the session. He last sat in the session on 21 June, when Parliament was adjourned to the prorogation of 8 July. He had been present on 86 days, 80 per cent of the total, and been named to 20 committees.

It was rumoured that Poulett’s service was to be rewarded with the garter, and on 18 July 1712 Lady Strafford, commenting on the nomination of four new knights of the order, including Poulett, thought ‘none of the court cares’ for him.114 In August his post as lord steward saw him involved in protecting the duchess of Leeds from her husband, the recently succeeded Peregrine Osborne, 2nd duke of Leeds. In his opinion the ‘duchess should be quiet where she is till she sees what my Lord Duke will do and that she may be as safe in her own house in Scotland Yard as where she proposes to be’.115 In cabinet, probably on 24 Sept., Poulett joined Oxford in successfully arguing against the insistence of Bolingbroke (as Henry St John had become) that the Parliament should be dissolved.116

On 26 Oct. 1712 Poulett was, as expected, nominated a knight of the garter, although he was not invested with the honour until 4 Aug. 1713. He attended the prorogations on 6 Nov. 1712 and on 13 Jan. and 10 Mar. 1713. Poulett’s name appears on Jonathan Swift’s list (amended by Oxford) of peers expected to support the ministry in the forthcoming session. He attended on the opening day of the 1713 session, 9 Apr. 1713, and that day, in the debate on the address, he opposed the amendment proposed by Evelyn Pierrepont, marquess of Dorchester, that the House request the queen to lay before them the peace treaties.117 On 28 May he wrote to Charles Lennox, duke of Richmond, that ‘this morning the queen gave me your Lordship’s proxy which she says you left with her and she commanded me to enter it as to myself’. He promised to be ‘very cautious in using it on any occasion but where it’s directly for the queen’s service and I shall be particularly careful to ask her directions first, which liberty her majesty allows me’, adding that ‘if there be any particulars your grace will do me the honour to give me your directions in, I will be sure to punctually obey you, though it should differ from my own opinion in the giving your proxy while it is in my hands’.118 Significantly, 28 May was the day on which James Ogilvy, 4th earl of Findlater, moved for a day for the state of the nation to be considered. When the committee sat on 1 June, Findlater proposed a bill to dissolve the Union. Poulett spoke in the debate against the motion and when the House voted to put the question on adjourning the debate (so that the Scots and the Whigs could prolong discussion on the bill), the court carried the day to continue with the debate, partly by the vote of Poulett with Richmond’s proxy. The motion for leave to bring in the bill was then defeated.119 Indeed, the duchess of Richmond, referring to Poulett in a letter of 20 July 1713, commented to her husband that ‘no mortal could take more caution in using your proxy than he did, and I am almost sure he never did use it but once’, even though Poulett held it for the remainder of the session.120 In early June Oxford expected Poulett to support the bill confirming the eighth and ninth articles of the French commercial treaty when and if it reached the Lords. He was present on the last day of the session, 16 July, having attended on 53 days of the session, 80 per cent of the total, and been named to four committees.

On 24 Aug. 1713 Poulett was about to depart from Windsor for the west country, where as he told Oxford he hoped to be useful on account of the elections, lamenting also the more than ordinary expense of elections years in the country. As such he hoped Oxford would pay him ‘what the queen is pleased to allow me by your favour’. 121 At this same time he took a keen interest in the marriage on 31 Aug. of Oxford’s heir Edward Harley, styled Lord Harley and the future 2nd earl of Oxford, to Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles, the only daughter of the late duke of Newcastle.122 His closeness to Oxford led Poulett to be chosen a trustee of Lord Harley, a role with which he was much pleased.123 On 5 Oct. he wrote to Oxford from Hinton on a number of matters: the treaty of commerce, expected to be re-introduced in the new Parliament; the advisability of repealing the triennial act when ‘it might be one of the first advantages with credit obtained now after the elections’; and the elections themselves.124 Through his efforts Oxford’s supporter Bateman had been returned, despite the opposition of Henry Somerset, 2nd duke of Beaufort, who in November 1712 had tried to persuade Poulett to drop his support for Bateman, as he was ‘a stranger and not at all liked by the gentlemen of the county’.125

Poulett attended the prorogations on 10 Dec. 1713 and 12 Jan. 1714 and the opening day of the 1714 session, 16 Feb. 1714. On 5 Apr. he spoke for the ministry in the debate on the motion that the Protestant Succession was not in danger under the current administration.126 On 26 May he received the proxy of Northumberland, who, on 2 June 1714 wrote to tell Oxford, ‘I doubt not will be for the bill.’127 Poulett was indeed forecast by Nottingham at the end of May or the beginning of June as likely to support the schism bill, but on 4 June he was one of four Harleyite peers to vote in favour of allowing a petition from Dissenting ministers to be heard by counsel against it, a motion which was narrowly lost.128 This revealed Oxford’s own ambivalent attitude towards the bill: perhaps because of Poulett’s apparent wavering, Northumberland vacated his proxy by returning to the House on 9 June, in the midst of debate on the bill and six days before it was passed at its third reading. Poulett attended on the last day of the session, 9 July, having sat on 63 occasions, 83 per cent of the total and been named to five committees.

On 24 July 1714 it was noted that Poulett dined at Buckingham’s along with Oxford, Bolingbroke, John Robinson, bishop of Bristol, and secretary of state William Bromley.129 Following Oxford’s dismissal as lord treasurer on 27 July, James Macparlane thought that Buckingham, Shrewsbury ‘and, if I right remember, Poulett, had promised to one another to demit all together if one was deposed’.130 On 29 July a newsletter certainly thought that Poulett would resign.131 However he remained in post as lord steward and on 30 July, on the day the queen collapsed in her final illness, he was one of the six signatories of a letter from the Privy Council to Buckingham, as lord lieutenant of Middlesex, to put the laws in force against Catholics and non-jurors.132 He attended Parliament on the day of the queen’s death on 1 Aug., and on 6 Aug. he received the proxy of William Berkeley, Baron Berkeley of Stratton, which he maintained for the remainder of the brief session. He was present 13 of the 15 days of the session, 87 per cent of the total, and was named to two committees.

In the manoeuvring which followed the queen’s death, William Stratford told Lord Harley on 13 Aug. 1714 that Francis Atterbury, bishop of Rochester, had ‘worked himself into’ Poulett, whom he visited often, although Stratford thought it unlikely that Poulett would put any confidence in the bishop ‘on account of the friendship he has professed, and I suppose still professes to your father’ and the good ‘correspondence’ Poulett had with George Hooper, bishop of Bath and Wells. But on the following day Stratford added that he had heard that Poulett and Oxford had quarrelled and that Simon Harcourt, Baron Harcourt, ‘and his party reckon upon him as sure to them’. In response, though, Lord Harley vindicated Poulett’s loyalty to his father.133

Poulett did stay loyal to Oxford in the years after 1714 and never regained high office.134 His continuing parliamentary career in opposition after 1715 will be covered in the succeeding volumes of this work. He died on 28 May 1743 and was buried at Hinton St George. Contemporary opinion about Poulett divided, predictably enough, along party lines. According to Strafford, writing when he was still only Baron Raby, he was ‘thought a man of very good sense as well as estate, he has never been in affairs but has always been much favoured by Mr Harley’, whereas the duchess of Marlborough dismissed him as an ‘insipid man, dishonest and insignificant’.135


  • 1 C.G. Winn, Pouletts of Hinton St George, 63.
  • 2 Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 165.
  • 3 Winn, Pouletts, 71.
  • 4 TNA, PROB 11/730.
  • 5 CSP Dom. 1705-6, p. 110.
  • 6 Som. Heritage Centre, DD/PT/H452/4.
  • 7 HMC Cowper, iii. 117.
  • 8 PROB 11/730; Dasent, Hist. St James’s Sq, App. A.
  • 9 HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 262, n.s. v. 371.
  • 10 Winn, Pouletts, 63; His Grace the Duke of Monmouth Honoured in his Progress in the West of England (1680).
  • 11 HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 507, 521.
  • 12 HMC Lords, i, 305.
  • 13 HMC Le Fleming, 224; HMC Kenyon, 209.
  • 14 HMC Finch, ii. 303.
  • 15 Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 577.
  • 16 HMC Lords, n.s. ii. 271.
  • 17 VCH Mdx. iii. 150.
  • 18 HMC Portland, iii. 582; Add. 70117, A. to Sir E. Harley, 6 Apr. 1697.
  • 19 Add. 70083, R. Stretton to Sir E. Harley, 2 Oct. 1697.
  • 20 Add. 75370, F. Gwyn to Halifax, 22 May, 21 July 1697.
  • 21 Dasent, Hist. St James Sq. App. A; London Top. Rec. xxix. 53-57; E. Hatton, A New View of London (1708), 632.
  • 22 Add. 70015, f. 63.
  • 23 Add. 75370, [F. Gwyn] to Halifax, 4 Sept. 1699.
  • 24 Add. 70252, Poulett to R. Harley, 15 Jan. [1700].
  • 25 Add. 70252, Poulett to R. Harley, 17 Apr. 1700.
  • 26 Add. 70294, F. Gwyn to R. Harley, 10 July, 7 Aug. 1700.
  • 27 Add. 70236, E. to R. Harley, 21, 26, 28, 30 Sept. 1700.
  • 28 HMC Portland, iii. 636.
  • 29 Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 25, f. 47.
  • 30 TNA, PRO 30/24/20, no. 24.
  • 31 Macky Mems. 88.
  • 32 Luttrell, Brief Relation, v, 165; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 242.
  • 33 PROB 11/730.
  • 34 Add. 70073-4, newsletter, 2 June 1702.
  • 35 Add. 29584, f. 95.
  • 36 CSP Dom. 1702-3, pp. 235-6.
  • 37 HMC Portland, iv. 46.
  • 38 Nicolson, London Diaries, 151; PA, HL/PO/CO/1/6, pp. 250-1.
  • 39 Nicolson, London Diaries, 188.
  • 40 HMC Lords, n.s. v. 180.
  • 41 Add. 70294, Poulett to R. Harley, 20 May 1704.
  • 42 Nicolson, London Diaries, 221-2, 228.
  • 43 Baillie Corresp. 16-17.
  • 44 Nicolson, London Diaries, 253.
  • 45 HMC Portland, iv. 177.
  • 46 Add. 70022, ff. 204-5; HMC Portland, iv. 200.
  • 47 HMC Dartmouth, i. 294.
  • 48 WSHC, 3790/1/1, p. 60.
  • 49 Nicolson, London Diaries, 334, 356.
  • 50 Add. 70252, Poulett to R. Harley, 22 May 1706.
  • 51 CSP Dom. 1705-6, p. 110; HMC Portland, ii. 194; Add. 70284, Godolphin to R. Harley, ‘Thursday at 11’; Add. 70252, Poulett to R. Harley, 13 July 1706.
  • 52 HMC Portland, iv. 330, 333, 342.
  • 53 Ibid. iv. 362, viii. 260.
  • 54 Wentworth Pprs. 132.
  • 55 HMC Portland, iv. 426.
  • 56 Add. 72488, ff. 32-33.
  • 57 HMC 8th Rep. pt. 2, p. 96; Add. 61461, ff. 39-42; Wentworth Pprs. 132.
  • 58 Add. 70252, Poulett to R. Harley, 5 Apr. [1708].
  • 59 Longleat, Portland pprs. 7, ff. 196-7; Add. 70252, Poulett to R. Harley, 24 Apr. [1708].
  • 60 Add. 70252, R. Harley to Poulett, 16 Oct. 1708 (copy).
  • 61 Add. 72488, ff. 38-39, 42-43.
  • 62 Add. 72488, ff. 44-45.
  • 63 Add. 72488, f. 60.
  • 64 Add. 72540, ff. 159-60.
  • 65 Add. 70252, Poulett to R. Harley 1 Oct. 1709.
  • 66 Add. 72540, f. 193.
  • 67 Add. 72495, f. 1.
  • 68 Add. 72540, ff. 198-9.
  • 69 HMC Portland, ii. 184.
  • 70 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. 1511-12, 1515-16.
  • 71 HMC Portland, iv. 542-3.
  • 72 Wentworth Pprs. 117; Add. 70219, J. Conyers to R. Harley, 18 June 1710; HMC Rutland, ii. 190.
  • 73 Clavering Corresp. 88-89.
  • 74 G. Holmes, ‘Harley and the Ministerial Revolution of 1710’, PH, xxix. 302-3.
  • 75 Add. 61155, ff. 77-78.
  • 76 Add. 70290, J. Drummond to R. Harley, 15 Oct. [1710 NS].
  • 77 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. 1597.
  • 78 Leics. RO, Finch mss, DG7, box 4950, bdle 23, E18.
  • 79 CTB, xxiv. 34-114; CTB, xxv. 1-65.
  • 80 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. 1603; Add. 72499, f. 188.
  • 81 TRHS, ser. 5, vii. 143.
  • 82 Add. 70230, S. Harcourt to [-], 9 Oct. 1710.
  • 83 Add. 72491, f. 17.
  • 84 Wentworth Pprs. 171-2; Timberland, ii. 303, 307-8, 311-12, 314.
  • 85 HMC Portland, v. 464.
  • 86 Burnet, vi. 41.
  • 87 HMC Portland, iv. 657.
  • 88 Add. 72500, ff. 54-55; HMC Portland, iv. 667.
  • 89 Add. 61125, ff. 161-2, 165-6.
  • 90 HMC Portland, iv. 674-5.
  • 91 Add. 61461, ff. 110-13.
  • 92 HMC Portland, iv. 683-4.
  • 93 Worcs. AS, 705:349/4739/1 (i)/ 55; Add. 72517, f. 83.
  • 94 HMC Portland, iv. 688-9.
  • 95 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 124-5.
  • 96 Add. 61125, ff. 169-70.
  • 97 Add. 70252, Poulett to Oxford, ‘Sunday night’ [c. May 1711], ‘Wednesday’. [6 June 1711].
  • 98 Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 47, f. 284.
  • 99 Add. 22226, f. 23.
  • 100 HMC Bath, i. 217.
  • 101 HMC Portland, v. 119.
  • 102 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 162; C. Jones, ‘Party Rage and Faction’, BLJ, xix. 156; Boyer, Anne Hist. 527.
  • 103 Hamilton Diary, 33.
  • 104 Add 22226, f. 52.
  • 105 Add. 22222, ff. 188-9.
  • 106 BLJ, xix. 158.
  • 107 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 174; Add. 70332; Jones, Party and Management, 160.
  • 108 Wentworth Pprs. 240.
  • 109 Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 715; HMC Portland, v. 157.
  • 110 C. Jones, ‘The Vote in the House of Lords’, PH, xxvi. 163.
  • 111 Add. 72495, ff. 149-50; Cornw. RO, Antony mss, CVC/Y/4/28; Bodl. Rawl. A. 286, ff. 413-6; Add. 61479, ff. 14-15; HMC Dartmouth, i. 309-10.
  • 112 Marlborough Letters and Dispatches, v. 211, 289, 301, 390, 403; Add. 61125, f. 171; Add. 34077, f. 64.
  • 113 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 209-10.
  • 114 Wentworth Pprs. 291.
  • 115 Add. 28051, f. 283.
  • 116 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 222.
  • 117 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 239.
  • 118 W. Suss. RO, Goodwood mss 21/10/3.
  • 119 Timberland, ii. 397; Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 257; BLJ, xix. 167.
  • 120 C.H.G. Lennox, A Duke and his Friends, i. 17-18.
  • 121 Add. 70252, Poulett to Oxford, 24 Aug. [1713].
  • 122 Add. 70393, Poulett to Lord Harley, 7 Sept. [1713].
  • 123 Add. 70236, E. Harley to Oxford, 26 Sept. 1713.
  • 124 Add. 70252, Poulett to Oxford, 5 Oct. [1713].
  • 125 Badminton, Beaufort mss, Beaufort to Poulett, 10 Nov. 1712.
  • 126 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 362; Stowe 226, f. 388.
  • 127 Add. 70225, Northumberland to Oxford, 2 June 1714.
  • 128 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 402; Boyer, Anne Hist. 705.
  • 129 HMC Portland, v. 476.
  • 130 NLS, Pitfirrane mss 6409/70.
  • 131 Add. 70070, newsletter, 29 July 1714.
  • 132 Bodl. Carte 129, f. 345.
  • 133 HMC Portland, vii. 200-1.
  • 134 Pols. in Age of Anne, 326.
  • 135 Wentworth Pprs. 132; Add. 61418, ff. 150-4.