SCHOMBERG, Meinhard (1641-1719)

SCHOMBERG, Meinhard (1641–1719)

suc. bro. 16 Oct. 1693 as 3rd duke of SCHOMBERG; cr. 3 Mar. 1691 duke of Leinster [I]

First sat 7 Nov. 1693; last sat 9 July 1715

b. 30 June 1641, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Frederick Herman Schomberg, later duke of Schomberg, and Johanna Elizabeth, da. of Heinrich Dietrich, count of Schönberg auf Wesel; bro. of Charles Schomberg, 2nd duke of Schomberg. educ. ?Academy of Saumur. m. (1) 3 Aug. 1667, Barbara Luisa, da. of Giovanni Girolamo Rizzi, s.p.; (2) 4 Jan. 1683, Raugräfin Caroline Elizabeth (d.1696), da. of Charles Louis, Elector Palatine, 5s. d.v.p. 4da. (2 d.v.p.).1 suc. bro. (Frederick) 1700 as count of Schönberg [Holy Roman Empire]; count of Mertola [Portugal]; marquis of Coubert [France]; KG, 12 Aug. 1703. d. 5 July 1719; admon. 29 July 1719 to das. Frederica, countess of Holdernesse, and Mary, Countess Degenfeld.2

PC 5 May 1695-Sept. 1714; commr. appeals in Admiralty 1697.3

Col., 8th Regt. of Horse (7th Dragoon Gds.) 1690-1711; gen. of Horse 1690-d.; c.-in-c., forces in London and Westminster during the king’s absence 1691, forces in Scotland 1691-2, forces in England during the king’s absence 1695; forces in Portugal 1703-4.

Associated with: St James’s and Pall Mall, Westminster (to 1698); Schomberg House, 80-82 Pall Mall (from 1698); Hillingdon House, Uxbridge (by 1698).4

Likenesses: mezzotint, aft. Sir G. Kneller, c.1690, NPG D5918.

Meinhard Schomberg followed in the family tradition of taking up a career as a professional military officer. He fought in Portugal in 1663-8 and then, having been naturalized as a French subject, served in the French army throughout the war of 1672-8, where he fought largely in the Netherlands under marshal Crequi and earned the praises of the Prince of Condé and the duc d’Enghien, among others, for his bravery.5 At the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, he left France and fought first as a volunteer against the Turks at Vienna and then as a general of the cavalry in the army of the Elector of Brandenburg. He came to England in 1689 and in August joined the allied forces in Ireland, although officially he was still in the service of the Elector.6 He led a cavalry charge at the Battle of the Boyne, in which engagement his father, the commander of the allied forces in Ireland, was killed.

In 1689 when his father had been made a duke, Meinhard was still an officer in the Brandenburg army and had not yet been naturalized as an English subject. A special remainder in the patent of creation specified that Meinhard’s younger (and naturalized) brother, Charles Schomberg, was to become 2nd duke of Schomberg upon their father’s death. Nevertheless, Meinhard was rewarded on 3 Mar. 1691 for his services in the Irish wars by being created duke of Leinster in the Irish peerage. Less than a year later, in February 1692, he too became a naturalized English subject.7 He was an influential military leader and adviser during the first years of the Nine Years’ War. The summer of 1692 saw him involved in planning, as leader of the ground forces, the eventually abortive ‘descent’ on the French coast, while in subsequent years he was entrusted with maintaining the forces in England and Scotland while William was away on campaign.8

In October 1693, after the death of his brother Charles in battle at Marsaglia, Leinster inherited the English dukedom as well, according to the terms of the patent of creation. Thus he is sometimes referred to, both by contemporaries and by himself, as the duke of Schomberg and Leinster. He also inherited his brother’s pension of £4,000 a year, representing four per cent interest on the £100,000 granted, but not paid, to his father in April 1689. He was sworn to the privy council on 5 May 1695, where he was often consulted on military matters. His military reputation continued to earn him favour in the early years of Anne’s reign. In 1703 he was granted an additional annuity of £1,000, was made a knight of the garter and was appointed commander-in-chief of the allied forces fighting in Portugal. He soon alienated all his military colleagues and political masters and in 1704 was recalled from his post and replaced by Henri Massue de Ruvigny, earl of Galway [I]. As Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, commented, ‘The duke of Schomberg was a better officer in the field than in the cabinet; he did not enough know how to prepare for a campaign; he was both too unactive and too haughty’.9 Thereafter his active involvement in military matters declined, and he resigned his colonelcy of a regiment of dragoons to his son Charles, styled marquess of Harwich, in 1711.

Schomberg did not attend the House often, usually only attending between a third and one half of the sittings in a parliamentary session. Nor was he active in committees; although consistently named to the committee for privileges at the beginning of each session, he was appointed to almost no other sessional committees established by the House. He was a court Whig – a Whig in political outlook, but dependent on the court and its ministries for the maintenance of his pension. On 23 Dec. 1696 he voted for the bill to attaint Sir John Fenwick, and in 1700 it was forecast that he would vote against the bill, opposed by the Whig Junto, to continue the East India Company as a corporation (Schomberg was not present at the division of this bill on 23 Feb. 1700). Five years later in early June 1701 he was a manager in conferences concerning the impeachments of the Junto ministers, John Somers, Baron Somers, and Edward Russell, earl of Orford. He later voted with the majority of the House for their acquittal. Along with the rest of the House then sitting, he was also one of the managers of a conference on 8 Mar. 1702 to discuss the arrangements to be made after the death of William III and the accession of Anne.

Schomberg’s mission in Portugal kept him away from most of the meetings of Anne’s first Parliament. After his return in 1704 he sat in most of the remaining sessions of Anne’s reign, although he attended even less assiduously than he had under William. He continued to act as a court Whig, with the emphasis increasingly on his dependence on the court. He followed the directions of the government and supported the first two occasional conformity bills in 1702-3. On 16 Jan. 1703, when the Whigs were trying to ensure the House’s adherence to wrecking amendments to the bill, Schomberg registered a proxy to George, prince of Denmark (also duke of Cumberland). As the proxy was recorded after prayers, John Thompson, Baron Haversham, objected that it could not be used for any divisions that were to take place that day. Schomberg, whose house lay nearby on Pall Mall, was sent for and voted against the Whig amendments (as did his intended proxy Prince George). Haversham’s objection to the late registration of proxies for divisions on the same day stood and was incorporated into the standing orders of the House.10 Schomberg was away on campaign in Portugal during the division on the occasional conformity bill when it came before the House again in December 1703, but his vote in favour of the bill was cast by the holder of his proxy and Schomberg consequently appeared in the list published by Abel Boyer as a supporter of the bill. Unfortunately, we do not know to whom Schomberg had entrusted his vote, as the proxy books for the session of 1703-4 are missing.

Schomberg was marked as a Hanoverian in a 1705 list detailing the peerage’s attitudes to the succession, and in a list of party allegiances from 1708 he was considered a Whig. Nevertheless, Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, in a working list of October 1710, estimated that Schomberg could be expected to support his new ministry because of the duke’s reliance on his pension. In December 1711 Schomberg was again listed as a supporter of the ministry in another list drawn up by Oxford (as Harley had by this time become). Oxford’s calculations proved inaccurate. From the time of the new Tory-led ministry of 1710, if not before (as in his vote of March 1710 finding Dr Henry Sacheverell guilty), Schomberg voted with the Whigs, regardless of his dependence on the court.11 That is, when he bothered to come to Parliament. He sat in only four meetings of the House in the first session of the 1710 Parliament. In the second session he voted against the ministry and in favour of the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion on 10 Dec. 1711, and he appears on a list of pensioners and office-holders who did not follow the ministry’s wishes on this vote. He abstained from the vote on 20 Dec. on the right of James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], to sit in the House as a British peer, and a week after this vote he sat for the last time in the 1710 Parliament, eventually entrusting his proxy on 16 May 1712 to his old military colleague, John Churchill, duke of Marlborough. By March 1713 Oxford considered him among those lords he expected to oppose the ministry in the forthcoming session and in June 1713 further expected him to oppose the French commercial treaty.

Schomberg did attend meetings in the new Parliament which first met in February 1714. Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, calculated that Schomberg would vote against the ministry in the division on the schism bill in June 1714. The old general not only voted against the bill on 22 June 1714 but even registered in the Journal his formal dissent against its passage. He stopped attending Parliament the day after this division and registered his proxy with William Cavendish, 2nd duke of Devonshire, a keen opponent of the ministry.

George I confirmed and continued Schomberg’s pension, reduced again to £4,000, through an Act of Parliament which received the royal assent on 7 May 1716. Schomberg retired from parliamentary and public life under the Hanoverian king. He attended 24 meetings of George I’s first Parliament, but stopped coming entirely after 9 July 1715. He registered his proxy in March 1716 and again in February 1718 to his son-in-law, the Whig Robert Darcy, 3rd earl of Holdernesse, who had married his daughter, Frederica, in May 1715. For the session of Parliament which began on 11 Nov. 1718 he transferred his proxy to Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, thus revealing where his own sympathies lay in the Whig schism.

Schomberg had only one son, Charles, styled marquess of Harwich, who survived until adulthood but died of fever in a military camp in Ireland in 1713. Thus when Schomberg died in July 1719 the English titles became extinct. His surviving children, and the administrators of his estate, were two daughters: Frederica, countess of Holdernesse, and Mary, whose husband, the Prussian Christoph Martin, Count Degenfeld, adopted his father-in-law’s arms and name and styled himself Count von Degenfeld-Schomberg.


  • 1 J.F.A. Kazner, Leben Friedrichs von Schomberg, i. 370-1.
  • 2 TNA, PROB 6/95, f. 98.
  • 3 CSP Dom. 1697, p. 510.
  • 4 Survey of London, xxix. 368-78; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 393.
  • 5 Kazner, ii. 221-30.
  • 6 Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 569-70.
  • 7 Hug. Soc. Pub. 4to, xviii. 225-6.
  • 8 J. Childs, Nine Years’ War and the British Army, 205-9; Add. 38014, ff. 9-20.
  • 9 Burnet, ii. 390.
  • 10 Nicolson, London Diaries, 175; HMC Lords, n.s. x. 22.
  • 11 Add. 15574, ff. 65-68.