SPENCER, Robert (1641-1702)

SPENCER, Robert (1641–1702)

styled 1643 Ld. Spencer; suc. fa. 20 Sept. 1643 (a minor) as 2nd earl of SUNDERLAND

First sat 8 May 1661; last sat 19 May 1702

b. 1641, 1st s. of Henry Spencer, earl of Sunderland, and Dorothy, da. of Robert Sydney, 2nd earl of Leicester.1 educ. privately (Dr. Thomas Pierce); travelled abroad 1658, 1661-3 (France), 1663-5 (Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy).2 m. 10 June 1665 (with £10,000)3 Anne (d.1715), 2nd da. of George Digby, 2nd earl of Bristol, 2s. (1 d.v.p.), 3da. (2 d.v.p.). KG May 1687. d. 28 Sept. 1702; will 14 May 1695, pr. 6 Nov. 1702.4

Extra gent. of bedchamber 1673-4; gent. of bedchamber 1674-9; sec. of state (N) 1679-80, (S) 1680-1, (N) 1683-4, (S) 1684-8; PC 1682-8, 1697-?d.; ld. pres. 1685-8; ld. chamberlain 1697; ld. justice 1697.

Ld. lt. Staffs. 1679-81, Warws. 1683-6, 1687-89; custos rot. Staffs. 1680-1, Warws. 1683-9.

Amb. extraordinary to Madrid 1671-2; to Paris 1672-3, 1678; jt. amb. extraordinary to Cologne 1673.

Capt. tp. of horse, Prince Rupert, duke of Cumberland’s regt. 1667.5

Associated with Althorp, Northants; Queen Street, Mdx.; and St James's Sq., Westminster.6

Likenesses: oil on canvas by Sir P. Lely, 1660s, Althorp House, Northants.;7 oil on canvas by C. Maratti, 1664, Althorp House, Northants.;8 oil on canvas by school of Kneller, Blenheim Palace, Oxon.;9 miniature by N. Dixon, at Boughton House, Northants.10

The arch ‘trimmer’, Sunderland was at heart a man of simple motivation.11 A consummate courtier, he blew with the prevailing wind and aimed always to be at the centre of affairs.12 If the motivation was simple, the result was a career marked by complex changes of tack and a reputation for being almost impossible to pin down. His duplicitous conduct was in part the result of serving three very different monarchs with markedly different agendas; but also of his cynical ambition and occasionally mistaken notions of what was truly desired by his masters. For Jacobite historians he was a byword for treachery. At least one later commentator has seen in his manoeuvring under James II a high-risk if not implausible bid for power at the head of a Catholic administration during the anticipated minority of James’s heir.13 After the Revolution this gave way to a complete about turn and insistence on the necessity of relying wholly on the Whigs.

For Sunderland the influence that resulted from his position of trust was the driving factor in his machinations rather than the desire for financial gain and, although he was at times well rewarded for his services, he did not amass a great fortune and was always (as he complained from exile in 1689) in need of money.14 Sunderland’s waspish tongue, cynical attitude towards religion, affected manners and at times bewildering changes of allegiance earned him the distrust and fear of many. Although he recovered from his disastrous behaviour under James II to become irreplaceable to William of Orange, a major reason for his central role in government in the latter part of his career was that following the Revolution he had forfeited the trust of so many that he could no longer afford to be anything but loyal to the king who had allowed him back from exile.

Born in Paris in 1641, his family on both sides owed their rise to achievements under the Tudors, though the contrast could not have been greater. On his mother’s side, the Sydneys had been notable as government administrators, soldiers and courtly renaissance figures (epitomized by Sir Philip Sydney). His father’s forebears, on the other hand, had managed their ascent by less dramatic means, through local aggrandizement in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, where they had amassed great wealth as successful graziers. He would learn to exploit his Northamptonshire interests making use of his seat at Althorp as a centre for political discussion, while his connection to the influential families of Devereux, Sydney, Percy and Wriothesley proved of crucial importance in his early forays into the world of courtly politics.

Early career 1643-1667

The then Lord Spencer’s father was known to be sympathetic to the puritans and as such was offered the lieutenancy of Northamptonshire by Parliament in 1642. He refused it on the advice of his uncle, Thomas Wriothesley, 4th earl of Southampton, and instead joined the king’s army. Opting to serve in Charles I’s personal bodyguard, he was rewarded with the earldom of Sunderland in June 1643, only to be cut down by a cannon ball at the battle of Newbury three months later.15 The new earl, aged just two, was probably brought up at his grandfather’s home of Penshurst for the first few years of his life, before his mother was able to secure a return to Althorp through the intervention of her brothers, Philip Sydney, Viscount Lisle (later 3rd earl of Leicester) and Algernon Sydney. During his long minority, Sunderland’s familial network was extended significantly with the marriage in 1655 of his aunt, Margaret Spencer, to the cavalier-turned-parliamentarian, Anthony Ashley Cooper, later earl of Shaftesbury, while the following year, Sunderland’s elder sister, Dorothy, married Sir George Savile, later marquess of Halifax.16 Under the tutelage of Thomas Pierce, a deprived fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, Sunderland travelled abroad in 1658 in company with his uncle, Henry Sydney, later earl of Romney. It is unclear when they returned but almost certainly by the time of the Restoration.17

In advance of the Convention, Philip Wharton, 4th Baron Wharton, noted Sunderland as one of those peers whose fathers had sat, and also as an infant.18 Sunderland may have returned with Pierce to Magdalen for a while before he apparently left following his riotous protests, in company with William Penn, against the reintroduction of liturgical ceremonial at Christ Church.19 His formal education brought to an abrupt end, Sunderland took his seat at the opening of the new Parliament on 8 May 1661, while still under 21. He attended on 14 of the session’s 192 sitting days. Despite his foreign birth, no effort appears to have been made to have him naturalized, although his sister, Lady Dorothy, had been in February 1641.20 Noted as missing at a call of the House of 20 May, on 29 June he was granted leave to travel to France once more. He set out with Penn and John Lindsay, earl of Crawford [S], and remained abroad until the following year.21

Sunderland’s estates in Northamptonshire were valued at £2,940 in 1662.22 The same year, his mother, the dowager countess, was able to alleviate the family’s financial difficulties when she was successful in obtaining a warrant for the repayment of £5,000 lent by her late husband to Charles I.23 Excused at a call of the House on 23 Feb. 1663, Sunderland finally returned to the House on 23 Mar., but attended on just nine days of the 86-day session. In June he scandalized society by withdrawing from his marriage to the earl of Bristol’s daughter, Lady Anne Digby, on the eve of the planned wedding.24 Sunderland’s uncle, Ashley, had been instrumental in negotiating the match with Bristol, with whom he was in alliance in an attempt to overthrow the lord chancellor, Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon.25 Two days after breaking it off, Sunderland attempted to renew his suit but by then his prospective father-in-law ‘would not hear of it’.26 Wharton marked Sunderland as being ‘doubtful’ over Bristol’s attempt to impeach Clarendon the following month. It is possible that Sunderland’s withdrawal reflected tensions within a family divided between loyalty to Clarendon represented by the Wriothesleys and the opposition to the lord chancellor headed by Ashley.27 Sunderland himself was characteristically enigmatic on the matter. According to Samuel Pepys he advised

his friends not to enquire into the reason of this doing, for he has enough of it—but that he gives them liberty to say and think what they will of him; so they do not demand the reason of his leaving her, being resolved never to have her—but the reason desires and resolves not to give.28

Whatever the reason for his change of mind, Sunderland’s behaviour provoked a quarrel with Anne’s cousin, William Russell, later Lord Russell. The affair was brought to the attention of the Commons, who ordered the pair to refrain from fighting a duel and it was presumably in an effort to avoid any further unpleasantness that Sunderland secured a pass to travel abroad shortly after. He left in company with his uncle (though contemporary), Henry Sydney, and brother-in-law, Henry Savile. He remained overseas for the following two years.29

Sunderland returned to England in the spring of 1665. By then he had thought better of his behaviour towards Anne Digby and was reported once more to be engaged in his ‘amours’.30 In June, in spite of his former declaration never to have her, he married his erstwhile fiancée.31 He took his seat in the session of October 1665 on 9 Oct. but attended on just two days before absenting himself once more. The following year he sat on just one occasion in the subsequent session and on 4 Oct. 1666 he registered his proxy with his uncle, Southampton, which was vacated on 26 November.

Sunderland was wounded by a cutpurse in July 1667 while serving as an officer in Prince Rupert’s regiment of horse. According to one account, the assailant would have killed him but for the interposition of his servant, though Henry Savile contradicted this ‘silly report’.32 Having survived the adventure, Sunderland resumed his seat in the House on 14 Oct. 1667. On that day, his first sitting when a minor in 1661 was one of two examples investigated by the privileges committee considering the case of John Wilmot, 2nd earl of Rochester, who had come to the committee’s attention for taking his seat while still underage.33 The result of the committee’s deliberations was a recommendation that a bill declaratory should be drawn up to prevent the like ‘inconveniences’ occurring again.34 Sunderland demonstrated greater interest in the business of the House during the session than previously, attending on almost 23 per cent of all sittings. He was named to six committees. In December it was reported that he was to succeed Henry Hyde, Viscount Cornbury (later 2nd earl of Clarendon) as chamberlain to the queen, rumours that persisted into the following year.35 On 6 Feb. 1668 Sunderland introduced his brother-in-law, George Savile, as Viscount Halifax.36 Shortly afterwards he quit the country again. On 17 Feb. he was noted as being abroad at a call of the House. The visit must have been a swift one as he returned in time to resume his place three days later.

Rumours of impending honours continued to circulate in 1668. It was speculated that Sunderland was to succeed as ambassador at Paris and in November that he was to be appointed governor of Tangier.37 Such speculation was still current the following year, when it was rumoured again that he would receive a place in the royal household through the interest of his patron, Henry Bennet, Baron (later earl of) Arlington, and Northamptonshire neighbour, Hon. Ralph Montagu, the future duke of Montagu.38 Sunderland’s future prospects remained unsettled when he took his seat in the House on 19 Oct. 1669. He was named to the standing committees for privileges and petitions but he was again absent at a call on 26 Oct. possibly on account of poor health. He resumed his seat on 2 Dec. after which he attended on five of the remaining eight days in the session. Sunderland’s attendance of the House continued to be sporadic through the following session of 1670-1. Present on just under 15 per cent of all sitting days, on 28 Mar. 1670 he registered his proxy with his Northamptonshire neighbour, Edward Montagu, 2nd Baron Montagu of Boughton, which was vacated on 7 November. His extended absence is in part explained by his mission to France in May, in company with Charles Sackville, styled Lord Buckhurst (later 6th earl of Dorset), and Sir Charles Sedley, to convey the king’s compliments to Louis XIV.39 Having returned to the House, Sunderland attended for three days in November, before again absenting himself until February of the following year. Excused at a call on 10 Feb. he resumed his seat on 21 Feb. and on 17 Apr. he was named to the committee for Thomas Herlackenden’s bill, the only committee to which he was named in the course of the session.

While Sunderland appeared to be making steady progress in his efforts to build up an interest at court, his relations with some of his immediate family were tense. During the summer of 1671 he fell out with his kinsman, Henry Savile, as a result of Savile’s failed attempt to seduce the countess of Northumberland at Althorp. Sunderland pursued Savile to London but a duel was averted.40 The affair created a brief sensation but Sunderland’s attention was soon after taken up by the prospect of a diplomatic posting and, following reports of his appointment in September, he was formally nominated ambassador to Spain in November 1671.41 The appointment proved the beginning of a brief if notably successful career as a diplomat. Sunderland’s departure was delayed through November while additional instructions were drawn up relating to the negotiations for a match between James Stuart, duke of York, and the archduchess of Innsbruck, which were due to be undertaken at Madrid. He quit England finally early in December, travelling via Paris, and arrived in Spain the following month.42 He remained in post there until May and then (following a brief respite in England) travelled back to Paris, where he assumed formal responsibility as ambassador extraordinary in November 1672. Sunderland arrived in France bolstered with a burgeoning reputation as a diplomat and enjoying the confidence of both king and senior ministers.43 Such good opinion was challenged by his behaviour at his second posting. His lavish lifestyle caused considerable comment and he reputedly ran up debts in excess of £4,000. His financial embarrassment no doubt increased his determination to secure a generous pension from the government, in which he was successful largely owing to Arlington’s interest, but his spendthrift lifestyle damaged his reputation with the king and hastened the termination of his posting.44

Sunderland was absent at a call of the House on 13 Feb. 1673. The following month, it was reported that he was to be replaced at Paris by Colonel William Lockhart. In spite of the problems associated with his embassy in France, Sunderland was entrusted with his third diplomatic mission in succession with appointment as joint envoy to the congress at Cologne.45 In the event, he was recalled from Paris at the close of the summer having never made it to the congress on account of poor health.46 He returned to London in September 1673 and on 27 Oct. he took his seat in the brief four-day session, of which he attended three days.47 The following month he was again said to have been the beneficiary of Cornbury’s latest fall from favour.48

Sunderland returned to the House for the opening of the ensuing session of January 1674. He attended almost three-quarters of all of its sittings. Named to the standing committees on 7 Jan., the following day he was named to the committee for the bill for encouraging English manufactures. In October he was said to have been one of those hopeful of securing appointment to the lieutenancy of Ireland, though in this he was unsuccessful.49 At the beginning of April 1675 Sunderland was listed as being likely to support the non-resisting test.50 Although his higher level of attendance continued in the ensuing session of April-June, in which he attended 95 per cent of all sittings, he was named only to the standing committees at the opening of the session. Sunderland’s focus appears rather to have been on securing a lucrative household appointment: the same month he was one of three peers rumoured to be in competition to succeed Clarendon (formerly Cornbury), who was said to have been dismissed (once again) by the king for striking one of the yeomen of the guard.51

Sunderland was absent from the opening of the autumn session of Parliament. On 12 Oct. 1675 he registered his proxy with Louis de Duras, Baron Duras, later earl of Feversham, which was vacated by his resumption of his seat on 25 October. Present on just over three-quarters of all sitting days, on 8 Nov. he was named to the committee investigating the author of the Letter from a Person of Quality and on 20 Nov. he was named to the committee for the bill for rebuilding Northampton. The same day he voted in favour of addressing the king to request a dissolution of Parliament.52

Sunderland voted with the majority in favour of acquitting Charles Cornwallis, 3rd Baron Cornwallis, at the close of June 1676.53 That September it was reported that he had finally given up his pretensions to Clarendon’s former place as chamberlain to the queen.54 He took his seat at the opening of the new session of February 1677. Again in attendance for approximately three-quarters of the whole, he was named to five committees in the course of the session, including one on 2 Apr. that may have had local interest: the bill for settling a maintenance on the vicar of Allhallows, Northampton. Bereft of a patron with Arlington’s declining influence, his manoeuvrings at court during this period, and perhaps also his recent experience in France, increasingly directed him towards the circle of Louise de Kéroualle, duchess of Portsmouth. In return for her support, he was instrumental in gaining recognition for her bastard son, Charles Lennox, duke of Richmond. Sunderland’s successful management of Portsmouth gained him the notice of Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby (later duke of Leeds), through whose interest he was awarded a pension of £1,000 per annum.55 On 16 Apr. 1677 he registered his proxy with James Scott, duke of Monmouth, which according to the proxy book was vacated on 15 Jan. 1678, though Sunderland was listed as in attendance at the adjournment of 16 July and 3 Dec. 1677. The reason for his absence was another brief diplomatic mission to Calais to convey the king’s compliments to the king of France.56 Sunderland’s choice of Monmouth as his proxy-holder seems not to have reflected any particular association with the duke and his grouping. He certainly remained on poor terms with his uncle Shaftesbury, who at around this time reckoned his nephew to be triply vile.

Family concerns dominated Sunderland’s attention following the death of his grandfather, Leicester, in November 1677.57 It is possible that a dispute arising from the will, of which Sunderland was an executor, was the cause of a quarrel the following month between him and John Temple, the son of the diplomat Sir William Temple (who had been brought up at Penshurst). A duel was only averted when both men were secured.58 On 4 Apr. he voted Philip Herbert, 7th earl of Pembroke, not guilty in his trial for murder. Sunderland attended on the penultimate day of the session, 11 May 1678, and then, following the prorogation of 13 May, he returned to the House on 28 May, shortly after the opening of the next session. Present for 70 per cent of all sitting days in the new session, he was named to three committees. In July, Sunderland’s vigorous lobbying paid off when he was despatched to France to replace Ralph Montagu as ambassador.59 For all his eagerness to secure the embassy, the expense of the posting highlighted Sunderland’s perennial financial concerns. On 2 Aug. he wrote to Danby from Paris raising the issue, while requesting that the lord treasurer would ‘excuse any trouble you receive from my wife in relation to money.’60 Danby undertook to do what he could but on 8 Aug. he was forced to concede that he had been unable to obtain the privy seals necessary for Sunderland’s money, ‘without which I cannot pay a shilling to anybody’. The normally divergent views of Sunderland, a reputed francophile, and Danby, whose suspicion of France was well-known, were brought into closer correspondence by Sunderland’s experience in Paris where he admitted to his patron, ‘you will not wonder to find that they [the French] change just as they think we may be useful to them, that being the measure they go by.’ Sunderland and Danby’s association appears to have strengthened as a result of Sunderland’s mission. During his embassy, Sunderland sought to consolidate their alliance by enquiring after Danby’s daughter, Lady Sophia Osborne, as a potential wife for his son, Robert, Lord Spencer.61 But while Sunderland and Danby remained on very good terms, within a month of taking up his post it was rumoured that Sunderland had squandered his favour with the king by enquiring too closely into the activities of George Villiers, 2nd duke of Buckingham, who was also in Paris at the time, incognito.62 Although it was reported in mid-September that Sunderland was to be recalled to England ‘out of favour’, in reality he had requested leave of absence through Henry Jermyn, earl of St Albans, and on his return in October he was quickly rehabilitated through Portsmouth’s interest.63

Sunderland returned to the House for the final session of the Cavalier Parliament on 26 Oct. 1678. Although he was present for almost 84 per cent of all sitting days, he was not nominated to any committees. On 15 Nov. he voted against disabling papists from sitting in Parliament and on 26 Dec. he voted in favour of the Lords’ amendment to the supply bill. Amid the gathering crisis generated by the Popish Plot and moves to exclude York from the succession, Sunderland was initially loyal to his patron, Danby, and on 27 Dec. he voted against committing the embattled lord treasurer.64 He did, however, give in to at least one aspect of the hysteria of the times by deporting his French butler.65

New Alliances 1679-85

Hitherto, Sunderland had demonstrated his ability as a diplomat and a subtle court operator, who had seamlessly shifted his allegiance from Arlington to Portsmouth and Danby. In February 1679 his talents were rewarded with his unexpected appointment as secretary of state in succession to Sir Joseph Williamson.66 Sunderland, it was reported, was ‘much surprised’ at the promotion, ‘not in the least expecting it’. Surprised or not, he was reported to have parted with £6,000 for the place, though it was also said that he was to be reimbursed the money along with a further £2,000 in return for resigning one of his other positions.67 His selection may have been due to Danby’s interest but it is also possible that by appointing Shaftesbury’s nephew and an intimate of Portsmouth’s circle, the king hoped to employ him as a bridge between the various factions.68 Contradicting reports circulating soon after his appointment that Sunderland, in alliance with Portsmouth, Shaftesbury, Monmouth and Arthur Capell, earl of Essex, aimed to destroy Danby, in March and April he was estimated to be a supporter of the lord treasurer in a series of four forecasts. In March, he conveyed a warrant to the attorney-general for Danby’s elevation in the peerage to a marquessate, a promotion which was overtaken by events.69

Following the general election, Sunderland attended on the opening day of the session, 6 Mar. 1679, and on each sitting of the brief six-day session. On the first morning of the abortive session he was active in trying to establish relations with prominent members of the Commons.70 He then took his seat in the new session on 15 Mar., in which he was present on 92 per cent of all sittings. On 17 Mar. he was named to the standing committees and the committee for receiving information about the Plot. He was then named to just one further committee in the course of the session. In April, three division lists indicate that he voted against attainting Danby and the following month (10 May) he voted in favour of appointing a joint committee to consider the method of proceeding against the impeached lords, registering his dissent when the measure failed to be adopted. On 8 May Sunderland introduced Danby’s son-in-law, Charles Fitzcharles, earl of Plymouth, the king’s bastard by Catherine Pegge, perhaps an indication of his continuing support for the imprisoned treasurer. By the end of the summer, however, his support for Danby appeared to be wavering, though Danby sent him an impassioned appeal for his assistance in securing his release, assuring Sunderland of his loyalty and acknowledging his former protégé’s now greatly exalted position.71 Sunderland probably voted on 27 May for the right of the bishops to stay in the House during consideration of capital cases.

Although Sunderland promised, in turn, that he was interested in assisting Danby and continued to do so over the ensuing months, by then he was firmly engaged in jostling for position on his own account.72 The coming together of ‘the chits’—Sunderland, Sidney Godolphin, later earl of Godolphin, and Laurence Hyde, later earl of Rochester—at this time was mocked by some, and Sunderland, easily satirized for his distinctive nasal drawl, was picked out for special attention. His supposed reaction to the new Privy Council of April was imitated in a merciless pen portrait by Roger North: ‘whaat if his majesty taarn out faarty of us, may not he have faarty athors to saarve him as well? And whaat maaters who saarves his majesty, so lang as his majesty is saarved?’73

Sunderland was involved in the decision to kill the exclusion bill at the end of May 1679 by proroguing Parliament, and over the following months was seen as the junior member of a new triumvirate of advisers to the king alongside his brother-in-law, Halifax, and Essex. In June he was engaged in discussions with Henry Sydney about the possibility of persuading the prince of Orange to come over in time for the ensuing session and to attend both the council and the House of Lords, no doubt hoping to enlist his support against exclusion.74 At the beginning of July, Sunderland, the other members of the triumvirate, and Sir William Temple persuaded the king to dissolve Parliament and call another for October, to the fury of Shaftesbury and others. Around the time of the elections in August, he was said to be actively engaged in courting the Presbyterians. He certainly sought out Arthur Annesley, earl of Anglesey, who was invited to dine with him, possibly as part of this process. The same month he reported to Sydney on the progress of the elections, which he expected to be ‘at least as good as they were. The king meddles in none, which I think the better, but is the most resolved that can be desired of him.’ He warned Sydney of the pretensions of his brother Algernon, who ‘had thoughts of standing in Sussex and is very angry with you for pretending to anything he had a mind to.’75 In the event Henry Sydney was returned for Bramber while Algernon Sydney remained without a seat.76

In advance of the new session Sunderland worked feverishly to attempt to secure an alliance against France but, in spite of the efforts of Henry Sydney in the Netherlands, by the time of the new meeting only Spain had undertaken to join. The sudden sickness of the king in August 1679 required Sunderland to take action to prevent the news from becoming widely known.77 It also offered him and his co-triumvirs an opportunity to bring back York from his exile in Brussels, though the king’s rapid recovery then left them in a quandary how to cope with York’s suddenly unwelcome presence, and Sunderland also made a cack-handed attempt to invite Prince William of Orange at the same time, which was hastily withdrawn.78 Halifax and Sunderland were said to have been present at the king’s meeting with York at his return in September. That month Essex, Halifax and Sunderland were described as ‘the only chief ministers now’, though the duchess of Portsmouth was at pains to emphasize her own credit with the king, ‘as you may see by what I have done for my Lord Sunderland whom the king never had a good opinion of till I recommended him’. The temporary presence of York himself, who blamed Sunderland for not securing his earlier return, also served to temper any minister’s ability to manage the king or anything else.79 On 14 Sept. Sunderland hosted a dinner bringing together several of his colleagues as well as a number of young peers, among them Charles Talbot, 12th earl (later duke) of Shrewsbury, John Sheffield, 3rd earl of Mulgrave, Plymouth, Laurence Hyde, Sidney Godolphin and the diarist, John Evelyn.80 He also attended the prorogation of 17 Oct., when Parliament was postponed to late January 1680. Shortly afterwards, York was once more despatched discontentedly into exile, this time to Edinburgh, taking with him an irritation with Sunderland whom he now held at least partially responsible for his forced departure.

The continuing prorogation led to rumours that Shaftesbury, who Sunderland had been instrumental in having removed from the Privy Council, would ‘come into play again’ and that he and Sunderland now intended to co-operate in securing a dissolution. Certainly Sunderland was involved in fruitless discussions with him in early November.81 In the months after York’s departure, with Essex, Halifax and Temple increasingly sidelined, and Shaftesbury moving beyond the pale as he helped to initiate the petitioning campaign to force Parliament to sit, Sunderland, Hyde and Godolphin became more firmly established as leading advisers to the king. In December, it was reported that Sunderland was to be granted further responsibility with his appointment to the lieutenancy of Staffordshire during Shrewsbury’s minority.82 Despite his negotiations with Prince William over an alliance to counter France in the course of 1679, Sunderland, equally closely involved in the king’s negotiations with Louis XIV at the same time, was still widely seen as a Francophile, a perception that endured well into the next reign.83 In early 1680, however, Sunderland was the architect of a planned new coalition against Louis XIV, which, it was hoped, might lay the ground for a more successful meeting of Parliament. This followed on from Sydney’s undermining of negotiations between the Dutch and the French, and the collapse of talks between England and France. It was presumably in order to bolster this alignment that his countess wrote to Sydney in January 1680, insisting that Sunderland was resolved to hold fast against French approaches but appealing nonetheless that ‘the more you write my lord word that he will be ruined if he engages in the business of France, the better; not that he is inclined to it, but I know anything of warning from you does him good.’84 Sunderland was surprised and gratified to find York (who returned again to England in late February) open to the change in foreign policy, and felt in early March that ‘the king’s affairs are in a better condition than they have been these seven years’. But Sunderland was still on edge about the prospects for his plans, and at the same time was urging Henry Sydney to persuade William of Orange to come over, clearly hoping to use him to encourage the establishment of a grand alliance, and to try to find a way through the problem of the exclusion bill.85 In a position in which, he had complained in January, ‘as things are now, I cannot be liked above a day’, by February the constant criticism and suspicion of his motives appears to have begun to take its toll: ‘you cannot imagine the pains I take in this business, and yet I am called a traitor and a Frenchman every day, but I care very little for that if I can do any good.’86 Constantly at risk of being undermined by a rival, shortly after his return to Althorp on 12 Mar. 1680 rumours circulated that he had fallen from favour and had been put out of office, perhaps because of a falling-out with John Maitland, duke of Lauderdale [S].87 The rumours had no foundation (and were vehemently denied by his mother), and as early as February 1680 it had been speculated that either Sunderland or Hyde might become lord treasurer—though in May rumour had it (equally inaccurately) that Sunderland would replace Arlington as lord chamberlain.88 Sunderland became increasingly worried as the negotiations ground to a halt, and his requests for a visit from Prince William were, by the end of April, much more pressing, asking for him to come in time for the sitting of Parliament, or sooner ‘if it should be thought reasonable’.89

Sunderland finally secured a treaty with the Spanish, one plank in his coalition, at the beginning of June. He immediately used it in order to try to build a domestic political alliance. Between 15 and 22 June 1680 he hosted a major conference at Althorp attended by Hyde, Godolphin, and Henry Sydney, and, most importantly, Halifax, whose approval of the programme outlined by Sunderland was regarded as the keystone to a more comprehensive political settlement. Before Sydney’s departure for the Netherlands at the close of the month, Sunderland once more reiterated the importance of Sydney employing his ‘uttermost endeavours with the Prince to come over, that without it nothing can be done’.90 In July he and Hyde continued to try to coax Halifax back to court.91 But already, at the end of June, Shaftesbury’s attempt to present York as a popish recusant, inflaming the political situation again, threatened to wreck all of Sunderland’s efforts to create the circumstances in which a successful Parliament could take place.92

In June Sunderland sold his office of gentleman of the bedchamber to Richard Jones, earl of Ranelagh [I], for £6,000.93 His increasingly reckless gambling during the summer of 1680 perhaps reflected his private agitations. His activities caused his countess grave concern as she explained to Sydney towards the end of August:

It makes the horridest noise in the world; it is talked of in all the coffee houses, and it is for such vast sums: he has been told of it from several who wish him well, but it has done no good … Now, I do really think, that if you would write him word that you are mighty sorry to hear from England that he plays for £5,000 in a night at La Basset; that it is railed at by his enemies, and of great disadvantage to him, but that you hope it is not true, I fancy this would do good.94

Although Sunderland’s private behaviour showed signs of strain, his standing at court still appeared to be secure in the late summer of 1680. In July, Sunderland and the duchess of Portsmouth undertook to stand as guarantors of an agreement whereby Henry Savile would succeed as vice-chamberlain as soon as it was deemed prudent to announce the appointment, while in September, Sunderland was himself the recipient of a pension of £3,000 per annum for seven years from the king.95

Sunderland’s shift to an explicit support for the exclusion of the duke of York took place over the summer and early autumn, as he made preparations for a parliamentary session that on 23 Aug. was postponed to 21 October. The encouragement provided by the king’s agreement to send an invitation to Prince William, and the prince’s acceptance in early August, was negated by the failure of the states-general to ratify the Anglo-Spanish treaty, a sign that Sunderland’s grand anti-French coalition was unlikely to happen. As Parliament approached in August he attempted to negotiate with Essex, and in September was working with Halifax and Sydney on discussions with opposition figures, exploring, unsuccessfully, solutions based on limitations of the crown. In October Sunderland, Halifax and Hyde advised York to ‘go travel’ and when he refused warned him of their obligation to ‘stand up for the truth of the protestant religion’ and that they must do so ‘without respect of persons.’96 Sunderland (together with Godolphin and others), then threw their weight behind an attempt to persuade the king to order James’s departure. In a meeting of 13 Oct. 1680, the council voted to delay a decision, but Sunderland was immensely relieved when on 15 Oct., less than a week before Parliament was due to sit, the king accepted his arguments that the alternative threatened confrontation and civil war, despite the fierce opposition of Hyde and other firmer supporters of the duke.97 Even then, adverse weather further delayed York’s departure for Scotland until 20 October.98 While the row over James’s departure was going on, Sunderland continued to negotiate with opposition figures, hosting a series of private meetings between the king and Monmouth: they suggested that the king was preparing to give way on the question of exclusion. Sunderland, however, remained resolutely opposed to the idea of excluding York in favour of Monmouth, and as the session began was still desperately attempting to persuade William to come over in order to ensure that Princess Mary and her husband William himself would be the beneficiaries.99

Sunderland took his seat at the opening of Parliament on 21 October, the day following York’s departure. He was present on 83 per cent of all sittings. On 23 Oct. he was named to the standing committees and to the committee receiving information about the Plot and on 30 Oct. he informed the House that Oliver Plunket had handed himself over into his custody. Named to two further committees during the session, on 20 Nov. Sunderland informed the House of his activities in regulating the lord lieutenancies in the country. On 10 Dec. he produced further papers for consideration the following day. The business dominating the session, though, was the bill for the exclusion of York. When the bill was discussed in the Commons, the inclusion of a provision guaranteeing the descent to James’s daughters indicated support for the interests of Prince William over Monmouth, and this may have clinched Sunderland’s support.100 On 15 Nov. 1680 he set himself apart from the rest of the triumvirate by voting against rejecting the exclusion bill at first reading. He then subscribed the dissent when it was resolved to throw the bill out. The king, who had on 8 November made clear his resolute opposition to exclusion, was not grateful for Sunderland’s actions. Sunderland justified his vote on the grounds that his honour was engaged, as well as his genuine belief that the alternative was serious disorder. He may also have feared impeachment himself.101 Lady Sunderland reported to Sydney the chaotic result of the failed attempt to get the bill passed:

everything is in the most sad case. The king acts as if he were mad. The bill was yesterday cast out of the Lords’ House, and our friend is in great disgrace for giving his vote for the bill … I have no more to say but that Lord Sunderland has gained immortal fame, which is better than anything he can lose.102

In spite of the king’s anger, Sunderland continued on his course and on 23 Nov. he voted in favour of appointing a joint committee to consider the state of the kingdom, again subscribing the protest when the House resolved against doing so.103 Sunderland’s calculation, evidently, had been that exclusion was what the king secretly desired even if he was unable to offer his open support. He soon became aware that he had miscalculated seriously and on 26 Nov. he acknowledged that he was ‘in danger of losing the king’s good opinion by that which I thought myself obliged to do for his service’.104 His actions had already lost him the support of Halifax and Hyde, both of whom supported James’s temporary removal from the country but opposed his exclusion and had spoken in his favour in the debates in the House. Sunderland’s subsequent advice to Halifax to resign from the council after the Commons presented an address against him on 22 Nov. proved the catalyst to a vicious rupture with his brother-in-law, which was never fully healed.105 Sunderland’s alliance with Shaftesbury also alienated his mother, the dowager countess, who stated bluntly that ‘it cannot be as I would have it so long as my son is well with Lord Shaftesbury.’106 Unsurprisingly, his actions also gained him York’s enmity, who could not understand why the king delayed in putting him out of office.107 Far more importantly, as he had anticipated, Sunderland’s behaviour cost him the king’s support. Despite this, he remained in the opposition camp. On 7 Dec. Sunderland found William Howard, Viscount Stafford, guilty of treason.108 As his slide from grace continued, Lady Sunderland recorded early the following year that her husband was ‘as ill with the king as it is possible’.109 Within a few days of the dissolution of the 1679 Parliament on 18 Jan. 1681 ‘the talk about the town’ was that Sunderland was shortly to be removed from office. On the 24th he was deprived of the secretaryship and removed from the Privy Council.110 The extent of Sunderland’s disgrace was underlined by the speed with which he was removed from his official lodgings and by the king’s refusal to allow him to recover the £6,000 he had paid Williamson for the secretaryship, which Lady Sunderland insisted was ‘a sort of hardship nobody has suffered from his majesty but us.’111

If Sunderland had altered his stance in terms of his relations with York, he remained for the while true to his former patron, Danby. In advance of the Oxford Parliament he was forecast as being in favour of supporting Danby’s continuing efforts to be bailed and he continued to be reckoned among Danby’s friends in the course of the session.112 His own expectations were pessimistic. He hoped that the new session ‘might prove to good purpose, but I think nothing will be changed but the place.’113 Sunderland took his seat in the House on 24 Mar., and proceeded to attend on four of the seven days of the session. On 26 Mar. he was named one of the reporters of a conference with the Commons concerning the method of passing bills and the same day he subscribed the protest at the vote to proceed against Edward Fitzharris by common law rather than by impeachment.

Sunderland returned to Northamptonshire after the dissolution of 28 March. The following month he was noted as being present at the races at Northampton in company with Monmouth and in May he played host to the duchess of Portsmouth.114 Sunderland’s removal from office perhaps encouraged his countess to approach Sir Stephen Fox about a possible match between Sunderland’s heir, Lord Spencer, and Fox’s daughter Jane, seeking through an advantageous marriage to improve the family’s perennially precarious financial situation. John Evelyn, an intimate of the countess, was approached to act as intermediary but he made no secret of his disinclination to bring about an alliance between Fox’s daughter and one who ‘he was afraid would prove an extravagant man’ and whose ‘early inclinations to vice made me apprehensive I should not serve Sir Stephen Fox in it, like a friend.’115 Evelyn’s half-hearted efforts on Spencer’s behalf no doubt ensured that the alliance was not forthcoming.116

Sunderland returned to London in the summer of 1681 having been subpoenaed by Fitzharris to appear as a witness at his trial along with the duchess of Portsmouth and more than a dozen others (though he does not appear to have been called during the proceedings).117 The following month, William of Orange, finally making his long-controverted visit to England, received Sunderland at Arlington House, thereby doubtless giving weight to rumours that he and the prince were closely entangled. It was, though, rumours of Sunderland’s contacts with Monmouth at the duchess of Portsmouth’s—who remained a close friend and ally—that led around the close of 1681 to both Sunderland and his countess being banished from Whitehall.118 Other members of their circle such as Baptist May were also warned by the king to ‘forbear their company or not come into his presence.’119

Sunderland remained out of favour for the ensuing few months, though Hyde, now anxious to counterbalance the influence of Halifax on the king, sought to promote his return in the first half of 1682. In July Portsmouth lobbied the king for Sunderland’s restoration. York, now back from exile, who although he had determined never to trust Sunderland again acknowledged his usefulness, also acquiesced in his restoration to court. One impediment to his return to court was the antipathy of Halifax, whose acceptance was bought with promotion in the peerage to a marquessate, and the post of lord privy seal. On 27 July Sunderland was received at court once more.120 His return sparked rumours of his return to office, and in August it was rumoured that Sunderland’s son, Lord Spencer, was to marry one of the royal bastards, Lady Mary Tudor, although nothing came of the scheme and the following year Spencer was being linked with another heiress.121 The same month Sunderland was said to have reconciled with Halifax. Sir John Reresby found the news particularly difficult to believe, ‘no two men having been more bitter the one against the other’, and he could only assume that their family ties had succeeded in ‘softening … those hard opinions they had one of another.’122

Quickly involved once more in advising both the king and the duke of York, Sunderland was readmitted to the Privy Council in September 1682, and was appointed to the committee for foreign affairs the following month. In January 1683 his restoration was completed when he took back the post of secretary of state from Edward Conway, earl of Conway.123 He took the opportunity of his return to office to inform Edmund Poley, one of the foreign envoys, of the progress made at court over the ‘factious party’ and of the vastly improved state of the treasury. Consequently, so Sunderland insisted, the king was ‘in a much better condition than his enemies either wished or thought he would ever have been.’124 In office he oversaw a turn away from the Dutch, reversing the system of alliances he had tried to achieve in 1680. The new policy was signalled by the marriage in July of James’s second daughter Anne to Prince George of Denmark, later duke of Cumberland: Denmark being a close ally of France.

Over the course of 1683 and 1684 Sunderland’s influence outlasted that of his most senior colleagues, Rochester (as Hyde had now become) and Halifax. Sunderland was involved in the investigation into the Rye House plot in 1683, though the main work fell to Sir Leoline Jenkins and other colleagues: Sunderland was particularly concerned to contradict rumours circulating overseas that the whole affair had been contrived.125 Although the quo warranto campaign against corporation charters was largely in the hands of others, especially the law officers, Sunderland was involved in it in his own lieutenancy, requesting Fulke Greville, 5th Baron Brooke, to enquire into the state of the corporations of Warwick and Coventry, the latter in particular being, as he believed, the haunt of people ‘esteemed very obnoxious’. Sunderland and Rochester were said to be thoroughly opposed to the notion of summoning a new Parliament, which was backed by Halifax, and in May 1684 Sunderland was again at pains to scotch rumours of imminent elections, which had given rise to a frantic burst of electioneering throughout the country.126 Sunderland, though successful in riding these storms, had miscalculated his opposition to the release of Danby: in February 1684 Danby’s son, Edward Osborne, Viscount Latimer, reported that Sunderland, hitherto a warm supporter, was now ‘very stiff’ with him over the question of his father’s bail. James’s decision to support Danby’s release in order to secure the release of the five Catholic peers who had also been incarcerated at the outset of the Popish Plot investigations wrongfooted him.127

The resignation of Leoline Jenkins in the spring of 1684 had enabled Sunderland to resume his former place as senior secretary of state and secure the appointment of Godolphin as the other secretary. An attempt by George Legge*, Baron Dartmouth, in the summer to set himself up as a broker between Sunderland and Halifax got nowhere. Halifax managed a coup in June when he persuaded the king to appoint his creatures to two vacancies in the treasury board. The sidelining of Rochester into the post of lord president in August, however, although initially seen as another success for Halifax, appears to have been deftly plotted by Sunderland. He also managed to secure the advancement of Godolphin to be first lord of the treasury in August, and the appointment of Charles Middleton, 2nd earl of Middleton [S], to replace him as secretary.128 By the close of that year Sunderland was described as being ‘very great’: he and Godolphin were jointly reported to be the most influential men at court, with Halifax by now largely irrelevant.129 The scheme to split the role of the lord lieutenant of Ireland, in which Rochester was due to replace Ormond in early 1685, so that the command of the Irish army would be separate and subordinate not to the viceroy but to the senior secretary of state—Sunderland—promised a further consolidation of power in his hands.130 During the winter he was involved in what some perceived to be a sordid attempt by the king to acquire greater control over affairs in Ireland, possibly inspired by the duke of York and his Irish advisers. The young Donagh MacCarthy, 4th earl of Clancarty [I], a major landowner in Cork and Kerry from an Irish Catholic family, had been sent by his Protestant mother to study at Christ Church under the guidance of John Fell, bishop of Oxford. Ordered by the king to come to Whitehall at Christmas 1684, he was married furtively to Sunderland’s daughter, Lady Elizabeth Spencer, who was no more than 13 years old. Clancarty was hurriedly recalled to Ireland by his family before the marriage could be consummated but he would later prove to be a thorn in Sunderland’s side as a result of his close identification with Jacobite interests in Ireland.131

The Reign of James II, 1685-88

Sunderland’s success in clawing his way back into influence threatened to be overturned by the death of Charles II in February 1685. It was well known that the new king had little time for Sunderland’s key ally Portsmouth, whom he had previously declared was ‘never to be trusted’; neither was Sunderland’s betrayal over exclusion likely to be forgotten.132 Within two weeks of Charles’s death, the new king had abandoned his brother’s plans for Rochester, diverting him from the lieutenancy of Ireland to the lord treasurership. It was, thus, an indication both of Sunderland’s skill as a courtier as well as his reputation as an able administrator that he was not once more put out of office. In part Sunderland owed his survival to his judicious alliance with Godolphin and one of James’s most trusted companions, John Churchill, Baron Churchill, the future duke of Marlborough, but also to the ease with which he was able to redirect his energies to the new state of affairs. Full of optimism that ‘no reign ever began with more marks of prosperity’, soon after James’s accession Sunderland was given authority to oversee the elections to the new Parliament.133 Between 13 and 17 Feb. he despatched missives to 26 prominent local brokers, including one to the deputy lieutenants of Warwickshire and seven to the lords lieutenant of other counties, and over the ensuing three months he worked tirelessly to ensure favourable results for the forthcoming Parliament. Sunderland followed up his initial general instructions with letters that were more detailed in their scope and in a number of counties, including Hertfordshire, Nottinghamshire and Buckinghamshire, he spelt out precisely which candidates he wished to see supported.134 Thus, Christopher Monk, 2nd duke of Albemarle, was informed that the king required his tenants at Theobalds to back Ralph Freman and Thomas Halsey at Hertfordshire, and that he expected Albemarle to employ his interest on behalf of Samuel Pepys at Harwich.135 On 3 Apr. Sunderland wrote to Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, requesting him to employ his interest in Buckinghamshire on behalf of John Egerton, Lord Brackley (later 3rd earl of Bridgwater) and Thomas Hackett.136 Further letters were written on behalf of William Bridgeman at Bramber, Sir Richard Haddock at New Shoreham and other candidates contesting Newport Isle of Wight, London, Winchester and Great Grimsby.137 Both court candidates were returned following a stiff contest at Lancaster through the combined interest of Sunderland, George Jeffreys, later Baron Jeffreys, and the lord keeper, Francis North, Baron Guilford. In Sunderland’s home counties of Northamptonshire and Warwickshire he was able to bring the considerable Spencer interest to bear and although in the latter his commands met with limited opposition from Sir Richard Newdigate, bt. his preferred candidates Sir Charles Holte, bt. and Richard Verney, later 11th Baron Willoughby de Broke, were returned for the county, probably unchallenged. Despite these efforts, not all of Sunderland’s recommendations met with success. He was unable to prevail upon Edward Montagu to stand down in Northamptonshire and Hackett was beaten into third place in Buckinghamshire by Thomas Wharton, the future marquess of Wharton.138 Although Sunderland also failed to secure the election of Richard Graham at Grantham, it is probable that this was the man of the same name who was returned with royal support at New Windsor.139

Sunderland’s indefatigable electioneering helped gain for the king so favourable a result that James was said to have declared that ‘there were not above 40 Members, but such as he himself wished for’.140 It was thus a notably compliant Parliament in which Sunderland took his seat on 19 May 1685. He attended almost 88 per cent of all sittings, and was named to six committees. Active in co-ordinating the government’s response to Monmouth’s rebellion, the aftermath of the uprising again found Sunderland liaising between the king and Albemarle, this time over the summary execution of rebels. While Sunderland insisted that discretion should be employed, he emphasized that the king ‘would have some of them made an example for a terror to the rest.’141 At the same time he took advantage of his growing friendship with Jeffreys, whose promotion he had previously recommended, to intercede with him on behalf of one William Jenkins, desiring that Jeffreys might ‘show … what favour you can, without prejudice to his majesty’s service.’142 While Sunderland’s intercession on behalf of Jenkins may have been innocent enough, rumours were soon in circulation that he had himself been deeply involved in encouraging Monmouth to rebel, and the king was said only to have agreed to a final interview with his wayward nephew in the hopes of discovering more of Sunderland’s role in the affair. Other reports suggested that Sunderland had deliberately suppressed Monmouth’s last letter to the king begging clemency. Although little credence should be attached to such tales they served to add to his reputation as a Machiavellian willing to indulge in all forms of skulduggery to further his own interests.143

The failure over the summer to extract further subsidies from Louis XIV and Rochester’s more prosperous approaches to Prince William for an alliance had some impact on his standing at court, and Sunderland’s removal was regularly anticipated.144 In September 1685 it was believed that he would be sent as lord lieutenant to Ireland. In the event he managed to sidestep the unwelcome appointment by recommending Rochester’s brother Clarendon instead.145 Sunderland’s outmanoeuvring of the Hyde brothers at this point was the beginning of his rise to ascendancy and their almost inevitable decline.146 It was notably assisted by his religious flexibility compared with the Hydes’ firm Anglicanism, and by his willingness to make alliances with the king’s Catholic advisers and associates.147 In October 1685, Sunderland’s ascendancy was further underlined with the appointment of his uncle, Robert Spencer, as one of the commissioners of the great seal and advancement as Viscount Teviot [S] (probably at Sunderland’s request), as well as the final sacking of Halifax.148 Sunderland returned to the House on 9 Nov. for the short and unsuccessful series of autumn sittings. The same day he received the proxy of William Fiennes, 3rd Viscount Saye and Sele, which was vacated by the close of the session, on 20 November.

John Evelyn was again present at a dinner hosted by Sunderland on 3 Dec. at which were several of Sunderland’s principal allies, including Jeffreys (now promoted to lord chancellor) and Middleton, as well as the Catholic peer, George Nevill, 12th Baron Abergavenny.149 The following day, Sunderland was appointed to Halifax’s old position of president of the council, an appointment he was said, with a heavy dose of irony, to be ‘glad of … upon two accounts, because it bears a mark of an increase of favour and because he fills the room of his kinsman Halifax whom he loves with the passion of a true courtier.’150 Charles Bertie was less certain that this represented a triumph, commenting that ‘the discerning men of the court do not at all look upon this as any preferment but rather a forerunner of his withdrawing from business as it proved in the case of my Lord Halifax.’151 Bertie’s appraisal could not have been more at odds with that of one other commentator, who saw Sunderland ‘in the bowels of all secret business and gets nearer the king’s heart than any of his fellow councillors.’152 Sunderland in January was by now well aware and supportive of James’s ambitions for re-establishing the Catholic Church. At court, Sunderland established a new Catholic council, mirroring the ordinary council cabinet committee, and helping him to forge a loose alliance with key Catholic advisers, including Richard Talbot, earl of Tyrconnell [I] and Father Petre.153

Despite this apparently unsurpassed position of influence, in the early weeks of 1686 when Sunderland joined with a number of other courtiers to support the queen in opposing the return to court of the king’s mistress, Catherine Sedley, who had recently been created countess of Dorchester, they provoked the king’s annoyance at interference in what he considered to be a private matter. The resulting row set Sunderland at loggerheads with Rochester once more, their quarrel said to be so bitter that they would not even speak to each other at council. With characteristic deftness, Sunderland was able once again to recover from his association with an unpopular movement. Further honours were anticipated and in March it was rumoured that Sunderland was one of several peers to be promoted to dukedoms.154

Sunderland’s continuing preferment also provoked the first of a series of rumours that he had converted to catholicism. Undoubtedly, Sunderland shamelessly exploited the possibility of his conversion to maintain his relations with the king. At Easter he was one of several ministers to retire to the country rather than face the question of whether or not to attend mass with the king and in June Ronquillo, the Spanish envoy, reported that Sunderland aimed to displace his colleague, Rochester, and be ‘rid of the Catholics’.155 Ronquillo continued, ‘it is he who instigated the Scotch to their evil resolutions, and he has joined the chancellor [Jeffreys] who is not so keen for the Catholics’.156 As further evidence of his alliance with Jeffreys at this time, later that year Sunderland was said to be willing to support the lord chancellor’s efforts to secure a bishopric for his brother, James Jeffreys.157

Over the first half of 1686, James began to develop his plans to re-establish catholicism, while Parliament was repeatedly prorogued. Sunderland, planning to secure a compliant session of Parliament, emphasized the importance of the removal of the Hydes, and continued to undermine Rochester in England and Clarendon in Ireland.158 He himself, however, was under considerable pressure: on the one hand, from James’s Catholic advisers, keen to accelerate the shift towards Rome and to reorient foreign policy accordingly, and on the other from Anglican ones with growing concerns about the direction of affairs. Among the latter was Rochester, who exhibited a remarkable ability to remain in office despite his open disapproval of the king’s actions.159 Towards the end of July 1686 Sunderland secured leave to retreat to Althorp, possibly to recover his health, which had collapsed under the strain of office.160 That month he was appointed to the ecclesiastical commission, of which he proved to be an assiduous member of the coming months.161 The same month he stood godfather to the daughter of Edward Henry Lee, earl of Lichfield, who was married to one of Charles II’s natural children. It was rumoured that Sunderland’s heir, Lord Spencer, was to marry Lady Betty Powlett with £20,000, though again this marriage failed to transpire.162

Sunderland had returned to London by 3 Aug. 1686 when he took his place in the opening meeting of the ecclesiastical commission. One of the first pieces of business before them was the disciplining of Henry Compton, bishop of London. According to one rumour, Sunderland’s influence in the cabinet council was said to have been crucial in saving the bishop from a ‘severer punishment’ than suspension, though Roger Morrice doubted that this was true. Certainly the following year Sunderland was among the more severe members of the commission when it came to the question of disciplining the vice chancellor of Cambridge, and he was equally unyielding over the fate of the deprived fellows of Magdalen.163 Having apparently gambled all on furthering the king’s more extreme policies, by the end of the year Sunderland’s position at court appeared all but unassailable. His normally woeful finances had been substantially underpinned by a generous French pension of approximately £7,000 per annum.164 From his posting in Ireland, Clarendon could only complain to his brother ‘we must never hope to be heard’.165 His pessimism proved only too accurate when both he and Rochester were put out of office within days of each other at the beginning of January 1687. Though this was a success for Sunderland, the award of the post of lord deputy of Ireland to Tyrconnell, which Sunderland had obstructed as much as he could, signalled the growing threat to political stability and to his own position from James’s more uncompromising Catholic advisers.166 With the beginning of the king’s closeting campaign in December 1686, there was every reason to expect that any remaining figures of real weight would also be displaced in the king’s quest to supplant those unwilling to countenance his policies. When some local justices were put out of the Sussex commission at the close of the year, it was noted that Sunderland refused to say anything on their behalf.167

In an assessment compiled in January 1687 Sunderland was, unsurprisingly, estimated as being in favour of repealing the Test Act. The closeting campaign, however, elicited very few other favourable responses, and two months later, Sunderland’s apparently unassailable position appeared less secure. As it became clear that it would be impossible to hold a Parliament in April with any prospect of securing the repeal of the Test Acts, according to some reports he was ‘in the vogue not what he was’. Sunderland’s attempts to persuade Prince William’s envoy, Dijkvelt, that the prince should endorse the planned repeal failed; one result was that he was subjected to accusations of corresponding secretly with the Prince of Orange, although it was his wife’s correspondence with the Dutch court that was more damaging to James’s plans. Despite such rumours, his receipt in April of the late duke of Buckingham’s garter (originally intended to be awarded to the king’s bastard, James Fitzjames, duke of Berwick) symbolized his continuing ascendancy.168 He took the opportunity presented by his installation the following month to hold out some hope to those opposed to the king’s religious agenda by insisting that the service was conducted according to the rites of the Church of England when many had assumed the ceremony would be Catholic.169 Meanwhile he continued to tantalize the king with the prospect of his own conversion, which was no doubt assisted by the news that his son, Lord Spencer, had already taken that step. The French envoy, Usson de Bonrepos, was in no doubt of the true reason of Sunderland’s success, suggesting that:

The king is well aware of Lord Sunderland’s character, that he is ambitious and capable of any sacrifice for ambition’s sake; but though he has no great confidence in him he makes use of him, because he is more devoted to him than others and because he unhesitatingly falls in with all his plans for the establishment of the Catholic religion – though for himself he professes no faith at all and speaks very loosely about it.170

Sunderland was again noted as a supporter of the king’s policies in about May 1687 and in August it was reported (inaccurately) that Charles Beauclerk, duke of St Albans, was to marry one of his daughters (probably Lady Anne Spencer).171

Sunderland despatched the mandamus requiring the fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford to elect a Catholic as their president in April 1687; the fellows’ resistance led to their summons before the ecclesiastical commission in May.172 James’s decision to dissolve Parliament, announced at the beginning of July, was against Sunderland’s advice, and implied an abandonment of the attempts to work with Tories. Its consequences were highly uncertain.173 Sunderland accompanied the king on his western progress in September, the return leg of which was dominated by James’s continuing efforts to compel the fellows of Magdalen to accept his nomination as their president. Sunderland may well have been responsible for the nomination of the unacceptable Anthony Farmer but, once he had been laid aside, the fellows proved equally dismissive of the alternative nominee, Samuel Parker, bishop of Oxford. Their insistence on their privileges provoked James’s extreme displeasure and resulted in the removal of the fellows.174 In October, the campaign began to secure a House of Commons which would agree to the repeal of the Test Act and the penal laws against Catholics, with the ‘three questions’ to be asked of leading gentry and office holders. Shortly afterwards came the news of the queen’s pregnancy.175

In October 1687 Sunderland replaced Northampton as lord lieutenant of Warwickshire. The same month he employed his interest on behalf of William Cavendish, 4th earl (later duke) of Devonshire, to secure his bail.176 In December, his daughter Lady Anne Spencer was married to the heir to the premier Scottish dukedom, James Hamilton, earl of Arran [S], later 4th duke of Hamilton [S]. The alliance had been in some doubt the previous month as Sunderland was unwilling to part with as much as the Hamiltons would have liked; Arran’s father concluded eventually, however, that the connection with someone so influential at court was worth the price.177 Arran, it was rumoured, was to be appointed lord chamberlain on the back of his new alliance.178 Sunderland’s ability to secure the match was not just noticed because of the prestige involved. It was also perceived to be ‘of great consideration, and very much eyed by the Papists, that he should marry his daughter to the chief Presbyterian family in all the kingdom’; the alliance was seen as potentially undermining the influence of one of the most prominent Catholics at court, the Scottish secretary of state, John Drummond, earl of Melfort [S]. Sunderland’s increasingly uneasy relationship with the Catholics at court was highlighted at a dinner shortly before the marriage when Bernard Howard, having been drawn up by Sunderland for his unruly behaviour towards Arran, upbraided Sunderland in turn for voting his uncle, Stafford, guilty of treason and stormed out from the gathering.179 The same month, Sunderland attempted to intervene in the progress of a case in the court of chivalry, by recommending to the earl marshal, Henry Howard, 7th duke of Norfolk, that he grant Sir James Tillie ‘an easy dismission in this affair’, Tillie being ‘a very loyal man and one that may be serviceable to his majesty.’180

The increasingly unrealistic campaign to secure a compliant Parliament continued. Sunderland had been noted, prematurely, as a Catholic in a list estimating peers’ attitudes to repeal of the Test in November 1687. He was again noted as being in favour of repeal in January 1688. In January 1688 Sunderland had undertaken discussions with Protestant Dissenters represented by William Penn, aimed at securing a meeting of Parliament in May, and in February and March further efforts were made to influence elections throughout the country.181 In February the poisonous political atmosphere and the extent to which his activities had earned him the enmity of differing interest groups was revealed in a report that both Catholic and Protestant dissenters were joining to destroy him.182 In February it was reported that he was supporting Jeffreys’ drive to ‘have the judges appointed throughout the circuit to dispose the country for the choice of a right Parliament’.183 The increasingly desperate attempts to persuade gentry to go along with James’s plans indicated clearly their failure, and rendered Sunderland himself more open to criticism. In March, for example, Thomas Cartwright, bishop of Chester, was forced to beg Sunderland’s forgiveness on his knees for casting ‘drunken aspersions’ on him and Jeffreys in which he had suggested that they ‘would deceive the king’.184 In foreign business, Sunderland’s efforts to secure the return of English troops in Dutch service provoked severe tension with the Dutch, while Louis XIV remained cool about providing financial aid to the English government without a firm commitment to a naval alliance against the Dutch Republic.185

In early March, now convinced that the king would be unsuccessful in implementing his policies, he managed to persuade the king to delay the calling of Parliament to the autumn. In April, in preparation for it, he despatched agents throughout the country, whose reports suggested the possibility of securing a majority for repeal. In May he sent out a series of instructions to the lords lieutenant and other local magnates for them to send up a list of people they proposed to stand for election.186 In early May the Declaration of Indulgence, originally issued in April 1687 was reissued, and the bishops ordered to have it read in churches on 20 and 27 May in London and 3 and 10 June elsewhere. The birth of the prince of Wales on 10 June 1688 transformed the situation for Sunderland. After months of wavering his formal conversion to catholicism was announced on 26 June. He hoped thereby not just to secure his position under the present regime but under an anticipated minority as well. His decision consolidated his image as a man of no principle willing to adopt any course to remain in power.187 A general belief that Jeffreys would follow suit and that Sunderland’s was to be the first of many such conversions proved to be unfounded, as did a rumour that he was at last to be appointed lord treasurer.188

In spite of his conversion and his stalwart support for the king’s religious policies, Sunderland was never able to shake off the suspicion that his support for James was no more than skin-deep and that he was in secret communication with the Dutch. According to some commentators, Sunderland was responsible for publishing the bishops’ petition against the order for reading the Declaration of Indulgence in church, acting as a fifth columnist on behalf of William of Orange, whose cause he hoped to further by encouraging the king’s unpopular pro-Catholic policies.189 While this seems unlikely at best, and many reports of Sunderland’s secret negotiations with the Dutch stemmed from later hostile assessments of his character, Sunderland almost certainly maintained links with Holland. His attempts to avert the prosecution of the seven bishops were unsuccessful. Having lost the argument in council, in company with his former adversary, Bishop Cartwright, he was subjected to an extremely hostile reception when he attended the trial on 29 June.190 On the way in, Sunderland was kicked up the backside and on the way out he was subjected to death threats. Despite his participation, Sunderland seems to have cautioned the king to be lenient with the bishops, though this was then overtaken by the decision to acquit them.191

The bishops’ acquittal on 30 June, and the popular rejoicing that followed it, removed any momentum that existed towards the holding of a successful Parliament. Sunderland urged James to moderate his aims and to make concessions to Dissenters; the king refused.192 Sunderland retired to Northamptonshire briefly for the last ten days of July. That month it was reported in some quarters, though ‘without any grounds or reasons’ that he was to be promoted once again, presumably to the post of lord treasurer.193. Sunderland had returned to Windsor by the beginning of August and on the 4th it was reported that a ‘great council’ was to be held there where the matter of holding Parliament would be considered. News of the massing Dutch invasion fleet no doubt helped confirm Sunderland in his view that Parliament should be summoned in November, and helped him persuade the king to give way on the point.194 Despite these reports, Sunderland, and the king, were still confident that the danger was overstated. On 27 Aug. Sunderland wrote to the English envoy in Paris that:

Men are not to judge of Englishmen by their talk in coffee houses, nor by what idle beggarly knaves that go into Holland say (as they think) to make their court. All the dissenters are satisfied, and the Church of England’s principles will keep them loyal, though they may be indiscreet. In short, I believe, there never was in England less thought of rebellion; and when the Parliament meets this will, I doubt not, be evident to all the world.195

Despite his apparent confidence and the continuing rumours of preferment, Sunderland’s authority continued to ebb away. His relations with formerly close colleagues, such as Jeffreys, deteriorated, leaving him more exposed to attempts by other members of the council to unseat him.196 Despite the increasing evidence of William’s invasion plans, Sunderland was actively preparing for the elections in the first half of September, sending more detailed instructions to the lords lieutenant nominating loyal men to be returned, but this time he showed a notable lack of confidence in naming potential members for the shires.197 Nominations were submitted for Kent, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Derbyshire and Flintshire, but otherwise Sunderland appears to have concentrated on the borough members, perhaps reflecting his greater confidence in places where he had so recently been involved in drawing up new charters. On 13 Sept. he wrote to Theophilus Hastings, 7th earl of Huntingdon, recommending candidates for Derby and Leicester.198 By the 15th, however, it had become impossible not to believe that William’s military preparations were aimed at an invasion of England.199 The death of Lord Spencer in Paris early in September no doubt added to the crisis enveloping him, though Evelyn’s portrayal of a young man, ‘rambling about the world’ who ‘dishonours both his name and family, adding sorrow to sorrow’ perhaps suggests that Spencer’s early death may at least have reduced the number of problems faced by Sunderland and his countess.200

Sunderland’s authority was rapidly crumbling and he was clearly becoming increasingly panic-stricken. Attempts to throw the changes of the past year into reverse and revive an alliance with the old Tories were ineffective. On 22 Sept. the writs began to be despatched for the new Parliament, along with letters restoring deputy lieutenants and justices removed over the previous year.201 In Sunderland’s own lieutenancy in Warwickshire, the deputies refused to act on his instructions, arguing that ‘the authority we had by our deputations from the earl of Northampton upon his lordship’s removal [had] ceased’, and that Sunderland, as a Catholic, was not qualified to command them.202 Accused from the one side by the Catholics of treason, and fearful, on the other, that he might be subject to attack in the forthcoming Parliament, he secured a general pardon from the king on 19 October.203 With his ability to influence the king to make sufficient compromises ebbing, over the next few days reports circulated of his dismissal, though it was not until 27 Oct. that he was at last put out of office.204

The reason for Sunderland’s dismissal was hotly debated. Sir John Bramston considered it ‘somewhat mystical’ while Evelyn reported that ‘it is conceived he grew remiss of late in pursuing the interest of the Jesuitical counsels.’205 Some believed that Sunderland had continued covertly to maintain close relations with William of Orange throughout the time he had been in James’s service and was in receipt of a Dutch pension as well as the annuity he received from France. Despite such highly publicized acts as his conversion, one premature report of Sunderland’s dismissal dated 3 Oct., while admitting ignorance of the reason for his fall from favour, alluded to the rumour of his relationship with the Dutch court: ‘the mighty Sunderland is fallen, but for what, is not known; though negatively, it is not for holding correspondence with the Dutch, as the king declared in Council, but for other private reasons best known to himself.’206 Clarendon also noted Sunderland’s dismissal in his diary: ‘the reasons thereof were variously discoursed of: some would needs have that he had held a private correspondence with the prince of Orange. God knows!’207 Although Sunderland was able to secure the king’s public disavowal of such rumours, according to another report the two parted on bad terms.208 Shortly after his dismissal, having initially ‘retired to Windsor all alone’ Sunderland retreated to Althorp from whence he submitted an appeal for asylum in France, which was turned down.209

Shortly before his dismissal, Sunderland had been one of those to swear a deposition confirming the legitimacy of the prince of Wales. This earned him a place in A Poem on the Deponents, in which he was, ironically, cast as a man who had been put out for speaking truth for once but was now prepared to say anything to claw back his place at court:

Lord president comes next that’s now cashier’d
For only speaking of the truth, ’tis fear’d.
Yet he, for to be great again at court,
Would be forsworn, though he is damned for’t.210

Sunderland returned to London in mid-November. By the beginning of the following month reports were circulating of charges of high treason being prepared against him and the other peers who had converted to Rome.211 With William of Orange’s arrival in the west country that month and news of the king’s retreat from Salisbury, in mid-December, uncertain of his safety whichever side prevailed, he fled, with his wife, initially to Rotterdam.212

Exile, return and retirement 1688-1693

In spite of his ignominious flight and the threat of serious charges being levelled against him, Sunderland remained in close contact with a number of influential friends in England, notably Lord Churchill, to whom he wrote on 19 Dec. requesting his assistance for Lady Sunderland, who had returned to England to attempt to obtain some money and assess the political situation.213 Lady Sunderland was also able to call upon Halifax, Henry Sydney and another family friend, Thomas Tenison, later archbishop of Canterbury, for help. She was assured that Sunderland would not be hunted down by the new regime.214 However, on 1 Feb. 1689 Sunderland was arrested at Rotterdam (reputedly disguised ‘in women’s apparel’) and thrown into gaol at the request of Admiral Arthur Herbert, later earl of Torrington, though he was soon released through the influence of William of Orange.215 The same month, the investigation into the death of Sunderland’s former colleague, Essex, heard how one of Sunderland’s servants, Lawrence Braddon, was believed to have been one of the ‘ruffians’ suspected of assassinating the earl. Sunderland’s entanglement in the incident was compounded by the belief that he had used his influence to secure a pardon for Braddon, ‘though he be a great villain.’216

Set against this, the long-standing rumours that Sunderland had been all along a secret agent for William of Orange appeared to be confirmed by his apologia, Letter to a Friend, whose publication the countess had arranged while in London. In it he professed to have been instrumental in achieving the new king and queen’s accession and claimed that he had done all in his power to advise King James to reverse his unpopular policies.217 Whether or not Sunderland was taken in by his own propaganda, it is perhaps significant that when he wrote to the new king personally he again reiterated his role in ‘the advancing of your glorious undertaking’ and lamented that his absence had prevented him from voting in favour of the king and queen’s succession.218 The Letter, distributed widely in London, especially by the Sunderlands’ friend John Evelyn, may not have convinced many, but it formed the basis of the accusations levelled against Sunderland by adherents of the deposed king that he had been guilty of treachery to his former master. It also highlighted the contradictions at the heart of Sunderland’s behaviour.219 Nevertheless, it served its purpose and Lady Sunderland, who had since rejoined her husband, was successful in securing their temporary settlement in the Low Countries, having interceded with the king for leave to ‘live quietly in a country where you have so much power’. Sunderland denied that he had ever actually become a Catholic, and his family were joined by Charles Trimnell, later bishop of Norwich who took up the position of Sunderland’s chaplain on Tenison’s warm recommendation. In November they relocated to Utrecht.220

Despite the efforts of Lady Sunderland and her allies, Sunderland was excepted from the bill of indemnity when it was debated in July, though the bill was lost at the prorogation. A separate bill (of pains and penalties) was lost when the Convention was prorogued again, then dissolved, in early 1690.221 Sunderland’s uncertain status in exile posed problems for members of the House of Lords visiting Holland: in June 1689 Thomas Herbert, 8th earl of Pembroke, going to the United Provinces as ambassador, sought Nottingham’s guidance over how to behave, having received notice that Sunderland intended to call on him. Nottingham advised that ‘though it is not criminal to see him, yet it is not very proper for your Lordship to have much communication with him’. He concluded that while Pembroke might ‘treat him with a respect due to his quality’ he should not be so polite as to encourage Sunderland to repeat the visit.222 Marked as abroad at calls of the House on 28 Oct. 1689 and 31 Mar. 1690, Sunderland was sufficiently reassured of his safety from prosecution to return to England in April 1690 assisted by the intervention on his behalf of a number of his old associates, among them Henry Guy and Charles Duncombe.223 Shortly afterwards he was admitted to an audience with the king but, having been excepted from the Act of General and Free Pardon sent to the Lords by the king and passed in May 1690, Sunderland had little option but to retire to his estates immediately afterwards.224 The death of his daughter, Lady Arran, in June further added to his woes.225

Sunderland’s fortunes received a slight boost in April 1691 when he was again granted an audience with the king through the interest of Henry Sydney (since promoted Viscount Sydney). The interview fuelled rumours of his restoration to favour and possibly even to a post in government.226 Later that month, on 28 Apr., Sunderland attended the prorogation. He took the oaths and spent the rest of his brief time in London paying and receiving visits before once more retreating to Althorp. He was then absent from the opening of the new session that commenced on 22 Oct. 1691, determining to remain at Althorp, ‘all winter concluding that my proxy will do as well as I should.’227 On 24 Oct. he registered his proxy with his uncle, Viscount Sydney, which was vacated by Sunderland’s resumption of his seat on 11 Jan. 1692, the day before a report was due from the audit commissioners on an annuity of which he had been a beneficiary, and on the retention of plate issued to him, as to other diplomats, and subsequently retained. He then proceeded to attend regularly for the remaining two months of the session (approximately 35 per cent of all sittings), during which he was named to five committees. Meanwhile the king signalled his rehabilitation by commanding a halt to any further proceedings over the plate.228 Early in February there were further reports of his imminent return to office. On 14 Feb. he attended the king at chapel, an action much commented on, as it mirrored his former habit of attending mass in the royal chapel during the previous reign.229

From about this time, William seems to have listened to advice from Sunderland, albeit informally: Sunderland consistently suggested that the king should be prepared to draw the Junto Whigs into his government; the king consistently resisted the advice.230 During the king’s absence on campaign in the spring of 1692 he voiced his concerns to Hans Willem Bentinck, earl of Portland. In a letter of May he wrote hoping that Portland would arrive in England as:

the forerunner of your master whose presence I take to be absolutely necessary not only to secure us against our enemies, which can hardly be done without his person and authority, but also to let the nation see that he does not neglect them. For I can assure your lordship that the considerable part of it do not care who are ministers of state, whether this man or that, so we may be safe and secure.231

A report of August 1692 suggested that Sunderland stood ‘fair’ to succeed Sydney as secretary of state. A similar rumour circulated in January of the following year.232 Once again, the prospective office failed to materialize and his advice that the court’s managers in the Commons should be replaced by his clients, Guy and Sir John Trenchard, was also not heeded.233 He returned to the House for the following session on 11 Nov., after which he was present on just under 65 per cent of all sitting days. On 17 Nov. he was named to the committee for drawing up an address to the king and queen. In advance of the session, Sunderland took the opportunity to warn Portland once more of his fears for the new regime: ‘that which will ruin the king, if not remedied, is, that every one thinks this government cannot last, which makes, that many of those who wish well to it, have a mind to secure themselves.’234 Sunderland may have been precisely one such and his reputation for duplicity no doubt contributed to rumours during the winter that he was deep in negotiation with the former secretary, Middleton.235 Frustration at the king’s refusal to follow his advice, and concern that William’s throne was still far from secure, may have led Sunderland once more to consider shifting allegiance but it seems unlikely that the exiled court would have been prepared to co-operate with him. If he did, by the beginning of the new year Sunderland had resolved in favour of loyalty to William. He voted against the place bill on 3 Jan. 1693, and the same month he joined a conclave at the house of William Russell, duke of Bedford, attended by the king, Godolphin and Charles Seymour, 6th duke of Somerset.236 On 4 Feb. he joined with the majority in finding Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun, not guilty of murder.237

Behind the curtain 1693-99

Following the complete failure of the efforts to manage Parliament effectively by the government headed by Carmarthen, Nottingham, and Rochester, and as a result of the discussions of the past few months, in the spring of 1693 Sunderland was encouraged by the king to set about establishing a new court party embracing members of all factions, and particularly bringing in some of the Whigs. By the end of April he was able to report to Portland how ‘our great project goes on beyond expectation’, as he worked with a group of Members of the Commons (Sir John Trenchard, Henry Guy and Sir John Trevor) to build up the government’s capacity for managing the lower House. 238 He was out of town for much of May, but maintained a close correspondence with Portland to discuss progress and offer recommendations for forwarding to William. His plans were impeded, however, by the hostility of the queen and Nottingham. 239 Sunderland returned to London in June, where it was reported that he was ‘setting up to be premier at winter’.240 Sunderland’s family connections further complicated matters and he was forced to ask Portland to intercede with the king to ensure that no immediate decisions were taken about his Jacobite son-in-law, Clancarty, who had surrendered to Marlborough in September 1690 at the siege of Cork and since been interned in the Tower. Sunderland excused himself from regaling Portland with an affair ‘too long to trouble you with at this distance but of mighty importance to me and my family’.241 Concerned by the efforts made by Sir Henry Capell, Baron Capell, to have the Irish Parliament summoned before that at Westminster, on 13 June Sunderland again wrote to Portland to express his advice:

Our Parliament being to sit so soon will give all factious people encouragement both here and there to embroil all they can, which we know by letters from thence and by information here is laboured in both kingdoms… I am persuaded there can be no so ill chosen time for the calling a Parliament there as immediately before the sitting of one here … I am confident both for the advantage of that government and in order to a good sessions here, nothing is more important than the putting off the Parliament there till the spring.242

Writing to Portland on 20 June, Sunderland predicted success in the forthcoming session of November 1693 but he was at pains to underline the price of a quiescent Parliament. He pointed out the importance of satisfying those who required ‘something besides money’ as well as reminding Portland not to imagine that ‘because some are right set, others may be neglected, for two or three bad angry men will spoil what many others cannot mend.’243 Chief among Sunderland’s concerns was Mulgrave, who was eager to secure a step in the peerage but was unwilling to accept a new title as part of a general promotion. Struggling to keep Mulgrave loyal, Sunderland confided to Portland the significance of his support:

I hope the king will agree to the whole, and not put him [Mulgrave] off to a promotion, for if he does, he is lost, and you know it is then to no purpose to manage the House of Lords, for though a great deal more is necessary all the rest will be insignificant without him.244

Sunderland spent much of the summer in retirement at Althorp, with the exception of a brief stay in London at the close of July, which was marred by the unwelcome news of the king’s defeat on campaign on the continent. Having initially insisted that he wished to avoid ‘anything that interferes between Whig and Tory’, by the close of the month he had become convinced of the imperative of replacing the current mixed administration with one firmly dominated by the Whigs. With this in mind, Sunderland advised the king to put out Nottingham and reinstate Edward Russell, later earl of Orford, at the admiralty.245 His vision was summarized in a letter to Portland on 14 Aug. in which he suggested that:

The misfortunes of this year have not taken away our courage here … and I believe men will be ready to give as much as ever if they can have a prospect of good management. … I am persuaded the king may yet cure all, if he pleases. But it must not be done by patching but by a thorough good administration, and employing men firm to this government and thought to be so.246

Sunderland saw his efforts as being hindered by a world in which ‘men grow more politic every day’ and he followed up his efforts to cudgel together a new grouping by hosting a meeting at Althorp at the end of August 1693 attended by Shrewsbury, Wharton, Russell, Marlborough, Godolphin, Devonshire and Charles Montagu, later earl of Halifax.247 The meeting coincided with renewed talk of changes in the ministry and that he would ‘be speedily preferred’. On 3 Sept. Gilbert Dolben wrote to Nottingham informing him of the ‘itinerant cabal’ gathering in Northamptonshire and warning him that ‘their most immediate endeavour was to remove your lordship [Nottingham] and place Lord Sunderland in your station’. Desire to see Sunderland as secretary once more was warmly supported by ‘the house of Bedford’, though Dolben reported that others, ‘particularly Lord Godolphin, were cold in the matter, and if I would know his own opinion, it was in plain terms, that Lord Sunderland deserved rather to be impeached than to be preferred.’248 Despite the hostility of Godolphin, Sunderland’s prospects for restoration to government seemed to be underlined when he took a new house in St James’s Square shortly after.249 In spite of such high expectations, continuing rumours that he was to play a central role in a new administration, and the departure of Nottingham from the ministry in early November, he remained ‘behind the curtain’, exercising considerable influence but without the official trappings of a place: an arrangement that probably suited him well enough.250

Having attended the prorogation of 9 Sept. 1693, Sunderland returned to the House for the new session on 10 Nov., after which he was present on almost 60 per cent of all sittings and was named to six committees. On 22 Feb. 1694 he appears to have participated in the debate in the Lords concerning the treason trials bill.251 In March he was one of a small party of intimates to accompany the king to Winchester and the same month it was rumoured that his heir, Charles Spencer, Lord Spencer (later 3rd earl of Sunderland), was to marry one of Portland’s daughters.252 The success of his scheme for management of the Commons was crowned in March by Shrewsbury’s agreement to return to office in return for William’s agreement to the triennial bill. There was a more comprehensive reshuffle of posts in early May, with a series of offices going to Whigs, and shortly afterwards a series of peerage promotions for Whigs.253 Sunderland’s final rejection of any thoughts of a Jacobite restoration was perhaps signalled by Middleton’s employment of the word ‘rat’ for his former patron in his secret cipher to the exiled court at St Germain, though Sunderland featured in at least one more Jacobite communiqué perhaps dating from early 1695 as someone willing to support an invasion attempt.254

Sunderland suffered a further family loss in May 1694 with the suicide of his uncle, Teviot, who had recently been declared bankrupt for the third time. His attention, though, continued to be taken up with the demands of his colleagues.255 Chief among them was Mulgrave, by then promoted marquess of Normanby, who suspected that he was being sidelined. Normanby was said to be ‘very angry for not being called to the cabinet council’, in spite of Sunderland’s assurances that there was no such thing and his professions of confidence that Normanby was ‘as much trusted as any body’ (Normanby was annoyed at his exclusion from the very small ‘war committee’). Sunderland feared that Normanby’s ‘ill humour would have infected Devonshire’. While Sunderland was able, with the queen’s help, to maintain Devonshire’s support, Normanby continued to be a thorn in his side over the ensuing months. On 19 Aug. Sunderland again laid out his opinions freely to Portland in response to Normanby’s latest demands:

he is very pressing and will be so for ever. If he had all he could ask today, it would be the same tomorrow. I can say only what I have said already. There must be either no cabinet council or one composed of the great officers only … for to admit of Normanby and not all the rest is not to be supported.256

Between July and August 1694 Sunderland hosted a further series of gatherings at Althorp in advance of the new session of Parliament.257 He predicted there were designs to ‘break the bank and the allies’, though he still considered that ‘the credit of the nation is so much concerned as well as the king’s that I think it need not be much apprehended … it is and will be still in the king’s power to make any session a good one.’258 He responded to Portland’s suspicions that he had become too favourable to the Whigs by insisting that ‘whenever the government has leaned to the Whigs it has been strong; whenever the other has prevailed it has been despised’; even though, he complained, the Whig party ‘makes me weary of my life’.259

In the midst of preparing for Parliament, Sunderland’s attention was divided between the forthcoming session and his efforts to secure a lucrative match for his heir by opening negotiations with the family of Lady Arabella Cavendish (who was believed to bring with her a fortune of £25,000). In pursuing the match, Sunderland was compelled to turn to Halifax for assistance. Sunderland’s suit on his son’s behalf was hampered by his own woeful financial state and he was forced to confess to Lady Arabella’s guardian, John Holles, duke of Newcastle, that he would only be ‘able though with difficulty to give £2,000 per annum maintenance and a jointure of £2,000.’260

Sunderland returned to London in September, exhausted by his efforts over the summer to serve the king, ‘without any assistance but my own industry.’261 On 20 Nov. 1694 he took his seat in the new session, after which he was present for 65 per cent of all sittings and was named to three committees. Sunderland was credited with securing the appointment of Bishop Tenison to the archbishopric of Canterbury in December.262 The death of Queen Mary the same month both rid him of one of his most uncompromising critics at court and also offered him the opportunity to help engineer a reconciliation between William III and Princess Anne by encouraging his old friend, Sarah, countess of Marlborough, to wait on the king.263 The duchess was unequivocal in crediting Sunderland with the improved relations between the two courts, insisting that: ‘I never heard of any one that opposed the reconcilement but the earl of Portland upon which my Lord Sunderland spoke very short to him as … he had a very good talent when he thought people were impertinent.’264 Through Sunderland’s interest, the princess was granted new lodgings at St James’s. The marriage in January 1695 of his son, Spencer, to Lady Arabella Cavendish was a triumph for Sunderland.265 The ministry’s performance over the 1694-5 session, however, was much less impressive, with the Whigs, particularly Montagu and Wharton, restive because they were not more dominant, and others, especially Godolphin, resentful at their encroachment. Country Whigs, with the backing of Montagu and Wharton, turned on Sunderland’s close allies, Trevor and Guy, in late January and early February. Guy was imprisoned in the Tower on bribery charges in February, and Trevor expelled from the Speakership and the Commons in March. The attack petered out, however, and it failed to dent Sunderland’s continuing ascendancy. In April 1695 it was discoursed that he would be readmitted to the Privy Council.266 Later that month he was the principal beneficiary of an act of grace and general pardon, though it attracted the vocal opposition of Algernon Capell, 2nd earl of Essex, who held Sunderland responsible for his father’s death. In spite of Essex’s stand against the measure, its passage was the occasion of yet more rumours of Sunderland’s imminent appointment either as secretary of state or lord president of the council.267 His favoured status no doubt encouraged Francis Turner, the former bishop of Ely, now a non-juror, to approach him for his assurance of his own safety following the general pardon. Sunderland admitted to Portland that he would ‘be glad to ease him for reasons you may guess.’

Over the summer, Sunderland tried to resolve the continuing problems within the ministry. His efforts failed to win over either Wharton or Montagu, who now opposed his plans for a dissolution and for the king to issue writs for a new Parliament, and who were said to be demanding that Sunderland be prevented from involvement in politics. There were also reports of a rift with Shrewsbury, though this was soon patched up following a meeting between the two men and John Somers, Baron Somers.268 Fundamental problems of disunity among those responsible for speaking for the government in both Houses, however, were not overcome.

Sunderland played host to the king at Althorp for a week in October 1695, for which he provided a lavish entertainment, having convinced him of the importance of participating actively in the elections that autumn.269 Sunderland co-operated successfully with the lord lieutenant, Charles Mordaunt, earl of Monmouth (later 3rd earl of Peterborough), to ensure the election of Harry Mordaunt at Brackley but the elections for Northamptonshire saw the Spencer interest under fierce assault and Sunderland was early on forced to give up his ambition of seeing Lord Spencer returned there.270 Sunderland took his seat in the new Parliament on 22 Nov., after which he was present on 66 per cent of all sittings and was named to five committees. In January 1696, in the face of the king’s objections, he supported the establishment of the parliamentary council of trade, aligning himself with the ‘country’ Whigs in the Commons.271 The king’s announcement of the discovery of the Assassination Plot on 24 Feb. cast all other business into the shade. The same day Sunderland was named to the committee drawing up an address to the king in response to the plot, and to the subsequent conference concerning the address. The ‘Association’ created as a response to the Plot helped the Junto Whigs to establish themselves more firmly in power; Sunderland’s own influence with the king was steadily eroded, although he continued to encourage the king’s hostility to allowing the Whigs, a single faction, to dominate the government.272

Despite the Junto’s growing prominence, during the summer reports of Sunderland’s imminent preferment continued to circulate. In July 1696 amidst the mounting financial crisis it was claimed that he was to travel to Holland with Sir William Trumbull to undertake negotiations about the peace and advise on the state of affairs in England.273 Nevertheless, Sunderland was quick to refute such claims and in correspondence with Shrewsbury he maintained that he was ‘entirely insignificant’ and that he resolved to remain at Althorp. In a letter to Trumbull over a question of patronage he was eager to ensure that no one should know that ‘I meddle in this matter.’274 The king insisted, however, on Sunderland’s involvement in discussions on overcoming the financial crisis of the summer of 1696, and the Junto Whigs seem to have accepted it without demur.275 Towards the end of the summer he even visited Admiral Russell at his seat at Chippenham, where he found him ‘in very good humour extremely desirous to please the king’ and he expressed himself satisfied with the tractability and unusual affability of the other leading Junto figures. Sunderland employed his interest with the king to secure passes for Bishop Turner and the active Jacobite Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe to leave the country and in October his courtship of his Whig associates continued when he co-ordinated a series of meetings at the Somers’ London residence.276 The same month he took part in the ministerial deliberations at Windsor and was busily engaged in attempting to dissuade Shrewsbury, who was fearful of being named by Sir John Fenwick, bt., from resigning his place..277 Sunderland was, indeed, at the centre of the discussions about the ministry’s response to Fenwick’s allegations, and engineered the removal of Godolphin, who was seen as most likely to come under attack from the Whigs, from the ministry.278 Sunderland returned to the Lords on 26 Oct. 1696, after which he was present on almost 62 per cent of all sittings but he was named to just two committees, one of which on 23 Feb. 1697, perhaps ironically, was for the bill for the relief of creditors. He was the subject of complaint during the session for answering for his son-in-law, Arran, who had been twice imprisoned during the year for his supposed Jacobite activities, and had since absconded but now undertook to reside abroad in a neutral country.279 The decision to proceed against Fenwick by attainder when it became impossible to prove his guilt in the ordinary courts was taken by the Junto Whigs, and was contrary to Sunderland’s opinion, who may have feared that Fenwick would make more allegations as a result. Sunderland’s apparent friendship with Monmouth, whose obscure intrigues were aimed to elicit more evidence against Shrewsbury, added to the Junto’s suspicion of him. But despite his support for his kinsman (Arran) and his dissatisfaction that Fenwick was proceeded against by attainder rather than left to the law, on 23 Dec. 1696 Sunderland joined with the majority in voting in favour of Fenwick’s attainder.280

Although Sunderland earned Shrewsbury’s gratitude for his efforts in shielding him from implication in Fenwick’s plotting, he was never able to gain the trust of the other members of the administration, who were particularly wary of his attempts to fix a series of appointments. In January 1697, Russell wrote to Shrewsbury to ascertain why it was that Sunderland was so intent on procuring Shrewsbury the post of lord president, ‘since his [Sunderland’s] practice in the world gives me just reason to believe he has a design in what he says and does, so it ought to make every body upon their guard, to prevent mischief.’ Russell was the more suspicious as Sunderland refused to divulge who he thought should succeed as secretary, a scruple that convinced Russell that ‘he has somebody in his thoughts, that to some people will not be very agreeable.’281

Despite the continuing suspicions of the Junto, Sunderland remained a dominant figure in government, thanks in particular to Shrewsbury’s loyalty to him. In April 1697 he was appointed a lord justice during the king’s absence, reappointed to the Privy Council and was also presented with the office of lord chamberlain, which the king purchased for £8,000 from Dorset (James Vernon reported the figure to have been £10,000).282 Sunderland’s appointments aroused much hostility, but increased his ability to control government patronage considerably. Over the summer he took a large share in the routine work of administration.283 Continuing in his quest to forge a party unriven by faction (and dominated by himself), in the course of the year Sunderland made overtures to Rochester, Godolphin, Marlborough and Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, while still cajoling Shrewsbury to retain his office. After Shrewsbury insisted on resigning in September, Sunderland was said to be ‘caballing’ over the post of secretary of state, ostensibly espousing Wharton’s candidacy while secretly pushing for Vernon’s appointment. The king refused to accept Shrewsbury’s resignation, but when the other secretary, Sir William Trumbull, did resign just before Parliament was due to sit at the beginning of December, Vernon was appointed in his stead, much to the chagrin of the Junto.284

It had been rumoured in November that either Sunderland or Godolphin would be appointed lord treasurer.285 But Sunderland’s apparent ascendancy lasted no longer than the beginning of the new session on 3 Dec. 1697, the first since his appointment to office in the spring. Sunderland would attend only four days of the session, the last of them 15 December. The king and Sunderland clearly expected a showdown with his Whig antagonists, and over the course of December he was the apparent target of unrelenting hostility in a series of debates in the Commons, even though he was not specifically named. Fearing that they intended to impeach him, Sunderland repeatedly attempted to resign, resisting the pleas of the king and others. Having retreated to Windsor, on 24 Dec. he wrote in response to a letter from Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, that:

Your lordship and those who wish I would leave this place do me much more honour than I deserve. Every word that is said to me and every letter I receive persuade me that I am necessary useful or important fixes me here for there is nothing I apprehend more than the doing anything that may look as if I gave into such vain imaginations.286

Eventually, on 26 Dec. 1697, he succeeded in resigning by subterfuge. Having fooled Vernon into believing that the king had indeed given him permission to quit his place, he gave him the keys, his badge of office, and fled to Guy’s house at Earl’s Court before leaving London from which he refused to admit any of the king’s emissaries sent to persuade him to change his mind. In spite of their mutual antagonism, Sunderland had been a vital link between the Junto and the king, and his removal effectively severed this. Edward Harley noted how his resignation had left ‘the managers very naked’ and over the next few months he was courted assiduously in the hopes that he would resume his post.287 Protesting in another letter to Vernon the day after his resignation that ‘there was no rack like to what he suffered, by being ground as he had been, between Lord Monmouth and Lord Wharton’, Sunderland appears this time to have taken his resolution to ‘end his days’ at Althorp in retirement seriously.288 He remained absent from the House for the ensuing two years.

Out of office, 1698-1702

Sunderland’s departure from court was said to have encouraged Leeds (as Danby had become) to consider returning to the council, as it was believed he had kept away so long only ‘out of aversion’ to Sunderland.289 Sunderland’s absence from London was soon felt. In January 1698 John Methuen complained how affairs went ‘very heavily and confusedly in the House of Commons and the want of my Lord Sunderland is found every day’. By the beginning of February hopes were being expressed for both Sunderland and Shrewsbury’s return and that their reconciliation might offer the best opportunities for a solid foundation for the ministry.290

Sunderland’s aspiration to remain out of public view was blasted further by a family scandal. His troublesome son-in-law, Clancarty, who had escaped from the Tower in 1694 and subsequently been employed in the former king’s household at Saint Germain, returned to London in December 1697 to effect a reconciliation with his wife. Lord and Lady Clancarty had separated almost immediately after their marriage and he had subsequently, allegedly, contracted a bigamous marriage in Ireland.291 Clancarty succeeded in persuading his countess to return to him to consummate their marriage, and the couple were discovered in flagrante on 1 Jan. 1698 by Lady Clancarty’s brother, Lord Spencer, and Clancarty was once more incarcerated at Newgate.292 Although Sunderland disowned his daughter and was described as being ‘violent against’ his son-in-law, following a series of petitions from Lady Clancarty and an array of powerful friends including the Marlboroughs and Burnet, in March Clancarty was pardoned on the condition that he and his wife quit Britain for a neutral country.293

In the midst of this undignified family scandal, Sunderland was also embroiled in the political machinations of a number of members of the Commons associated with him, including Duncombe, Methuen, Trumbull and Robert Molesworth, who chose this moment to stage an attempt against the prominent Junto member and leading treasury minister, Charles Montagu. Although Sunderland disowned all knowledge of their efforts, any attempt at reconciling him and the Junto was rendered hopeless when Montagu’s counter-attack sent Duncombe to the Tower.294 Ironically, given Sunderland’s firm advocacy of their greater trustworthiness, the whole affair convinced the king of the fundamentally untrustworthy nature of the Whigs, as a result of which he resolved not to employ Wharton unless Sunderland and Shrewsbury specifically advised it.295

Sunderland’s resolution to remain away from politics had weakened by the early spring of 1698 sufficiently for him to confess in a letter to Shrewsbury that he had been surprised by the king’s irritation at his resignation and to offer that he would be prepared to bow to the king’s commands if his services were again required, ‘provided that he gives me leave to serve him as a privy councillor only, without a place, which would now be insupportably ridiculous, after having quitted one so lately.’296 Shrewsbury confided to Somers that he believed Sunderland would soon return to office, unable ‘to resist the king’s commands and the importunity of his friends.’297 Nevertheless, Sunderland continued to stay away from London. In spite of the turbulent happenings of the previous few months, Sunderland assured Burnet on 13 June that he was ‘glad the sessions is like to end so well’ and registered his proxy with his uncle, Sydney (now earl of Romney) on 30 June, which was vacated by the close of the session. The death of his daughter-in-law, Arabella, Lady Spencer, the same month may have stiffened his resolve of keeping away from public affairs but Orford (as Russell had become) noted how his brief appearance in London in July on the day of the dissolution of Parliament ‘made a good deal of discourse for four days; that is, till it was known he was not to come into business, then the application, which was before in abundance, fell, and like good courtiers, he is dropped.’298 By now, however, he was, though, cold-shouldered by the Junto, and the king made little effort to seek his advice.299 Convinced that he was ‘out of all’, Sunderland retreated once more to Althorp. Methuen doubted that he would ever ‘again come into the management of affairs’.300 At the beginning of August, Sunderland responded to an approach from Henri de Massue de Ruvigny, earl of Galway [I], excusing his ability to assist and insisting that he was now ‘absolutely a stranger to all has been done or is doing.’301

Sunderland’s resolution to live a private existence did not prevent him from continuing to comment or offer advice on current political affairs. In January 1699, while insisting in habitual self-deprecatory fashion that, ‘it is of little importance what we country folks think’ he offered his support to Marlborough’s interpretation of affairs while also asking for the latter’s assistance in securing the House’s leave to be absent. On 4 Feb. he wrote to Portland, warmly endorsing the king’s speech, which he considered ‘an extraordinary good one. Plain dealing and concerting matters will do wonders.’302 His pronouncements were not always correctly interpreted and later that month he felt the need to write to Portland again to clarify that his suggestion of a new diplomatic mission to Spain had not been intended to mean that he wished to be offered the post:

what I said of my going into Spain was only to enforce the necessity of somebody’s going for if I might have the mines of Peru I would not go. But I believe more than ever that if English and Dutch ambassadors were there the king would be master of that court…303

A visit to Althorp by Shrewsbury that summer was connected with William’s request to him to attempt to bring Sunderland back together with the Whigs, Marlborough and Godolphin. This, it was hoped, might address the ministry’s weakness in the Commons, which had become apparent following the 1698 elections. The project foundered, though, when Shrewsbury fell ill again in early September.304

Sunderland’s period of self-imposed purdah from the House of Lords finally came to an end at the close of 1699 when he returned to London in preparation for Spencer’s imminent marriage to Lady Anne Churchill, a match that had been contemplated within weeks of the death of the former Lady Spencer.305 On 10 Jan. 1700 he took his seat in the House, after which he attended on 29 per cent of all sittings. The same month saw the Spencer-Churchill marriage. Sunderland’s role as an independent political broker was underlined by the king’s request at this time that he should attempt to bring about a new coalition embracing Robert Harley’s associates, Somers’ Junto and Marlborough and Godolphin. The task proved impossible. At the close of January he wrote to Shrewsbury complaining that ‘everything here is so confused, that I envy your retirement, and wish you out of it.’306 Forecast as being in favour of continuing the East India Company as a corporation in February, in April it was reported that he was working to prevent a rupture over the passage of the bill for the resumption of Irish land grants.307 The same month it was again predicted that Sunderland would return to office in a ministry composed of Leeds, Rochester and Goldolphin. He denied the widespread reports that he had advised the king to dismiss Somers from the office of lord chancellor: he was, however, heavily involved in attempting to persuade a successor to take on the role once Somers had been put out.308 In June, rumours circulated in Jacobite circles that Sunderland had once more retired to Althorp, disgruntled at being unable to procure a garter for Marlborough.309 The following month, however, he was included in a list of Whig peers thought amenable to the new ministry.

Heavily involved in attempting to procure Duncombe’s election as lord mayor of London in September 1700, Sunderland was said to have been responsible for a speech delivered by William Simpson, baron of the exchequer, extolling Duncombe’s virtues.310 Despite his support and reputedly that of Marlborough, the aldermen provoked uproar in the corporation when they ignored the poll in favour of Duncombe and returned Thomas Abney instead.311 Sunderland failed to attend the first Parliament of 1701. He was expected in London in June in time for the close of the session, perhaps hoping to resolve some of the ‘great animosities’ then raging between the two parties, but he was prevented by poor health.312 By the middle of August he was thought to be ‘rather worse than better’, though he rallied later that month having ‘submitted to the necessity of being more regular in his diet and has forborne eating such great quantities of fruit’.313 His weakened constitution may have been one of the reasons for declining Somers’ offer of a return to government in November. Even so, the king’s decision to turn to the Whigs once again that month is indicative of Sunderland’s continuing, if disembodied, influence at court.

Sunderland was missing at a call of the House on 5 Jan. 1702, having ignored a series of appeals to return to London. On 12 Jan. he played host to Rochester at Althorp, who was returning from his Irish lieutenancy. The event, once again, set tongues wagging about possible new alliances.314 The death of the king in March appears to have affected him sincerely, though no doubt he had his own security foremost in his mind when he remarked to Marlborough on the king’s passing and on his eagerness to turn his hand to assisting the new monarch that: ‘I never was very covetous and I have no spleen against any creature living but those I think would hurt the government and I have now the same zealous and warm concern for the queen you have seen in me for the king that is gone.’315

Sunderland’s careful cultivation of the Marlboroughs paid off almost at once. Through the influence of Sarah he secured a pension of £2,000 from the queen, though it was revealed soon after that he had enjoyed one of £9,000 under her predecessor.

He returned to London in April after an absence of over a year.316 Unsurprisingly, speculation soon mounted that he would be recalled to office. On resuming his seat in the House on 13 Apr., he was ‘caressed and welcomed by a great many lords and it is said will come in to be a prime minister at court being allied to my Lord Marlborough’.317 By then Sunderland wished for no such distinction and he attended just ten days of the session before quitting the chamber for the final time. Still a controversial figure, on 18 Apr. he was the subject of a heated exchange in the Commons initiated by Henry St John, later Viscount Bolingbroke, following debates over an Irish bill for entailing estates on protestants brought in by Sir John Bolles. Having made an oblique reference to Sunderland’s flexible attitude towards religion, St John was seconded by Bolles, who described Sunderland as ‘a state bawd and a pimp’.’The Speaker prevented Bolles from adding further abuse, leaving it to Sunderland’s heir, Lord Spencer, to answer his father’s assailants. He admitted that Sunderland

When he was minister of state had committed some faults and so had all before and since him that he knew of that had been in those great stations, but this he could say for him that he always loved England, valued his native country and never betrayed its interest to France: and that he believed the worst fault his father had was that he could not go into and comply with the councils of those men that had for 40 years last past been selling us to France.318

St John remained unconvinced and towards the end of June reported to Trumbull how, ‘trimming goes on at court, or to speak more truly, Sunderland, weighty with sin, is got into the balance and sinks it down on the Whig side.’319

Sunderland’s health deteriorated over the summer. Having been reported as being ‘indisposed’ at Althorp on 12 Sept., by the 24th he was said to be at the point of death. Two days later, according to one report he was ‘much better’ while others concluded that he was ‘a dead man’ and that he had been ‘given over by his physicians’.320 He died on 28 Sept., according to some reports, having reconciled himself once more with the church of Rome, though such rumours were swiftly contradicted by accounts of his having received Anglican communion before his death.321 An autopsy found evidence of ‘bone splinters or bony substance in the heart cavity and entrance of the aorta and a great quantity of soft chalky matter in one lobe of the lungs which were full of extravagated blood’.322

Sunderland was buried in the family vault at Brington. In his will he directed a number of estates, not already entailed on his heir, to his countess who survived him by 13 years. The remainder of the Spencer estates passed to his only surviving son, Charles, Lord Spencer, who succeeded as 3rd earl of Sunderland.323 Sunderland’s influence continued to haunt the politics of Queen Anne’s court. In 1704 William Shippen included an unflattering portrait in his verse satire, Faction Display’d. For Shippen, Sunderland was:

A Proteus, ever acting in Disguise,
A finish’d Statesman, Intricately Wise,
A second Machiavel, who soar’d above
The little Tyes of Gratitude and Love;
Whose harden’d Conscience never felt Remorse,
Reflection is the Puny Sinner’s Curse.324


  • 1 This biography is based substantially on J.P. Kenyon, Robert Spencer, earl of Sunderland, 1641-1702.
  • 2 Kenyon, Sunderland, 6-7.
  • 3 Sherborne Castle, Digby mss, vol. ii. ff. 269-70.
  • 4 TNA, PROB 11/467.
  • 5 CSP Dom. 1667, pp. 182-3.
  • 6 Dasent, St James’s Square, 218, 235.
  • 7 Reproduced in Kenyon, Sunderland, 6.
  • 8 Reproduced in Honour, Interest and Power, eds. R. Paley and P. Seaward, 135.
  • 9 Reproduced in Kenyon, Sunderland, 164.
  • 10 Reproduced in Kenyon, Sunderland, 260.
  • 11 A. Roper, ‘Dryden, Sunderland, and the Metamorphoses of a Trimmer’, HLQ, liv. 49, 65.
  • 12 Life of James II, ii. 62.
  • 13 J. Kenyon, ‘The Earl of Sunderland and the Revolution of 1688’, CHJ, xi. 277.
  • 14 Add. 61126, f. 2.
  • 15 Kenyon, Sunderland, 2-3.
  • 16 Haley, Shaftesbury, 90.
  • 17 Kenyon, Sunderland, 5.
  • 18 Bodl. Carte 81, f. 63.
  • 19 Kenyon, Sunderland, 6.
  • 20 LJ iv. 168-70.
  • 21 Kenyon, Sunderland, 6.
  • 22 Add. 34222, f. 38.
  • 23 CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 516.
  • 24 Pepys, Diary, iv. 207-9.
  • 25 Haley, Shaftesbury, 167.
  • 26 TNA, PRO 31/3/112, pp. 69-70.
  • 27 Bodl. Carte 81, f. 224.
  • 28 Pepys, Diary, iv. 208-9.
  • 29 Bodl. Carte 222, ff. 24-5, 26-7; CJ viii. 520; Kenyon, Sunderland, 6.
  • 30 Norf. RO, BL/Y/1/9; TNA, PRO 31/3/114, p. 141; Savile Corresp. 5.
  • 31 Kenyon, Sunderland, 7.
  • 32 Add. 75354, ff. 91-92, Add. 75376, ff. 19-20; Savile Corresp. 18.
  • 33 PA, HL/PO/DC/CP/1/2, p. 25; J.W. Johnson, A Profane Wit, 97-98.
  • 34 PA, HL/PO/DC/CP/1/2, p. 35.
  • 35 Add. 36916, f. 56; BL, Verney ms mic. M636/22, M. Elmes to Sir R. Verney, 7 Feb. 1668; CSP Dom. 1667-8, p. 238; NLS, Yester pprs. ms 14406, ff. 46-47; TNA, PRO 31/3/121, pp. 22-3.
  • 36 Halifax Letters, i. 59.
  • 37 Kenyon, Sunderland, 11; HMC Buccleuch, i. 420; Add. 36916, f. 118.
  • 38 HMC Buccleuch, i. 450.
  • 39 Add. 36916, f. 181.
  • 40 HMC Finch, ii. 3; Bodl. Carte 109, f. 223.
  • 41 Verney ms mic. M636/24, Dr W. Denton to Sir R. Verney, 21 Sept. 1671; Add. 36916, f. 230; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxii), 69; HMC Lindsey, 238; Evelyn Diary, iii. 587.
  • 42 Add. 36916, f. 234; CSP Ven. 1671-2, pp. 121, 123, 132, 134; Arlington Letters, ii. 351-2.
  • 43 CSP Ven. 1671-2, p. 294.
  • 44 Kenyon, Sunderland, 12-14.
  • 45 Add. 70012, ff. 25-26; NLS, ms 7006, f. 18; NAS, GD 406/1/6137; Arlington Letters, ii. 409-10.
  • 46 HMC Finch, ii. 11.
  • 47 Kenyon, Sunderland, 14.
  • 48 TNA, PRO 30/53/7/113.
  • 49 Bodl. Carte 243, f. 161.
  • 50 Add. 28091, f. 177.
  • 51 Verney ms mic. M636/28, J. Verney to Sir R.Verney, 28 Apr. 1675; M636/28, Dr W. Denton to same, 29 Apr. 1675.
  • 52 Add. 35865, f. 224; Bodl. Carte 72, ff. 292-3; Bodl. ms Eng. hist. e. 710, ff. 14-15.
  • 53 State Trials, vii. 157-8.
  • 54 TNA, PRO 31/3/133, ff. 87-93.
  • 55 Kenyon, Sunderland, 17.
  • 56 Huntington Lib. HM 30314 (37).
  • 57 HMC Bath, ii. 159.
  • 58 TNA, PROB 11/355; HP Commons, 1660-90, iii. 544; Verney ms mic. M636/31, J. Verney to Sir R.Verney, 10 Dec. 1677.
  • 59 Verney ms mic. M636/31, Sir R. Verney to E. Verney, 11 July 1678; HMC Rutland, ii. 52; NLS, Lauderdale pprs. 597, f. 273.
  • 60 Beinecke Lib. OSB mss 6, box 1, folder 12, Sunderland to Danby, 2 Aug. 1678.
  • 61 Browning, Danby, ii. 527-9, 533, 539-40; Eg. 3338, ff. 109-10.
  • 62 Bodl. Carte 103, f. 226; Derbys. RO, D239 M/O 1074.
  • 63 Verney ms mic. M636/32, J. to Sir R. Verney, 16 Sept. 1678; Browning, Danby, ii. 543, 546-7.
  • 64 Bodl. Carte 81, ff. 380, 405.
  • 65 Kenyon, Popish Plot, 120.
  • 66 Verney ms mic. M636/32, J. Stewkeley to Sir R. Verney, 10 Feb. 1679; TNA, SP 44/56, p. 1.
  • 67 LPL, 942, 31; Add. 29569, f. 237.
  • 68 Browning, Danby, i. 313; Haley, Shaftesbury, 501.
  • 69 Add. 28094, f. 47.
  • 70 Chatsworth, Devonshire Coll. group 1/G, Sir J. Gell to Devonshire, 6 Mar. 1679.
  • 71 Add. 28049, ff. 70-71.
  • 72 HMC 14th Rep. IX, 415; HMC Lindsey, suppl. 22.
  • 73 Kenyon, Sunderland, 330; R. North, Examen, (1740), 77.
  • 74 Halifax Letters, i. 165.
  • 75 Sidney Diary, i. 3-4, 58, 87-88; Add. 18730, f. 60, Add. 28049, f. 68.
  • 76 HP Commons, 1660-90, iii. 434.
  • 77 TNA, SP 44/56, pp. 10-14.
  • 78 Kenyon, Sunderland, 37-8.
  • 79 Verney ms mic. M636/33, C. Gardiner to Sir R. Verney, 3 Sept. 1679; Bodl. Carte 232, f. 51-52, 145.
  • 80 Evelyn Diary, iv. 181.
  • 81 TNA, SP 44/56, p. 21; Verney ms mic. M636/33, C. Gardiner to Sir R. Verney, 15, 22 Oct. 1679, M636/33, J. Verney to same, 10 Nov. 1679; Kenyon, Sunderland, 33.
  • 82 Chatsworth, Devonshire Coll. Group 1/B, newsletter to Devonshire, 13 Dec. 1679.
  • 83 S. Pincus, 1688: the First Modern Revolution, 127-8.
  • 84 Sidney Diary, i. 226-7.
  • 85 Sidney Diary, i. 243-4, 292.
  • 86 Sidney Diary, i. 225, 243-4, 259.
  • 87 Bodl. Carte 39, f. 127; Add. 75360, Sir W. Hickman to Halifax, 21 Mar. 1680.
  • 88 Sidney Diary, ii. 11, Bodl. Carte 39, f. 113; 243, f. 473; HMC Finch, ii. 77-78.
  • 89 Sidney Diary, ii. 52.
  • 90 Sidney Diary, ii. 75, 77-78.
  • 91 Bodl. Carte 243, f. 484.
  • 92 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. ii. 170.
  • 93 HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 122.
  • 94 Sidney Diary, ii. 100.
  • 95 Savile Corresp., 162; HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 425.
  • 96 Verney ms mic. M636/34, A. Nicholas to Sir R.Verney, 12 Oct. 1680, M636/34, Dr W. Denton to same, 13 Oct. 1680.
  • 97 Kenyon, Sunderland, 56-9.
  • 98 Haley, Shaftesbury, 591; HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 459.
  • 99 HMC Ormonde, v. 454; Kenyon, Sunderland, 61-3; HLQ, liv. 49.
  • 100 Kenyon, Sunderland, 63.
  • 101 Kenyon, Sunderland, 64-6.
  • 102 Sidney Diary, ii. 125.
  • 103 Bodl. Carte 81, f. 669.
  • 104 Sidney Diary, ii. 137.
  • 105 Halifax Letters, i. 259.
  • 106 Sidney Diary, ii. 129.
  • 107 Bodl. ms. Eng. c. 5237, ff. 17-18; Clarendon Corresp., i. 48.
  • 108 Bodl. Rawl. A183, f. 62.
  • 109 Sidney Diary, ii. 159.
  • 110 HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 559, 563; Add. 18730, f. 81; Bodl. Carte 222, f. 238.
  • 111 Bodl. Carte 222, f. 242; Sidney Diary, ii. 165.
  • 112 Beinecke Lib. OSB mss, Danby pprs. box 2; HMC 14th Rep. IX. 425.
  • 113 Sidney Diary, ii. 180.
  • 114 Haley, Shaftesbury, 638; Add. 75355, Clifford to Burlington, 24 May 1681.
  • 115 Evelyn Diary, iv. 245.
  • 116 Kenyon, Sunderland, 77.
  • 117 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. ii. 279.
  • 118 NLW, Clennau, 802; Castle Ashby ms, 1092, newsletter, 4 Aug. 1681; Kenyon, Sunderland, 81.
  • 119 HMC Ormonde, n.s. vi. 244; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), 12.
  • 120 Kenyon, Sunderland, 80-82; Bodl. Carte 216, ff. 123, 127.
  • 121 Belvoir Castle mss, Add. 18 (Bertie letters), no. 22; NAS, GD 406/1/9127; Verney ms mic. M636/37, Dr W. Denton to Sir R. Verney, 31 July 1682, M636/37, Sir R. Verney to J. Verney, 3 Aug. 1682; Reresby Mems. 288. HMC Rutland, ii. 56.
  • 122 Reresby Mems. 273.
  • 123 N. Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 221; Add. 72520, ff. 158-9; Add. 72482, f. 15; Bodl. Carte 216, f. 253.
  • 124 Beinecke Lib. OSB mss 1, box 1, folder 28, Sunderland to Poley, 2 Feb. 1683.
  • 125 CSP Dom. 1683, p. 6; Beinecke Lib. OSB mss 1, box 1, folder 34, Sunderland to Poley, 3 July 1683; folder 35, same to same, 10 Aug. 1683.
  • 126 Kenyon, Sunderland, 88-9; Add. 41803, f. 33; Add. 75376, ff. 57-58; TNA, SP 44/56, pp. 90, 101.
  • 127 Miller, James II, 114; HMC Lindsey, 64-65; Add. 28049, ff. 220-1.
  • 128 Kenyon, Sunderland, 97-100; Bodl. Carte 216, ff. 466-7; NAS, GD 406/1/3295.
  • 129 NAS, GD 406/1/3264; Kenyon, Sunderland, 108-10.
  • 130 Kenyon, Sunderland, 101.
  • 131 Kenyon, Sunderland, 102-3.
  • 132 Clarendon Corresp. i. 48.
  • 133 HMC Ormonde, n.s. vii. 318.
  • 134 R. George, ‘Parliamentary Elections and Electioneering in 1685’, TRHS, 4th ser. xix. 169-70.
  • 135 CSP Dom. 1685, p. 337; TNA, SP 44/56, p. 193.
  • 136 HMC Finch, ii. 189.
  • 137 TRHS, 4th ser. xix. 170.
  • 138 HP Commons, 1660-90, i. 136-7, 286, 336, 428-9.
  • 139 TNA, SP 44/56, p. 174; HP Commons, 1660-90, ii. 427; Kenyon, Sunderland, 114.
  • 140 TRHS, 4th ser. xix. 194.
  • 141 Bodl. Ms. Top. Oxon. c. 325, f. 46; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 239.
  • 142 Clarendon Corresp. i. 82-83; TNA, SP 44/56, p. 283.
  • 143 Clarendon Corresp. i. 142, 145.
  • 144 Kenyon, Sunderland, 114-20.
  • 145 Add. 70013, ff. 268-9; HMC Ormonde, n.s. vii. 361.
  • 146 Life of James II, ii. 62.
  • 147 Kenyon, Sunderland, 122.
  • 148 HP Commons, 1660-90, iii. 466.
  • 149 Evelyn Diary, iv. 490.
  • 150 HMC Downshire, i. 68; Add. 70013, f. 301; 72481, f. 83.
  • 151 HMC Rutland, ii. 96.
  • 152 Add. 72481, f. 109.
  • 153 Kenyon, Sunderland, 128.
  • 154 HMC Rutland, ii. 103, 106; HMC Downshire, i. 114, 130.
  • 155 Ellis Corresp. i. 91.
  • 156 HMC Downshire, i. 182.
  • 157 Bodl. Tanner 30, f. 90.
  • 158 Kenyon, Sunderland, 130-1.
  • 159 Kenyon, Sunderland, 134-7.
  • 160 Add. 72482, f. 73; Add. 72524, ff. 149-50; Add. 72523, ff. 182-3; HMC Downshire, i. 165; Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. iii. 119.
  • 161 Evelyn Diary, 519-20; Bodl. Tanner 30, f. 73; Bodl. Tanner 460, f. 22; Bodl. Rawl. D 365, ff. 1-33.
  • 162 Verney ms mic. M636/41, Lady P. Osborne to Sir R. Verney, 13 July 1686.
  • 163 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. iii. 247; Bodl. Rawl. D 365, ff. 1-8, 18, 23, 33.
  • 164 Kenyon, Sunderland, 127.
  • 165 Clarendon Corresp., ii. 26.
  • 166 CSP Dom. 1686-7, p. 335; Life of James II, ii. 61.
  • 167 E. Suss. RO, ASH 932.
  • 168 Kenyon, Sunderland, 150-3; Ellis Corresp., i. 265; Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. iv. 1, 30, 47; Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 401.
  • 169 Verney ms mic. M636/41, J. Stewkeley to Sir R. Verney, 24 May 1687; Longleat, Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 42, f. 203.
  • 170 Kenyon, Sunderland, 155.
  • 171 Verney ms mic. M636/42, newsletter, 4 Aug. 1687.
  • 172 Kenyon, Sunderland, 154.
  • 173 Kenyon, Sunderland, 157-60.
  • 174 J. Carswell, Descent on England, 92-3, 102; Bodl. Rawl. lett. 91, f. 62; Bodl. Rawl. D 365, ff. 23-24.
  • 175 Kenyon, Sunderland, 167-74.
  • 176 Add. 34510, ff. 64-65.
  • 177 NAS, GD 406/1/6242, 7755.
  • 178 Beinecke Lib. OSB mss 1, box 2, folder 74, Cooke to Poley, 23 Dec. 1687.
  • 179 Kenyon, Sunderland, 175-6; Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. iv. 143, 175, 190.
  • 180 TNA, SP 44/56, p. 397.
  • 181 Kenyon, Sunderland, 186-7.
  • 182 UNL, Pw A 2145/1-3.
  • 183 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. iv. 218.
  • 184 Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 433; Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. iv. 248.
  • 185 Kenyon, Sunderland, 177-85.
  • 186 TNA, SP 44/56, pp. 417-18.
  • 187 CHJ, xi. 277; Longleat, Bath mss, Thynne pprs., 43, f. 136; Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 446.
  • 188 Add. 34510, f. 137; Add. 70014, f. 82; HMC Portland, iii. 414; Longleat, Bath mss, Thynne pprs., 43, ff. 146-7.
  • 189 E. Carpenter, Protestant Bishop, 117.
  • 190 Kenyon, Sunderland, 199; Add. 34510, f. 138.
  • 191 Carpenter, Protestant Bishop, 122; Add. 34510, f. 138.
  • 192 Kenyon, Sunderland, 200-1.
  • 193 Beinecke Lib. OSB mss 1, box 2, folder 86, Wynne to Poley, 27 July 1688; Ellis Corresp. ii. 34-35.
  • 194 Longleat, Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 43, f. 168.
  • 195 Kenyon, Sunderland, 206-8.
  • 196 Kenyon, Sunderland, 208-9.
  • 197 TNA, SP 44/56, pp. 431-2, 434, 436.
  • 198 HP Commons, 1660-90, i. 144-519 passim; HMC Hastings, ii. 187-8; Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. iv. 306.
  • 199 Kenyon, Sunderland, 215.
  • 200 Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 460; Ellis Corresp. ii. 173-4; Evelyn Diary, iv. 595.
  • 201 Kenyon, Sunderland, 218.
  • 202 Castle Ashby, 1090.
  • 203 Add. 34510, f. 154; 61486, f. 162.
  • 204 Add. 72516, ff. 73-74; Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 471.
  • 205 Bramston Autobiog. 327; Evelyn Diary, iv. 602.
  • 206 Ellis Corresp. ii. 237-8.
  • 207 Clarendon Corresp. ii. 197.
  • 208 NLW, Kemeys-Tynte, C135.
  • 209 HMC Rutland, ii. 122; Kenyon, Sunderland, 225.
  • 210 POAS, iv. 269-70.
  • 211 Add. 18675, f. 48; Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. iv. 370.
  • 212 Add. 34510, f. 196; Evelyn Diary, 610.
  • 213 Add. 61126, f. 2.
  • 214 Kenyon, Sunderland, 228.
  • 215 Beinecke Lib. OSB mss fb 210, ff. 355-6; Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 501; HMC Le Fleming, 235; Sidney Diary, ii. 295.
  • 216 HMC Lords, ii. 23-24.
  • 217 Sunderland, Letter to a Friend in London.
  • 218 Sidney Diary, ii. 296.
  • 219 Kenyon, Sunderland, 233-5.
  • 220 Kenyon, Sunderland, 233-4, 239.
  • 221 Kenyon, Sunderland, 236-8, 240.
  • 222 HMC Finch, ii. 221.
  • 223 HP Commons, 1690-1715, iv. 126.
  • 224 Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 554, ii. 41-42; Beds. Archives, L30/8/31/1; Add. 70015, f. 57.
  • 225 NAS, GD 406/1/3189.
  • 226 Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 216; Horwitz, Parl. Pol. 67.
  • 227 NAS, GD. 406/1/3700, 7032, Sunderland to Arran, 16 May, 19 Oct. 1691.
  • 228 Kenyon, Sunderland, 249-50.
  • 229 Bodl. Ballard 20, f. 171; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 359.
  • 230 Kenyon, Sunderland, 250-1.
  • 231 UNL, PwA 1209/1.
  • 232 Luttrell, Brief Relation, 539; Add. 29574, f. 137; Bodl. Tanner 25, f. 4.
  • 233 HP Commons, 1690-1715, iv. 127.
  • 234 Correspondentie van Willem III en Hans Willem Bentinck, ed. Japikse, pt. 1, ii. 36-38.
  • 235 D. Middleton, Charles 2nd earl of Middleton, 136.
  • 236 Horwitz, Parl. Pol., 110; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 5.
  • 237 State Trials, xii. 1048-9.
  • 238 Kenyon, Sunderland, 255, 256-7; UNL, PwA 1211.
  • 239 Horwitz, Parl. Pol. 114-16; UNL, PwA 1212; Kenyon, Sunderland, 256, 258-9; J. Kenyon, ‘The Earl of Sunderland and the King’s Administration’, EHR, lxxi, 576-602.
  • 240 HMC Portland, iii. 528.
  • 241 Kenyon, Sunderland, 242; UNL, PwA 1214/1.
  • 242 UNL, PwA 1215/1.
  • 243 HP Commons, 1660-90, ii. 455; UNL, PwA 1217/1.
  • 244 UNL, PwA 1217/1.
  • 245 UNL, PwA 1221/1, 1222, 1224/1, 1225; Kenyon, Sunderland, 260.
  • 246 UNL, PwA 1229/1-3.
  • 247 UNL, PwA 1230/1; Verney ms mic. M636/47, A. Nicholas to J. Verney, 27 Aug. 1693.
  • 248 Add. 29574, ff. 206, 216; Add. 61455, ff. 18-19; Bodl. Tanner 25, f. 81; Huntington Lib. HM 30659 (31); Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 167-8; HMC Finch, v. 243.
  • 249 Add. 17677 NN, ff. 255-7; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 188.
  • 250 Bodl. Carte 233, f. 283.
  • 251 Leics. RO, DG 7, box 4959 P.P. 107.
  • 252 Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 281-2.
  • 253 Kenyon, Sunderland, 262-3.
  • 254 Middleton, Charles 2nd earl of Middleton, 148; Bodl. Carte 181, ff. 563-5.
  • 255 Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 314.
  • 256 UNL, PwA 1232/1, 1233/1, 1235, 1240/1, 1241/1.
  • 257 HMC Portland, iii. 552.
  • 258 UNL, PwA 1241/1.
  • 259 UNL, PwA 1240.
  • 260 Add. 75363, Sunderland to Halifax, 29 July 1694, same to Newcastle, 23 Aug. 1694.
  • 261 UNL, PwA 1244/4.
  • 262 POAS, vi. 655. 115.
  • 263 EHR, lxxi. 596.
  • 264 F. Harris, Passion For Govt. 75; Add. 61421, f. 62.
  • 265 Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 427.
  • 266 HMC Hastings, ii. 248.
  • 267 Japikse, Correspondentie, pt. 1, i. 48-9; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 467.
  • 268 UNL, PwA 510, 1245/1, 1248, 1249.
  • 269 Verney ms mic. M636/48, A. Nicholas to J. Verney, 15 Oct. 1695; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 537, 544; Evelyn Diary, 223.
  • 270 HMC Downshire, i. 586; HP Commons, 1690-1715, ii. 427; Forrester, Northants. Elections and Electioneering, 18; Northants. RO, IC 1425.
  • 271 Kenyon, Sunderland, 277.
  • 272 Kenyon, Sunderland, 279.
  • 273 HMC Hastings, ii. 269.
  • 274 Shrewsbury Corresp. 407; Add. 72483, f. 170.
  • 275 Kenyon, Sunderland, 280-1.
  • 276 UNL, PwA 1255; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 364, 418.
  • 277 Shrewsbury Corresp. 411, 413.
  • 278 Kenyon, Sunderland, 284-5.
  • 279 HMC Hamilton, 135.
  • 280 Kenyon, Sunderland, 285-7; Shrewsbury Corresp. 428-9.
  • 281 Shrewsbury Corresp. 466.
  • 282 Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 212, 215; SOAS, Paget pprs. PP ms 4, box 9, bundle 44; HMC Bath, iii. 112.
  • 283 Kenyon, Sunderland, 290-3.
  • 284 Ibid. 293-7.
  • 285 Shrewsbury Corresp. 499, 501; HMC Portland, iii. 593.
  • 286 Bodl. Add. Mss. A. 191, f. 13.
  • 287 Add. 61653, ff. 26-7, 30-1; Bodl. Ballard 10, f. 107; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 324; Sachse, Ld. Somers, 132; HP Commons, 1690-1715, iv. 130; HMC Portland, iii. 594.
  • 288 Shrewsbury Corresp. 511.
  • 289 Add. 61653, ff. 30-1.
  • 290 Add. 61653, ff. 41, 44-6.
  • 291 NAS, GD.406/1/7028, countess of Sunderland to Arran, 4 Feb. 1691.
  • 292 Add. 61653, ff. 32-33; Kenyon, Sunderland, 302; HMC Hastings, ii. 305-6.
  • 293 HMC Hastings, ii. 305; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 328; Kenyon, Sunderland, 305; NAS, GD. 406/1/8233, GD. 406/1/2490.
  • 294 Shrewsbury Corresp. 526.
  • 295 Kenyon, Sunderland, 303-4.
  • 296 Shrewsbury Corresp. 534-5.
  • 297 Surr. Hist. Cent. Somers mss 371/14/E/14.
  • 298 Shrewsbury Corresp. 545.
  • 299 Kenyon, Sunderland, 306.
  • 300 HMC Downshire, i. 781; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 403; Kent HLC (CKS), U1590/O28/5.
  • 301 Add. 61653, f. 7.
  • 302 Add. 61126, ff. 10-11; UNL, PwA 1274.
  • 303 UNL, PwA 1275.
  • 304 Kenyon, Sunderland, 311-3.
  • 305 UNL, PwA 1497; Somerville, King of Hearts, 166-7; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 426, 597; Add. 61126, f. 9.
  • 306 Shrewsbury Corresp. 613.
  • 307 Vernon-Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 16-17.
  • 308 POAS, vi. 211; Bodl. Ballard 10, f. 40; HMC Downshire, i. 796.
  • 309 HMC Bath, iii. 411-12.
  • 310 HMC Bath, iii. 421-2.
  • 311 HP Commons, 1690-1715, iii. 941-2.
  • 312 NAS, GD406/1/6586.
  • 313 Add. 40775, ff. 79, 93-4.
  • 314 NAS, GD406/1/7441; Add. 70073-4, newsletter, 13 Jan. 1702.
  • 315 Add. 61126, f. 14.
  • 316 Add. 61442, f. 171; Add. 61126, f. 16; Add. 70073-4, newsletter, 24 Mar. 1702.
  • 317 Add. 70073-4, newsletter, 9, 16 Apr. 1702.
  • 318 Cocks Diary, 270; Add. 70073-4, newsletter, 21 Apr. 1702.
  • 319 Add. 75375, f. 47.
  • 320 Add. 70073-4, newsletter, 12, 24 Sept. 1702; HMC Downshire, i. 813; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 218.
  • 321 Add. 40803, f. 49; Add. 70073-4, newsletter, 29 Sept. 1702, 1 Oct. 1702; Bodl. Rawl. lett. 71, f. 9.
  • 322 Sloane 4061, f. 188.
  • 323 TNA, PROB 11/467.
  • 324 POAS, vi. 662.