Gallery

Gallery: 
William Hoare of Bath, 1707-1792
Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne and 1st Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne, KG, PC 1693-1768
Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle
oil on canvas
127 x 101 cm. (50 x 40 in.)
Price: 
£10,000

Description

Contained in an ebonised carved frame In fully restored condition. Re-lined, cleaned and re-varnished. Two repairs with associated re-touching in upper right hand corner. Strengthening to frond like detail in this area. Smaller relatively small sporadic re-touching across upper background. Re-touching to old cracquelure/ flaking within the face and outline of the chin. Strengthening to definition of the lace cravat, sleeve and his left hand shoulder decoration. Sporadic re-touching to right hand side background with larger patches of restoration within the lower right hand corner and at his knee. Surface is generally somewhat flat and paint thin in places from the restoration processes. Essentially stable medium sized cracquelure across throughout entire surface. Vertical scratch within the blue velvet to the right of his open hand approx 5cms in length. Sporadic minor flaking mostly contained within the blue of his ensemble. Covered in a layer of dirt and discoloured varnish. Rubbing to edges etc.

Literature

James Macardell, after William Hoare mezzotint, mid 18th century

Notes

There is another version of this portrait in the Parliamentary art collection, Westminster.

Thomas Pelham-Holles, , duke of Newcastle upon Tyne and first duke of Newcastle under Lyme (1693–1768), prime minister, was born in Sussex on 21 July 1693, the eldest son of Thomas Pelham (c.1653–1712) and his second wife, Lady Grace Holles (d. 1700). Thomas Pelham had two daughters by his first marriage; his subsequent union with Lady Grace produced, in addition, one son, Henry Pelham, a later prime minister, and six daughters.

After attending Westminster School, young Thomas matriculated in 1709 at Clare College, Cambridge. Although he left the university before taking a degree, he retained throughout his life happy memories of his experiences at both Westminster and Cambridge and in later years assumed a measure of responsibility for governance at both institutions.

Pelham quickly became a wealthy man through two inheritances. The first came in July 1711, when his mother's brother, John Holles, duke of Newcastle upon Tyne, died, bequeathing Thomas a vast estate. The heir's only obligation was to append ‘Holles’ to his name, a duty Thomas fulfilled for the rest of his life. The astonished dowager duchess immediately launched a legal campaign to overturn the settlement. Although every judicial decision handed down on the case supported Thomas Pelham's right to the inheritance, he was inclined to be generous and proposed a compromise. By its terms he yielded a few choice properties to Lord Oxford, the dowager duchess's son-in-law. The second inheritance came in February 1712, on the death of Thomas's father. Thomas succeeded both to the title of Baron Pelham of Laughton, which his father had received in 1706, and to the Pelham estates in Sussex. As a consequence of these two inheritances the young Lord Pelham held lands in eleven counties and enjoyed an annual income of almost £32,000. He also either controlled or significantly influenced the selection of over a dozen members of parliament elected from Sussex, Yorkshire, and Nottinghamshire.

To his political influence Pelham added a fiery commitment to the whig cause. In the final years of Queen Anne's reign he joined the party's two leading social organizations, the Kit-Cat Club and the Hanover Club. In late 1714 the newly arrived George I appointed him to the lord lieutenancies of Middlesex and Nottinghamshire and raised him in the peerage with the titles of Viscount Houghton and earl of Clare, both formerly borne by his uncle. He promptly bought the land in Surrey upon which he would erect Claremont, his largest and favourite home. A year later, as a reward for Lord Clare's electoral support for the whigs in the general election of 1715, the king bestowed on him two additional titles that had belonged to John Holles: marquess of Clare and duke of Newcastle upon Tyne. On the outbreak of the Jacobite rising later in the year, Newcastle raised a voluntary defence force and led roving crowds in demonstrations on behalf of the king. When the whigs began to fissure in 1716, Newcastle, after some hesitation, threw his lot in with the victorious Sunderland–Stanhope camp. One facet of this decision was his marriage on 2 April 1717 to a woman with Sunderland ties, Lady Henrietta Godolphin (d. 1776). Less than two weeks after the wedding, on 13 April 1717, Newcastle received a political reward for his loyalty, taking the oath of office to become lord chamberlain. His public career was launched.

In his new office Newcastle superintended the household ‘above stairs’, the largest section of the royal establishment. Frequent contact with George I allowed a friendship between the two men to emerge, and in March 1718 the duke was installed knight of the Garter. Meanwhile, in the House of Lords the duke gave vigorous support to the work of the government. He worried for his future when the government's defeat in the Commons on the Peerage Bill obliged the ministry to readmit Robert Walpole and Charles, Viscount Townshend. But the South Sea Bubble and the deaths of Stanhope and Sunderland so thoroughly recast the political world that, when the dust settled in 1722, Newcastle stood as the third most influential minister in the kingdom, overshadowed only by Walpole at the Treasury and Townshend as de facto foreign secretary. Many observers were surprised at this ascent. But, in addition to his good fortune, his rise was testimony to his affability, his diligence, his power as an electoral magnate, and his readiness to follow a leader. In 1724 Walpole completed the ratification of Newcastle's success by ousting the independent-minded Lord Carteret from office and installing the duke in the lucrative post of secretary of state for the southern department. Barely thirty, Newcastle now bore co-ordinate responsibility (with Townshend in the northern department) for the conduct of British foreign policy.

Even though Newcastle had never set foot on the European continent, he was not uninterested in foreign affairs. Townshend had adopted Stanhope's commitment to the maintenance of the friendship of France, and Newcastle followed the lead of his colleague. Where they parted ways was in trying to sort out the implications of that commitment for relations with other European states. The tension between the secretaries first arose when the unexpected juncture of Spain and Austria in the treaty of Vienna in 1725 raised the question: which country represented the greater threat to Britain? For Townshend, Vienna, with its new commercial interests in the East Indies, posed the greater challenge. For Newcastle, concerned to protect Gibraltar and British interests in American waters, Madrid deserved priority. The duke was also moved by the consideration that Britain and Austria had been allies against the France of Louis XIV, and he dreamed of restoring what he often styled the ‘old system’—the alliance of London and Vienna against Versailles. When Walpole began to focus attention on this issue, he found himself more in sympathy with Newcastle's inclinations. Then when Spain adopted the belligerent course of interning a British ship and besieging Gibraltar, Newcastle's view received additional confirmation.

This incipient division in the ministry was abruptly eclipsed in June 1727, however, when George I died while in Hanover. The new monarch George II had, as prince of Wales, often quarrelled with his father, and a decade of strained relations in the royal family had given him ample occasion to hone a dislike of Walpole, Townshend, and Newcastle. His quarrel with the duke dated back to a public altercation between the two men at the baptism of the prince of Wales's son in 1717. In order now to protect their hold on office, the three ministers set aside their differences and, guided by Walpole's skilful efforts to prove his indispensability, sought to persuade the new king to retain his inherited servants. They were successful. Talk of saddling Newcastle with the purgatorial lord lieutenancy of Ireland quickly faded, and before the year was out the duke was expressing confidence that he had surmounted the danger.

The receding of the fear that he would be dislodged from office allowed Newcastle to return to his foreign policy disagreement with Townshend. He used his position as the secretary with responsibility for Spain to insist that London be unbending in negotiations with Madrid. In 1729 his hardline policy succeeded when, after the Vienna alliance fell apart, Spain abandoned its military harassment of Gibraltar and in the treaty of Seville, concluded in November, accepted a British construction of almost all of the points in dispute. This validation of Newcastle's policy left Townshend isolated within the ministry, and, when in May 1730 Walpole chose Newcastle's advice in negotiations with Austria as well, Townshend resigned the seals. Newcastle then crowned his triumph by filling the empty northern office with Lord Harrington, a man whom he believed could be trusted to be subservient to a senior secretarial colleague. With this latest ministerial reshuffle, Newcastle was the second most powerful politician in the kingdom.

No longer burdened with an unsympathetic secretarial colleague, Newcastle pressed ahead in his effort to restore the old system. The treaty of Vienna of March 1731 was a major triumph as Austria, in return for Britain's recognition of the so-called pragmatic sanction, abandoned its effort to use the Austrian Netherlands to try to challenge Britain's commercial dominance in Asian waters. Newcastle had thus overseen a reorientation of British foreign policy. In complimenting George II on having ‘given peace to all Europe’ (Coxe, Robert Walpole, 3.12), Newcastle was in fact hoping to praise himself.

But two years later the duke's commitment to Austria served as the basis for his first important foreign policy quarrel with Walpole. When the Bourbon states and Austria went to war in Italy, Newcastle believed that London should aid Vienna. But Walpole, with greater respect for the durability of the Habsburg state, and with an eye on an imminent general election, concluded that Britain's interests would be best served if the kingdom remained neutral, and, as chief minister, he prevailed. Newcastle, however, though acceding to Walpole's policy, was unconvinced of its wisdom: he feared that France and Spain would assume that Britain was ineffectual and that Austria would conclude that Britain was unreliable. Whatever good the treaties of Seville and Vienna had wrought was, he feared, being undone by Britain's neutrality in the War of the Polish Succession.

But if foreign affairs were tending to drive a wedge between Walpole and Newcastle after 1733, domestic affairs were solidifying their co-operation. At the opening of the decade, with Townshend's departure from office, Newcastle assumed responsibility for serving as the government's chief spokesman in the House of Lords. He was a ready and energetic, if not always coherent, speaker. When Walpole engineered a ministerial reshuffle after the excise tax crisis in 1733, the group that remained in office—especially the duke's close friend Lord Hardwicke and his brother Henry Pelham—comprised the nucleus of what Newcastle would later call the ‘old corps’ [see also Old corps]. Over the course of the next quarter of a century this group would have the fairest claim of all political factions to be the true repository, especially in domestic matters, of Walpolean whiggery, while during the same years Hardwicke became Newcastle's most trusted political adviser. Meanwhile, under the umbrella of this close domestic collegiality with Walpole, Newcastle steadily expanded the range of his influence and authority. He collected various offices in many of the counties with which he was associated. As early as 1725 the duke assumed nominal responsibility for Scottish affairs. After 1730 he slowly took control of appointments in the American colonies. After 1736 he extended his influence into the affairs of the Church of England. Having little interest in America, he used his colonial appointment powers largely to solve British (rather than American) political problems; deeply interested in the church, he exercised his powers of ecclesiastical appointment to advance the careers of churchmen of orthodox theological views and whiggish political sensibilities. Meanwhile, through his friendship with Princess Emily, he had access to court gossip and thinking. Thus, as the end of the decade approached, Newcastle sat at the centre of several extensive networks of patronage and information and enjoyed as full a measure of confidence as Walpole was ever likely to bestow on any governmental colleague.

In the final years of the decade another dispute with Spain, involving competing claims to various rights in America, tested the friendship. Two circumstances made it oddly intractable: the belief in Madrid that Britain would ultimately yield rather than go to war over disputes in distant America, and the intervention of the South Sea Company into what Walpole and Newcastle would have preferred to treat as an exclusively diplomatic matter. Neither minister wanted war. Newcastle's bona fides is evidenced by his willingness in 1738 to acknowledge Spain's right to search British ships in some circumstances and by his recall in the early months of 1739 of Nicholas Haddock's fleet from the Mediterranean. When negotiators finally completed the convention of Pardo in January 1739, Newcastle believed that war had been averted. But a severe public outcry, orchestrated by the South Sea Company, overwhelmed both Walpole and Newcastle: Pardo, all came to agree, was inadequate. The duke revealed his true feelings when, by way of explanation, he stated that ‘we must yeild [sic] to the times’ (BL, Add. MS 35406, fol. 111). The first formal intimations of war issued from Spain late in the spring of 1739. Soon thereafter Newcastle informed London's diplomat in Madrid of Britain's decision to ‘pursue hostile measures’ (BL, Add. MS 32801, fol. 67). The formal British declaration of war on 19 November transformed Newcastle from de facto foreign minister to de facto minister of defence.

Over the course of the next nine years Newcastle, more than any other person, defined the contours of Britain's war policy. The conflict with Spain, conventionally called the War of Jenkins's Ear, became a sideshow in 1741 when, in reaction to the outbreak of continental hostilities between Austria on the one hand and France and Prussia on the other, Britain came to Austria's defence. For several years Britain remained technically an auxiliary to the Habsburg state, but in 1744 formal war with France was declared, and the focus of the War of the Austrian Succession thereafter shifted from Germany towards the Atlantic. Throughout the belligerence Newcastle's chief foreign-policy goal was to conclude the war with the old system—which Newcastle later styled ‘my doctrine and system’ (BL, Add. MS 35412, fol. 16)—intact. In that aim, despite a number of stumbles along the way, he was finally successful.

That Britain went to Austria's assistance at all in 1741 was testimony to Newcastle's influence in the government; Walpole would have preferred to follow the non-involvement of 1733. But 1741 also delivered three blows to the ministry. First, the general election in May reduced the government's majority in the House of Commons to precarious levels. Then came word that the combined naval and military expedition against Cartagena in the New World had foundered with heavy loss of life. Finally, George II announced his decision, as elector of Hanover, to seek protection for his electorate by declaring its neutrality in the expanding war.

The climax of these set-backs came in February 1742, when Walpole, held responsible for military failures and diplomatic reverses, resigned his post at the Treasury. In the ensuing restructuring of the government, Newcastle, Pelham, and Hardwicke were obliged to admit some opposition politicians, including Lord Carteret, who accepted the seals for the northern department and pledged to inject a new vigour into Britain's war effort. Pleased at last to have a ministry of one mind about the need to push the war, Newcastle did not initially contest Carteret's control over the policy pursued. The new secretary even persuaded the king to restore Hanover's diplomatic co-operation with Britain, a step that Newcastle later called ‘the best thing he ever did’ (BL, Add. MS 32701, fol. 190). When Prussia left the war shortly after Carteret took office, his policy appeared to be succeeding. Meanwhile, Newcastle dealt in the House of Lords with the ceaseless complaining about what the opposition understood to be British coddling of Hanover. Against many expectations, Newcastle showed he could co-exist with Carteret.

By 1744, however, Newcastle was beginning to distance himself from his secretarial colleague. Carteret had set out to unite Europe against the Bourbon powers. His policy reached its apogee in September 1743, when the treaty of Worms effected an uneasy alliance between Austria and Piedmont-Sardinia. But Newcastle was suspicious of Carteret's grand design, predicting within months of Worms that ‘our active secretary, will at last find out, that dexterity with princes, to seem to promise all, and intend nothing, will as little do, as with private persons’ (BL, Add. MS 35407, fol. 280). Sure enough, in the first eight months of 1744, apparently as a reply to Worms, France redoubled its commitment to Spain and launched a fleet against Britain while Prussia rejoined the fray on the Bourbon side, forcing Austria to pull its army back from the Low Countries. The collapse of Carteret's foreign policy left the northern secretary politically vulnerable, and in December 1744, under duress, he resigned the seals. With Carteret's departure, the old corps triumvirate of Henry Pelham, Lord Hardwicke, and Newcastle established themselves as the unchallenged directors of national politics, with command over foreign policy being the duke's particular province.

It was useful for Newcastle that four events of 1745 clarified the nature of the war. First, the battle of Fontenoy established France as the dominant power in the Low Countries. Second, Britain's capture of Louisbourg in North America gave London a valuable trophy for negotiating a peace with Versailles. Third, the failure of the French-supported Jacobite invasion of Britain confirmed that France could not reasonably hope to drive Britain from the war. Fourth, Prussia's final withdrawal from the war in December, by removing the ambiguity that Berlin's participation had imposed upon the belligerence, suggested that at the core of the conflict lay the old Habsburg–Bourbon rivalry for dominance on the continent.

The clarifications implicit in these events removed grounds for ministerial infighting about strategic matters, and the resultant united front emboldened the ministers to decide to teach a lesson to a monarch who had been quarrelsome and recalcitrant. In February 1746 Newcastle engineered a mass resignation of ministers which, by showing the political indispensability of the old corps, forced a stubborn George II to invite them back into office on their own terms. For the rest of the war the monarch forswore hampering the work of his ministers, and, as a result of this visible union of royal and ministerial wills, the government won a sweeping victory in the general election of 1747.

Meanwhile, with France establishing itself as unbeatable on land and Britain proving itself invincible at sea, the logic of a compromise peace settlement slowly emerged: London would hand Louisbourg back to Versailles, which in turn would return the Southern Netherlands to Vienna. In that way, the old system would be preserved. After much hesitation, the various combatants sent representatives to Aix-la-Chapelle in early 1748 to hammer out a treaty. Though Newcastle did not attend the negotiations, he so worried about losing influence if the monarch were left without his guidance that in the summer of 1748, having taken the reins in the northern department and given the southern department to the duke of Bedford, he endured the misery of seasickness to make his first visit to the continent in order to accompany the king to Hanover. The treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed (by most powers) on 18 October. For Britain the principle underlying the settlement was status quo ante bellum. Such a dismal outcome left little room for anyone to claim that Britain had emerged triumphant, but at least the kingdom had not lost, and Newcastle, taking pride in this modest achievement, confided to his brother that ‘I feel the joy of an honest man’ (Coxe, Pelham, 2.325). Since the struggle had resolved none of the outstanding Anglo-French issues in America, however, its resumption in the coming years was widely predicted.

To prepare Britain for that conflict Newcastle turned his post-war energies to strengthening the old system through collective security, thereby isolating France. He enjoyed a modest success in winning Spanish complaisance through the conclusion of a commercial treaty with Spain in 1750. But he had virtually no success at persuading Frederick II of the advantages of aligning Prussia with an anti-French coalition. Still, even if Prussia chose to stand aside, there were other German states whose support might be secured. Newcastle's problem was that these states were unlikely to commit themselves without a financial inducement to do so, and Henry Pelham at the Treasury was suspicious of the idea that subsidies paid in time of peace were a sound way to create a coalition that would operate in time of war. What Newcastle needed therefore was a reason to provide subsidies to German states which, without being bribes, nevertheless placed the recipients in the anti-French camp. From that dilemma emerged the strangest diplomatic initiative of his career—the plan to have Maria Theresa's son elected king of the Romans, and hence successor to his father Francis I when the reigning Holy Roman emperor should die.

Between 1749 and 1753 Newcastle directed a campaign to line up six of the nine imperial electors—a so-called eminent majority—to vote for young Joseph. Subsidies were paid to Bavaria and Saxony; a further subsidy was promised to the electoral Palatine. When Henry Pelham baulked at approving what he saw as reckless expenditure, Newcastle won his brother over by proclaiming the election plan ‘the only means I can think of, of establishing any real, solid system for the preservation of peace and the maintenance of the liberties of Europe’ (BL, Add. MS 32822, fol. 239). If money had been all that was needed, Newcastle would have realized his goal. But the basic problem with the scheme was that Austria, the presumed beneficiary of British largess, was averse to it. Maria Theresa would have been happy to have had her son chosen as her husband's successor if the cost were reasonable. But the Austrian ministry feared that the project would needlessly antagonize France at a time when Austria needed the chance to recuperate and restructure its administration. Because Austria did not want to anger its British ally, it did not declare its opposition to the initiative openly, preferring to block its implementation through a variety of apparently minor obstructions. As a result, efforts to realize the election plan were protracted, dribbling away into inconsequentiality only in 1753. But Austria, which already nourished doubts about whether London's interests truly coincided with Vienna's, now had reason to ponder London's wisdom as well.

Still, if foreign politics were proving sticky, domestic politics in the years after 1748 were smooth and easy. When Newcastle eased the duke of Bedford out of the southern department office in 1751, replacing him with the thoroughly compliant Lord Holdernesse, he not only secured total control of foreign policy for himself but also removed from office the only whig grandee who sometimes charted a course at variance with the Pelhams. Fearful of reviving ‘old Disputes & Distinctions, which are at present, quiet’ (BL, Add. MS 32721, fol. 158), especially with a general election looming in 1754, he resisted any governmental action likely to unsettle some segment of the tranquil public. Only when the government secured passage of the Jewish Naturalization Act in the spring of 1753 did the tranquillity lapse, and the startled Pelhams moved quickly to reclaim the initiative late in the year by engineering the repeal of the very measure they had urged on the kingdom less than twelve months earlier. Sailing into 1754, all seemed serene. But then, on 6 March 1754, after a short illness, Henry Pelham died.

Newcastle was quickly persuaded to protect old corps' interests by taking charge of affairs himself. But over the course of the next two and a half years he proved himself a disastrous prime minister, committing three fundamental errors. First, in order to retain for himself the fullest possible array of patronage power, he failed to give adequate support to his government's leader in the House of Commons. Second, in order to court an already reluctant Austria, he pursued a European policy that must finally be labelled fatuous. Finally, in order to spare himself the full weight of the blame for the misfortunes that befell his government, he sought to divert criticism by redefining his government into a set of autonomous departments and by recasting himself as little more than—perhaps even less than—primus inter pares. Together, the errors doomed his ministry.

Pelham's death necessitated several changes. Since Newcastle was unwilling to leave Treasury patronage to potentially critical colleagues, he assumed the office of first lord of the Treasury himself, calculating correctly that the expertise of the men who had served his brother would protect him from any gross financial errors. His difficulty lay in dealing with the House of Commons. As a peer, the duke could not personally assume his late brother's responsibility as leader of that house. Anxious lest he provide a political beachhead to a rival of talent, he bypassed such men as William Pitt, Henry Fox, and William Murray, persuading instead Thomas Robinson, whose experience lay in diplomacy rather than domestic politics, to become leader. The duke's deeper strategy was to govern the House of Commons indirectly, from the Lords. Because no ambition could have been more inimical to the self-definition of MPs, it was a fatally flawed strategy. But well before this deeper implication became clear, the general election was held in May, and the new government won a grand victory, allowing the duke to launch his prime ministership with a massive majority in the Commons.

The first sign of trouble came in July, when word arrived that a Virginian effort to dislodge the French from Fort Duquesne had failed. The engagement portended a wider Anglo-French conflict in America, and so Newcastle brought the king's son the duke of Cumberland, an experienced commander, into the government and began to pay more heed to the advice of Henry Fox, the secretary at war. After much hesitation and confusion, the ministry resolved to send Major-General Edward Braddock and Vice-Admiral Edward Boscawen to America to deal with the French challenge. But in the summer of 1755 word arrived that Boscawen, though initiating hostilities by attacking a French fleet, had failed to prevent the landing of French troops at Louisbourg, while Braddock had been killed in an unsuccessful action in America. With this news Newcastle and his colleagues were compelled to acknowledge that an American crisis was at hand.

Meanwhile, the ministry's efforts to meet France's challenge in Europe were well under way. Although when he first learned of the clashes in the American wilderness Newcastle had hoped that the conflict might be confined to the New World, he had soon bowed to the logic of geopolitical reality: if border skirmishes should turn into war along the Appalachians, France would want to seize a trophy that might induce Britain to hand back any American winnings, and the most obvious candidate for trophy status was the king's German domain of Hanover. Therefore, by 1755 Newcastle was devoting attention to securing a commitment from Vienna that Austria would support Britain (and hence deter France) in any Anglo-French war. Austria, however, preferred to remain disengaged: its interest lay in recovering land lost to Prussia, and, if Britain was not willing to use troops to aid Vienna in recovering Silesia, Austria preferred not to commit itself to British ends. So Newcastle turned to a more circuitous strategy, and late in the summer of 1755 agreed to a treaty with Russia that committed St Petersburg, in return for a British subsidy of £100,000 in peacetime, to station troops on the east Prussian frontier and to launch them against Frederick II if Prussia attacked Britain or Hanover. If this move did not specifically deter France from attacking Hanover, it at least gave Prussia grounds for pause.

At this point the indirection of Newcastle's European policy began to cause the entire system to unravel spectacularly. The treaty of St Petersburg so alarmed Frederick II that Prussia suddenly warmed to the long-standing feelers from Britain. As a consequence, London and Berlin concluded the convention of Westminster in January 1756, with each state pledging itself to neutrality in Germany if a European war broke out. With this stroke Newcastle believed that he had secured Hanover against attack. But in fact the convention was a strategic disaster. First, it alienated Russia, which had understood its late-summer agreement with Britain to be the prelude to an attack on east Prussia. Now realizing that Britain was bent upon forestalling, not promoting, a war in Germany, Russia needed to look elsewhere for friends. Second, the British convention with Prussia finally convinced Austria that Britain was a useless ally. Vienna and Versailles soon began conversations that led, in May 1756, to an alliance between the two ancient enemies. Shortly thereafter Russia aligned itself with Austria and France. Newcastle's direction of British European policy had been so ill-conceived that he had contrived to provoke, in the so-called diplomatic revolution, what had once seemed impossible: the end of the Habsburg–Bourbon rivalry. The old system was gone.

Well before this unhappy dénouement, William Pitt and others had been complaining about the ministry's foreign policy. In the summer of 1755, in an effort to blunt these criticisms, Newcastle laboured to bring Pitt into the government without too dramatically compromising his own ability to direct affairs. When these negotiations faltered, the duke in desperation turned back to Henry Fox, winning a promise of his support for the work of the government in the Commons in return for Newcastle's commitment to name him southern secretary within a few months. For a while this solution succeeded: Fox secured easy passage of subsidy treaties and was soon given the seals. On 18 May 1756, with the situation in America deteriorating, Britain even declared war on France. But in June word arrived in London that Minorca had been lost to a French invasion and that Admiral John Byng had failed to use his squadron in defence of the island. Once again the wrath of the political nation boiled over, and while much of the anger was directed at Byng, who was arrested and brought home to face court martial, the real target of the national rage was Newcastle, whose policy since 1754 had shattered old alliances, left British possessions in America and the Mediterranean undefended, and led the kingdom into war. Then in August 1756 Prussia, deciding to move pre-emptively against the new Austro-French alliance, invaded Saxony; with this stroke the long-feared European war began.

Conversations with political allies quickly persuaded Newcastle that he could no longer remain in command of the government; parliament would not suffer such incompetence in the conduct of national affairs in an hour of national crisis. Moreover, given the failure of the duke's efforts to guide the House of Commons by indirect means, and the general belief that Fox, who resigned in October, was contaminated by his association with the floundering ministry, only William Pitt among possible candidates for leadership was understood to have the respect, standing, and independence for which the emergency called. Acknowledging that Pitt's claim to direct affairs could not be denied, Newcastle resigned the Treasury on 11 November 1756. A career that had extended over almost forty years seemed at an end.

This, however, was not the final outcome. Pitt was not an old corps whig and, without the duke's support to provide ballast for his ministry in the Commons, he risked parliamentary disapprobation virtually every time he brought a wartime measure forward. War under a Pitt ministry promised to be costly, for he proposed to win the battle for America, forestall France on the seas, and support Prussia in Europe. Newcastle meanwhile quickly recovered his love of office. He waited until various embarrassing matters had been resolved—the execution of Byng in March 1757, the ending of a parliamentary inquiry into his ministry in May—and then authorized close conversations with Pitt's followers. Lord Hardwicke found a formula that each party could agree to, and on 29 June 1757 Newcastle returned to the Treasury. Describing the arrangement, Lord Temple dubbed Pitt ‘minister of measures’ and Newcastle ‘minister of numbers’ (Grenville Papers, 1.405). The purpose of the coalition was to supply, through Newcastle's influence with the old corps majority in the Commons, the parliamentary support necessary for winning the war. The duke's return in 1757 was his last great demonstration of political power.

For the next three years Newcastle was a fairly loyal supporter of Pitt's ministry and therefore the key enabler of its work. The Treasury over which he presided provided the funds that allowed Britain to send troops to America and Germany, fleets into the Atlantic, and subsidies to Prussia. Newcastle was pleased that Pitt, having built his popularity on hostility to Hanover, adopted a view closer to the duke's by seeing the electorate as the base for anti-French activity in Europe. Meanwhile, Newcastle handled patronage matters with his wonted enthusiasm. He did not always agree with Pitt, but in general he behaved like a subordinate and did not try to cripple Pitt's work. Thus the coalition ministry jogged along, happily accepting plaudits for the grand achievements of the army in America and the navy in the Atlantic. Then on 25 October 1760 George II, aged seventy-six but not in poor health, suddenly died. The duke's remark—that he had lost ‘the best king, the best master, & the best friend, that ever subject had’ (BL, Add. MS 32913, fol. 399)—was hyperbolic but not ill-cast, for the death of the second Hanoverian king implied the end of Newcastle's political raison d'être.

George III was the first Hanoverian monarch unconditioned by the party strife of the early decades of the eighteenth century. He tended, moreover, to take his cues from his former tutor, the earl of Bute, a politically inexperienced Scots peer. If Bute's influence was to rise in the new reign, it could do so only at the expense of the power of Newcastle and Pitt. That calculation suggested that Newcastle should have held firm to his new friendship with Pitt, which was the course that the duchess recommended. But a growing disagreement over the war was driving a wedge between the two men even as they needed to present a common front. Cheered by military and naval successes, Pitt wanted to redouble the kingdom's effort to crush France. Worried by the mounting cost of the belligerence, Newcastle wanted to use the triumphs already secured as a basis for negotiating an advantageous peace treaty that would release the kingdom from the financial burden of protracted warfare. Because the new reign triggered a general election, Newcastle had a quick opportunity to show his value, and the ministerial machine performed splendidly, bringing in another large majority for the government. But thereafter a three-cornered contest emerged, as the new king advanced Bute to the post of southern secretary while Newcastle and Pitt moved apart on strategic matters. The duke decided that his career was best served by aligning himself with Bute, who at least shared his view that the war was unbearably expensive. But he hopelessly compromised the clarity of his financial position by arguing that Britain ought not to desert Prussia. In doing so, he was trying, as he had (with Austria) in 1748, to assure that Britain did not find itself without a friend in a post-war world. But his position struck most observers as simply confused.

The first contender to fall in the three-way struggle was Pitt. In September 1761 he wanted Britain to declare war on Spain, on the grounds that the new Franco-Spanish alliance portended eventual Spanish involvement: better, he argued, to wage the war by Britain's timetable, not Spain's. When he was unable to convince his ministerial colleagues of the wisdom of his proposal, he resigned. Pitt's October departure meant that Newcastle's continuation in the ministry was now a matter entirely at the discretion of Bute. When Newcastle opposed the royal favourite's proposal to end the massive subsidy to Prussia early in 1762, Bute decided to find a way to dislodge the duke, and, when an official in Newcastle's own Treasury supplied Bute with information suggesting that the Treasury had inflated its estimate of the level needed in the next vote of credit, Newcastle found himself not only badly outnumbered in the ministry but also beset by renegades in his own office. In a tearful meeting with the king, on 26 May 1762, he reluctantly resigned his leadership of the Treasury, declined the offer of a pension, and left an office of high responsibility for the last time.

Totally unhabituated to life out of office, Newcastle entered into opposition in full hope of returning yet again to government. In recognition of his age—almost seventy when he resigned the Treasury—he no longer aspired to a post that would require energy, aiming instead at an honorific position. Incredibly, he believed that he could command the loyalty of almost 40 per cent of the House of Commons, and he planned to use this political army to re-establish his command. The first indication of the feebleness of his new position came in the autumn of 1762 when, in protest against Bute's dismissal of the duke of Devonshire, he called upon persons committed to him to resign. It was embarrassing that only a few obeyed. But worse followed. The ministry, angry that Newcastle asked his followers to oppose the peace preliminaries, decided to dismiss almost all the Pelhamite loyalists still in office and then, visiting a final indignity on 23 December, stripped the duke of his lord lieutenancies and various other offices.

This ‘massacre of the Pelhamite innocents’, a purge unrivalled since 1714, compelled the old corps to give concentrated thought to how a party which had upheld the court should behave when out of office. Meanwhile, a younger generation of politicians was coming forward, ready to provide new leadership to the party. Newcastle often hosted the informal discussions among influential men who opposed Bute. But he was in no way regarded as the leader of the group. Though these men quickly concluded that they would need allies if they were to have any chance of regaining office, the alliance created when Pitt and Newcastle publicly resolved their differences in May 1763 foundered on the rocks of Pitt's touchiness and Newcastle's indecisiveness. Thus the government, directed after Bute's unexpected resignation by George Grenville, proved invulnerable to assaults. On 6 March 1764, with the party still out of office, Lord Hardwicke died. With the death of his closest friend the duke remained as the sole survivor of the old corps triumvirate that had directed British affairs in the decade after 1744.

The party's fortunes turned in 1765 when George III, reacting to Grenville's haughtiness, deputed the duke of Cumberland to find an alternative ministry. When Pitt proved unacceptably prickly, Cumberland turned to the whigs. At a meeting at Claremont on 30 June 1765, with Newcastle urging acceptance of the king's invitation, the party voted to form a government. The leader of the new ministry was the marquess of Rockingham; Newcastle happily became lord privy seal, with special responsibility for ecclesiastical affairs. But accident dealt unkindly with the new ministry. First, Cumberland, the important link with the king, died in October. Then American resistance to the Stamp Act forced the government to deal with an unforeseen colonial crisis. In a difficult compromise it decided to conjoin to its repeal of the offending measure a Declaratory Act that reaffirmed Britain's right to tax America. Newcastle energetically defended these decisions in the House of Lords; he also took the lead in convincing a doubtful George III that the ministry's course of conciliation was the right one. Ultimately, both measures passed. But the price that the party paid was high: royal distrust, renewed hostility from Pitt, and internal disagreement. These disabilities proved fatal, and in July 1766 the king invited Pitt (who soon became earl of Chatham) to form a government. On 30 July, again proudly spurning a proffered pension, Newcastle resigned his last major office under the crown.

Having just turned seventy-three, Newcastle was widely expected to retire from public life. Instead he plunged back into politics, and, adhering to the logic that only a coalition could marshal the power to oust a ministry that enjoyed royal support, he cast about for an ally, fixing his attention on the duke of Bedford. Inasmuch as the Bedfordites disagreed with the Rockinghams about America, inter-party negotiations were required, and Newcastle hosted several negotiating sessions in 1767 between the two faction leaders. Meanwhile, he led attacks against the government in the House of Lords. In many ways he did not understand the world into which he had survived, imposing on the unstable political landscape of the 1760s a dichotomous view of politics more suitable to the starker whig–tory distinctions of the earliest years of his public career and espying in the retired Bute an éminence grise behind the throne. Late in 1767 all of his energetic flailing came to naught when Bedford chose to align himself with the government. Newcastle had already learned that his initiative towards Bedford had failed when, in December, he suffered a stroke.

The most important person in Newcastle's life was his wife. Henrietta suffered from poor health and, perhaps happily for her, was not fond of politics. But, because this disinterest gave her a measure of distance from the political scene, she was a counsellor to whom he often resorted. When he was away from her—and such occasions were frequent since she preferred Sussex to London—he wrote to her daily. Their marriage was a genuinely happy one. With his younger brother Henry, however, the duke had a far less placid relationship. The fraternal tie was grounded in sincere affection, but, as Henry rose to independent political stature, the two proud men often found themselves at odds. Because Newcastle's marriage produced no children, he chose to lavish much affection on his five surviving sisters and their large tribe of children. He found parliamentary seats for some of his nephews and he applauded the marriages of his nieces. Sometimes this devotion was ill-paid, as for example when he had to endure denunciation from his nephew and principal heir, Lord Lincoln, for, in effect, living too long. This savaging was especially humiliating because, in 1756, Newcastle had secured an additional title—duke of Newcastle under Lyme—precisely to permit the ‘Newcastle’ dignity to be remaindered to Lincoln. Still, not all of the younger generation turned against him, and in his final years the duke rejoiced in the kind attentions of Tommy Pelham, a first cousin once removed to whom the specially delimited barony of Pelham of Stanmer would devolve.

In appearance Newcastle was a tall man. With his outsized head, erect posture, and amiable garrulousness, he was a pompous and dominating conversationalist, often taking hold of his auditor's lapels to drive home a point. He enjoyed staging vast entertainments, both at Claremont and at Newcastle House, his London home in Lincoln's Inn Fields. He was more than conventionally pious and more than conventionally eager to beautify his estates. He despised venality and prided himself on his honesty. Despite a reputation as a man who found pleasure only in politics, he patronized music and collected a useful and diverse library. His contemporaries snickered at some of his foibles—an aversion to beds not previously slept in, an abhorrence of drafts, a propensity to weep. Likewise they mocked the jealousy that drove him to dispense with so many of his secretarial colleagues over the years. Like many hypochondriacs, he was in fact quite healthy, able to enjoy outdoor activity until the last year of his life. Finally, in the conduct of public business he was remarkably orderly and hard-working, keeping memoranda of meetings and so tirelessly corresponding with friends and political colleagues that the so-called Newcastle papers comprise a treasure trove for historians.

Unhappily for Newcastle himself and many of his relatives, however, his management of his private financial affairs was a story of dramatic disorder. Newcastle saw his territorial holdings, and consequently his income from them, shrink through most of his life. In 1715 his estates brought in £32,000; by 1726 they were earning him only £24,000; by 1756 they were providing only about £12,000; and by 1762 his income was scarcely £9000. As the years passed he sold many of his lands, sometimes retaining the right to be a life tenant. In other instances he mortgaged properties. His indebtedness reached staggering levels. Advisers and relatives, appalled at his profligacy, sought to staunch the bleeding; some of Newcastle's bitterest quarrels with his brother turned on his fecklessness. Various trust devices were created to confine the duke, but none altered his habits of careless personal spending. Although much of the expenditure cannot now be accounted for, such categories as entertaining at his many homes, electioneering in his many constituencies, and the landscaping of his many grounds loom large. Munificence also played a role, as Newcastle was eager to bestow gifts on friends and relatives. What strikes the latter-day observer, however, is the monumental recklessness of the duke's cast of mind, for the very people he loved most—his wife, his nieces, his nephews—were the people whose long-term welfare was most damaged by this evisceration of his estate.

Impaired in memory and speech, lame of foot, and subject to episodes of fatigue after his stroke, Newcastle nevertheless recovered his appetite for politics. He returned to London early in November 1768 to prepare for the coming session. Soon thereafter, however, he collapsed, and on 17 November at Newcastle House, shortly after receiving the sacrament from Bishop John Hume, he died. With his death all his titles except the special remainders for Lord Lincoln and Tommy Pelham became extinct. His remains were interred in the family vault at Laughton, Sussex, on 27 November. Since the Nottinghamshire lands had already been assigned to Lord Lincoln, they were not part of the settlement after the duke's death. Most of what remained of the Sussex property went to Tommy Pelham; the rest passed to the dowager duchess. But the estate was encumbered by a debt that exceeded £300,000, and so it was liquidated through land sales to meet those obligations. Lord Clive, already one of the duke's major creditors, bought Claremont. The duchess lived on at Twickenham Park until her death on 17 July 1776. She protected the integrity of the duke's vast assemblage of papers, and late in the nineteenth century the earl of Chichester, a descendant of Lord Pelham of Stanmer, donated the collection intact to the British Library. It has served generations of scholars for over a century.

Because Newcastle and his eccentricities were frequent targets for ridicule, the duke's reputation languished for almost a century and a half in a historiographical world largely defined by the judgements of two celebrated contemporary memoirists, Lord Hervey and Horace Walpole. For many historians he was the classic example of incompetence elevated to power by virtue of wealth alone. A reappraisal began in earnest with the writings of Sir Lewis Namier, and by the 1970s many historians were contending, by way of extenuation, that no one could have continued to hold high office for four decades without ability. Drawing on a distinction suggested by another contemporary, Lord Waldegrave, they often added that, while the duke lacked the judgement and self-confidence to be a commander (hence his unsuccessful term as prime minister), he was well equipped by virtue of his diligence, his command of his details, and his skill with people to be a lieutenant. It is perhaps time to recede somewhat from that cautiously favourable view—not to return to the portrait of the ridiculous statesman but to reaffirm the more important truth that Newcastle all too often defended bad ideas. He was simply wrong when—to cite four examples—he urged that Britain go to war in 1733, refused opportunities to make peace in 1747, promoted the imperial election plan in 1750, and raised the stakes on the Prussian subsidy in 1762. Newcastle was not always guilty of poor judgement. But, leaving longevity aside, it is hard in surveying the entirety of his career to find substantive arguments for regarding it as anything other than an exercise in political mediocrity.

Reed Browning DNB

Artist biography

 William Hoare,  (1707/8–1792), portrait painter, was born near Eye, Suffolk, the eldest of the three children of John Hoare, a prosperous farmer and land agent. The family soon moved to Berkshire and William was sent to school in Faringdon where he showed an early talent for drawing. His father was persuaded to send him to London in the early 1720s, where he joined the studio of Giuseppe Grisoni, an Italian who had come to England in 1718. When Grisoni returned to Italy in 1728, he took Hoare with him. Once in Rome, Hoare shared lodgings in via Gregoriana with Peter Angillis, Laurent Delvaux, and Peter Scheemakers. He joined the studio of Francesco Imperiali, a history painter, and also frequented the studios of the French Academy nearby in the Corso. Personable and well educated, he formed lasting friendships with many young grand tourists who became his patrons: Henry Bathurst, the future third and fourth dukes of Beaufort, Robert Dingley, Henry Hoare (1705–1785) (no relation), George Lyttelton, Charles Hanbury Williams, and Joseph Spence, tutor to the future second duke of Dorset and later to the earl of Lincoln.

Hoare returned to England in 1737 or 1738. He had connections with the entourage of Frederick, prince of Wales, and drew the Prince's Portraitin pastel (ex Sothebys, 11 April 1991, lot 28), but he did not prosper and decided to move to Bath, where his brother Prince (d. 1769) was a sculptor and where the Bath seasons were to furnish him with a constant stream of sitters. He quickly came to the notice of Beau Nash and Ralph Allen, whose portraits he painted in oil (1749, Bath corporation; 1758, Exeter Health Authority). In 1742 Hoare was elected a visitor to the Mineral Water Hospital, the duty of which he performed regularly until 1779. This appointment brought him many commissions and the hospital itself still contains a fine collection of Hoare's works, including Self Portrait (pastel, 1742) and Dr Oliver & Mr Peirce Examining Patients (oil; exh. Society of Artists, 1761). He obtained a major commission for an altarpiece for the Octagon Chapel in Bath, The Pool of Bethesda (1765; Bath Masonic Hall Association). An habitué of Stourhead, he furnished the younger Henry Hoare with many family portraits still in situ. On 4 October 1742 Hoare married at Lincoln's Inn chapel, London, Elizabeth Barker (d. 1793); they had five children: Mary (1744–1820), who was also an artist, mainly in crayon, Anne (1751–1821), William jun. (1752–1809), the playwright and painter Prince Hoare (1755–1834), and Georgiana (b. 1759), who died in infancy.

Many of Hoare's old Rome acquaintances had become his patrons, and a very substantial part of his income came from politicians' portraits (for example, William Pitt the Elder,c.1754; NPG), their replicas, and the fine mezzotints by Richard Houston commissioned after them. Hoare remained in close touch with the London art milieu. He was connected to the Foundling Hospital and to the Magdalen Hospital, to which he presented a Portrait of Robert Dingley, its founder, in 1762. In 1755 he joined others in signing a request for the founding of an academy. He first exhibited publicly at the Society of Artists in 1761 and in 1769 became a founder member of the Royal Academy at the king's special request, exhibiting intermittently [see Founders of the Royal Academy of Arts]. Hoare died in Edgar Buildings, Bath, on 10 December 1792, and his wife on 30 November 1793. There is a wall tablet to both in Walcot church, near Bath, and a wall monument to Hoare by Chantrey (1828) in Bath Abbey.

Evelyn Newby  DNB