History and Tour

Duke of Newcastle

Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle - copyright: National Portrait Gallery Born: 21 July 1693 in London

First entered Parliament: Took seat in House of Lords on 1 August 1714

Age he became PM: 60 years, 238 days and 63 years and 344 days

Maiden speech: His first recorded speech in the House of Commons was on 14 April 1716 in favour of the Septennial Bill

Total time as PM: Seven years and 205 days

Died: 17 November 1768 in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London

Facts and figures

Nickname: “Hubble-Bubble” in reference to his fussing and his habit of hurrying everywhere

Education: Westminster School and Clare Hall, Cambridge

Family: Thomas Pelham had two brothers and was the eighth of 11 children. He married Lady Henrietta Godolphin. They had no children

Interests: Music, writing poetry, gardening, food and drink

Biography

Conflict with France

Thomas Pelham, Duke of Newcastle, is best known for leading Britain into the Seven Years War, a long military conflict with France which drained the nation and led to his own downfall.

Newcastle came from a wealthy aristocratic family with strong political leanings - his brother, Henry Pelham, was also in politics and served as prime minister after Wilmington. He was tall for the time, had a high forehead, dark grey eyes and hooked nose. It is said he was hyperchondriac, worrying constantly about his health.

However, he was part of Walpole’s inner group from 1722, and his power grew as Walpole’s declined. He championed Britain’s entry into the war of the Austrian succession in 1741, despite Walpole’s opposition.

When Pelham died in 1754, Newcastle succeeded his brother as Prime Minister. Newcastle immediately invoked the wrath of Pitt the Elder by failing to promote him above the subordinate position he had occupied for a decade, and later sacked him altogether.

Poorly fought war

Newcastle’s first term was dominated by foreign affairs, including the Seven Years War. It was poorly fought, and early defeats led to his resignation in 1756.

Returning to office the following year, Newcastle formed a successful power-sharing coalition with Pitt.

But his influence declined from 1760 with the accession of George III, who wanted him removed. Newcastle’s final year as prime minister saw parliamentary battles over the financing of the war in Europe, leading to his resignation in 1762.

In his later years Newcastle served as Lord Privy Seal in Rockingham’s ministry, but it was a short-lived appointment. He died in November 1768.

The duke was said not to be a great man, but he was industrious and energetic, and to his credit he twice refused a pension. Records show that he finally left office £300,000 poorer than he entered it.

Quote unquote

“I shall not… think the demands of the people a rule of conduct, nor shall I ever fear to incur their resentment in the prosecution of their interest. I shall never flatter their passions to obtain their favour, or gratify their revenge for fear of their contempt.”

Did you know?

Newcastle spent his entire parliamentary career in the House of Lords, having taken his seat at the age of 21.

Wife

Lady Henrietta Godolphin was the daughter of Henrietta Churchill, the Duchess of Marolborough. She was just 16 when she married the Duke and shortly afterwards had a miscarriage. She never managed to conceive again. It is said that he enjoyed painting, sewing and music.

Lady Henrietta was a gambler, although she kept meticulous records and her losses were said to be small. She took little interest in public life but the Duke was loyal to her, despite the lack of children.

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