History and Tour

Earl of Shelburne

William Petty, Earl of Shelburne Born: 2 May 1737 in Dublin, Ireland

First entered Parliament: 2 June 1760

Age he became PM: 45 years, 63 days

Maiden speech: 5 February 1762 in favour of withdrawing troops from Germany

Total time as PM: 266 days

Died: 7 May 1805 at Berkerly Square, London

Facts and figures

Nicknames: “Malagrida” and “The Jesuit in Berkerly Square”

Education: Christ Church, Oxford

Family: He was married twice and three sons and one daughter.

Interests: Literature, chess player, landscaping


Devious and untrustworthy

An intellectual figure credited with establishing some early reformist ideas, Shelburne was less appreciated in his own time, being considered devious and untrustworthy.

In the 1760s he spent two years as Pitt’s Secretary of State, and in the late 1770s led the Whigs in Opposition. On Rockingham’s death in 1782, he formed a government as PM, with the 23-year-old Pitt the Younger as his Chancellor.

During his short term he succeeded in securing peace with America, France and Spain, presided over the beginning of Britain’s trade recovery, and put forward a programme of public service reform.

Quote unquote

“The sun of Great Britain will set whenever she acknowledges the independence of America - the independence of America would end in the ruin of England.”

Did you know?

John Henry Petty Fitzmaurice, his son by the first marriage, was a member of the House of Commons for twenty years as member for Chipping Wycombe.

First wife - Lady Sophia Carteret

Married the Earl when she was 19 but died when she was just 25. Described as an ‘amiable, virtuous woman’.

Second wife - Lady Louisa Fitzpatrick

Shelburne’s second wife played chess and billiards and was highly regarded for her ‘beauty, reserve and kindness’. She was 18 years younger than the Earl but died many years before him aged just 34 in London’s Berkeley Square.

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