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Charles Watson-Wentworth 2nd Marquess of Rockingham

Whig | 1765 - 1766

Marquess of Rockingham

Born

13 May 1730, Wentworth Woodhouse, nr Rotherham

Died

1 July 1782, Wimbledon

Dates in office

13 July 1765 - 30 July 1766

Political party

Whig

Major acts

Declaratory Act  1766 - for securing the dependency of His Majesty’s dominions in America upon the Crown and Parliament of Great Britain

The Catholic Relief Act 1778 - introduced by Sir George Saville to dismantle some of the penal laws aimed at Roman Catholics. It enabled them to own land, inherit property and join the army.  

The Parliament (Crewe's) Act 1782 -disqualified all officers of Customs and Excise and the Post Office from voting in parliamentary elections. 

Clerke’s Act 1782 - disqualified any person holding a contract or commission for government service from sitting as an MP. 

Interesting facts

Passionate about horse racing and breeding. Owned the horse that won the first St Leger.

Commissioned George Stubbs to paint another of his horses, Whistlejacket; the painting is now in the National Gallery

His nephew and heir William Wentworth Fitzwilliam, renamed the pottery factory on the estate in his honour. Its ceramics became known as Rockingham ware. 

Edmund Burke was his Private Secretary

 

“Englishmen, whatever their local situation may be, know no obedience to any thing but the laws.”


The wealthy but politically-inexperienced Marquess of Rockingham succeeded George Grenville as Prime Minister in 1765.  He had become leader of the Whigs at an early age, and led them from his seat in the Lords, succeeding in reducing the corruption that was Walpole’s legacy.

His first term as prime minister was short and little praised yet successful in the face of strong opposition. His government was responsible for the repeal of the controversial Stamp Act in February, 1766, inspired by protests in the colonies against the imposition of duties on all official papers used in the colonies.

Facing the sack

However, King George III was not impressed, and sacked him in favour of Pitt the Elder.

Sixteen years later Rockingham formed a second administration. He opened peace negotiations with the Americans, championed independence for the Irish parliament and was beginning a process of political reform when he died suddenly from influenza in 1782, before he could achieve all that he wanted.