BATHURST, Allen (1684-1775), of Oakley Park, nr. Cirencester, Glos.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

1705 - 10 Dec. 1709
23 Dec. 1709 - 1 Jan. 1712

Family and Education

b. 16 Nov. 1684, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Benjamin Bathurst*; bro. of Benjamin* and Peter Bathurst*.  educ. privately (Abel Boyer); Trinity, Oxf. 1700.  m. 6 July 1704, Catherine (d. 1768), da. of Sir Peter Apsley† of Westminster, Mdx., 4s. 5da.  suc. fa. 1704; cr. Baron Bathurst 1 Jan. 1712, Earl Bathurst of Bathurst 27 Aug. 1772.1

Offices Held

Commr. taking subscriptions to S. Sea Co. 1711; PC 13 July 1742; capt. gent. pens. 1742–4; treasurer to Prince of Wales 1757–60.2

Biography

Bathurst was brought up in close proximity to the court, his father being financial comptroller to the Prince and Princess of Denmark and his mother a long-standing companion of both daughters of James II. His early education was under the charge of the journalist Abel Boyer who as a French Protestant refugee had fled France in 1685. In 1700 he went up to Trinity Hall, Oxford, where his uncle, the aged but much-respected Dean Ralph Bathurst, was still president. He soon proved to be a youthful rebel against the constraining effects of court life, telling his tutor in December 1702: ‘do not judge me as a courtier . . . I partake nothing of the court, though I live in it, but the giddiness of it; and ’tis very hard for a weak brain not to be turned’. On his father’s death in 1704 he inherited extensive estates in Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire, notably the manor of Cirencester where Sir Benjamin had built up a strong electoral interest.3

Bathurst was returned for Cirencester at the 1705 election six months before coming of age. He was an uncompromising Tory: his earlier anti-Court sentiments persisted and the ministry found him a difficult young man to dragoon. His mother had retired from London after her husband’s death, her long friendship with Anne having cooled somewhat as a result of the Queen’s refusal to pay a generous portion on the marriage in 1703 of Lady Bathurst’s niece, the daughter of her sister Lady Wentworth, who had been a maid of honour to the Queen. Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) wrote in September 1705 to the Duchess of Marlborough urging her to keep Lady Bathurst in humour, ‘if she will make her son go right in the House’. On 23 Oct., with the Commons about to reconvene and vote on the Speakership, the Queen, almost certainly at the Duchess’s prompting, wrote to Lady Bathurst requesting her son’s vote for the Court candidate, John Smith I:

I look upon myself to have a particular concern for Mr Bathurst, both for his father’s sake and the long acquaintance and friendship there has been between you and me, which makes me very desirous he may always behave himself rightly in everything. I do not at all doubt of his good inclinations to serve me, and, therefore hope, though it should be too late to recall his resolutions as to the other Speaker, he will be careful never to engage himself so far into any party as not to be at liberty to leave them when he sees them running into things that are unreasonable, for I shall always depend on his concurring in everything that is good for me and the public.

Bathurst, however, had already committed himself to supporting his kinsman William Bromley II, a leader of the High Tories whose intimacy with the Bathurst family went back over many years, and he duly voted against the Court candidate on the 25th. His continuing to act against the Court under Bromley’s wing soon led to a final breach between the Duchess of Marlborough and his mother, relations having cooled since 1704 when the Duchess had flatly refused to countenance Lady Bathurst’s proposed betrothal of Bathurst to one of the Duchess’s daughters. In August 1706 the Duchess wrote to Lady Bathurst declining to perform some promised ‘service’ on account of her son’s having acted ‘very scandalously’ against her the previous November in the proceedings on the disputed St. Albans election in which the Duchess had been involved in the Whig interest. Lady Bathurst responded that her son

often professes to me a true sense of the obligations his family have had to your Grace . . . and he has or at least persuades me so, the most zealous intention to serve her Majesty and the public: how his actions have answered to these professions I have lived too much out of the world to make a right judgment of.4

Whilst Bathurst remained in opposition to the Godolphin ministry his recorded involvement in proceedings was slight. Before the 1708 election the only sign of any substantive activity was his inclusion on the drafting committee of a bill to end an embargo on cloth exports, a subject of particular concern to the wool-producing Gloucestershire districts. Bathurst’s already extensive estates were further augmented when his wife inherited much of the Apsley property on the death of her bachelor brother in 1708. Classed as a Tory in two analyses of the House early in 1708, he successfully contested Cirencester in that year’s general election. In the succeeding Parliament he began to show his mettle as a Tory activist. On 20 Jan. 1709 he was a teller for the Tory side in the disputed Abingdon election. His own return was declared void on 10 Dec. 1709, but he was re-elected a fortnight later. He voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell early in 1710 and was teller in favour of an adjournment motion on 24 Mar. intended to prevent the House from proceeding against the Doctor’s published Answer to the articles of his impeachment. On the 29th he presented to the Queen the Tory address from Gloucestershire of which she was reported to have taken ‘little notice’. The change of administration in the summer of 1710 brought speculation that he would soon be granted a peerage, but this was not forthcoming and in the autumn general election he was re-elected for Cirencester.5

Under the new Tory administration Bathurst entered what was to be the busiest phase of his Commons career. He was duly noted as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the new Parliament. On 12 Dec. his ‘country’ inclinations were demonstrated once more when he joined a small group of Tories who secured authorization to prepare a bill for setting a minimum landed qualification for MPs. In January and February 1711 he was appointed to several of the committees set up to investigate areas of ‘mismanagement’ by the previous ministry, most notably abuses in victualling, tax collection and army administration. His membership of the October Club doubtless inspired his active participation in these inquiries: the Duchess of Marlborough recalled years later his particular efforts at this juncture to blacken her husband’s reputation. He was nevertheless quick to alert his cousin Lord Raby when several fellow Octobrists threatened to initiate an inquiry into crown grants, believing Raby’s own interests might be directly affected. On 15 May he was teller for a Tory motion laying blame for over-spending and the increased national debt squarely upon the former Whig ministers, and on the 24th was included on the committee ordered to draft a representation to the Queen on the various investigations. He had previously been teller on 27 Jan. against declaring the Whig Viscount Shannon (Richard Boyle*) elected for Hythe; and on 27 Feb. in favour of a petition seeking the renovation of St. Botolph’s church, London. Though the entry of his younger brother Peter to the House in mid-March creates a problem of identity in subsequent Journal references to ‘Mr Bathurst’, it has been assumed that with regard to business concerning the ‘mismanagements’, it was the elder Bathurst who was concerned. In printed lists published after the session he featured as a ‘Tory patriot’ opposed to the continuance of the war, and as a ‘worthy patriot’ who participated in detecting the mismanagements of the previous administration. Closer to Henry St. John II* than Harley, he was one of the founder members of St. John’s ‘Society of Brothers’ which began its meetings in June, and with Dean Swift was soon actively engaged in enlisting further recruits.6

In the next session it was probably Bathurst rather than his brother who acted as a teller for the ministry on 7 Dec. in the division on ‘No Peace without Spain’. His Commons career came to an end, however, on 1 Jan. 1712 when, still only 27, he was made a peer, one of the 12 created to assist the passage of the peace through the Upper House. His ambitious Wentworth cousins privately observed among themselves how ‘Mr Bathurst and all his family give themselves airs as [if] this grace and favour was her Majesty’s goodness to them, and not at all their seeking’, and that had it not been for the lord treasurer’s urgent need ‘they might yet be fed with promises’. In the crisis-ridden atmosphere of the Queen’s last months Bathurst took the view that the quarrel between Bolingbroke and Oxford was not serious. But it was to Bolingbroke (St. John) that he remained loyal, and in July when it seemed that Bolingbroke might be asked to form a new administration, Bathurst was talked of as a possible commissioner of the Treasury. After the Queen’s death he hoped to make an accommodation with the new ministry, expressing his anxiety that George I should listen to Tories as well as Whigs. Once it became clear that the new King had no intention of employing the Tories, Bathurst became a Jacobite, sending money and assurances of support to the old Pretender and vigorously opposing successive Whig ministries in the Lords. There was a restlessness about him which his brother Benjamin found annoying: ‘he has more than once, in my opinion, quitted his best friends for those I think very indifferent. He flies about in life as in his journeys, still pursuing something new, without taking the least delight in anything he once has known.’ During Pelhamite rule he was a member of Prince Frederick’s ‘Leicester House faction’, and when the princely household was re-established in the later 1750s around Frederick’s son, the future George III, Bathurst was appointed its treasurer. It was not until 1772, however, when he was almost 88, that these services were acknowledged with a long-awaited earldom. Two of Bathurst’s sons had followed him into Parliament and he lived to see the elder, Henry†, become lord chancellor in 1771. He died on 16 Sept. 1775 and was buried at Cirencester where his monumental inscription records that ‘in the legislative and judicial departments of the great council of the nation he served his country 69 years, with honour, ability and diligence’. His successor burned all his correspondence, to destroy evidence, it was thought, of Jacobite connexions.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham

Notes

  • 1. B. Bathurst, Letters of Two Queens, 16; Proc. Huguenot Soc. London, xxiv. 46–47.
  • 2. Pittis, Present. Parl. 348.
  • 3. Bathurst, 253–5, 262–3; DNB (Bathurst, Ralph); NLW, Ottley mss 1988, Bathurst to Adam Ottley, 24 Dec. 1702.
  • 4. HMC Bathurst, 4–6; Letters of Queen Anne ed. Curtis Brown, 174–5; Marlborough Godolphin Corresp. 499; Bathurst, 262–3, 265–6; Add. 61455, ff. 90, 103.