BLACKWELL, Sir Lambert (d. 1727), of St. James’s, Westminster and Sprowston Hall, Norf.
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Family and Education
s. of John Blackwell, Grocer, of Bethnal Green, Mdx. and Mortlake, Surr. by his 2nd w. da. of Gen. John Lambert† of Calton, nr. Malham Tarn, Yorks. and Wimbledon, Surr. m. 17 Aug. 1697, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Joseph Herne*, 1s. 2da. (1 d.v.p.). Kntd. 23 Apr. 1697; cr. Bt. 16 July 1718.1
Member, Levant Co. 1672–?d.; director, S. Sea Co. 1715–21.2
Consul at Florence 1688–90, at Leghorn 1689–96, 1697–1705; agent for prizes and for droits and perquisites of Admiralty at Leghorn 1689–96, 1702–5; envoy extraordinary to Tuscany 1689–90, 1697–1705, to Genoa 1697–8, 1702–5, to Venice Feb.–Mar. 1702; surveyor-gen. of agents for prizes 1697; knight harbinger 1697–1701.3
Sheriff, Norf. 1719–20.
Blackwell’s father, himself the son of a City merchant active in the Parliamentarian cause during the Civil War, was a captain in Cromwell’s regiment in the New Model Army, subsequently serving as a treasurer for war under the Commonwealth and Protectorate. His first wife was distantly related to Cromwell; the second was a daughter of General Lambert. After the Restoration John Blackwell settled for a time in Ireland, where he had acquired property confiscated in the Cromwellian conquest, then emigrated to New England. Quickly developing landed and commercial interests there, he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Pennsylvania by William Penn in 1688 but quarrelled with the colonial assembly and threw up the office within a year. Lambert, a younger son, and possibly the first son of the second marriage, was ‘bred a merchant’ in the Turkey trade, and by the Revolution was well established at Leghorn. Employed by King William in consular and minor diplomatic work in Italy, he sought to improve his position by acquiring the patronage of the powerful, applying to the Duke of Shrewsbury among others. In 1697 his fortunes rose sharply. Returning to England, he was knighted, was named as knight harbinger and envoy to Genoa and Tuscany, and contracted a profitable marriage. He had embarked again by the end of the year, and arrived in Genoa in May 1698, having survived insults and violence from ‘some persons belonging to the Duke of Berwick’ encountered on the way. This second spell in Italy lasted seven years. He was not universally popular among the English merchants and gentlemen who applied to him for help, giving an impression of snobbishness, though Swift, for one, considered him ‘a very good natured man’. Macky’s Memoirs sketched him at this stage in his career:
he affects much the gentleman in his dress, and the minister in his conversation; is very lofty, yet courteous, when he knows his people; much envied by his fellow merchants; of a sanguine complexion, taller than the ordinary size.4
Having in the summer of 1704 made approaches to friends in England for their help in moving him from his present ‘troublesome, expensive employment’ and effecting his reappointment as envoy to Venice, ‘which will entitle me to an envoy’s pay’, Blackwell found himself instead recalled by letters dated November 1704, and took leave of the Grand Duke of Tuscany for the last time in February 1705. Back in England he continued his unsuccessful solicitations for senior ambassadorial postings and looked for a seat in Parliament, coming in for Wilton in 1708, where his mercantile interests, maintained throughout his stay in Florence and Genoa, were a distinct asset. Classed as a Whig in a list of 1708, his election reckoned a ‘gain’ by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), he voted in 1709 for the naturalization of the Palatines, and a year later for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. His one tellership occurred on 5 Apr. 1709, against a bill to make two Dutch-built vessels free ships. His ambitions and commitments made it easy to present him as one ‘apt to follow the Court’: during the 1708 Parliament he was petitioning the crown for a regrant of his father’s estate in Ireland, and was awaiting payment of various expenses incurred as envoy. He found himself opposed by stauncher Whigs at Wilton and did not stand again.5
Blackwell was still of value to government after 1710 as a financier: he and a partner advanced some £60,000 to the crown in 1710–11, and under George I he acted as an intermediary in the raising of international loans, using his Genoese connexions. He was also prominent, though not especially active, in the South Sea Company, in which he had invested £13,000 at the outset, becoming a director in 1715. At about this time he began to acquire extensive property in east Norfolk, accumulating a rent roll of between £3,500 and £4,000 p.a. by 1720–1. This, together with his personal estate of around £30,000, became liable to sequestration under the terms of the South Sea Sufferers’ Act of 1721. Although Blackwell, who pleaded that he had had no share in the ‘secret management’ of the scheme, and had been ‘more weak than blameable’, suffered less severely than others, his landed estate had to be dispersed.6
Blackwell died on 27 Oct. 1727, leaving not a will but two ‘testamentary schedules’, subsequently proved, which detailed the repayment of a £7,000 loan to his wife, and a bequest of £2,000 to his surviving daughter, the residue of the estate passing to his son, Sir Charles, 2nd Bt.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. PCC 285 Farrant; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 32; G. E. Aylmer, State’s Servants, 244; Massachusetts Hist. Colls. ser. 3, i. 63; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 321; True and Exact Inventory . . . Sir Lambert Blackwell (1721), pp. 11, 22.
- 2. Info. from Prof. R. Walcott; J. Carswell, S. Sea Bubble, 274.
- 3. Carswell, 274; Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 603; iv. 248; Add. 28910, ff. 421–2; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 232; xii. 286; xvii. 1025; xix. 199, 483; xx. 590; xxi. 421; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702–7, p. 152; 1714–19, p. 89.
- 4. Woodhead, 32; Aylmer, 242–5; Biog. Dict. 17th Cent. Brit. Radicals ed. Greaves and Zaller, i. 68–69; J. Winsor, Narrative and Critical Hist. America, iii. 495; v. 207; C. P. Keith, Chrons. Pennsylvania, i. 184, 202; Macky Mems. (1733), 149; Add. 28897, f. 371; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 374; Luttrell, iv. 331, 346; HMC Portland, v. 71; Swift Works ed. Davis, v. 261.
- 5. HMC 6th Rep. 315; Add. 34356, ff. 61–62; 28056, f. 236; 28916, f. 119; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 707–8, 765; HMC Portland, iv. 344; Duchess of Marlborough Corresp. i. 123; Pembroke mss at Wilton House, R. Payne to James Harris, 10 Jan. 1707[-8], memo. 16 Feb. 1710; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxii. 295; xxiv. 22, 333.
- 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxix. 157; xxx. 123–4; Case of Sir Lambert Blackwell [?1721]; Add. 22221, f. 172; Carswell, 146, 218, 249, 255, 274–5; P. G. M. Dickson, Financial Revol. 119; Blomefield, Norf. vii. 217, 223, 227, 231, 254; x. 138; xi. 129, 136; True and Exact Inventory, 1–10, 27, 31, 33.
- 7. Hist. Reg. Chron. 1727, p. 49; PCC 285 Farrant.