CHILD, Robert (1674-1721), of Portugal Row, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and Osterley Park, Mdx.
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Family and Education
bap. 6 June 1674, 1st surv. s. of Sir Francis Child*, and bro. of John*, Francis† and Samuel Child†. educ. travelled abroad (Holland) 1697. unm. suc. fa. 1713; kntd. 25 Sept. 1714.1
Livery, Goldsmiths’ Co. 1698, asst. 1709, prime warden 1714–15; alderman, London 1713–d.2
Treasurer, R. Artillery Co. 1704–8; dir. E.I. Co. 1709–d. (with statutory intervals), dep. chairman 1714–15, chairman 1715; commr. building 50 new churches 1712–15; trustee, borrowing £200,000 on S. Sea stock 1713; gov. St. Thomas’ Hosp. by 1719; pres. Christ’s Hosp. 1719–21.3
As heir to his father’s great banking house, Child was destined to play a prominent role in the City. By 1702 he was sufficiently independent to purchase a house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and subsequently joined his father as partner in the family business. He shared Sir Francis’ Tory principles, and took advantage of the change of ministry in 1710 to be returned to Parliament at a by-election for Helston. Having also supported the Tory cause at the London contest, in the course of the first session he was identified by Abel Boyer as one of the ‘High Church’ candidates standing at the elections for the East India Company. Child, in fact, was the only candidate put forward by both the ministry and its opponents, a unique status which may be attributed to the influence of his father, who was at this time both a leading City figure and a close ally of the Tory administration.4
Most surprisingly, in his first session Child acted as a teller against a Tory motion condemning the conduct of the mayor of Weymouth at a recent parliamentary election. However, he was classed as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who in this session helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous administration, and was cited as a member of the October Club. If he did join the club, it must have been only for a short time, since his name did not appear in the list of members published by Boyer in February 1712. Certainly, both he and his father showed strong support for the ministry’s commercial initiatives, investing heavily in the South Sea Company. In the second session Child jnr. displayed a natural interest in ?scal affairs, acting as a teller in favour of imposing a duty on all imported soap. Most significantly, he even maintained the party line over the French commerce bill, ignoring the opposition of many of his City colleagues to vote with the administration in the division of 18 June 1713.5
By 1713 Child was acting as a leading government creditor in his own right, and in the general election of that year took over the family seat at Devizes. In the new Parliament, his only significant appointment was to the committee to draft a bill to enforce a contract drawn up by the commission for 50 new churches, of which he was an active member. On his father’s death in October 1713 he succeeded as head of the family bank, as an alderman of London, and as colonel of the Orange regiment of trained bands. In April 1714 he was elected deputy governor of the East India Company after a struggle with the Bank of England interest headed by (Sir) Gilbert Heathcote*, and soon afterwards Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) ‘took particular notice’ of Child when a delegation from the company attended the minister.6
Following the accession of George I Child gained recognition at court, significantly as one of the few City Tories to be honoured with a knighthood by the new King. His allies may have resented such preferment, for the Secret History of the White Staff (1714) identified ‘Sir R. Ch.’ as one of the ‘jobbers and monied men’ who had grown rich at the nation’s expense. However, he did not convert to the Whigs, and soon afterwards lost his colonelcy of militia. He chose not to contest the general election of 1715, but his Tory pedigree was confirmed by the Worsley list. In the years after 1715 banking and commercial affairs consumed his energies until his death at Osterley Park on 6 Oct. 1721. His brother Francis inherited his estate, and became the new head of Child’s bank.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Perry Gauci
- 1. IGI, London; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 181.
- 2. W. T. Prideaux, Wardens, Members and Liverymen of Goldsmiths’ Co. 8, 40; Beaven, Aldermen, ii. 123.
- 3. J. Aubrey, Surr. v. 310; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 7.
- 4. Survey of London, iii. 56; Boyer, Pol. State, i. 263; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 58(8), p. 73.
- 5. R. Bank of Scotland Archs. Child mss CH/199.
- 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. 83, 92; London Rec. Soc. xxiii.178; Add. 70273, Mathew Decker to Thomas Harley*, 5/16 Mar., 2/13, 16/27 Apr., 30 Apr./11 May 1714.
- 7. Secret Hist. of White Staff, pt. 3, p. 38; Beaven, 123; PCC 177 Buckingham.