DOWNING, George (c.1685-1749), of Gamlingay Park, Cambs.
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Family and Education
bap. 24 Oct. 1685, o. s. of Sir George Downing, 2nd Bt., of East Hatley, Cambs. by Lady Catherine (d. 1688), da. of James Cecil†, 3rd Earl of Salisbury. educ. travelled abroad (inc. Holland, Germany, Denmark, Italy) 1700–4. m. 1700, Mary (d. 1734), da. of Sir William Forester*, s.p.; 1da. (b. c.1726) illegit. by Mary Townsend. suc. fa. June 1711; KB 12 Jan. 1732.1
Freeman, Dunwich 1709, common councilman 1710, alderman 1712, bailiff 1712–13.2
Downing was the grandson of Sir George Downing, 1st Bt.†, the Restoration bureaucrat who gave his name to Downing Street. His father, the 2nd Bt., was by contrast ‘not accounted of sound judgment’, and after his mother’s death Downing was brought up in the family of his maternal aunt, the wife of Sir William Forester*. When he was 15, ‘by the procurement and persuasion of those in whose keeping he was’, he married his 13-year-old cousin, Mary Forester. He left her almost immediately to begin a long foreign tour, adjuring her not to go to court, where her noted beauty would be too much admired. Her acceptance in 1703 of the post of maid of honour, therefore, while he was still in Italy, ‘filled me with surprise and pain, and shattered the loveliest image man ever cherished in his heart’, and on his return to England in the following year he kept apart from her.3
Downing’s electoral interest at Dunwich was probably established in 1709, when it was reported that he had ‘bought most of the houses’ there. He was returned unopposed at the next election, having failed to become knight of the shire for Cambridgeshire, where Dyer described him as a ‘Whig candidate’. In a list of the new Parliament he was, however, marked as a Tory. He seconded Edward Wortley Montagu’s* motion of 6 Dec. 1710 for a place bill, and was named to the committee to prepare the bill. He told