FITZWILLIAM, Hon. John (c.1681-1728), of Milton, Northants.
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Family and Education
b. c.1681, 3rd but o. surv. s. of William, 3rd Baron Fitzwilliam† of Lifford [I] (cr. Earl Fitzwilliam [I] 1716) by Anne (d. 1717), da. and h. of Edmund Cremer of West Winch, Norf. m. 17 Sept. 1718, Anne (d. 1726), da. and h. of John Stringer of Sutton-upon-Lound, Notts., 1s. 3da. Styled Visct. Milton 1716–19; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl 28 Dec. 1719.1
Custos rot. Peterborough 1720–8.
It is probable that Fitzwilliam had either just reached or was soon to attain his majority by the time of the election of November 1701, since it was then rumoured in Peterborough that his father intended him to stand. A few days before the election, however, Lord Fitzwilliam told his steward that he had entertained ‘no such thoughts in the least’. At the next general election several leading Tory townsmen seem to have been desirous that young Fitzwilliam should stand, despite his being the scion of a Whiggish family. Loath to provoke a contest, Lord Fitzwilliam declined to allow his son to be put forward but made expressions of obligation towards the gentlemen concerned ‘for their kind intentions’. Only when Sir Gilbert Dolben* transferred to another seat in 1710 did Fitzwilliam’s father seem prepared to set him on the political stage, possibly because he could see that he might then do so without involving his family in a costly and contentious election. Though the return was indeed disputed, the issue did not touch Fitzwilliam, which suggests his father had taken measures to ensure that the ground was clear in so far as the family interest was concerned.2
Fitzwilliam appears in the ‘Hanover list’ as a Tory but the truth of this ascription needs to be carefully weighed in the light of his background and later consistent support for the Whig party. He and his Tory partner, Charles Parker*, were together described in Dyer’s report of their electoral success as ‘very loyal gentlemen’, the usual description for men of Tory opinion, and it is conceivable that locally he gave an impression of being sympathetic to the incoming Tory ministry. The compiler of the ‘Hanover list’ may thus have used Dyer’s newsletter as his source. Fitzwilliam’s name is noticeably absent, however, from the other Tory lists of this period, and it is much more likely he was a moderate Whig. Soon after the new Parliament commenced he associated himself with Edward Wortley Montagu’s* initiative to bring in a place bill, an indication that he entered the House in a ‘Country’ frame of mind: his inclusion on the small committee appointed on 6 Dec. to prepare the measure suggests he had given vocal support to it in the House. On 16 Jan. 1711 he was granted three weeks’ leave of absence. He told for the majority on 28 Feb. 1712 against postponing a call of the House, and on 2 Apr. against a motion that a private petition against Arthur Moore*, a ministerial Tory, be deemed ‘frivolous and vexatious’. He then voted on 18 June 1713 against the French commerce bill, and in the general election later in the summer was returned unopposed at Peterborough. On 18 Mar. 1714 he voted against the motion leading to the expulsion of Richard Steele, and in the Worsley list and other lists reflecting behaviour in the 1713 Parliament was classified unequivocally as a Whig. On 5 Apr. 1714 he presented a petition from the gentlemen and inhabitants of Peterborough applying to be heard by counsel against the bill for making the River Nene navigable from Northampton to Peterborough. Later in the session, on 28 June, he was a teller against passing the bill to relieve insolvent debtors.
Fitzwilliam continued to represent Peterborough until his death on 28 Aug. 1728. In 1744 his son and successor, William†, the 3rd earl, married a daughter of the 1st Marquess of Rockingham (Thomas Watson Wentworth†), and was created an English earl in 1746.3