FORTESCUE, Hugh (1665-1719), of Penwarne, Mevagissey, Cornw.

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



1689 - 1695
1695 - 1698
1698 - 1700
Feb. 1701 - 1702
1705 - 1710
1710 - 1713

Family and Education

bap. 2 June 1665, 1st s. of Arthur Fortescue of Buckland Filleigh, Devon and Penwarne by Barbara, da. of John Elford of Sheepstor, Devon.  m. (1) settlement 19 Oct. 1692, Bridget (d. aft. 1706), da. and h. of Hugh Boscawen I*, 7s. (5 d.v.p.) 2da.; (2) c.12 June 1713, Lucy (d. 1767), da. of Matthew Aylmer*, 1s. 1da.  suc. fa. 1693.1

Offices Held


A Whig in the Convention, Fortescue was returned again for Tregony in 1690 by Hugh Boscawen I*, and was listed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in March 1690. In April 1690 Lady Clinton told Sir Edward Harley* a story of how Fortescue had been compared favourably to Robert Harley* (who had lately been Member for Tregony) because ‘there was no hurt in him, only as to his votes’, whereas Harley made speeches and was therefore dangerous. Robert Harley classed him as a Country supporter in April 1691. The observations recounted by Lady Clinton may have proved accurate, as Fortescue was not very prominent in the House. Indeed, on 16 Nov. 1691 he was sent for in custody, having been absent at a call of the House. He was discharged on 17 Dec. In the following session, on 7 Feb. 1693 he was granted leave of absence for ten days owing to ill-health. Likewise, on 4 Dec. 1693 he was excused attendance for 14 days following a call of the House, and given leave again on 7 Feb. 1694. However, on 14 Mar. 1694 he was once more found absent and a motion to send him into custody was carried by 106 votes to 86.2

Meanwhile, Fortescue’s marriage to Boscawen’s only child, which Luttrell had predicted in August 1692, took place in October and brought him a fortune. His wealth increased further when he succeeded to his own family’s estates the following year. In 1695 he was elected for Grampound. He was forecast as likely to support the Court in the division of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade, signed the Association, and voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. In the following session, on 25 Nov., he voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. In keeping with his earlier pattern of inactivity he received leave of absence on 9 Feb. and 16 Mar. 1698, but had returned by 17 June when he was named to an inquiry committee.3

In 1698 Fortescue declined standing again at Grampound, but was returned for Truro on the Boscawen interest. He also stood unsuccessfully for St. Mawes, petitioning against the victors and not withdrawing his petition until February 1700. He was listed as a Court supporter in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments, and confirmed this by voting on 18 Jan. 1699 against the disbanding bill. His main contribution to the work of the House during this session was to manage a bill through the House to make the Charles of Exeter a free ship in February–March 1699. He was involved in one further bill this session, as a trustee of the recently deceased John Cloberry*. In the first half of 1700 an analysis of the House rather surprisingly marked him as a placeman. Returned for Truro as well as Tregony in the first election of 1701, he opted to sit for the latter. He was not present for the whole session, however, receiving leave of absence on 15 Apr. for three weeks. On 7 May he was reported to be still in Devon, but by the 17th he was expected in London ‘every hour’ following the death of Hugh Boscawen I and the expectation that he should ‘govern all that related to the funeral’ of his father-in-law. He retained his seat in November 1701, when Harley classed him as a Whig.4

Fortescue does not appear to have been a candidate anywhere in 1702, so that when he was chosen for Mitchell in 1705 Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) reckoned his election as a ‘gain’. On another list he was classed as a Churchman. Fortescue voted on 25 Oct. 1705 for the Court candidate in the division on the Speaker. On 4 Dec. he seconded the motion of Sir Richard Onslow, 3rd Bt., to go into a committee immediately to consider proposals to secure the succession. He supported the Court on the regency bill proceedings on 18 Feb. 1706. He also told on two occasions on the Whig side in the election disputes over East Retford (17 Jan. 1706) and Bewdley (16 Feb.). Early in 1708 he was classed as a Whig. Returned for Mitchell again in 1708, he voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. In 1710 he switched to Lostwithiel (where he survived a petition), and was classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’. He voted on 7 Dec. 1711 for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion. In August 1712 Ralph Thoresby offered another insight into his character when he told of meeting Fortescue and his brother Joseph at the house of Lord Chief Justice Parker (Sir Thomas*). Both men ‘were very conversant in the Holy Scriptures . . . and argued both learnedly and piously against those [Arian] heresies’. Just prior to 12 June 1713 Fortescue married for the second time. Philip Papillon* described him at this point as ‘one of the richest commoners we have, his estate being computed to be between eight or ten thousand pounds p.a. besides money’. He stood unsuccessfully at Mitchell at the 1713 election and afterwards seems to have withdrawn from politics altogether. A letter he wrote in November 1715 to Lord Chief Justice Parker offers some insights into his retirement. In his desire to avoid the shrievalty he put forward the ‘ill circumstances’ of his family brought about by his ‘own neglect and easiness’; his dislike of ‘pageantry’ and ‘burble’, and his distaste for being ‘subjected to the brutal humours of my countrymen’; and lastly ‘peace of my conscience’ as he did not feel able to ‘qualify myself for that office as the law requires with a safe conscience’. The last reason, coupled with the timing of his retirement from Parliament, suggests some scruple over acting in public following the passage of the Occasional Conformity Act, although he may merely have been using it as an excuse to avoid the burden of office. Fortescue died at the end of November or the beginning of December 1719. His eldest son was created Baron Clinton in 1721 (subsequently Earl Clinton); his second son sat for Barnstaple and Devon under George II; and his first son by his second marriage succeeded his half-brother as 2nd Lord Fortescue in 1751.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 355; Centre Kentish Stud. Papillon mss U1015/C45, p. 100; Collins, Peerage, v. 346.
  • 2. Add. 70113, Lady Clinton to Sir Edward Harley, 17 Apr. 1690.
  • 3. Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 541.
  • 4. HMC Lords, n.s. iv. 56, 362; BL, Evelyn mss, Lord Godolphin (Sidney†) to Mrs Boscawen, 17 May 1701.
  • 5. Cam. Misc. xxiii. 40; Thoresby Diary, ii. 158; Papillon mss U1015/C45, p. 100; Stowe 750, f. 137; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1719, p. 41; Boyer, Pol. State, xviii. 583.