MASHAM, Samuel (c.1679-1758), of Otes, High Laver, Essex

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

Constituency

Dates

1710 - May 1711
18 May 1711 - 1 Jan. 1712

Family and Education

b. c.1679, 8th but 1st surv. s. of Sir Francis Masham, 3rd Bt.*, by his 1st w.  m. c.June 1707, Abigail Hill (d. 1734), da. of Francis Hill, Levant merchant, of London, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da.  cr. Baron Masham of Otes 1 Jan. 1712; suc. fa. Feb. 1723.1

Offices Held

Page of honour to Princess Anne by 1692; equerry by 1702; groom of bedchamber to Prince George of Denmark 1706; ensign, Coldstream Gds. 1697, capt. and lt.-col. 1704; brevet col. 1705; col. 1707; brig.-gen. 1710; cofferer of Household 1711–14; keeper of gt. wardrobe 1711–13; remembrancer of Exchequer in reversion 1713.2

Biography

Masham was described by Sarah Churchill as a ‘good natured, soft, insignificant man, making low bows to everybody, and being ready to run to open a door’. According to her, he attracted the attention of few at court, except Abigail Hill, a woman of the bedchamber, whom he may have met through her brother ‘Jack’ Hill, a fellow page and officer in the Coldstream Guards. Abigail was unlikely to have been dazzled by Masham’s military career since, although his service in Lisbon and Altea in 1705–6 was later officially described as having been attended with ‘a share of success and glory’, it seems doubtful whether he ever heard a shot fired. Nevertheless, Masham and Abigail were married in the summer of 1707 at a ceremony in Dr Arbuthnot’s apartments which Abigail kept secret from her cousin and patroness, Sarah Churchill. The Queen’s presence at the marriage, and her willingness to provide Abigail with a dowry, indicated a redistribution of favour at court that infuriated the Duchess of Marlborough and which rapidly led to a breach between her and Abigail. The marriage also marked a break with the Whiggishness of Masham’s family since Abigail held strong Tory views. She was also a second cousin of Robert Harley*, who seems to have discovered the kinship once Mrs Masham’s political importance became apparent and to have used the relationship to gain privy access to the Queen. These connexions, rather than Masham’s own ability, explain his advancement. Although he had returned from the army to attend his wife ‘and the basset table’, Abigail was determined in January 1710 to have her husband and her militarily incompetent brother promoted to the rank of general over the heads of more experienced officers, a test of her influence that outraged both the Duke (John Churchill†) and the Duchess of Marlborough. The Duke was reported to have pressed the Queen to be rid of her favourite, encouraging rumours that the Commons would pass an address requesting her removal from court. Perhaps because Anne made it clear that such action would be ‘very disagreeable to her’, no address was made, and as part of a compromise solution Masham, though not his brother-in-law, duly received promotion.3

Masham’s political career began in 1710 after the fall of the Whig ministry. In September of that year there was a whisper that he would be appointed to the post of vice-treasurer of Ireland, though nothing came of it, and at the general election in