MORDAUNT, John, Lord Mordaunt (c.1681-1710).

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

Feb. 1701 - 1705
26 Nov. 1705 - 1708

Family and Education

b. c.1681, 1st s. of Charles, 1st Earl of Monmouth and 3rd Earl of Peterborough, by his 1st w.; bro. of Hon. Henry Mordaunt*.  educ. travelled abroad (Holland) 1699; Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 7 Dec. 1699, aged 18.  m. c.Sept. 1705, Lady Frances (d. 1715), da. of Charles Powlett I*, 2nd Duke of Bolton, sis. of Charles Powlett II*, 2s.1

Offices Held

Capt. and lt.-col. Gren. Gds. 1703–Aug. 1704; col. 21 Ft. (Scots Fusiliers) Aug. 1704–June 1706, Sept. 1709–d., 28 Ft. June 1706–Sept. 1709; brig.-gen. 1710.

Biography

Lord and Lady Peterborough repeatedly sought the advice of their friend John Locke about their elder son’s education. Another mentor from this circle was the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (Anthony, Lord Ashley*) who regarded Mordaunt as ‘my good friend and pupil’. It was probably through the connexion with Shaftesbury that Mordaunt spent some time in Holland before going up for a year to Oxford at his father’s insistence. These strong Whig influences did not prevent Mordaunt from following Peterborough’s turn to the Tories in 1701; indeed, an imperfect understanding of the complexities of Shaftesbury’s political philosophy may have played a part in exaggerating his opposition to the ‘modern Whigs’. He stood at Chippenham in the first election of 1701 as an independent Whig, against two associates of the Junto. Helped by Peterborough’s personal canvassing, he was returned, and survived a petition alleging, among other things, that he was still a minor. According to Shaftesbury he ‘never gave’ the Whigs ‘one vote’ in this Parliament, and he was blacklisted as one who had opposed the preparations for war. By the time of the November election, however, it would appear that he had come to a satisfactory arrangement with the other Whigs at Chippenham, for he was re-elected unopposed. Robert Harley* classed him with the ‘doubtfuls’ in his list of this Parliament, and it is likely that his maiden speech, on 26 Feb. 1702, in the debate on the impeachments and the Commons’ rights and privileges (a contribution thought highly of by Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*) was made on the Whig side. Meanwhile in January 1702 he had fought a duel with one John Morley, and Peterborough had had to use all his influence to quieten matters, the two protagonists being brought under warrant to the secretary of state’s office and there ‘engaged to prosecute this quarrel no further’. At about this time he seems to have contemplated moving out of his father’s house, but was dissuaded by Shaftesbury. Returned again at Chippenham in 1702, he told on 7 Dec. 1703 against the occasional conformity bill. Not all shared Shaftesbury’s golden opinion of him as a young man of ‘tenderness and piety . . . joined with . . . spirit, gallantry and bravery’: in July 1703 the Marlboroughs rejected him as a suitor for their daughter Mary. ‘I have heard’, wrote the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), ‘that he is what they call a rascal, which can never make a good husband.’ The following year, he showed his mettle in the field, first at the storming of the Schellenberg, leading the ‘forlorn hope’, and then at Blenheim, in Marlborough’s own regiment, where he lost his left arm. Marlborough personally commended his conduct to Peterborough, and in a later poem John Oldmixon sang his praise:

          Early he fought for liberty and Anne,
          And grew a hero sooner than a man.

He did not vote for the Tack on 28 Nov. 1704, and in 1705 was listed as a placeman.2

The 1705 election saw Mordaunt venture away from the safety of Chippenham to stand for knight of the shire in Northamptonshire. Although he mounted a vigorous campaign, his military reputation was of little help, and he narrowly failed to defeat the Tory candidates. Fortunately a vacancy arose at Chippenham even before the new Parliament opened, following the death of a Whig Member. Mordaunt was slow to put up, and moreover had now deeply offended his father and thus forfeited his support, but was still able to beat his Tory opponent, Henry Chivers*. He subsequently voted for the Court in the proceedings on 18 Feb. 1706 over the ‘place clause’ in the regency bill. Lord Peterborough’s ‘resentment’, which the Countess shared, had arisen from his marriage, which had evidently taken place without the consent of either set of parents. Lady Peterborough, of whose reaction Mordaunt was ‘terribly afraid’, pleaded with Shaftesbury to bring him to his senses. This ‘unhappy marriage’, she said, had shown the deepest ‘ingratitude’: ‘O that Heaven had left him no hand to dispose of!’ She observed that he could expect nothing from his wife’s family, no financial arrangements having been made, and even threatened to settle her own estate away from him. Shaftesbury’s peacemaking proved fruitless and in June 1706 Mordaunt launched an initiative of his own, persuading Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) to ask Marlborough to order his new regiment for service in the Peninsula, so that he might be able to ‘pay his duty’ to his father there, which otherwise Lady Peterborough had prevented him from doing. In a covering letter Godolphin explained to Marlborough that he had been unwilling to refuse Mordaunt, considering ‘his circumstances, which, I doubt, nothing can make very easy’, and hinted too that Marlborough might be happy to see the back of him. This was partly true, since Mordaunt had been neglecting his duties in order to attend ‘his lady, who is at Ghent’, but the Duke was equally uneasy at ordering the regiment away. ‘The truth is’, he told Godolphin, ‘they do not care to go with their colonel, who has never been with them since he has had the regiment.’ The Duchess of Marlborough, however, had taken Mordaunt’s part, and so the regiment was sent to Spain. Peterborough was not pleased. As he informed James Stanhope*, another to intercede for Mordaunt, ‘though I cannot but say the Duchess of Marlborough’s part [and] my lord treasurer’s in that, and all that concerns me, is very obliging, yet I own I could have spared that favour’. When father and son were reconciled is unknown. Mordaunt did not remain long in the Peninsula. By the time of Almanza he was ‘absent in England by leave’, and he was still absent in July 1707, ‘his leave near expired’. While quartered with his regiment at York in April 1708 he provoked a protest from the city magistrates by exceeding his legal authority, and received a reprimand by the Queen’s order. Classed as a Whig in early 1708, he did not put up at the 1708 election.3

Restored to his old regiment and then raised to the rank of brigadier-general, Mordaunt fell victim to the same epidemic that carried off his brother Henry. On 20 Apr. 1710 Godolphin reported to Marlborough a request for his regiment, ‘the little man’ being ‘at this time sick of the smallpox’. In fact Mordaunt had already died, v.p., at Winchester on 6 Apr. Administration, describing Mordaunt as ‘late of Middlethorpe, Yorkshire’, was granted to a creditor in August 1711.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton

Notes

  • 1. PRO 30/24/20, ff. 26–28; Collins, Peerage, iii. 318; HMC Cowper, iii. 64.
  • 2. Locke Corresp. ed. de Beer, iv. 15; vi. 212; Newton Corresp. iii. 390; Shaftesbury Letters, 313, 341; PRO 30/24/20, ff. 26–28; 30/24/21, ff. 335–6; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xlvi. 80; Cocks Diary, 227; HMC Portland, viii. 94; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 496; W. S. Churchill, Marlborough, ii. 217, 383, 386; iii. 57; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 219; C. Ballard, Great Earl of Peterborough, 241; Boyer, Anne Annals, iii. 87; G. D. Warburton, Peterborough, ii. 122.