PACKER, Robert (1678-1731), of Shellingford and Donnington, Berks.
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Family and Education
bap. 10 Feb. 1678, o. s. of John Packer of Shellingford by Elizabeth, da. of Richard Stephens of Eastington, Glos. m. 27 Feb. 1700, Mary, da. and coh. of Sir Henry Winchcombe, 2nd Bt.*, 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 1687.1
Sheriff, Berks. 1708–9.
Packer’s grandfather, Robert†, had been an usher of the Exchequer, opponent of the government during the Restoration period, and possibly a man with Presbyterian sympathies. His father, John, married into the Stephens family, notable for their Parliamentarian views, through whom he probably came into contact with their relations, the Harleys. Robert Packer was certainly known to them because Anne Pye (née Stephens, and wife of Sir Charles Pye, 2nd Bt.*) informed her cousin Abigail Harley (sister of Robert Harley*) in November 1701 that her ‘poor nephew Packer’ had been laid up ‘by a great misfortune to any, but more to a man of his years and temper and recreation to lose so useful a part as his thumb of the left hand which is now quite taken off’ in an accident with a gun. Although Packer was therefore linked with the Harleys, it seems likely that in politics he gravitated more towards his brother-in-law, Henry St. John II*, who had married Frances, the eldest daughter of Sir Henry Winchcombe, 2nd Bt. The second of Winchcombe’s daughters was talked of as a possible wife for Thomas Coke*, another rising young Tory of that circle. Packer’s stepfather, Thomas Jacobs*, had also been a Tory MP.2
By his early twenties, Packer was well established in county society, being appointed a deputy-lieutenant in 1703 and serving as sheriff in 1708–9. The opportunity of a parliamentary seat came in 1712 when St. John was raised to the peerage as Viscount Bolingbroke. Packer was returned unopposed at the ensuing by-election and as a knight of the shire was quickly co-opted to present an address from the county to the Queen, even before he had technically taken his seat in the House. In his first session in the House he voted on 18 June 1713 for the French commerce bill. Unopposed at the 1713 election, he was classed as a Tory both on the Worsley list and on an analysis of those Members of the 1713 Parliament re-elected in 1715. That he remained an acolyte of Bolingbroke is perhaps best illustrated by the minister sending his man to summon Packer to London after the Queen’s death. Packer continued to sit for Berkshire until his death on 4 Apr. 1731 and then bequeathed his seat to his son, Winchcombe Howard Packer†. His close relationship to Bolingbroke probably explains how he came to be included on the list prepared for the Pretender in 1721 of possible sympathizers. However, there is no other evidence of active involvement on behalf of the exiled royal house and, furthermore, his relationship with Bolingbroke must have become strained during the seemingly interminable disputes over the Winchcombe inheritance, which his son seems at last to have gained possession of in about 1733.3
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. IGI, Berks.; A. L. Humphreys, Bucklebury, ped. facing p. 322.
- 2. J. Sainty, Officers of the Exchequer (List and Index Soc. spec. ser. 18), 251; Berks. RO, Hartley-Russell mss F10, appointment of Philip Packer, 1666; Vis. Glos. ed. Fenwick and Metcalfe, 174–8; Add. 70149, Abigail Pye to Abigail Harley, 22 Nov. 1701.
- 3. CSP Dom. 1703–4, p. 277; London Gazette, 25–28 Aug. 1712; Swift Corresp. ed. Williams, ii. 97; HMC Portland, vii. 409–11; P. S. Fritz, Ministers and Jacobitism 1715–45, p. 151; Add. 36149, ff. 295–8; H. T. Dickinson, Bolingbroke, 179–80.