THYNNE, Hon. Henry (1675-1708).
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Family and Education
b. 8 Feb. 1675, 1st s. of Thomas Thynne†, 1st Visct. Weymouth, by Lady Frances, da. of Heneage Finch, 3rd Earl of Winchilsea, and sis. of Hon. Heneage Finch†. educ. at home; travelled abroad (Holland, Germany, Italy) 1692. m. 10 June (with £20,000), Grace (d. 1725), da. and h. of Sir George Strode† (d. 1701) of Lincoln’s Inn and Leweston, Dorset, ‘several’ s. d.v.p. 2da.1
?Freeman, Weobley 1695.2
Thynne belied his surname by over-eating his way to an advanced state of obesity, which helped precipitate his comparatively early death. He thus proved a sad disappointment to his father, who had entertained high hopes of what the family’s riches could do for Henry in terms of a public career. Even before Thynne had attained his majority he had been married off to a great fortune and his father had tried unsuccessfully to bring him into Parliament in the 1695 election. The constituency chosen was Weobley, one of several boroughs in which Lord Weymouth enjoyed an interest, although the venality of the electorate there made the outcome of any contest unpredictable. The Thynnes were outmanoeuvred and outspent, and it is possible that the candidate himself, a ‘studious and scholarly’ young man, was not keen to come into Parliament: this at any rate was the pretext given by Weymouth for his son’s withdrawal. Failure at the first hurdle seems to have deterred Weymouth from a second attempt until the general election of January 1701, when Thynne was put up not only at Weobley but also at the borough of Weymouth, where his father-in-law’s influence offered some additional leverage. The insurance policy was justified when Thynne was defeated in an auction for votes at Weobley, an election he evidently did not attend, but was safely returned at Weymouth. Thynne had been brought up in an atmosphere of High Church Anglicanism, with Thomas Ken, lately deprived of his bishopric of Bath and Wells, as companion and mentor, and another non-juror, George Harbin, as the family’s resident chaplain. It was hardly surprising, therefore, that he quickly gravitated to the Tory side of the House. In February 1701 he was forecast as likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’, and though he was an inactive Member he was later blacklisted as having opposed the preparations for war with France. During the summer of 1701 he reported to his father that he had been to ‘wait on’ Lord Rochester (Laurence Hyde†) but there is no reason to suppose that he had penetrated the inner circles of the Tory party.3
Abandoning both Weobley and (temporarily) Weymouth, Thynne stood in two new constituencies in the second general election of 1701 and was returned twice, choosing to sit for Tamworth rather than Milborne Port. Lord Spencer (Charles*) considered his election for the latter constituency to be a ‘loss’ to the Whigs, and Robert Harley* listed him with the Tories. He was listed as having favoured the motion of 26 Feb. vindicating the Commons’ proceedings during the previous session in the impeachment of the four Whig lords. Recovering his seat at Weymouth in the 1702 election, he was recorded as voting on 13 Feb. 1703 against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. In April Thynne suffered a bout of illness, when his father described him as ‘overrun with the spleen’, which was to foreshadow more serious and sustained ill-health in later years. In March 1704 Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) listed him as a likely supporter in the proceedings on the Scotch Plot. Among the rumours circulating in the same month about proposed creations of new peers to bolster the Court’s position in the Upper House, there was a particularly unlikely story that Lord Weymouth was to be promoted to a marquessate and that Thynne would be called up to the Lords in one of his father’s lesser titles. Given the height of the family’s Toryism this report must have been unfounded. Certainly, after appearing in two forecasts as a likely Tacker, Thynne voted for the Tack on 28 Nov. 1704, and as a result was marked as ‘True Church’ in an analysis of the Parliament elected the next year, to which he was returned again for Weymouth. He made sure he was up in town for the opening of the parliamentary session, voting on 25 Oct. 1705 against the Court candidate for Speaker. Thereafter he seems to have been less active in the House, though he was listed as a Tory twice in the early months of 1708.4
The death in 1701 of Thynne’s father-in-law had made him even wealthier, giving him a further £6,000 in cash and control over the Strode estates in Dorset. Not surprisingly, he began to look for a country seat of his own, and in 1707 almost purchased a property at Corsham in Wiltshire. He was also able to indulge his antiquarian interests, building up an imposing collection of medals. But his last years were clouded by physical illness, diagnosed by most observers as the effect of his corpulence, and by a gathering ‘religious melancholy’: ‘he was a really good man’, recalled one acquaintance, ‘and had serious thoughts of religion, and I believe nothing could have prevailed with him to have done a wicked action if he was convinced it was so, and all his disorders and talking to himself it was prayers to God to for[give] him and for mercy’.5
At the 1708 election Thynne was again returned for two constituencies, Weymouth and Weobley, but only had time to choose the former before dying suddenly, v.p., on 20 Dec. 1708, at his house in Soho Square, of what appears to have been an apoplectic fit. His father insisted on a post-mortem, which produced surprising results. Harley’s daughter sent the news to her brother:
Though he never complained, his vitals were wholly corrupted, his heart was like a lump of fat and blood, when they touched his lungs they fell to pieces and had an imposthume in them which they think was the cause of his sudden death, his liver wasted, and an ulcer in his kidneys, and a dropsy in one side of his belly. I think this a strange mixture of distempers, but more unaccountable that he should not be sensible of any of them, but told his father and cousin at 12 o’clock the night before he died that he was as well as ever in his life, did not alter two minutes before his death, only said when he came downstairs his legs were weak, did not sit by his lady above six minutes before he died.
His body was transported to Wiltshire for burial in the family vault at Longbridge Deverill. Within 18 months the next heir to the viscountcy had also died suddenly, so that Weymouth was eventually succeeded by a great-nephew.6