TOWNSHEND, Hon. Roger (aft.1675-1709).
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Family and Education
b. aft. 1675, 2nd s. of Horatio, 1st Visct. Townshend†, by his 2nd w. Mary, da. of Sir Joseph Ashe, 1st Bt.†, of Twickenham, Mdx., sis. of Sir James Ashe, 2nd Bt.*; bro. of Hon. Horatio Townshend†. educ. Eton c.1688–95; King’s, Camb. matric. 1695. unm.
Freeman, Great Yarmouth 1701–d.1
Col. of ft. 1706–d.
Townshend, a Whig, was returned for Norfolk on the interest of his brother Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend. In February 1701 he was forecast as likely to support the Court over continuing the ‘Great Mortgage’. At the second 1701 election he was returned with Sir John Holland, 2nd Bt.* In April 1702 Townshend and Holland were described by one Norfolk Whig as ‘both as worthy as we can wish’, sound in their ‘sentiments and principles’ and voting consistently on the Whig side in the Commons. They fell out, however, and prior to the 1702 election Townshend announced publicly that he intended not to stand, in what proved a vain attempt to ‘pull down’ Holland. Townshend was afterwards appointed to the county lieutenancy: his brother had been made lord lieutenant in 1701. In 1703 he travelled abroad.2
By the time of the next general election Townshend and Holland had made up their differences and were returned unopposed for the county. Townshend’s election was marked as a ‘gain’ by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*). In another list of the new Parliament he was classed as a ‘Churchman’. He voted for the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705, and supported the Court over the regency bill on 18 Feb. 1706. In April 1706 he was given a commission as colonel to raise a new regiment for the war in Spain, but the regiment was not sent abroad as planned. On 19 Dec. Townshend was nominated to the drafting committee for a bill to regulate rates paid by unfreemen to import coal into Great Yarmouth. It was reported in October 1707 that he was ‘fluxing at Ghent as the last and only remedy in his case, though with little prospect of success, so it is much to be feared that he can’t live long. However, he talks of coming over next year with his regiment.’ In attempting to return to England in December he only narrowly avoided drowning, when the boat in which he was sailing was wrecked in foul weather. At the 1708 election he declined to stand again for the county, probably on grounds of ill-health, and was brought in by his brother for Great Yarmouth, his election once more being counted by Sunderland as a Whig gain.3
In August 1708, while embarked with his regiment ‘on board the fleet’, Townshend applied to Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) for leave to resign his commission if ordered to Portugal. But at the same time Godolphin told the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†):
I find by his brother who is now in town, that he would be glad to continue in the service so [long as] he did not go into that [aw]ful country, which would kill him; and he is so good a man, that I hope you may think of some way of turning that matter, so as to keep him still in the service.
The regiment was sent to Flanders instead, and Townshend kept his commission, although Horatio Walpole I* later claimed to have been offered the regiment ‘some time before’ Townshend’s death as an inducement to support the ministry. Townshend voted in favour of the naturalization of the Palatines in 1709, but was wrongly listed as having voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell in 1710, for he had died on 22 May 1709 at Bath, where he was undergoing treatment. In his will he left legacies amounting to about £5,000 to various individuals (including his cousin and friend Ashe Windham*) and mourning rings to (Sir) Charles Turner*, Robert Walpole II* and Lord Pelham (Thomas Pelham I*) among others.