COKE, Hon. Edward (1719-53).
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Family and Education
b. 2 Feb. 1719, o.s. of Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester. educ. Westminster 1729-35; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1735; Grand Tour 1737-41.1 m. 1 Apr. 1747, Lady Mary Campbell, da. and coh. of John, 2nd Duke of Argyll [S], s.p. Styled Visct. Coke 1744-d.
Shortly before Coke’s return from the grand tour, his father described him as ‘sober as to wine and of a meek temper’, adding that as soon as he got back he proposed to marry him ‘to a lady of sober and good character, that would prevent his falling into the vices of the times’. Elected unopposed for his county, he showed himself ‘as warm as possible’ for Sir Robert Walpole; made a successful maiden speech in which he stressed ‘how great Sir Robert’s character is abroad’; and cried when he heard of Walpole’s resignation. He subsequently supported Pelham, voting for the Administration in all three divisions on the Hanoverians and moving the Address on 1 Dec. 1743. During the rebellion he voted, with most of the Norfolk Members, against the Government on Pitt’s motion of 23 Oct. 1745 for recalling all British troops from Flanders; but on 19 Dec. following he ‘spoke very well’ on the government side against another motion by Pitt condemning the bringing of foreign mercenaries to England. He was classed as Old Whig in 1746 and as ‘pro’ in the next Parliament, in which he sat as Pelham’s nominee for Harwich, where his father, as postmaster general, controlled the packet boat interest.2
In 1747 Coke’s parents, ‘after offering him to all the great lumps of gold in all the alleys of the city’, married him to Lady Mary Campbell, the daughter of the late Duke of Argyll. The marriage was a disastrous failure. At the beginning of 1748 Horace Walpole wrote:
Lord Coke has demolished himself very fast; I mean his character; ... he is always drunk, has lost immense sums at play, and seldom goes home to his wife till eight in the morning. The world is vehement on her side; and not only her family, but his own, give him up ... She married him extremely against her will, and he is at least an out-pensioner of Bedlam: his mother’s family have many of them been mad.3
She accused him of cruelty, brought an unsuccessful action for divorce against him, and was finally separated from him in 1750. His unfortunate matrimonial experiences coloured his politics. In 1751, when he took a prominent part in the proceedings against Alexander Murray, he was thought to have shown ‘ready parts, a great memory, and a great Whig zeal’, but
too much ... vehemence in the expression of his dislikes, which were chiefly now directed against the Scotch, who had persecuted him bitterly, on [his] quarrel with his wife.
In his last recorded speech, 4 Mar. 1753, he ‘spoke with animosity’ against a bill relating to forfeited estates in Scotland, ‘as being a Scotch measure’.4
He died v.p. 31 Aug. 1753.