DRAX, Henry (?1693-1755), of Ellerton Abbey, Yorks. and Charborough, nr. Wareham, Dorset.
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Family and Education
b. ?1693, 1st s. of Thomas Drax (formerly Shatterden) of Pope’s Common, Herts., Ellerton Abbey and Barbados by Elizabeth, da. of Edward Ernle of Etchilhampton, Wilts., sis. of Sir Edward Ernle, 3rd Bt.. educ. Eton 1706-7; Magdalene, Camb. 15 May 1710, aged 16. m. bef. 23 Dec. 1719,1 his 1st cos. Elizabeth, da. and h. of Sir Edward Ernle, 3rd Bt., by Frances, da. and h. of Gen. Thomas Erle of Charborough, 3s. 5da.
Sec. to Frederick, Prince of Wales 1744-51.
The Drax family owed its position in Dorset to a series of successions through the female line. Henry Drax’s father inherited Ellerton Abbey from his maternal uncle, a wealthy Barbados sugar planter. Drax himself married his first cousin, the heiress of the Erle and Ernle families, acquiring thereby an electoral interest at Wareham, which he represented for most of his parliamentary career. Returned as a Whig at a by-election there in 1718, when his wife’s grandfather, Gen. Thomas Erle, vacated his seat, he voted against the repeal of the Occasional Conformity and Schism Acts and the peerage bill in 1719. In 1720 he was one of the Members who were credited with £1,000 stock at 260 by the South Sea Company without paying for it. He did not stand for Wareham at the next two general elections, when his father-in-law, Sir Edward Ernle, took the family seat. Returned for Lyme Regis in 1727, he voted with the Government on the Hessians in 1730, but thereafter with the Opposition until Walpole’s fall. For the 1734 and 1741 elections he compromised at Wareham with John Pitt, whose family also held an interest there. Appointed to the stewardship of the Prince of Wales’s Dorset manors in 1737, he became ‘a great favourite’ with the Prince, replacing George Lyttelton in 1744 as Frederick’s secretary, though according to Horace Walpole he could not write his own name.2 Next year his daughter, who had married the 4th Earl of Berkeley, was appointed lady of the bedchamber to the Princess of Wales. At the beginning of 1747 Lord Berkeley, who was angling for a lordship of the bedchamber to the King, assured Newcastle that his father-in-law, Drax, was ‘entirely left out of what they call his Royal Highness’s cabinet, and is not at all consulted on his measures, and that he has declared his dislike of the violent measures they are now pursuing’. At the general election that year he was returned for Wareham with his eldest son, Thomas Erle Drax, against John Pitt. Both the Draxes were unseated on petition but when John Pitt changed his seat in 1751, Henry Drax was returned in his place. The 2nd Lord Egmont’s lists show that Horace Walpole was correct in stating Drax to have been promised a barony on Frederick’s accession. On the Prince’s death he went over to the Pelhams. Re-elected in 1754 after a double return, he died 24 May 1755.3
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: R. S. Lea
- 1. Codicil to will of Gen. Thos. Erle, PCC 252 Shaller.
- 2. Hutchins, Dorset, iii. 502; Oliver, Antigua, i. 149; VCH Yorks. N.R. i. 229; CJ, xix. 570; Walpole to Mann, 24 Dec. 1744, 26 Jan. 1748; Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, i. 87.
- 3. Duke of Richmond to Newcastle, 25 Feb. 1747, Add. 32710, f. 234; Mems. Geo. II, i. 87; Add. 47092.