EDGCUMBE, Richard (1680-1758), of Mount Edgcumbe, nr. Plymouth, Devon.
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Family and Education
bap. 23 Apr. 1680, 3rd s. of Sir Richard Edgcumbe, K.B., M.P., of Mount Edgcumbe, and Cotehele, Cornw. by Lady Anne Montagu, da. of Edward Montagu, M.P., 1st Earl of Sandwich. educ. Trinity, Camb. 1697. m. 12 Mar. 1715, Matilda, da. of Sir Henry Furnese, 1st Bt., M.P., of Waldershare, Kent. suc. e. bro. Piers to family estates 1694; cr. Baron Edgcumbe 20 Apr. 1742.
Ld. of Treasury 1716-17 and 1720-4, jt. vice-treasurer [I] 1724-42; P.C. [I] 28 Nov. 1727; ld. warden of the stannaries 1734-7; ld. lt. Cornw. 1742-d.; chancellor of duchy of Lancaster 1743-58; P.C. 25 Jan. 1744; col. of a regt. of Ft. 1745; maj-gen. 1755; c.j. in eyre north of Trent Jan. 1758-d.
Recorder, Lostwithiel 1733-d., capital burgess 1736, mayor 1738 and 1742.
Returned on the family interest at Plympton, Edgcumbe in 1717 went into opposition with Walpole, ‘a most intimate friend’. When the opposition charges of corruption against Lord Cadogan were considered by a committee of the whole House on 4 June 1717, Walpole was successful in getting Edgcumbe chosen as chairman, instead of a government supporter. In 1720 he was entrusted by Walpole with the details of his secret negotiations with Sunderland and the Prince of Wales, indiscreetly supplying daily accounts of them to Pulteney, whose exclusion from them was the beginning of his estrangement from Walpole. On Walpole’s return to office, Edgcumbe secured a seat at the Treasury board, from which he was promoted in 1724 to be joint vice-treasurer of Ireland, worth £3,000 a year. In 1725 Carteret, seeking to make his peace with Walpole, asked Edgcumbe to act as his intercessor, knowing, he wrote, ‘your just and tender attachment to the person concerned’ and trusting ‘that you would be glad to facilitate my coming into that friendship, which you yourself are so happily engaged in.’1
During the 1727 election campaign Edgcumbe made a ‘grand tour’ of Cornwall, reporting ‘success in every place where I have been’. Shortly before the next general election, Walpole chose him to succeed the 1st Lord Falmouth as chief government manager in Cornwall, making him the ‘disposer of the government’s money for buying the Cornish elections for Members in Parliament.’ Though he was successful in 1734, in 1741 the combined interests of the Prince of Wales and Lord Falmouth, together, it was alleged, with his own ‘indolence and unskillfulness’, led to unprecedented losses in the Cornish boroughs, which were one of the main causes of Walpole’s fall. According to Falmouth, (to Frederick, Prince of Wales, 12 May 1741) ‘there will now be but three Members returned to the ensuing Parliament from this county by his agency’.2 Turned out of his office by Pulteney, who ‘particularly hated’ him as ‘a particular friend’ of Walpole’s, Edgcumbe was made a peer to prevent his being examined by the secret committee of the House about the management of the Cornish elections. He was also appointed lord lieutenant of Cornwall by the King without consulting Pulteney, who did not conceal his annoyance. Regaining office in 1743, he managed the Cornish elections in 1747 and 1754, in association with the 2nd Lord Falmouth. He had a natural interest in one seat only at Plympton, near Mount Edgcumbe. But in his capacity as manager of the government interest in Cornwall he was able to return two Members for Lostwithiel, for a time two for Grampound, and usually one each for Fowey, Penryn, and Bossiney, besides having a part-interest in Mitchell. His electoral influence in Cornwall, unlike that of the Boscawens, was the consequence rather than the cause of his being put in charge of the government interest there. He died 22 Nov. 1758, commemorated by Horace Walpole as ‘one of the honestest and steady men in the world’.3
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. Walpole to Mann, 9 Aug. 1784; Chandler, vi. 137; Coxe, Walpole, i. 356-7; ii. 488; HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 33.
- 2. SP Dom. 36/2, ff. 147-8; HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 132; Stuart mss 219/91; Owen, Pelhams, 8-9; Royal archives.
- 3. Horace Walpole's ms poems, ex. inf. W.S. Lewis; Walpole to Mann, 15 Apr., 29 July 1742, 27 Nov. 1758.