KNATCHBULL, Sir Edward, 4th Bt. (c.1674-1730), of Mersham Hatch, nr. Ashford, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. c.1674, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Knatchbull, 3rd Bt., by Mary, da. of Sir Edward Dering, 2nd Bt., M.P. m. 22 Dec. 1698, Alice. da. of John Wyndham of Norrington, Wilts., 5s. 3da. suc. fa. c.1712.
Sub-commr. of prizes 1702-4; muster master gen. of marines 1704-9.
Knatchbull came of one of the leading parliamentary families of Kent, which his grandfather and his uncle, the 1st and 2nd Bts., had represented. ‘In the Queen’s time’, his first cousin, the 1st Lord Egmont, writes, ‘he was a pretty warm Tory, but gradually came off from violence’.1 Returned for his county under Anne, he lost his seat in 1715 but recovered it in 1722, when he resumed the parliamentary diary which he had started in the late reign. By this time he had become a moderate Tory, keenly interested in parliamentary business and procedure, prepared on occasion to vote against his own party. During his first session he was the author of an Act empowering separate parishes to set up workhouses; in a debate on frauds on the collection of the tobacco duty in Scotland, he proposed a helpful amendment which Walpole accepted; and shortly afterwards he with a number of other Tories voted with the Government against an opposition motion on the same subject, because it would have broken the Act of Union (16, 21, 29 Jan. and 8 Feb. 1723). As time went on the diary shows an increasing admiration for Walpole’s ability, coupled, after 1725, when Pulteney and his friends went into opposition, with a corresponding dislike of the personal attacks made on Walpole by the discontented Whigs. Nevertheless he adhered to his party till the last session, when he voted against them on the Address; abstained on two subsequent opposition motions; and finally voted with ‘a few other Tories’ against a motion personally attacking Walpole, ‘for I saw plainly there was nothing warranted by the evidence to justify the personal question’ (17 Jan., 14 and 21 Feb., 7 Mar. 1727).
When Knatchbull came to make his preparations for the general election of 1727, he found that in Kent ‘his old friends were shy of his inclination to side with the Government and the Whigs declared they would choose men that had always been staunch to the party and, as they said, no turncoats’.2 Shortly before the dissolution he wrote to Walpole through the Duke of Dorset, one of the heads of the Whig interest in Kent, explaining that he was meeting with great opposition and that ‘the ground of this opposition is pretty well known to be my zeal for the public service, and my particular attachment to you’. He went on to say that the Duke of Dorset had promised, if he would stand down for Kent, to bring him in for Hythe should a vacancy occur there; but that as that eventuality was problematical he was writing to ask Walpole ‘to speak in such a plain manner to the Duke of Dorset and my Lord Leicester [lord lieutenant of Kent] that they may openly act for me in this election’. He concluded:
I will ... detain you no longer but to desire you would remember if I am deprived of a seat in Parliament this one who without any other motive but the public good and a true love for you has ended his days in Parliament for your service, which although it may be a crime with some, sure I am with me it is such for which I shall die an impenitent sinner.3
In the end it was decided that he should not stand for Kent but that he should be brought in by the Government for Lostwithiel, which he says ‘was directed to be done by the King on the Duke of Dorset mentioning to him the hardship I had in Kent ... Sir R. Walpole concurred in this, and executed the King’s commands in my behalf with great willingness’ (8 Mar. 1728).
In the new Parliament Knatchbull consistently supported the Administration, except on an opposition motion to make the holding of a pension incompatible with a seat in the House, when he abstained, feeling that ‘they should not have divided on such a popular point’ (16 Feb. 1730). He was also an active member of the gaols committee. He died 3 Apr. 1730, having, Egmont writes,
caught his illness the long night that the House sat upon the Dunkirk inquiry, for he then went away fainting about twelve, and though the fever did not show itself immediately, so that he went abroad the very next day, and continued so to do and to attend the House, yet he was not right well, and at last fell down about 10 days since ... He was coming into a good post when he died, for the Court had an esteem for him, and he latterly attached himself to Sir Robert Walpole. The King told my wife this night at the drawing room he was very sorry to hear of his death.4
His parliamentary diary is an important source of information on the proceedings and procedure of the House of Commons 1722-30.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
The references in the text are to The Parliamentary Diary of Sir Edward Knatchbull, ed. A. N. Newman (R. Hist. Soc. Cam. 3rd ser. xciv).