METHUEN, Paul (c.1672-1757), of Bishops Cannings, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1672, 1st s. of John Methuen, M.P., ld. chancellor of Ireland, by Mary, da. of Seacole Chivers of Quemerford, Wilts. unm. suc. fa. 1706; K.B. 27 May 1725.
Dep. to his fa. as envoy to Portugal 1694-5 and 1696-7; envoy to Portugal 1697-1706, to Spain 1705-6, to Turin 1706; ambassador, Portugal 1706-8; ld. of Admiralty 1709-10; ld. of Treasury 1714-17; P.C. 29 Oct. 1714; ambassador, Spain 1715; sec. of state 1716-17; comptroller of the Household 1720-5; treasurer of the Household 1725-30.
The grandson of a wealthy Wiltshire clothier and the son of the eponymous negotiator of the famous treaty with Portugal, Methuen followed his father’s profession till 1708, when he entered Parliament for Devizes, subsequently representing Brackley on the 1st Duke of Bridgwater’s interest. Appointed to the Treasury at George I’s accession, he was sent to Spain to negotiate a new commercial treaty, but soon returned on grounds of health, leaving negotiations to be completed by George Bubb, better known as Dodington. In 1716 he became acting secretary of state during the absence of James Stanhope with the King in Hanover, succeeding to the southern department on Townshend’s dismissal in December. In April 1717 he followed Townshend and Walpole into opposition, speaking against the Government in a foreign affairs debate, 17 Dec. 1718, and on the peerage bill in 1719. Returning to office with Townshend and Walpole in 1720, first as comptroller and then as treasurer of the Household, with the duty of laying royal messages before the Commons, he was one of the leading Administration spokesmen. This did not prevent him from opposing Bolingbroke’s government-sponsored petition for a pardon in 1725, in what Knatchbull describes as a ‘long, heavy, dull, ill-natured speech’.1 He resigned with Townshend in 1730, according to Hervey on the presence of
disliking the conduct of the Court in general; but his true reason was his disapprobation, not of any actual sin, but their sin of omission in not making him secretary of state
for which Townshend had recommended him in place of the Duke of Newcastle. Hervey continues:
The character of this man was a very singular one. It was a mixture of Spanish formality and English roughness, strongly seasoned with pride, and not untinctured with honour. He was romantic ... to the highest degree of absurdity; odd, impracticable, passionate, and obstinate; a thorough coxcomb and a little mad. As to the affair of party, he called himself always a Whig. After he had quitted he went too often to court to be well with the Opposition, and too seldom to Parliament to be well with either side, a conduct which procured him the agreeable mixed character of courtier without profit, and a country gentleman without popularity.2
Methuen emerged from his retirement in 1732 to make a ‘very handsome speech’ in defence of his friend, Sir Robert Sutton, accused of complicity in the frauds on the Charitable Corporation.3 Next year he spoke and voted against the excise bill, urging that it should be deferred to another session. In 1737, after consulting Bubb Dodington, he refused to vote for an increase in the Prince of Wales’s allowance, despite heavy pressure from Frederick;
but, at the importunate and repeated request of his Royal Highness, and reflecting that he had not attended the House so as to give one single vote since the excise bill, he was prevailed on to promise his Royal Highness to be absent, as he used to be.4
He voted against the Spanish Convention in 1739 but did not vote on the place bill in 1740, when he was included in a ministerial list of opposition Members absent on the Address, 18 Nov. In the next Parliament he moved the appointment of Dr. Lee as chairman of the elections committee, 16 Dec. 1741, did not vote in the subsequent recorded divisions, and was classed by the Government in 1746 as doubtful.5 As a result of the Duke of Bridgwater’s death he lost his Brackley seat in 1747, not standing again. He died 11 Apr. 1757, leaving a fine collection of pictures and a fortune estimated at a quarter of a million, of which £50,000 in guineas was deposited in his house.