STANHOPE, Charles (1673-1760), of Elvaston, Derbys.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



6 July 1717 - 1722
1722 - 1734
1734 - 1741

Family and Education

b. 1673, 2nd surv. s. of John Stanhope of Elvaston, Derbys. by Dorothy, da. and coh. of Charles Agard of Foston, Derbys.; bro. of William Stanhope 1st Earl of Harrington. educ. I. Temple, called 1703. unm. suc. bro. Thomas Stanhope, M.P., to family estates 1730.

Offices Held

Under-sec. of state 1714-17; sec. to Treasury 1717-21; treasurer of the chamber 1722-7.


Charles Stanhope was the cousin and protégé of James Stanhope, 1st Earl Stanhope, who as secretary of state made him his under-secretary in 1714. On Walpole’s resignation in 1717 he served as secretary of the Treasury under Lords Stanhope and Sunderland successively and was brought into Parliament. When it was decided that Walpole should return to the Treasury, Charles Stanhope was recommended by Lord Stanhope for a vacancy on the Treasury board. But, as he subsequently wrote to the King,

some uneasiness not being removed which [Walpole] had conceived against me during the time of his quitting your service and my faithful and zealous continuance in it both as under secretary of state and secretary to the Treasury, it was ordered by your Majesty that Mr. [Henry] Pelham should come into the Treasury in the place designed for me, and that I should succeed him as treasurer of the Chamber.1

Before these changes had been carried into effect, the secret committee set up by the Commons to investigate the South Sea bubble presented a report charging Charles Stanhope, Sunderland, the first lord of the Treasury, and Aislabie, the chancellor of the Exchequer, with accepting bribes from the South Sea Company. The first charge against Stanhope related to a sum of £250,000, representing the proceeds of the sale of £50,000 South Sea stock credited to him by the books of the Sword Blade Company, the South Sea Company’s bankers. As one of the partners of the Sword Blade Company took full responsibility for this transaction, declaring that Stanhope’s name had been used without his knowledge or consent, this charge was withdrawn, though the facts left little doubt that the money was intended for bribing Members of Parliament.2 The second charge was embodied in a resolution moved on 28 Feb. 1721

that during the time that the proposal made by the South Sea Company and the bill relating thereto were depending in this House, £10,000 stock was taken in, or held, by Mr. Knight, late cashier of the said Company, for the benefit of Charles Stanhope Esq., one of the secretaries of the Treasury, and a Member of this House, without any valuable consideration paid, or security given, for the acceptance of or payment for the said stock; and that the difference arising by the advanced price thereof was paid to the said Charles Stanhope Esq., out of the cash of the South Sea Company.

The ‘difference’ paid to Stanhope was over £50,000. Stanhope’s reply to this charge was that

for some years past he had lodged all the money he was master of in Mr. Knight’s hands and whatever stock Mr. Knight had taken in for him he had paid a valuable consideration for it.

The ministry exerted all its influence on his behalf, The King himself was said to have written personally to two influential members of the secret committee, Sir Joseph Jekyll and Lord Molesworth, ‘desiring it as a favour that nearly concerned him that they would not vote against Mr. Stanhope’. A third member of the committee, William Sloper, absented himself from the division. A relation, Philip Dormer Stanhope, the future Lord Chesterfield, made an effective appeal to the memory of Lord Stanhope, who had died suddenly on 5 Feb., following an apoplectic fit in the House of Lords. By these means ‘between forty and fifty who could not bring themselves to give negatives were however prevailed to withdraw before the question’, which was lost by three votes.3

Stanhope’s acquittal aroused such indignation both in and outside Parliament that it was considered advisable to defer his appointment as treasurer of the chamber till the rising of the House. When that time came the King, in spite of Stanhope’s protests to him personally, decided that the appointment should be postponed again till the end of the Parliament ‘for fear of giving uneasiness to some favourers of the secret committee’. This, Carteret wrote to Newcastle, 22 Aug. 1721,

has mortified Lord Sunderland and me not a little, but when Mr. Walpole has taken upon him that all South Sea matters shall be kept out of Parliament next session we could not persist in a point which would bring us to answer for any ill event in Parliament that should happen upon such an occasion ... I wish Charles Stanhope took this matter more patiently than he does ... It is a blow to him, I confess, but not entire ruin, as he with too much melancholy calls it.4

The appointment was duly announced on the very day of the dissolution in 1722, Stanhope being subsequently returned by Newcastle for Aldborough as his seat at Milborne Port was not safe.

On George II’s accession Stanhope, whose claims were strongly pressed by his family, was recommended by Walpole for a seat on the Admiralty board. But the new King had found among his father’s papers a memorial by Sunderland, in the handwriting of his secretary, Charles Stanhope, making drastic proposals for dealing with him at the height of the quarrel in the royal family during the previous reign. One passage is said to have run:

Il faut l’enlever; et my Lord Berkeley [the 1st Lord of the Admiralty] le prendra sur un vaisseau, et le conduira en aucune partie du monde que votre Majesté l’ordonnera.

On this George II ‘absolutely refused to prefer him ... with some expressions of resentment against Sir Robert Walpole for having recommended him’.5 Stanhope however attributed his failure to secure office to Walpole, of whom he thenceforth became a secret enemy. So long as he owed his seat to Newcastle he supported the Government, voting for them in all recorded divisions, except on the civil list arrears in 1729; but when returned on his own account for Harwich in 1734 he went over to the Opposition, voting against the Government on the Prince of Wales’s allowance in 17376 and on the convention in 1739, though he withdrew on the motion for the removal of Walpole in February 1741. He did not stand again, dying 16 Mar. 1760, aged 87.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. 19 Aug. 1721, Add. 32686, f. 183.
  • 2. See SAWBRIDGE, Jacob, and CASWALL, Sir George.
  • 3. CJ, xix. 429-32, 437, 462; Chandler, vi. 236; Stuart mss 52/137; Thos. Brodrick to Ld. Midleton, 7 mar. 1721, Midleton mss; Coxe, Walpole, ii. 209.
  • 4. Add. 32686, ff. 181, 183, 186, 191.
  • 5. Coxe, i. 300; ii. 627 et seq.; Hervey, Mems. 849; see also Introductory Survey, p. 32.
  • 6. HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 90-1, 360.