TOWNSHEND, Hon. George (1724-1807), of Raynham, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 28 Feb. 1724, 1st s. of Hon. Charles Townshend (afterwards 3rd Visct. Townshend, d.1764) and bro. of Hon. Charles Townshend. educ. Eton c.1740; St. John’s, Camb. 1741; Grand Tour. m. (1) 19 Dec. 1751, Lady Charlotte Compton, s.j.Baroness Ferrers (d. 14 Sept. 1770), da. of James, 5th Earl of Northampton, 4s. 4da.; (2) 19 May 1773, Anne, da. of Sir William Montgomery, 1st Bt., of Magpie Hill, Tweeddale, 2s. 4da. suc. fa. as 4th Visct. 12 Mar. 1764; cr. Mq. Townshend 31 Oct. 1787.
Joined army 1743; capt. 7 Drag. Gds. Apr. 1745, 20 Ft. May 1745; a.-d.-c. to Duke of Cumberland Feb. 1746-8; capt. and lt.-col. 1 Ft. Gds. Feb. 1748-Nov. 1750 (ret.); col. May 1758; col. 64 Ft. June-Dec. 1759, 28 Ft. Oct. 1759-July 1773; P.C. 2 Dec. 1760; maj.-gen. 1761; lt.-gen. of the Ordnance Apr. 1763-Aug. 1767; ld. lt. [I] Aug. 1767-Sept. 1772; lt.-gen. 1770; master-gen. of the Ordnance Oct. 1772-Mar. 1782, Apr.-Dec. 1783; col. 2 Drag. Gds. 1773-d.; gen. 1782; ld. lt. Norf. 1792-d.; f.m. 1796.
Townshend joined the army in Flanders as a volunteer in the summer of 1743. According to an army officer he was ‘very good-natured as well as droll’ and ‘behaved with a good deal of spirit at the battle’ of Dettingen, but
does not like the army and is determined not to be of the profession, and says his father sent him only that he may get a commission, and so not need an allowance.1
Commissioned two years later, he became aide-de-camp to the Duke of Cumberland. In 1747, while serving in Flanders, he was put up by his father for Norfolk, which he represented, unopposed, on a compromise with the Tories, till he succeeded to the title. Horace Walpole describes him as
a very particular young man, who, with much oddness, some humour, no knowledge, great fickleness, greater want of judgement, and with still more disposition to ridicule, had once or twice promised to make a good speaker.
He is said to have been placed by his uncles, the Pelhams, with the Duke of Cumberland to counteract the influence of his mother, who hated Cumberland. But the treatment was unsuccessful, for his first recorded speech on the mutiny bill, in February 1749, was in support of the attack made on Cumberland by another young officer, Richard Lyttelton, whose charges against the Duke ‘were the more believed by the defection of ... one of his aide-de-camps’. On the mutiny bill next year he moved that commanding officers should be deprived of the power of punishing non-commissioned officers and private soldiers, which should be vested exclusively in courts martial. The motion, a scarcely veiled attack on Cumberland, supported by the Prince of Wales’s party, was defeated. At the end of 1750 he resigned from the army, apparently on being refused leave to stay in Norfolk to cultivate the Whig interest there.2 Connecting himself with the Prince of Wales, he moved on 4 Mar. 1751 ‘a long, inflammatory’ motion,3 drafted for him by Frederick’s chief adviser, Lord Egmont, on the case of General Anstruther. On the Prince’s death less than three weeks later, he made his peace with Pelham, but not with Cumberland, ‘drawing caricatures of him and his court’,4 as well as of other politicians. The first great English caricaturist, he died 14 Sept. 1807.