YORKE, Hon. Philip (1720-90), of Wrest, Beds.
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Family and Education
b. 9 Dec. 1720, 1st s. of Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, and bro. of Hon. Charles, John and Joseph Yorke. educ.Dr. Newcome’s, Hackney; Corpus Christi, Camb. 1737. m. 22 May 1740, Lady Jemima Campbell, da. of John, 3rd Earl of Breadalbane [S], 2da. She suc. gd.-fa. as Marchioness Gray 5 June 1740. suc. fa. as 2nd Earl 6 Mar. 1764.
Teller of the Exchequer 1738-d.; ld. lt. Cambs. 1757-d.; P.C. 17 Dec. 1760; high steward, Cambridge Univ. 1764-d.
Before Philip Yorke was 21 his father, Lord Hardwicke, had provided him with a life sinecure which by 1782 was worth £7,000 a year, married him to a great heiress, and returned him for Reigate. In his first Parliament he was chosen to second the Address in 1743, to move it in 1744, and to be a manager of Lord Lovat’s trial in 1747. He also spoke for the Government on the continuing of British troops to Flanders in January 1744 and on the Hanoverians in April 1746. Between December 1743 and April 1745 he kept a diary of debates in both Houses, which has been described as ‘the most trustworthy and impartial authority on the parliamentary history of the period’.1
In 1747 Yorke was chosen by the general meeting of the county to stand for Cambridgeshire, where his father’s estate of Wimpole and near which his wife’s of Wrest were situated. Though no opposition was expected, his father took the precaution of returning him again for Reigate, plying him with advice, from the care of his health to the question of treating the freeholders. ‘You can’t drink’, Lord Hardwicke wrote, ‘and need not do it much yourself. If you find yourself hot and dry, drink negus, I mean wine and warm water. And be sure to take care that your bed and sheets are in all places well aired’. On treating he was to be guided by Lord Montfort, who, as Henry Bromley, had represented the county in the last two Parliaments and was acting as Yorke’s manager. Montfort decided that treating was essential, with the result that Yorke’s return cost his father over £2,000—a ‘monstrous’ sum, Hardwicke complained, ‘for an election without any opposition’.2
Though Hardwicke could bring his eldest son into Parliament, he could not make him a politician. An ample income, poor health, and bookish tastes, combined to disincline Philip Yorke (from 1754 Lord Royston) for an active public life. His ruling passion was collecting historical documents. Advising Horace Mann to cultivate Yorke, Horace Walpole wrote, 8 Sept. 1757:
That family is very powerful; the eldest brother, Lord Royston, is historically curious and political: if, without its appearing too forced, you could at any time send him uncommon letters, papers, manifestoes, and things of that sort, it might do you good service.
He edited Sir Dudley Carleton’s Letters (1757) and Miscellaneous State Papers (1778), published Walpoliana (1783), a collection of anecdotes about Sir Robert Walpole, and annotated Burnet.
He died 16 May 1790.