DELAVAL, Francis Blake (1727-71), of Ford Castle and Seaton Delaval, Northumb.
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Family and Education
b. 16 Mar. 1727, 1st s. of Francis Blake Delaval, M.P., and bro. of John Hussey Delaval. educ. Westminster 1737-44; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1747. m. 8 Mar. 1750, Lady Isabella Powlett, wid. of Lord Nassau Powlett, M.P., da. and coh. of Thomas, 6th Earl of Thanet, s.p. suc. fa. 9 Dec. 1752; K.B. 23 Mar. 1761.
One of the ‘gay Delavals’, he was ‘by his wit and gallantry, his dissipation and extravagance ... conspicuous among the men of fashion’.1 By 1755 his financial affairs had become so involved that a private act of Parliament was obtained (29 Geo. II, cap. 49)
for the sale or mortage of portions of his estates, and £45,000 was raised by mortgage on Ford castle for the payment of his debts. The management of his property was also placed in the hands of his brother John ... who paid Sir Francis an annuity of £4,000 for the rest of his life.2
Defeated in 1749 at Andover, Delaval stood again for the borough in 1754. Newcastle, attacked by the Delavals at Newark, tried in turn at Andover to keep out Delaval
who has no pretence to come thither. Mr. Delaval has attacked so many old and settled interests in other places, that I should imagine all those who have established interests in particular towns are concerned to prevent his succeeding wherever he makes his attack.4
And when Delaval was returned Dupplin classed his seat as a loss and him as an Opposition Whig. When Fox was appointed secretary of state, he sent J. H. Delaval his parliamentary whip; and presumably by then Francis also had joined the Government side: in 1763 he wrote of the ‘zeal and alacrity’ with which ‘I served his late Majesty when once I professed it’.5 In May 1758 he went as a volunteer with the expedition against St. Cas.
In 1760 Delaval, faced at Andover by ‘seven candidates in array’, turned to Newcastle, who on 23 Sept. wrote to Lord Portsmouth:6
I don’t presume to interfere; but as Mr. Delaval only desired that I would acquaint your Lordship that his conduct in Parliament has been very zealous for the King’s service, and such as I have entirely approved, I could not refuse doing him that justice.
In the House Delaval’s interventions in debate were few and futile. Thus on 19 Nov. 1761, after the Queen’s jointure had been voted, he ‘made a panegyric’ on her virtues, which, remarks Harris, was ‘at least superfluous, as we all knew full as well of her Majesty’s virtues as himself’. On 9 Dec., in the debate on the German war, Delaval ‘with great hesitation and blundering’ said he was against it, and attacked Pitt; and after Pitt had spoken, tried, in an impatient House, to explain himself, ‘very faltering and bowing’.7 After this he seems to have subsided as a speaker. In Bute’s list of December 1761 he is marked ‘Fox’, yet on 13 Nov. 1762 Newcastle still classed him as a friend.
Provision for his brother Edward, fellow of Pembroke, Cambridge, a chemist and optician of distinction, and in 1762 candidate for the chair of modern history and languages, became for a time the pivot of Delaval’s politics. Fox wrote to Bute, 4 Nov. 1762:8
Sir Francis Delaval very strangely got the Duke of Newcastle to write to Lord Egremont recommending his brother to the professorship of modern history in Cambridge,9 which he deserves, and which Sir Francis is infinitely eager to procure for him. I have spoke to Lord Egremont and hope it was very properly refused only because of the recommendation.
Sir Francis is now very explicit with me, and indeed I have ever had reason to think he was inclined to me. If his Majesty should be so good as to give it him, I think it will secure his service.
And on 16 Nov.:10
You’ll see Sir Francis Delaval tomorrow, if you can oblige him you’ll have a friend steady and more useful perhaps than a wiser man.
Bute, bound by a previous promise, assured Delaval that his brother should ‘have something in the university equal to the professorship of modern languages’. On 1 Dec. 1762 Delaval voted with the Government against the motion to postpone the consideration of the peace preliminaries; and was counted by Fox among the Members in favour of them. Still, nothing was done for his brother: on 5 Apr. 1763 Delaval complained of Bute’s behaviour as ‘very inadequate’;11 and to George Grenville, 14 June, of ‘the unequal returns’ he had met with from ministers.12 In the autumn of 1763 he was classed by Jenkinson as ‘pro’; but to Grenville’s letter inviting his attendance at the opening of Parliament he replied, 24 Oct.:13
I have received your letter, in which you are pleased to say that ‘many of my friends hope to see me in town’. I should be very glad to know who my friends are, having never in this Administration been able to find one.
You persuade yourself that my zeal for the public service will induce me to give my attendance in the House at this critical conjuncture.
My zeal for the public service has induced me to spend many thousand pounds in support of a parliamentary interest.
My zeal for the public service did induce me to go in person against the enemies of his Majesty.
My zeal for the public service did induce me to hazard and lose two brothers (very dear to their family) in the service of their country.14
In consequence of this zeal I thought myself entitled, at this time last year, to ask a small favour of the ministry, and easily obtained an absolute promise. My services were then desired in a stronger manner than by a mere form. They never more thought of me ‘till now that they have occasion to apply to me again for fresh services.
It is for these reasons that I have taken the liberty to ask the favour of you to tell me whom, under these circumstances, you mean I should look upon as my friends.
Grenville replied the same day15 that if Delaval
will do him the honour to call upon him for a quarter of an hour this evening Mr. Grenville will endeavour to answer and explain to him the question which Sir Francis Delaval asks in his letter.
In a secret service list drawn up early in 1764, a pension of £300 p.a. appears against Edward Delaval;16it was continued during the Rockingham Administration;17 and in Robinson’s secret service accounts for 1779-8218—a hardy perennial on view whenever such a list is available.
Obviously mollified, Delaval did not vote against Government over general warrants;19 nor against the Rockinghams over the repeal of the Stamp Act; nor against the Chatham Administration over the reduction of the land tax. In the summer of 1765 Rockingham classed him as ‘doubtful’, at the end of 1766 as ‘Swiss’, Townshend in January 1767 as ‘doubtful’, and Newcastle, 2 Mar. 1767, as ‘Administration’. In 1768 Delaval stood once more for Andover; the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland went to ‘canvass the town’ for him,20 and the Duke tried to secure for him Grafton’s support.21 Delaval’s friend the actor Foote, in a letter written to him about this time,22 refers to ‘the imminent political breach between you and the governor of Andover’ (possibly the mayor); and Delaval was defeated. Towards the close of his life he became a ‘patriot’, a supporter of Wilkes, and member of the Bill of Rights Society,23 but was not trusted by them and thought by Wilkes a spy of the court.24 In 1769 he was active in the north procuring petitions against the Middlesex election.
Delaval died on 7 Aug. 1771. Horace Walpole wrote to Mason, 9 Sept. 1771: ‘... when there are columns in every paper on Sir Francis Delaval ... who would be a hero of these times?’