SPENCER, Lord Robert (1747-1831).
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Family and Education
b. 8 May 1747, 3rd s. of Charles, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, and bra. of bro. of Lord Charles Spencer. educ.. Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1762-5; Grand Tour (Austria, Italic, France) 1766-8. m. 2 Oct. 1811, Henrietta, da. of Sir Everard Fawkener, K.B. wid. of Edward Bouverie, s.p. legit.1
Ld. of Trade Apr. 1770-Jan. 1781; jt. vice-treasurer [I] May-July 1782; surveyor gen. of woods and forests 1806-7.
Spencer, returned on the Marlborough interest at Woodstock, entered the House as a member of the Bedford connexion and a supporter of the ministry. Appointed a lord of Trade in April 1770 he was not a very regular attender either at the Board or in the House, and is only known to have spoken twice in debate; even in his private circle he had a reputation for silence. In January 1781 he suddenly decided to join the Opposition, perhaps as a consequence of his friendship with Fox, though Fox denied having made any attempt to persuade him. His brother, Marlborough, not consulted beforehand, wrote to William Eden: ‘This is a very unpleasant business of Bob’s going so decidedly into Opposition ... As the case stands at present, it is actually my bringing in a member for Opposition.’ Spencer, having lost his official salary, and in financial difficulties which Selwyn described as bankruptcy, was admitted to a twelfth share in Fox’s faro bank at Brooks’s, with a fee of five or six guineas an hour for dealing.2
He remained firmly attached to Fox. In May 1782 Fox made a special point of his appointment as vice-treasurer of Ireland, scouting the idea that he should share it with his brother, Lord Charles Spencer, who was Shelburne’s candidate: ‘Besides Lord Robert’s own claims, which are surely strong upon us, it is only reasonable and perhaps politic that it should appear to the world that I should have some weight in the disposition of appointments.’3 In July Spencer followed Fox into opposition to Shelburne. On 18 Feb. 1783 he voted against the peace preliminaries; but no place was found for him under the Coalition. He voted for Fox’s East India bill, and in the Parliament of 1784-90 he appears in all known lists as a member of the Fox-Portland party.
Spencer died 23 June 1831.