SMYTHE, Philip, 2nd Visct. Strangford [I] (1634-1708), of Westenhanger and Sturry, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. 23 Mar. 1634, o.s. of Thomas, 1st Visct. Strangford [I] of Westenhanger by Lady Barbara Sydney, da. of Robert Sydney, 1st Earl of Leicester. educ. privately; travelled abroad 1655-9. m. (1) 22 Aug. 1650, his cos. Lady Isabella Sydney (d.1663), da. of Robert Sydney 2nd Earl of Leicester, 1da.; (2) lic. 14 Nov. 1663, Mary (d.1730), da. of George Porter, gentleman of the privy chamber to Queen Catherine of Braganza, 5s. (4 d.v.p.), 3da. suc. fa. 30 June 1635.1
J.p. Kent July 1660-80, Apr. 1688-9, commr. for assessment Aug. 1660-3, 1664-80, maj. vol. horse Oct. 1660, lt.-col. militia ft. Oct. 1660-1; freeman, Canterbury 1679; dep. lt. Kent 1680-9.2
Gent. of the privy chamber 1672-85.3
Lord Strangford was the great-grandson of the celebrated ‘Customer Smythe’, who received a grant of Westenhanger, four miles from Hythe, from Queen Elizabeth. His grandfather sat for the borough in three Parliaments. Strangford succeeded as an infant to an estate of £4,000 p.a. His mother, who had re-married Sir Thomas Colepeper, lieutenant of Dover Castle, died when he was eight, and he passed under the guardianship first of Sir Thomas Fotherby, and then in 1648 of his uncle, the second Earl of Leicester. He continued to live at Penshurst after his marriage to his guardian’s daughter until 1653, when Leicester, disgusted with his drunken habits and disreputable companions, washed his hands of him. In 1659 Strangford was arrested at Canterbury with his enterprising half-brother and steward, Thomas Colepeper, on a charge of complicity in Booth’s rising, but released on bail after a month.4
Strangford visited Hythe in person before the general election of 1660, and made sufficient interest for the electors to rebuff the nominees of Edward Montagu I. Doubtless he voted with the Court in the Convention, but he served on no committees and made no speeches. On 17 May he was given leave to go into the country. He probably did not stand in 1661, and resigned his militia commission in October. In 1663 he confessed to his brother-in-law, Algernon Sydney, who still hoped to reclaim him, that he had been perpetually drunk. His tavern companions robbed and cheated him, so that in the earlier years of the Cavalier Parliament an estate bill to enable him to sell land for payment of debts was almost an annual event. He may have intended to stand for Canterbury in 1679, but if so his plans were wrecked by doubts over his religion. His second wife was a Roman Catholic, who brought up their children in her religion, and in June some letters to Strangford himself from her uncle, a priest, were intercepted. He seems to have been dropped from the commission of the peace, though he continued to act as deputy lieutenant. In December 1687, he gave enthusiastically affirmative answers to the lord lieutenant’s questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws. ‘He will comply with his Majesty in them all, and [not] only so, but in all other things the King shall judge for his service.’ He was restored to the commission of the peace, but lost office at the Revolution. Further land sales followed, and at his death in August 1708 his family was left almost destitute. His son, the 3rd viscount, conformed to the Church of England in 1714, and was granted ‘a poor peer’s pension’ by the Irish House of Lords. The next member of the family to sit at Westminster was the 7th viscount, the original of Disraeli’s Coningsby, who was returned for Canterbury in 1841.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / Basil Duke Henning
This biography is based on E. B. de Fonblanque, Lives of the Lords Strangford, 85-100.