BATHURST, Sir Benjamin (1638-1704), of Paulerspury, Northants. and St. James’s Sq., Westminster
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 3 Oct. 1638, 13th but 6th surv. s. of George Bathurst (d. 1651) of Theddingworth, Leics. by 1st w. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Edward Villiers of Hothorpe, Northants. m. June 1682, Frances (d. 1727), da. of Sir Allen Apsley† of Westminster and Apsley, Suss., 6s. 2da. (3s. 1da. d.v.p.). Kntd. 17 Jan. 1682.1
Freeman, E.I. Co. 1676, cttee. 1684–6, 1690–5, 1696–8, dep. gov. 1686–8, 1695–6, gov. 1688–90; asst. R. African Co. 1677–9, 1684, 1687–8, 1690–5, 1700, dep. gov. 1680–1, sub. gov. 1682–3, 1685–6, 1689.2
Alderman, London 1677, 1683–6, 1703; freeman, New Romney 1685, Brackley Sept.–Oct. 1688.3
Commr. for Duke of York’s revenue 1683–5; treasurer to Princess Anne 1683–1702, to Duke of York 1684–5, to Prince George of Denmark 1683–1702; treasurer and receiver-gen. to Duke of Gloucester 1698–1700; commr. of horse to Prince George 1687–1702, to Queen Anne Apr.–July 1702; cofferer of Household 1702–d.4
Commr. Christ’s Hosp. by 1684, Greenwich Hosp. 1695, land bank 1696.5
Having amassed considerable wealth as a merchant, Bathurst had become a prominent figure in London’s commercial world by the early 1680s, and his extensive loans to the government earned him a knighthood in 1682. His involvement in the financial affairs of the Duke of York gave him close proximity to the court and in 1682 he married a close friend of the Duke’s daughters. Upon Princess Anne’s marriage the following year, his wife had little difficulty in obtaining for him the post of treasurer in the princess’s household, and with his City connexions and financial dexterity he quickly became one of the royal couple’s small circle of intimate friends. He shouldered responsibility for the management of the household and was always addressed by Anne in her letters as ‘your very affectionate friend’. Away from London he made Paulerspury, the Northamptonshire manor he purchased in or just before 1687, his principal country residence.6
In the 1690 election Bathurst offered his services to the mayor and jurats of New Romney where in 1685 he had become a freeman. As a man of proven Tory disposition he promised he would ‘very heartily stick to the interest of the Church as well as to the preservation of all our liberties and properties as Englishmen’. But despite promises to use his City and court connexions to further the interests of the port or any member of its corporation, Bathurst’s offer was not taken up. He remained particularly active in the East India Company after his period of governorship ended in 1690, standing security for £20,000 of their stock in 1691, while his personal stockholding was put at £7,250 in 1692. In November 1694 he was one of a committee of nine set up by the company to investigate charges that Sir Thomas Cooke* had, while governor, used the company’s money to bribe MPs. When the allegations came before a Commons committee early in March 1695, Bathurst testified that Cooke had repeatedly side-stepped his requests for accounts of the expenditure, and that when he found £30,000 had been ‘charged for secret services’ he had had ‘some warm discourse’ with Cooke who had reminded Bathurst of his oath to the company to maintain their ‘secrets’. To this Bathurst had replied that he ‘was also bound by oath to be true to the interest of the company’. He alleged further that Cooke had told him that some £90,000 in cash was ‘to gratify some persons in case the bill [for confirming the company’s charter] should pass’. Bathurst himself appears to have been above suspicion, there having been but modest outlays from the company’s funds during his own governorship.7
During the earlier part of 1695 Bathurst purchased from Lord Newburgh’s (Charles Livingston†) widow the manor of Cirencester in Gloucestershire, seemingly with the intention of entering Parliament. When in the summer of that year a dissolution began to seem inevitable, his friend the Earl of Marlborough (John Churchill†) encouraged him to stand, telling him, ‘I need say nothing to you how much it may happen to be for the Princess’s service to have you of the House’. He initially proposed standing with another local gentleman, Henry Ireton*, against the existing MPs, but then withdrew. After the election he nevertheless took measures to gain popularity in the borough, including the procurement of a royal warrant allowing the inhabitants to hold two fairs each year.8
Soon after the recoinage in 1696 Sarah Marlborough notified Princess Anne that Bathurst ‘did cheat her extremely’ in the management of her financial affairs. He had apparently remitted to the princess and her husband some £7,000 or £8,000 of a larger sum he had been holding on their behalf, at the old rate of 30s. per guinea instead of at the new rate of 21s. 6d. By questioning Bathurst about these transactions and causing him some discomfiture, Lady Marlborough claimed to have prevented him from embezzling the princess further. Anne was obviously apprised of Bathurst’s activities but cautioned Sarah to keep quiet, presumably not wanting to harm her friendship with Bathurst’s wife.
However, in April 1697 she discovered that Bathurst was selling offices in her household ‘in a most shameful manner, which has given me a much greater abhorrence of him than ever’. When confronted on the subject, Bathurst claimed that the money, amounting to several hundred pounds, had been given voluntarily, but the princess was not fooled: as she informed Sarah, ‘it was very plain by his way of speaking to see that what he said was false’. Despite this humiliation, the question of Bathurst’s dismissal did not arise, presumably on account of Anne’s closeness to his wife, and he continued to feature in the princess’s correspondence as ‘your very affectionate friend’. More surprisingly still, he retained the confidence of the Marlboroughs, handling a large investment of theirs in the East India Company in November 1697.9
Soon after her accession Anne appointed Bathurst cofferer of the royal household, a place worth £2,000 p.a., while in May 1702 there was a report, albeit false, that he was to be created an earl. In June, amid preparations for the election, he joined with a fellow Tory, Sir Walter Clarges, 1st Bt.*, in the Westminster contest, only to desist when offered a safe seat in the Court interest at New Romney. Though he could invoke a considerable interest at Cirencester, he had been quite content to allow his steward, Charles Coxe*, to take advantage of it. During the Queen’s visit to Oxford University in August he was one of the household members to receive the degree of Doctor of Civil Law. He retained ‘a considerable stock’ in the East India Company, but was by now far too preoccupied with his court duties to give much attention to the company’s affairs. In March 1703 he stood proxy for Marlborough at the Duke’s installation as a Knight of the Garter. In the Commons his activity was confined almost entirely to the role of spectator. In mid-March 1704 Secretary Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) listed him as a potential supporter in the event of proceedings concerning the ‘Scotch Plot’.10
Bathurst died after suffering a week of ‘high fever’ on 27 Apr. 1704. His sister-in-law Lady Wentworth commented that he had ‘not been well a great while but thought to wrestle with it’. He left the bulk of his estates in Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire to his eldest son, Allen*, while to his two surviving younger sons he bequeathed lands in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Lincolnshire and Middlesex, and to his daughter he left £10,000. His executors included his kinsman (through his wife’s Fortrey relations) William Bromley II* and his ‘nephew’ George Bohun* with whom he had been involved in the East India Company. The monumental inscription to him at Paulerspury, where he was buried, glossed over his lapses of honesty in managing the royal finances with a tribute to ‘his singular prudence and economy’. Typically, however, the Duchess of Marlborough could not forget. In an aide-mémoire written some years later she recalled that Bathurst had left a fortune of
near £10,000 a year to his family, all raised from about fifteen hundred in the princess’s service which is a full proof of his taking money and doing all the wrong things in his power, for he had a great many children to bring up and the lawful profits of his employment could not amount to above eight hundred or a thousand pounds a year.11
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. IGI, Northants.; Baker, Northants. ii. 203, 207; B. Bathurst, Letters of Two Queens, 145–6, 277.
- 2. Info. from Prof. H. Horwitz; K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 378.
- 3. J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 26; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 291; 1687–9, p. 269.
- 4. Add. 24927; Bathurst, 164–5; CSP Dom. 1683–4, p. 182; 1699–1700, p. 49; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 440; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 160, 192.
- 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 1053; Add. 10129, f. 232; CJ, xii. 508.
- 6. Bathurst, 164–5, passim; BL, Loan 57/71; Baker, 202.
- 7. Centre Kentish Stud. New Romney bor. recs. NR/Aep/56/3, Bathurst to mayor and jurats, 15 Feb. 1690; Luttrell Diary, 96; Add. 22185, f. 53; Debates and Procs. 1694–5, pp. 8, 10, 68; CJ, xi. 268–9.
- 8. Bigland’s Colls. (Bristol Glos. Arch. Soc.: Glos. Rec. Ser. ii. pt. i), 363; HMC Bathurst, 3–4; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. vii. 271–2; CSP Dom. 1695, pp. 93, 117.
- 9. Add. 61455, f. 34; 61415, ff. 89–90; E. Gregg, Queen Anne, 109–10; Bathurst, 234–5.
- 10. Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 276–7, 418; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 108; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 223; BL, Trumbull Alphab. mss 50, Thomas Bateman to Sir William Trumbull*, 15 June 1702; Boyer, Anne Annals, i. 77, ii. 2; Add. 22852, f. 123.
- 11. Bathurst, 256; PCC 87 Ash; J. A. Hankey, Hist. Apsley and Bathurst Fams. 55; Baker, 207; Add. 61415, f. 103.