GODOLPHIN, Hon. Francis (1678-1766).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1695 - 1698
Feb. - Nov. 1701
Dec. 1701 - 1708
1708 - 1710
1710 - 15 Sept. 1712

Family and Education

b. 3 Sept. 1678, o. s. of Sidney Godolphin†, 1st Earl of Godolphin, by Margaret, da. and coh. of Thomas Blagge of Horningsheath, Suff.  educ. privately (John Evelyn); Eton; King’s Coll. Camb. MA 1705.  m. lic. 23 Apr. 1698 (with £10,000), Lady Henrietta (d. 1733), da. and coh. of John Churchill†, 1st Earl of Marlborough, 2s. d.v.p. 4da. (1 d.v.p.).  Styled Visct. Rialton 1706–12; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Godolphin 15 Sept. 1712, uncle Charles Godolphin* 1720; cr. Baron Godolphin of Helston, Cornw. with spec. rem. to issue of his uncle Henry Godolphin, DD, 23 Jan. 1735.

Offices Held

Jt. registrar of Chancery 1698–1727; teller of the Exchequer 1699–1704; gent. of bedchamber to Prince George 1702–8; cofferer of Household 1704–11, 1714–23; ld. of bedchamber 1716–23; groom of the stole 1723–35; ld. justice 1723, 1726, 1727; PC 26 May 1723; ld. privy seal 1735–40.1

Ld. warden of stannaries 1705–8; high steward of duchy of Cornwall 1705–8; master forester of Dartmoor 1705–8; ld. lt. Oxon. 1715–35; high steward, Banbury 1718, Woodstock 1728; gov. Scilly Isles 1733–d.2


John Evelyn, the diarist, took a keen interest in the young Godolphin, being given responsibility for his early education. Much of Godolphin’s time as a youth was spent with the family of Mrs Boscawen, his maternal aunt, and with the Churchills at St. Albans. The ambitions held by Godolphin’s father for his son became clear in 1694 when, though Godolphin was only 16, his father attempted to obtain for him the lucrative office of teller of the Exchequer, informing the King that this was the only way in which he would be able to finance a tour of France to advance his son’s education. Lord Godolphin’s influence was, however, insufficient to gain his son this place in the face of opposition from Lords Sunderland and Shrewsbury.3

Godolphin entered Parliament for the family borough of Helston in 1695 when still some four years under age. He was classed as doubtful on the forecast of the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 upon the proposed council of trade. That his attendance of the 1695–6 session was limited is suggested by the fact that on 31 Mar. the Speaker informed the House that Godolphin had indicated his ‘readiness’ to sign the Association but had been unable to do so as he was ‘indisposed’. On 25 Nov. 1696 Godolphin voted against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†, but he appears to have been absent for much of the session as on 2 Jan. and 5 Mar. 1697 he was granted leave of absence. During the 1697–8 session he was involved in the proceedings concerning the estate of his great-uncle Sir William Godolphin† (see GODOLPHIN, Charles*), but he otherwise made little contribution to the Commons. Of more political significance was Godolphin’s marriage in the latter part of this session to the daughter of the Earl of Marlborough, a marriage which both signified and strengthened the political association between Marlborough and Godolphin’s father. Half of the £10,000 dowry Godolphin received upon his marriage was provided by Princess Anne. Godolphin did not stand at the 1698 election, being classed in September as a ‘Court’ supporter not re-elected to the new Commons. While out of the House Godolphin was appointed to his first official posts, being named joint registrar of the court of Chancery in June 1698 and in the following year securing the post of teller of the Exchequer. On 12 Mar. 1700 he petitioned the Commons, requesting that a clause be added to the bill for encouraging the discovery of lands put to Popish uses in order to prevent this measure affecting his inheritance from Sir William Godolphin. At the first general election of 1701 Godolphin returned to the Commons, gaining a seat at East Looe, and in February 1701 he was listed as likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. His only other notable contribution to this Parliament came on 6 June, when he again petitioned for a clause to exempt his inheritance from Sir William Godolphin from the superstitious lands bill. In the summer of 1701 Godolphin was blacklisted as having opposed preparations for war with France, but he was nevertheless returned to the second 1701 Parliament. In December 1701 Robert Harley* classed him as a Tory, and the accuracy of this judgment was evident on 26 Feb. 1702 when Godolphin supported the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the last session against the Whig ministers. Otherwise he made little impact on the House, though on 19 Mar. he petitioned once more in respect of his great-uncle’s estate.4

At the beginning of the new reign Godolphin’s father was appointed lord treasurer, and he himself received further advancement when named a gentleman of the bedchamber to Prince George. Godolphin retained his seat at Helston in 1702, and in this Parliament his loyalty to the ministry headed by his father began to temper his Tory sympathies. This much is suggested by his vote on 13 Feb. 1703 for agreeing to the Lords’ amendments to the bill enlarging the time for taking the Abjuration. That Godolphin was on good terms with his father-in-law was evident later that month when Marlborough named Godolphin as his heir, expressing in his will the wish that should he die Godolphin would be created Earl of Marlborough. Rumours in March 1703 that Godolphin would be created a peer in his own right proved to be ill-founded, but in the spring of 1704 he received a further mark of favour when his father and the Duchess of Marlborough secured for him the post of cofferer of the Household, a place worth £2,000 p.a. Given such intimate links to the Court and the ministry it is not surprising that on 30 Oct. 1704 Godolphin was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack, and that on 28 Nov. he did not vote for it.5

The alteration in the ministry that took place in early 1705 saw Godolphin appointed warden of the Stannaries and high steward of the duchy of Cornwall. At the 1705 election he stood at Cambridge University in an attempt to unseat two Tackers, but was defeated at the poll. The proposal that he stand at Exeter in order to defeat Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, did not come to fruition and he was instead returned for the family borough of Helston. An analysis of the new Commons classed Godolphin as a ‘High Church Courtier’, and on 25 Oct. he voted for the Court candidate for Speaker. On 22 Nov. he told against an amendment to a supply resolution continuing an additional force of 10,000 troops. This allegiance to the Court was deemed by contemporaries to have amounted to a switch of Godolphin’s loyalties from Tory to Whig. Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*) observed in December that during the hearings on controverted elections Godolphin ‘is so very generous as to attend more than can be expected, and to vote with us’. He also supported the Court on 18 Feb. 1706 during the proceedings on the place clause of the regency bill, but thereafter was an inactive Member. Following his father’s elevation to an earldom in 1706 he adopted the courtesy title, Lord Rialton. Shortly before the 1708 election he relinquished the office of warden of the Stannaries, which he had found too burdensome, but was himself returned for both Oxfordshire and Helston, choosing to sit for the former. In 1710 he voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, and following his father’s removal as lord treasurer rumours circulated that Rialton was to lose his Household post. Such reports proved to be premature, and though Rialton did not stand for re-election in Oxfordshire in 1710, and was defeated at Penryn, he nevertheless remained in the Commons, being returned for Tregony on the Boscawen interest. The ‘Hanover list’ classed him as a Whig, and in May 1711 he was removed from his Household office. On 7 Dec. 1711 Rialton voted for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion, but this was to be his last significant recorded act in the Commons, as he succeeded his father as Earl of Godolphin in September 1712.6

The death of his father brought Godolphin great fortune, but less than could have been expected from one who had been head of the Treasury for so many years: £50,000, together with £3,000 p.a. under the will of his father’s eldest brother, Sir William Godolphin, 1st Bt. His finances were, however, augmented, in due course, by his wife’s share of the Marlborough fortune. That Godolphin was not an enthusiastic parliamentarian is suggested by the report that in 1721 he refused to speak in the Lords in the interest of his mother-in-law the Duchess of Marlborough on the matter of the Blenheim appeal, stating that ‘he could not speak . . . he had once attempted it in the House of Commons in a mighty trivial thing and was quite out’. He nevertheless went on to hold high office under both George I and George II. Godolphin died on 17 Jan. 1766.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. DNB.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Evelyn Diary, iv. 147, 212, 337, 463, 507; T. Lever, Godolphin, 110; J. P. Kenyon, Sunderland, 270.
  • 4. E. Gregg, Q. Anne, 116–17; Add. 17677 TT, f. 183.
  • 5. Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 175, 288, 311–12; PRO 31/3/191, f. 14.
  • 6. Parlty. Lists Early 18th Cent. ed Newman, 71; HMC Portland, iv. 189; Surr. RO (Guildford), Midleton mss 1248/3, f. 9; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1634.
  • 7. Parlty. Hist. viii. 56.