GUISE, Sir John, 3rd Bt. (c.1678-1732), of Elmore, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. c.1678, o. s. of Sir John Guise, 2nd Bt.* educ. collegiate sch., Gloucester. m. (1) lic. 4 June 1696, aged ‘18 and upwards’, Elizabeth (d. 1701), da. of Sir Nathaniel Napier, 2nd Bt.*, 1s.; (2) lic. 2 Jan. 1711, Anne, da. and coh. of Sir Francis Russell, 3rd Bt.†, of Strensham, Worcs., wid. of Richard Lygon of Madresfield, Worcs., and Sir Henry Every, 3rd Bt., of Egginton, Derbys., s.p. suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. 19 Nov. 1695.1
Constable, Gloucester Castle 1690–1711; v.-adm. Glos. by 1700–?d.2
Freeman, Gloucester 1702.3
In May 1690, at the age of 12, Guise was granted the office of constable of Gloucester Castle, presumably as a minor gesture of royal gratitude to his father for services rendered during the Revolution. He was not yet 19 when in 1695 his father propelled him into the Cirencester election as a Whig contender, with Court backing from Hon. Thomas Wharton*, only to be defeated by his Whig cousins John (Jack) and Richard Grobham Howe. His father’s sudden death three weeks later, the day after being declared re-elected for Gloucestershire, imbued him with a youthful determination to take his place. In his autobiographical memoir Guise recalled his decision to stand at the ensuing by-election, despite his lack of experience in public affairs, ‘buoyed up by the great court paid by the country to my father in his lifetime and by flatterers after his death, little inquiring into the true condition of my affairs, but desiring extremely to maintain that popularity my father had gained’. After an arduous contest, which he estimated cost him £1,000, he was defeated by his Whig opponent. Petitioning against the return early in January 1696, he saw his chances of success effectively blocked by his uncle Jack Howe, who, in refusing to guarantee to Robert Harley* that Guise would commit himself to the Country party, denied him the prospect of any support from that quarter.4
It was not until after his marriage in June 1696 that Guise discovered the full extent of his father’s disordered financial affairs. The estate was encumbered with debts worth £13,000 – both his own and his father’s – including the £2,000 he had spent on his recent election campaigns. By then, however, his wife’s trustees, taking advantage of his inexperience, had bound him into a particularly strict marriage settlement ‘by making me a tenant for life only to all my estate’. He managed in June to obtain renewal of the grant to his father of £7,000 out of the sale of wood from the Forest of Dean, though most of this sum was used to finance his two sisters’ dowries. Thus forced to pursue schemes of retrenchment and economy, Guise lived almost entirely in the country for the next four years.5
Guise’s relations with local Whigs during these years appear to have soured. His fraternization with Tory interests during the 1695 by-election had naturally cooled Whig ardour towards him and his family, and prevailing suspicions about his politics were given fresh impetus in the 1698 election when he made over his interest to his Tory uncle Jack Howe. However, the onset of the next election gave him the opportunity to restore his credibility with the local Whig gentry and freeholders, and by pledging open support for the Whig candidate, Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, he publicly disowned his uncle and Toryism: ‘for whatever figure I accidentally made, I had never been other than a zealous friend to the King and Revolution’. Guise had sufficiently re-established himself with the Whigs to oppose Howe at the 1702 general election for the county. But despite Guise’s success in obtaining a narrow majority over his uncle, the high sheriff, acting with great partiality, ‘shuffled up a return’ in Howe’s favour. When Guise petitioned, he found himself confronted with ‘the treatment all those will meet with who petition against a man better liked than themselves’. On 19 Nov., before all the evidence pertaining to the election had been heard at the bar, (Sir) Simon Harcourt (I) intervened with a motion declaring Howe duly elected, which was carried by 220 votes to 90. ‘What makes the proceeding still the more scandalous’, Guise later wrote, ‘is that this was not done in a drunken committee after dinner, but in the morning at the bar of the House and in the face of the sun.’ Notwithstanding, Guise set about consolidating his interest in the county, to which end he borrowed, and took up residence in, the bishop’s palace in Gloucester, so as to be at the centre of local affairs. Despite the shoddy treatment received from Howe in the recent county elections, Guise retained a lasting respect for his uncle, approving in particular of his notorious invectives against ‘the abuses of the courtiers, for which I think almost always there is good reason’. In 1705, with the assistance of a sheriff ‘who did me justice’, he was returned for the county, taking first place in the poll. His election was reckoned a ‘gain’ for the Whigs by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) and he was described as a ‘Churchman’ in a list of Members published at about the same time.
In Parliament Guise was never the active or vocal figure his father had been, though from the outset he cast himself as a steadfast Court supporter. He voted for the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705, voted with the Court on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill on 18 Feb. 1706, and on 27 Feb. was a teller in support of the Whig candidate in the disputed election for Newcastle-under-Lyme. His first ‘negotiation’ with the government was to procure the post of receiver of the land tax for the county for John Prinn, a leading Whig campaigner in Gloucestershire whose imprisonment local Tories had contrived during the recent election. He was eventually successful, to ‘the general satisfaction of the Gloucestershire Whigs and mortification of the other party’. He soon afterwards struck up an acquaintance with the Whig Duke of Somerset ‘who honoured me with a more than common civility’. This was not enough, however, to gain him the place he earnestly sought in the administration and which he thought he deserved. He first of all applied for the auditorship of the land revenues of Wales, but was told by Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) ‘in a very kind letter . . . [that] he did not think fit to grant my desire, the office I desired being beneath me, and rather fit for some one who had been bred a common clerk’. The strains of place-hunting told on his sensitive disposition:
All this while my circumstances were very uneasy, and the Whig ministry took little care to make them otherwise; and at last they grew so as to worst my very constitution, my health impairing as my estate did . . . I wanted the assistance of the Court, and solicited my Lord Godolphin in order to obtain it; but this rather increased than lessened my misfortune, for dependence and frequent disappointments were new unhappinesses, and which till then I had been unacquainted with.
He regularly attended Godolphin’s levees, where the lord treasurer spoke to him ‘so often and so kindly’ that he was regarded as a favourite. At one point in 1706 Godolphin suggested that if he was prepared to go as envoy to Vienna, Guise ‘might expect his assistance and service in it’, but advised him first to discuss with friends whether it would be worth his while, especially since the post was poorly remunerated. Both Lord Berkeley (Charles Berkeley†) and William Cadogan* encouraged him to accept, but on returning to Godolphin, he found that the lord treasurer had changed his tune and ‘could not serve me’. Guise wrote in his memoir that he went away ‘cursing the uncertainty of courts and the doubleness of great men’, though on reflection he exempted Godolphin from the latter category in view of the ‘timorousness’ which ‘made him a prey to men less sincere than himself’. Secretary Harley made a point of telling Guise soon afterwards that when he had suggested Guise’s name for the envoy’s post, the Queen informed him that it was already promised to Sir Philip Meadows* who, as she pointed out, was Godolphin’s nephew. On 29 Jan. 1707 Guise was one of a small committee of MPs ordered to bring in a bill for repealing legislation against the import of foreign lace. Soon afterwards he was afflicted by ‘a terrible fever of the spirits’. A month’s dangerous illness during February and March appears to have been followed by a long recuperative period in which his disillusion with the Whig party became increasingly marked. His former tutor at the collegiate school in Gloucester, Maurice Wheeler, a Low Churchman and a Whig, wrote of him at this juncture as
a person of . . . civility and good manners . . . untainted by any of the noisesome vices of the age, desirous of knowledge, loving books, and whose most natural divertissement is music, to which gaming comes in more by the seducement of idle, useless company than by his own inclination. I find he has been a little shaken in his principles, but in better conversation he would soon learn to be steadily a good man.
Wheeler had found it necessary at this stage ‘to settle him upon sound notions’, but in mid-March was disturbed to see Guise still full of ‘those loose notions which pass for current coin in most conversations about London’. Early in the 1707–8 session Guise played a part in initiating a bill desired by the Gloucestershire clothiers for removing punitive restrictions which the customs had imposed on the export of white cloth. He was first-named to the petition committee on 15 Nov. and on 11 Dec was among the appointees to draft the bill. On 17 Nov. he was teller in favour of an unsuccessful move to repeal the Game Act of the previous session. He was granted three weeks’ leave of absence on 7 Jan. 1708, but had returned to the House by 16 Feb. when he was named to an address committee. He was marked as a Whig in two lists drawn early in 1708.6
Guise was returned again for Gloucestershire in the 1708 election, but as a result of his thwarted ambition for office, his support for the Whig administration became less reliable. This was apparent when the House overturned (Sir) Simon Harcourt’s election on 20 Jan. 1709. Guise still harboured resentment towards Harcourt for his part in the failure of Guise’s own petition in 1702, and although he acknowledged that the justice of Harcourt’s case was stronger than his own had been, he left the House without voting, claiming later that he had only stopped short of opposition because ‘I would not return his violence upon him’. At the beginning of February it was reported to Edward Harley* that Guise ‘has expressed a dissatisfaction and divided against his friends’. It was probably more out of general sympathy with Whig principles than for the administration that he voted for naturalizing the Palatines later the same month. In the meantime, on 12 Jan., he had been included among those ordered to draft a private bill concerning the estate of his brother-in-law Sir Roger Bradshaigh, 3rd Bt.* His position on the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell is unclear. His name appeared on the published list as having voted for the impeachment, but according to Dr Knightley Chetwode, the dean of Gloucester, Guise ‘was so civil as to promise me not to meddle in it, and kept his word’. On 25 Jan. 1710 he was appointed to the drafting committee on the Gloucester–Birdlip turnpike bill. Anxious to restore Guise’s allegiance to government, William Lowndes*, the secretary to the Treasury, assured him that something would be done for him:
Mr Lowndes . . . took me by the hand and with much kindness told me that the Court would soon take care of me. This was not without order; but I had so often been deceived in my expectation from the Court, that with a little resentment I told him I was glad if I had been of any use to the Queen (for he also told me they acknowledged my services) but that I had nothing to ask. Whether that cold answer would, or would not, have hindered their designs for me I cannot tell; but soon after this the ministry was changed . . . so that, whatever their designs for me might be, that alteration made them miscarry.
Despite being ‘sick of the public’, he stood once more for re-election for Gloucestershire in 1710. A gruelling campaign resulting in defeat exacerbated his already bitter feelings towards the Whigs:
The first time I stood candidate for the county of Gloucester, I had the Tory interest, . . . but after left them for the Whigs, who at that time I thought the best Englishmen; and for these I did and ventured much, but without a suitable return, having, while I was at their head, always been made uneasy by an ambitious and emulous spirit very prevalent in that party, and which makes them bad subjects and worse rulers, unfit either to command or to be commanded; and, for my part, when I stood for Gloucestershire upon that interest, I always found more difficulty in managing my friends than my opposers . . .
The immediate reason given for Guise’s defeat, however, was his having provoked the clergy with remarks that ‘the Church might as well be governed by presbyters as bishops’.7
Dogged by ill-health, Guise made no further efforts to re-enter Parliament during Anne’s reign. He was made to surrender his governorship of Gloucester Castle and its lands in 1711. In an effort to improve his financial position he contracted a second marriage (his first wife having died in 1701) with a widow worth some £20,000, but, as before, his straitened circumstances forced him to accept a strict marriage settlement which he deeply resented, a situation which made ‘her a very uneasy wife and myself very unhappy with her’. He subsequently played a minor part in the intrigues at court following George I’s quarrel with his heir, and, when the King offered him a place, Guise, according to his son, ‘told him that he would gladly serve him, but would never be obliged to his ministers’. He sat for a further term in the 1722 Parliament where his behaviour as an independent Whig was invariably in opposition to Robert Walpole II*. He died on 16 Nov. 1732 and was buried at Elmore.8
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham
Unless otherwise stated, this biography is based on Guise Mems. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xxviii), 137-58.
- 1. Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. iii. 72; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 596.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 674; xxv. 276; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1708–14, p. 407.
- 3. Gloucester Freemen (Glos. Rec. Ser. iv), 54.
- 4. Bodl. Carte 228, ff. 108–10, 114.
- 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 161.
- 6. Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 23/165, 167, 170, Wheeler to Bp. Wake, 23 Dec. 1706, 10 Feb., 17 Mar. 1707.
- 7. HMC Portland, iv. 519; Add. 28893, ff. 394–5; Wake mss 23/209, Wheeler to Wake, 30 Oct. 1710.
- 8. Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1708–14, p. 407; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. iii. 72.