EARLE, Giles (c.1678-1758), of Eastcourt House, Crudwell, nr. Malmesbury, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1678, 6th s. of Sir Thomas Earle, M.P., mayor of Bristol, by Elizabeth Ellinor, da. of Joseph Jackson; bro. of Joseph Earle. educ. M. Temple 1692. m. (1) lic. 20 May 1702, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir William Rawlinson of Hendon House, Mdx., commr. of the great seal, wid. of William Lowther, 2nd s. of Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt., M.P., 1s. 1da.; (2) Margaret, 1s. d.v.p.
Capt. 33 Ft. 1702; capt. R. Horse Gds. 1711-17; commissary of musters in Spain 1711; commissary-gen. of provisions in Spain 1711 and Minorca 1712-17; groom of the bedchamber to Prince of Wales 1718-20; clerk of Board of Green Cloth 1720-27; chairman of committee of privileges and elections 1727-41; commr. of Irish revenue 1728-37; ld. of Treasury 1737-42; high steward, Malmesbury 1741-2.
In 1677 Sir Thomas Earle, an eminent merchant of Bristol, inherited from his uncle, Giles Earle, lands in Crudwell, Wilts. On his death in 1696 he bequeathed these lands to his younger son, Giles,1 who entered the army, serving in the Duke of Argyll’s regiment and under him as commissary in Minorca. Returned as a Whig in 1715, he spoke in favour of the septennial bill in 1716, saying:
I observe that certain people, who have consistently opposed the King and the good of their country, are against the bill; therefore without any other reason, I am heartily for it.2
Later in the year when, during the King’s absence in Hanover, the Opposition were promoting addresses to the Prince of Wales as Regent, Walpole reported to Hanover that ‘the Duke of Argyll’s Earle’ had personally presented an address from Gloucestershire to the Prince.3 Next year he voted against the Government on the case of Argyll’s rival, Lord Cadogan, at the cost of losing both his place and his commission. Paying his court to the Prince’s reputed mistress, Mrs. Howard,4 he was compensated in 1718 with a place in the Prince’s household, which he exchanged in 1720 for one under Argyll, who had returned to office as lord steward.
In 1722 Earle gained control of Malmesbury, near his estate, returning himself and another Member for the borough for a quarter of a century. A frequent speaker, with ‘an odd violent way of expressing himself’, he became chairman of the elections committee in 1727. Appointed a commissioner of Irish revenue in 1728, he supported proposals for the removal of the duty on Irish yarn, which he described on 12 Feb. 1734 as
an affair of the greatest consequence to the trade and well being of England; the laws are already as severe as can be, and make what other you will, the people of Ireland will not execute them, the penalties are so severe, no jury in Ireland will find a person guilty, as was the case in England when it was made death to run. The only method to prevent it is to let Ireland into some small share of the trade, for their poor must be subsisted, and he knew nothing so capable to prevent their running as to take off the duty on their yarn.5
Next day, on an opposition motion to prevent the dismissal of army officers on political grounds, he said
he himself had once been removed, and he was very sorry for it; but he was not for turning everything topsy turvy out of resentment.6
When in 1737 Earle was made a lord of the Treasury, Hervey wrote of him:
This Earle was originally a dependent on the Duke of Argyll, a man of no great abilities, of a sordid avaricious temper, a very bad character, and as profligate in his discourse as his conduct, professing himself always ready, without examining what it was, to do anything a minister bid him; by which means he had worked himself so well into Sir Robert’s good graces, that, merely by his own personal interest there (which even his attachment at the same time to the Duke of Argyll could not outweigh) he got himself preferred to this high post, the whole world exclaiming against such a prostitution of the office.7
Horace Walpole describes him as
very covetous, and affected to be so more than he was; and his humour was set off by a whining tone, crabbed face, and very laughing eyes. One day as he was eating oysters, he said ‘Lord God! what fine things oysters would be if one could make one’s servants live on the shells’.8
His unpopularity, aggravated by mordant witticisms ‘dealt out largely against the Scotch and the Patriots’,9 contributed to his failure to secure re-election as chairman of the elections committee by four votes on 16 Dec. 1741, a blow from which Walpole never fully recovered. He lost his post on Walpole’s fall but continued to support the Administration. Defeated at Malmesbury in 1747, he never stood again. He died 20 Aug. 1758.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. PCC 16 Hale; 241 Bond.
- 2. A. Corbière to Horace Walpole, 27 Apr. 1716, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
- 3. Coxe, Walpole, ii. 77-78.
- 4. Letters of Lady Suffolk, i. 11-12, 15.
- 5. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 108; ii. 27.
- 6. Stuart mss 169/90.
- 7. Hervey, Mems. 740.
- 8. Note in Hanbury Williams, Works, i. 32.
- 9. Walpole to Mann, 16 Dec. 1741.