ROBINSON, Thomas (1695-1770), of Newby, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 24 Apr. 1695, 4th s. of Sir William Robinson, 1st Bt.. educ. Westminster 1708; Trinity, Camb. 1712, fellow 1718; M. Temple 1723. m. 13 July 1737, Frances, da. of Thomas Worsley of Hovingham, Yorks., 2s. 6da. K.B. 26 June 1742; cr. Baron Grantham 7 Apr. 1761.
Sec. Paris Embassy 1723-30; ambassador at Vienna 1730-48; jt. plenipotentiary Aix-la-Chapelle 1748; ld. of Trade 1748-9; master of the great wardrobe 1749-54, 1755-61; P.C. 29 Mar. 1750; sec. of state, southern dept. Mar. 1754-Nov. 1755; jt. postmaster gen. 1765-6.
Robinson owed his appointment to Paris in 1723 to the Duke of Newcastle, with whom he had been intimately connected ever since they were at Westminster school.1 Returned in 1727 for Thirsk on the Frankland interest, his eldest brother, for whom the seat had originally been intended, having resigned his pretensions to him,2 he was absent, presumably on account of his diplomatic duties, from all the recorded divisions of that Parliament. He did not stand in 1734, by which time he had become ambassador at Vienna, where he served for 18 years.
In 1746 Robinson informed Newcastle and Pelham that his wife’s uncle, Frederick Frankland, would be calling on them to discuss the question of his standing at the forthcoming general election for York, which his father had represented for nearly a quarter of a century.3 There would, he understood,
be little difficulty in recovering our old family interest in that town were I present, but this last can neither consist with my duty or inclination to persevere in my constancy to go through with the foreign work which I have upon my hands at this court.
While willing to sacrifice the opportunity of reentering Parliament to the needs of the public service, he ventured to point out that as soon as ‘the great business of a general peace shall be over’ he was anxious to return home; and that although
my private inclination would most certainly lead me to look rather after absolute ease and commodiousness, such as my great friends might possibly secure for an old faithful servant, yet were the mite of a single vote for Parliament to be of any use, upon my return, at its due time, to his Majesty’s service, there was nothing that I would not risk in the fatigue of that new duty.
To Pelham he added:
As the crisis of my little fortunes is very probably at no great distance, and the present incident about the York election gives me such an indispensable occasion to breathe out my most secret desires for the sake of my little numerous family, I cannot but conjure you in particular to be thinking of me, for one moment, with Mr. Frankland, in that light, which he is always thinking of me and mine in; my absence, and long disuse as to private interests at home, make me very unfit to think for myself.
In the event Robinson did not stand, remaining at Vienna till 1748, when he was sent to Aix-la-Chapelle to act as Newcastle’s watchdog on Sandwich. After the conclusion of the peace negotiations he was brought into Parliament by Pelham, with a seat at the board of Trade (£1,000 p.a.), from which he was soon afterwards transferred to the great wardrobe (£2,000 p.a.). ‘Believe me, Sir’, he wrote in thanks to Pelham,
with such a great disuse of my mother tongue, and with a habitude of thinking more than of speaking, which is so necessary to us foreigners, nothing but a good heart and the mite of a single vote is to be expected from me ...4
Notwithstanding these disabilities, Newcastle in 1750 confessed that ‘if I were to choose for the King, the Parliament, and myself I would prefer Sir Thomas Robinson to any man living’ to be secretary of state.5 On Pelham’s death Newcastle appointed him to that post, carrying with it the leadership of the House of Commons, both of which he thankfully surrendered to return to his old post in 1755. He died 30 Sept. 1770.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. Newcastle to Rockingham, 18 Sept. 1766, Add. 32977, ff. 91-95.
- 2. Robinson to Newcastle, 22 July 1727, Add. 32687, f. 223.
- 3. Robinson to Pelham and Newcastle, 19 Nov. N.S. 1746, Newcastle (Clumber) mss; Add. 32688, f. 190.
- 4. Robinson to Pelham, 16 Dec. N.S. 1748, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
- 5. Coxe, Pelham, ii. 387.