SHEPHEARD, Samuel (d.1748), of Exning, Suff., nr. Newmarket, Cambs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1708 - 1715
27 May 1715 - 1722
19 Nov. 1724 - 1747
1747 - 24 Apr. 1748

Family and Education

b. c.1676, 2nd s. of Samuel Shepheard, M.P., of London by Mary, da. of Edward Chamberlayne of Princethorpe, Warws. suc. e. bro. 1739.

Offices Held

Director, E.I. Co. 1717-21.


Shepheard was the son of a wealthy London merchant, M.P. for the city of London 1705-8, one of the founders and original directors of the new East India Company and head of the South Sea Company, who was described to Harley in 1710 as ‘for shipping and foreign trade by far the first in England’.1 After sitting for Malmesbury in the 1701 Parliament, of which both his father and his elder brother were also Members, he was returned for Cambridge in 1708, sharing the representation of the borough with Sir John Hynde Cotton, the head of the Cambridgeshire Tories, till 1715. ‘Resolved’, in Lady Cotton’s words, ‘to be a Cambridgeshire country gentleman’, he was on terms of the ‘most intimate and cordial’ friendship with her husband,2 as well as with the heads of other leading county families, including especially John Bromley, one of the knights of the shire, who appointed him guardian to his son and heir, Henry.

In Anne’s last Parliament Shepheard, a Hanoverian Tory, parted political company with Cotton. Opposed by the Tories at Cambridge in 1715, he was defeated at the poll but was seated on petition. Classed as a Whig who would often vote with the Tories, his only recorded votes in this Parliament were against the septennial bill in 1716 and the peerage bill in 1719. He did not stand in 1722.

In 1723 Shepheard applied to Walpole’s brother, Horace, for government support in standing for the county at a by-election likely to take place in the near future on the death of Lord Oxford, whose son and heir, Lord Harley, had been returned with Cotton for Cambridgeshire in 1722. His letter has not survived, but its terms can be inferred from those of Horace Walpole’s forwarding it to his brother:

I leave the enclosed letter from Samuel Shepheard with you because its possible he may write to you upon the contents; I am sure he is very well disposed, and worth obliging, and the probability of Lord Oxford’s not holding long, makes it a public consideration; because as matters stand in Cambridgeshire, I believe Shepheard by the influence of Bromley’s estate is the only person that can rout Cotton’s interest, and if he can really be seconded by the interest of the Jenyns I think he cannot fail.3

Returned after a close contest with a Tory candidate, he was re-elected with his former ward, Henry Bromley, in 1727 against Cotton and another Tory, who both gave up before the end of the poll. For the next 20 years he sat for the county without opposition.

Not content with this victory, Shepheard took advantage of it to revive a vexatious claim against Cotton’s property. The estate of Madingley had been granted in 1543 to the Hyndes, from whom the Cottons had acquired it by marriage, on condition of paying £10 a year to the knights of the shire for their expenses.4 The attempt to revive this antiquated claim, which had long been dropped, and to make Cotton pay the arrears, together with other provocations, gave rise to much ill-feeling, culminating in an assault by Cotton on Shepheard at quarter sessions. Cotton has left an account of this incident:

I pressed to have a chief constable restored, who had been turned out the sessions before upon an insinuation that ’twas his own desire, which he had assured me was not so. Therefore I thought the bench ought in justice to restore him if they had not some other reason to remove him, which I said I hoped they would give if they had any. Shepheard said he was against restoring him. I asked his reason; he said he would give none, I said I believed the only reason he had was that he would not be corrupted by him the last election, upon which he told me I lied. I said I heard him but I knew where I was; he then (I suppose to provoke me to resent it there) repeated the lie to me twice by saying you lie, I tell you before the face of the country you lie. I then said ‘flesh and blood can bear it no longer’ and struck him. The justices interposed, and I went off from the bench. They immediately sent the under sheriff after me with order if I would not return to take me as his prisoner, I returned, and they bound me in £10,000 bail and my sureties in £10,000 more to appear at the assizes, but just before I was bound over the chairman asked who would prosecute, Mr. Shepheard said he would, the chairman not hearing him asked again upon which Shepheard answered he had told him twenty times already he would.5

In the end the justices settled the affair by making Shepheard withdraw and apologize, on which Cotton expressed his regret.

Shepheard now proceeded to attack Cotton in his stronghold at Cambridge. Enormously rich, thinking nothing too much to spend on elections,6 and supported by Henry Bromley, whose expenditure was equally extravagant, he soon succeeded in gaining a majority in the venal corporation on whom Cambridge elections depended. Giving up the unequal struggle in 1741, Cotton took refuge in a seat at Marlborough, leaving Shepheard and Bromley, now Lord Montfort, masters of the field.

Shepheard fought his last election campaign in 1747, when he transferred himself to Cambridge, creating consternation by insisting that his old friend Christopher Jeaffreson should be his fellow Member instead of Lord Dupplin, whom he had for some time wanted to oust. ‘Lord Montfort is gone to him to try to accommodate, but God knows whether that will do with such a humourist’, Lord Hardwicke wrote to his son, Philip Yorke, who was standing for the county, telling him to ‘make court’ to Shepheard ‘and remember not to appear too fond of Dupplin before him.’7 Two days later Soame Jenyns was able to report that Montfort’s negotiations were going on successfully with Shepheard, who was or would be very soon perfectly satisfied.

He goes with Montfort to the Duke of Grafton’s to assist at the Suffolk election about which he is extremely warm and anxious, which I look upon as a lucky incident, it being likely to keep him employed and consequently in good humour; for being master of too easy a victory here, both in town and county, he is like Alexander, uneasy only for want of new worlds to conquer.8

He either voted with the Opposition or abstained in all the chief extant divisions of his time, except on the place bill of 1740 and the Hanoverians in 1742, when he voted with the Government. Nevertheless he was classed in 1746 as an Old Whig and in 1747 as a government supporter.

On 24 Apr. 1748 Shepheard died of an apoplectic stroke at Hampton Court on his way back from Bath. He never married, though for many years he had lived with a woman whom he had bought by a form of conveyance of her from her husband, eventually discarding her for infidelity.9 He left his fortune, subject to various legacies, to a natural daughter, Frances, on condition that she did not marry an Irishman, a Scotchman, a peer, or the son of a peer, except the son of his old friend, Lord Montfort. She married the nephew and heir to the title of the 8th Viscount Irwin, by whom she had three daughters, who assumed the additional name of Shepheard. One of them married the Marquess of Hertford, became the Regent’s mistress, and was the mother of the nobleman immortalized by Thackeray in Vanity Fair, a fact which adds an additional if unintentional point to the exchanges about sheep and shepherds between Becky Sharp and Lord Steyne.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. HMC Portland, iv. 559.
  • 2. ‘Memoir of Cottons’, by J.J. Antrobus, Cotton mss in possession of Col. C. H. Antrobus.
  • 3. Sept. 1723, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
  • 4. ‘Memoir of Cottons’.
  • 5. Cotton mss.
  • 6. Philip Yorke to Hardwicke, 28 June 1747, Add. 35351, f. 117.
  • 7. 16 June 1747, ibid. f. 103.
  • 8. To Hardwicke, 18 June 1747, Add. 35679, f. 7.
  • 9. Knatchbull Diary, 28 Feb. 1730.