SPENCER, Hon. John (1708-46), of Wimbledon Park, Surr. and Althorp Park, Northants.

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



22 Jan. 1732 - 19 June 1746

Family and Education

b. 13 May 1708, 4th s. of Charles Spencer, M.P., 3rd Earl of Sunderland, by Lady Anne Churchill, da. and coh. of John, 1st Duke of Marlborough. educ. Eton c.1722; Grand Tour (France, Switzerland, Italy) 1725-7. m. 14 Feb. 1734, Lady Georgina Caroline, da. of John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville, sis. of Robert Carteret, Lord Carteret, 1s. 1da. suc. bro. Charles, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, at Althorp 1734 under will of 1st Duke of Marlborough, and grandmother Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, 1744.

Offices Held

Ranger, Windsor Park 1744-d.


John Spencer, who was not quite eight when his mother died, was brought up by his grandmother Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, becoming a great favourite with her.1 Soon after he came of age she began to think of getting him into Parliament, writing on 27 Feb. 1730, when she was expecting a vacancy at St. Albans, which did not materialize:

I design to set up the only grandson I have now that is a commoner, John Spencer, who has a very considerable fortune for a younger brother, and I will make it as good as most elder brothers.2

In 1732 she returned him for Woodstock.

When the Duchess quarrelled with his brother Charles, 5th Earl of Sunderland, later 3rd Duke of Marlborough, she told Spencer

that if he expected to be my heir, he must live with me as my son, which I own did imply that he was not to correspond with his brother.

On his refusal to comply she declared that

since John Spencer likes it better to depend upon a vain, extravagant brother than to have had a great estate from me, by only acting like a man of sense and true principles, he may please himself, for I shall concern myself no more about him.

But she soon relented, herself asking his pardon. On his marriage to Carteret’s daughter, she wrote to his sister the Duchess of Bedford:

I propose more satisfaction and advantages in marrying your brother to the daughter of such a man than a sheet of this paper can contain. I think your brother John has good nature, sense, frankness in his temper (which I love), and in short, a great many desirable things in him; but still he wants a great deal to get through this world in the manner that I wish he should do. And as young men won’t taste even the best advice without being delivered with good breeding and good sense, I know of nothing so desirable in the present case as the kindness and assistance of a father-in-law, who, I think must always make a considerable figure whatever way the world turns.3

When he took his bride to court,

Lord Carteret and his lady, the Earl of Sunderland and his countess and several others attended on the occasion, and as is usual expected the honour to kiss hands, but the King turned his back to them all, nor did the Queen (who usually makes amends for the King’s reservedness) say anything to them, only ... at last came up to Mr. Spencer, and only said to him, ‘I think, Mr. Spencer, I have not seen you since you was a child’; to which he answered as coldly, ‘No, Madam, I believe not’, and so they all came away displeased.4

Before the general election of 1734 the Duchess wrote:

I believe ... that I might possibly succeed in setting up John for Surrey ... The expense should not hinder me from that undertaking, but I can’t think it is so proper to have him stand there or indeed anywhere as at Woodstock, where, if I can, I would settle so as to have that place always, as it ought to be, in the Marlborough family.

The Duke of Bedford annoyed her by putting him up for Bedfordshire ‘to the prejudice of his election at Woodstock, which place I always thought most natural for him to stand for’.5Returned for both places, he chose to sit for Woodstock, which he represented till his death, voting against the Administration.

In 1744 Spencer succeeded to the personal estate of his grandmother, on condition that he should not ‘accept or take from any King or Queen of these realms any pension or any office or employment, civil or military’ except the rangership of Windsor Park.6 He died 19 June 1746, aged 38,

in possession of near £30,000 a year, merely because he would not be abridged of those invaluable blessings of an English subject, brandy, small beer, and tobacco.7

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. G. Scott Thomson, Letters of a Grandmother, 11-13.
  • 2. HMC Verulam, 121.
  • 3. Lord Ilchester, Lord Hervey and his Friends, 292-3; Letters of a Grandmother, 83, 104, 110.
  • 4. HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 34.
  • 5. Letters of a Grandmother, 95, 113.
  • 6. PCC 259 Anstis.
  • 7. Walpole to Mann, 20 June 1746.