BRYDGES, James, Mq. of Carnarvon (1731-89).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1754 - 1761
1761 - 1768

Family and Education

b. 16 Dec. 1731, 1st s. of Henry, 2nd Duke of Chandos, by his 1st w. Lady Mary Bruce, da. and h. of Charles, 3rd Earl of Ailesbury. educ.Westminster 1742-9. m. (1) 22 Mar. 1753, Margaret (d.14 Aug. 1768), da. and h. of John Nicol of Minchenden House, Southgate, Mdx., s.p.; (2) 21 June 1777, Anne Eliza, da. of Richard Gamon of Datchworthbury, Herts., sis. of Richard Gamon jun., wid. of Roger Hope Elletson, 1da. suc. fa. as 3rd Duke of Chandos 28 Nov. 1771.

Offices Held

Ld. of the bedchamber 1760-4; ld. lt. Hants 1763-4, 1771-80; P.C. 12 May 1775; ld. steward of the Household Dec. 1783- d.


Carnarvon’s grandfather, James, 1st Duke of Chandos, had been lord lieutenant of Radnorshire and steward of the King’s manors, and Carnarvon tried to re-establish this interest. He meant to stand for Radnorshire in 1754; was supported by Lord Oxford and opposed by Howell Gwynne; in the end transferred himself to Winchester where his father had inherited in 1751 a parliamentary interest from a distant cousin. He then promised his interest in Radnorshire ‘to Lord Oxford’s friend at the next vacancy’, and refused to support Gwynne at the by-election of 1755.1 Carnarvon’s father, while holding office in the household of the Prince of Wales 1728-51, had incurred the King’s displeasure; about 1754 Carnarvon solicited a pension for him who ‘had spent £60,000 in elections, and never brought in a person who gave a vote against the ministry’2—a tall tale about one so long connected with the Prince. In June 1755, when a vacancy was expected in the lord lieutenancy of Radnorshire, Carnarvon applied for that office which, he wrote to Newcastle, ‘would greatly strengthen my interest in the county, and I flatter myself, your Grace knows my attachments too well to think me capable of making a bad use of power lodged in my hands’.3 But in the division on the Address, 13 Nov. 1755, he voted with the Opposition against the subsidy treaties.4 Nevertheless, when the lieutenancy fell vacant, he renewed his application on 23 Dec., and received a snub from Newcastle: ‘Mr. Gwynne, who is chosen for the county, was so strongly recommended to the King by the gentlemen who are friends to the Government in the county; and it was represented to be so much for his Majesty’s service to have the lord lieutenant residing there, that his Majesty did think proper to appoint him.’5 Carnarvon replied indignantly:6 ‘If it is more for his Majesty’s honour and service to have Mr. Gwynne at the head of that county than myself I am very well content, but I may be able in a future election to show that that gentleman is not unanimously supported by the gentlemen of the county ... I will make no apology for troubling your Grace with this second letter, but will promise that your Grace shall never be troubled with any other application.’ Henceforth he banked on the ‘reversionary resource’ of the Prince of Wales. In 1759 he set up Simeon Stuart for Hampshire against H. B. Legge and the Bolton interest, and secured for him Leicester House support. Perhaps because of his opposition to Legge and his friendship with Oxford he was looked on as a ‘Tory’ (but when in 1772 William Jolliffe told him so, he affirmed that ‘he was the contrary, that he owed all his honours to the Whigs’, and ‘abominated the distinction’).7 Another difficulty arose over the Prince’s wish to appoint Carnarvon a lord of his bedchamber, which he finally did in 1760 without previous notification to the King.8

On the accession of George III Carnarvon set out to deprive Gwynne both of his parliamentary seat and his lieutenancy.9 In the end an agreement was concluded early in March 1761 which secured Carnarvon’s unopposed return for the county but left its lieutenancy to Gwynne for a further five years. In Bute’s parliamentary list Carnarvon naturally appears as one of his supporters, and he is included in Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries. In July 1763 Carnarvon replaced the Duke of Bolton as lord lieutenant of Hampshire. Gibbon wrote to his stepmother on 6 Aug.: ‘You may imagine how glad I am to hear of the fall of our tyrant and the accession of a just and righteous prince. Lord Carnarvon was always our utmost wish, and I have so very good an opinion of him as to believe he will not even plague our enemies to oblige us.’ At the approach of the new session, on 25 Oct., Grenville asked Carnarvon to move the Address on the King’s Speech;10 Carnarvon replied on the 28th, he wished ‘an abler person might be found out, than one who has sat nine years in the House, and never yet had the courage to open his mouth there’;11 but finally did so on 16 Nov., according to Grenville ‘very well’:12 and this is Carnarvon’s only recorded speech in the House. From the division of 18 Feb. 1764 on general warrants, when supreme efforts were made to bring up Members, Carnarvon was absent. Toward the end of January some unnamed interloper applied to Grenville for the stewardship of the King’s manors in Radnorshire: Carnarvon in two letters, of 31 Jan. and 2 Feb., argued his own prior rights to them, and denied the claim of the applicant, ‘even setting Lord Oxford and myself out of the question’. And next on 22 Nov. 1764 in a letter to Bute he renounced his own claim in favour of Oxford: being now settled in Hampshire he would find the execution of the office impracticable.13 But even his ambitions with regard to Hampshire had met with a rebuff. For some time past Carnarvon had had an eye to capturing the Isle of Wight boroughs and supplanting the interest of the Holmes family by those of his own friends under the leadership of Sir Thomas Worsley, one of the foremost landowners in the island. Thus on 23 Jan. 1763 he applied to Bute for Worsley to succeed Holmes’s nephew, Col. Troughear, as lieutenant-governor of the island;14 and the letter from John White to Sir Harry Erskine, of 1 Feb.,15 obviously for Bute to see, which hints at Carnarvon as successor to Lord Portsmouth in the governorship and describes him as a man much respected and ‘beloved by the people in general’, was another move in this direction. Lord Holmes was appointed on this occasion; but when Holmes was dying, Carnarvon, on 26 June, applied to Grenville to succeed him.16Grenville replied in a friendly but evasive letter; and, on 17 July, informed him that Hans Stanley was appointed.17 Carnarvon replied on the 21st:18 ‘I very sincerely hope that this appointment may in every shape answer the expectations of Government ... But as Mr. Stanley’s connexions and mine are very different in the county, it will be impossible for me or my friends to co-operate with him, or to give him that assistance we should wish to any person employed by his Majesty.’ He therefore asked permission to resign the lieutenancy of Hampshire and the bedchamber. Grenville asked him to reconsider the matter,19 but Carnarvon replied that he could ‘never consent to be placed at the head of a county, when the power is put into other hands’.20

It was perhaps this disagreement with Grenville which made Rockingham class Carnarvon in July 1765 as merely ‘doubtful’ and not as ‘contra’; but on 22 Feb. 1766 Carnarvon voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act. Hence in November 1766 Rockingham listed him as ‘Swiss’, and Newcastle, in March 1767, as ‘Administration’. But Carnarvon did not vote either on the land tax or the nullum tempus bill. In October 1765 he had informed Gwynne that he had ‘no further thoughts of standing for the county’;21 and in a talk with Jolliffe in 1772 he said ‘that the business of Parliament did not agree with him’, and he would not offer himself as candidate for Hampshire in succession to Lord Henley, although ‘he had been applied to by the gentlemen of the party who had put him at their head’.22

By this time Carnarvon was reconciled to the Government. When in 1771 Northington, a dying man, resigned the lieutenancy of Hampshire, Carnarvon was restored to it; and claimed to have been left by the Government ‘to name whom he pleased’ as candidate for the county on the vacancy which would follow Henley’s succession to the peerage.23 Having himself succeeded to the dukedom, 28 Nov. 1771, he supported Government in the Lords, where he was a frequent speaker. In the Hampshire by-election of December 1779 he took a prominent part on the side of Sir Richard Worsley and the Government candidate.24 But on Hans Stanley’s death he greatly resented Worsley’s being appointed governor of the Isle of Wight, North having been told that Chandos did not mean to apply for it. ‘Lord Stormont brought me a letter ... from the Duke of Chandos’, wrote the King to North, 10 Feb., ‘resigning the lieutenancy of Hampshire, alleging that the favours of the county were put into other hands ... I have since heard that he is quite ruined and means to retire to Florence; if this is true, he will certainly not be prevailed upon to keep the lieutenancy.’25 He did neither, but a short time later joined the Opposition; subsequently he supported Shelburne’s Administration, opposed the Coalition, and was appointed lord steward by Pitt.

He died 10 Oct. 1789. Others beside Gibbon described him as ‘a man of great sweetness of nature and good-breeding’.26 The Gentleman’s Magazine (1789, pp. 958-9) in its obituary calls him gentle and much beloved. ‘If he had any defects, they arose from the excess of amiable qualities; from a want of firmness and resolution.’ Chase Price spoke of his ‘natural indolence’.27

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Carnarvon to Newcastle, 9 Feb. 1755, Add. 32852, f. 412.
  • 2. Same to same, Add. 33055, f. 88.
  • 3. Add. 32856, f. 571.
  • 4. Add. 32860, f. 471.
  • 5. Add. 32861, f. 481.
  • 6. 1 Jan. 1756, Add. 32862, f. 3.
  • 7. Jolliffe mss.
  • 8. See R. Sedgwick, ‘Letters from William Pitt to Bute’, nos. 55 and 61-65, Essays Presented to Sir Lewis Namier; Bute to Pitt, 20 July 1758, Chatham Corresp. i. 170 (misdated ‘1756’).
  • 9. For a fuller account of these transactions see RADNORSHIRE, and Namier, Structure, 268-78.
  • 10. Grenville Pprs. ii. 145-6.
  • 11. Grenville (Bodl.) mss.
  • 12. Grenville to the King, 16 Nov., Fortescue, i. 58.
  • 13. Bute mss.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Jucker, Jenkinson Pprs. 126-9.
  • 16. Grenville mss (JM).
  • 17. Grenville letter bk.
  • 18. Grenville Pprs. ii. 399-401.
  • 19. Ibid. 401-3.
  • 20. Grenville mss (JM.)
  • 21. Rich. Price to Chase Price, 13 Oct., Portland mss.
  • 22. Jolliffe mss.
  • 23. Jolliffe’s memorandum, Jolliffe mss.
  • 24. For complaints of breach of privilege by so doing, see CJ, xxxvii. 557-8; for secret service payments see Fortescue, v. 467, 478.
  • 25. Fortescue v. 17.
  • 26. The father of Leigh Hunt as quoted in his son’s Autobiog. To Portland, 12 Sept. 1765, Portland mss.
  • 27. To Portland, 12 Sept. 1765, Portland mss.