EDGCUMBE, Hon. Richard (1716-61).

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



4 Dec. 1742 - 1747
1747 - 1754
1754 - 22 Nov. 1758

Family and Education

b. 2 Aug. 1716, 1st surv. s. of Richard, 1st Baron Edgcumbe, and bro. of Hon. George Edgcumbe. educ. Eton 1725-32. unm. suc. fa. 22 Nov. 1758.

Offices Held

Mayor, Lostwithiel 1744, 1756, recorder 1759- d.; recorder, Plympton 1759- d.

Ld. of Trade Apr. 1754-Dec. 1755; ld. of Admiralty Dec. 1755-Nov. 1756; P.C. 19 Nov. 1756; comptroller of the Household Dec. 1756- d.; ld. lt. Cornw. 1759- d.


Edgcumbe’s family position compelled him to sit in Parliament and engage in elections, but he took little interest in either. He was a wit, a patron of the arts, and most of all a gambler. ‘Edgcumbe who thinks nothing important that is not to be decided by dice’, Horace Walpole wrote to Richard Bentley, 13 Dec. 1754; and 16 Apr. 1761, to George Montagu: ‘What parts, genius, and agreeableness, thrown away at a hazard table.’ In politics he followed his father, and adhered to the Pelhams. But he did not make his mark, and there is no record of his having spoken in the House. In a letter to Enys c. 7 Oct. 1753,1 having discussed election affairs, he added:

So lest you should fall into the same mistake that he [Lord Edgcumbe] has done, and think that because I enter a little into burgizing (as we call it here) I may come to take to it, I shall quit the subject, with declaring that my hatred of it increases with my experience. But as I have assured my father that, hateful as it is, he may ever command my assistance from my duty, so likewise may you.

On the death of Edgcumbe’s father, Richard Rigby wrote to the Duke of Bedford, 5 Dec. 1758:2

Lord Edgcumbe writes word to Mr. Fox that his father has left him everything in his power, which everything will suffice to pay all his debts, and leave him a very handsome income. They say the estate is above £4,000 a year, and that the old man had twenty thousand ready.

He had also one of the greatest borough interests in Great Britain: eight seats under his control—two each at Lostwithiel and Grampound, and one at Penryn, Fowey, Bossiney, and Plympton; besides a part-interest at Mitchell. When on his death Grampound transferred their allegiance to Edward Eliot and William Trevanion, Edgcumbe wrote to Newcastle:3

These are two stirring young gentlemen, and, may be, think to take advantage of me, as one of an opposite character. But the world shall see that if I have been idle, it was only because I had nothing to do.

But in reality he was half-hearted in ‘burgizing’: he hesitated whether to assert his claims at Bossiney (alias Tintagel) or renounce them. He wrote to Newcastle, 12 Oct. 1760: ‘They quarrelled with my father, and at his death abjured me.’ On 15 Dec.: he must fight it out at Tintagel, or else people might conclude that they had merely to attack for him to give up. Dec. 16: ‘it was my father’s advice in his last illness, that I should not put myself to any expense, nor to much trouble about it, any more than at Grampound’; but ‘an exertion at Tintagel ... will strengthen me in other places’. In the end no Edgcumbe candidate was returned at Tintagel in 1761.4

Edgcumbe died without legitimate issue 10 May 1761.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Autograph Coll., R. Institution of Cornw.
  • 2. Bedford mss 38, f. 168.
  • 3. Add. 32886, f. 76; Namier Structure, 353.
  • 4. Add. 32913, ff. 75-76; 32916, ff. 90, 123-4.