FAIRFAX, Hon. Robert (1707-93), of Leeds Castle, Kent

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



15 Jan. 1740 - 1741
1747 - 1754
1754 - 1768

Family and Education

b. 1707, 3rd s. of Thomas, 5th Lord Fairfax [S], by Hon. Catherine Colepeper, da. and h. of Thomas, 2nd Lord Colepeper. m. (1) 25 Apr. 1741, Martha (d. Sept. 1743), da. and coh. of Anthony Collins of Baddow, Essex, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) 15 July 1749, Dorothy, da. of Maudistly Best of Chilham, Kent, sis. of Thomas Best, s.p. suc. bro. as 7th Lord Fairfax 12 Mar. 1782.

Offices Held

Cornet, R. Horse Gds. 1726; capt. 1 Life Gds. by July 1739; maj. 1 Life Gds. May 1742; res. Nov. 1745.


In 1754 Fairfax1 stood for Kent on a joint interest with Lewis Watson, Henry Pelham’s son-in-law, against Sir Edward Dering, who had represented the county since 1734. Fairfax was generally regarded as the Duke of Dorset’s candidate, and both Dorset and Newcastle had to assist him financially. Henry Pelham guaranteed a loan of £2,000 ‘on a bad security’2 and during March 1754 Newcastle had to speak to the King about his affairs.

On 26 July 1759, after repeated appeals to Newcastle for assistance, Fairfax wrote:3

I have been near eighteen years in Parliament, have stood two contested elections ... which has run me into such difficulties and distress that I shall have an execution next week in my house at Leeds Castle, which will be my absolute ruin and destruction and oblige me to leave the country for ever ... I therefore most humbly intreat your Grace if you think proper to recommend me to his Majesty’s favour and protection for some assistance. I hope my conduct both in Parliament and private life will in some degree induce your Grace to think me worthy of being named to his Majesty, as I have never been troublesome or asked anything for myself but on this occasion.

Newcastle immediately obtained a gratuity of £500 for Fairfax, and a further £500 on 27 May 1760. On 9 Dec. 1760, when candidates for the next election were being considered, Sir George Oxenden wrote to Hardwicke: ‘Everyone speaks of Mr. Fairfax as not being capable of being chose on account of the oath [that he possessed £300 p.a. in landed property] to be taken in the House.’4 Oxenden himself was ‘not in a humour to spend money for Mr. Fairax’,5 but liked the other potential candidates less, and it soon became clear that the only way to preserve the peace of the county was to nominate Fairfax again. ‘One difficulty now is to qualify Fairfax’,6 wrote Lord George Sackville on 9 Feb.; but by 19 Feb. Fairfax had declared ‘that he was qualified to stand for the county’, and both the old Members were re-elected unopposed.7

Fairfax wrote to Newcastle on 8 Dec. 1761:

Your Grace has long been acquainted with the unhappy situation of my affairs. Permit me therefore to tell you that they are now come to a crisis, and unless your Grace will please to give me your immediate assistance, I must sink under the weight of my misfortunes, I am neither able to stay here nor go home to my house in the country.8

On 10 Dec. Fairfax received £500, and another £500 on 25 May, the day Newcastle resigned.

Fairfax supported the Bute Administration, and in 1763 moved unsuccessfully for an address from Kent approving the treaty of Paris. ‘Nobody can wonder at what he did’, commented Hardwicke.9

Dorset’s death in 1765 removed one of his patrons, and Fairfax did not stand in 1768. In the list of pensions drawn up in 1782 he appears as receiving £500 p.a., with a note in Shelburne’s hand: ‘Has applied for an addition.’

He died 15 Aug. 1793.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: A. N. Newman


  • 1. For Fairfax, see Namier, Structure, 409-17.
  • 2. Add. 32995, ff. 239-40.
  • 3. Add. 32893, f. 293.
  • 4. Add. 35692, f. 434.
  • 5. Add. 32917, f. 263.
  • 6. To Sir H. Erskine, Bute mss.
  • 7. Oxenden to Newcastle, 19 Feb. 1761, Add. 32919, f. 116.
  • 8. Add. 32932, f. 56.
  • 9. Ibid. f. 45.