HILL, Wills, 1st Earl of Hillsborough [I] (1718-93), of North Aston, Oxon.

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



1741 - 17 Nov. 1756

Family and Education

b. 30 May 1718, o. surv. s. of Trevor, 1st Visct. Hillsborough [I], by Mary, da. and h. of Anthony Rowe of North Aston, Oxon., wid. of Sir Edmund Denton, 1st Bt., of Hillesden, Bucks.  m. (1) 1 Mar. 1748, Lady Margaret FitzGerald (d. 25 Jan. 1766), da. of Robert, 19th Earl of Kildare [I], sis. of James, 1st Duke of Leinster [I], 2s. 3da.; (2) 11 Oct. 1768, Mary, suo jure Baroness Stawell, da. of Edward, 4th Baron Stawell, wid. of H. B. Legge, s.p.  suc. fa. as 2nd Visct. Hillsborough [I] 5 May 1742; cr. Earl of Hillsborough [I] 3 Oct. 1751; Baron Harwich [GB] 17 Nov. 1756; Earl of Hillsborough [GB] 28 Aug. 1772; Mq. of Downshire [I] 20 Aug. 1789.

Offices Held

P.C. [I] 27 Aug. 1746; comptroller of the Household May 1754-Dec. 1755; P.C. [GB] 21 June 1754; treasurer of the chamber Dec. 1755-Nov. 1756; first ld. of Trade Sept. 1763-July 1765 and Aug.-Dec. 1766; jt. postmaster-gen. Dec. 1766-Jan. 1768; sec. of state for the American dept. Jan. 1768-Aug. 1772, for the southern dept. Nov. 1779-Mar. 1782.


Hillsborough sat at Warwick on the interest of Lord Warwick. He had very little property in England, but was one of the largest Irish landowners and controlled nine seats in the Irish Parliament. His political career was passed almost entirely in England, and his wish to become lord lieutenant of Ireland was never fulfilled.

He entered Parliament as an Opposition Whig, and went over to the Pelhams about 1750. He was first given office in the Newcastle Administration in May 1754. He was then politically connected with Henry Fox, but also on friendly terms with Pitt.1 On 13 Nov. 1755 he moved the Address on the subsidy treaties. Horace Walpole thus reports his speech:

The question was opened disadvantageously for the court by the imprudence of Lord Hillsborough, who arrived so late that the Speech was read before he came: instead of veiling, he pointed out the tendency of the treaties as a Hanoverian measure; and seemed to describe, while he meant to defend, the weakness of the Government.

Yet Walpole considered him at this time to be one of the foremost speakers in the House.2 When the treaties were considered on 10 Dec. Hillsborough spoke again—‘very well’, reported Andrew Stone to Newcastle.3 On Newcastle’s resignation in November 1756, he was created through the influence of Fox with Devonshire a British peer.

The most important part of his career was spent under George III. During this period he was a leading political figure, and twice held office as secretary of state. Yet the King had a low opinion of his abilities. ‘I do not know a man of less judgment than Lord Hillsborough’, he wrote to Robinson on 15 Oct. 1776;4 and to North on 27 Mar. 1782:5 ‘Lord Hillsborough always put things off to the last minute, and though an amiable man [is] the least man of business I ever knew.’  He died on 7 Oct. 1793.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Dodington’s Diary, 320.
  • 2. Mems. Geo. II, ii. 49-50, 144.
  • 3. Add. 32861, f. 275.
  • 4. Abergavenny mss.
  • 5. Fortescue, v. 418.