MAXWELL, Robert (c.1720-1779), of Farnham, co. Cavan.

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



24 Dec. 1754 - 1768

Family and Education

b. c.1720, 1st s. of John Maxwell (cr. Baron Farnham [I] 1756) by Judith, da. and h. of James Barry of Newtown Barry, co. Wexford.  educ. Trinity, Dublin 1738.  m. (1) 11 Oct. 1759, Henrietta (d. 30 Aug. 1761), da. and h. of Philip Cantilion, a Paris banker, wid. of William Matthias Stafford Howard, 3rd Earl of Stafford, 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) 1 Dec. 1771, Sarah, da. of Pole Cosby of Stradbally, Queen’s Co., wid. of Arthur Upton, s.p.  suc. fa. as 2nd Baron 6 Aug. 1759; cr. Visct. Farnham [I] 10 Sept. 1760; Earl of Farnham [I] 13 May 1763.

Offices Held

M.P. [I] 1743-59; P.C. [I] 19 Sept. 1760.


It is uncertain when Maxwell came to England, but probably not later than 1753.1 He did not stand at the general election of 1754, but when in June a vacancy occurred at Taunton, Newcastle wrote to Lord Egremont that Maxwell ‘would be glad of a seat’ and ‘would go as far as £3,000 but no further’.2 Maxwell himself wrote to Lord George Sackville on 8 Aug.: ‘My father grumbles a good deal, but has promised the money.’3 In August he also received £500 from secret service funds, and during the next eighteen months received further sums making a total of £3,675 towards the heavy expenses of a long and riotous campaign.

In 1761 Farnham (as Maxwell had now become) was returned unopposed for Taunton. He supported Bute’s Administration. Sir Henry Erskine wrote to Bute on 10 Apr. 1763 about an interview with Farnham:4

He seems to flatter himself with being in the Admiralty or being paymaster of the pensions. I found by his discourse, that he only wished for office as a step towards obtaining a peerage some time hence. If he were assured of having that, even at the end of the Parliament, he would not desire to have any office at all ... As his declarations of attachment to you were strong, and as he is a man of honour, and consequently to be looked on as sincere, if you don’t see him and at least say somewhat obliging to him he will think himself neglected. If you cannot procure him office; and mean not to obtain him hopes of the peerage, he will expect that your Lordship will promise to recommend him to his Majesty for office under the next Administration.

A month later Farnham was made an Irish earl. He was a supporter of George Grenville, but was in Ireland in February 1764, and though he returned to England at Grenville’s request, missed the divisions on Wilkes and general warrants. Farnham followed Grenville into opposition, and voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act, 22 Feb. 1766. A close friend of Richard Rigby (with whom he toured France and the Low Countries during the summer of 1764), he was classed in 1766-7 as a member of the Bedford group by Rockingham, Townshend and Newcastle. He voted with Opposition on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767. There is no record of his having spoken in the House.

In 1768 Lord Egremont’s brother, Lord Thomond, decided to stand for Taunton with Farnham as his partner, but they were forced to decline in face of strong local opposition.

Farnham died 16 Nov. 1779.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. HMC Stopford-Sackville, i. 212.
  • 2. Add. 32736, ff. 49-50.
  • 3. HMC Stopford-Sackville , i. 380.
  • 4. Bute mss.