PETTY, John, 1st Earl of Shelburne [I] (1706-61), of Lixnaw, co. Kerry, and Bowood, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. 1706, 2nd surv. s. of Thomas Fitzmaurice, 20th Baron and 1st Earl of Kerry [I], by Anne, da. of Sir William Petty, sis. of Henry, 1st Earl of Shelburne [I]. educ. Westminster 1715; M. Temple 1723. m. 16 Feb. 1734, his cos. Mary, da. of Hon. William Fitzmaurice of Gallans, co. Kerry, 2s. 3da. suc. to estates of his uncle, Henry, Earl of Shelburne 17 Apr. 1751, and took name of Petty; cr. Visct. Fitzmaurice [I] 7 Oct. 1751; Earl of Shelburne [I] 6 June 1753; Baron Wycombe [GB] 20 May 1760.
M.P. [I] 1743-51; P.C. [I] 8 Feb. 1754.
The Fitzmaurices had sat for generations in the Irish Parliament, but Shelburne was the first to enter that of Great Britain. With a fortune of over £300,000, he inherited from his uncle a house in London and Loakes House (now Wycombe Abbey) at High Wycombe; and next purchased Bremhill in Wiltshire and Bowood Park, where he rebuilt the house.1 Towards the end of 1753 he declared his candidature for Chipping Wycombe at the general election, which produced ‘a visit from the two principals of the corporation and a message from Mr. Waller that he did not mean to oppose him provided my Lord did not mean to deprive his family of both seats’.2 The two families henceforth shared the representation of the borough. In the House Shelburne connected himself with Henry Fox, whose wife was a distant relation of his uncle,3 and through him tried to obtain ‘the much-coveted peerage of Great Britain’.4 Newcastle mentions in a letter to Hardwicke, 15 Oct. 1759, that Fox was pressing for Shelburne’s peerage, and on 4 Mar. 1760 refers to ‘Mr. Fox’s friend, my Lord Shelburne (worth nothing but money)’.5
According to his son, the famous Lord Shelburne, he had ‘an uncommon good plain understanding, great firmness, and love of justice, saw things public and private en grand, but was not broke to the world’s little activity’, and on the whole ‘loved a quiet life’—had it not been for his wife’s ‘continual energy’ and boundless love of power, he ‘would have passed the remainder of his life in Ireland’.6
He died 14 May 1761.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. ‘King’s Bowood Park’ by the Earl of Kerry, Wilts. Arch. Mag, xli.
- 2. Draft of a letter from Wm. Monck to Mr. Hort, written on a wrapper addressed by W. Northey (q.v.) to Monck, postmarked 3 Dec., Lansdowne mss.
- 3. Walpole to Mann, 22 Apr. 1751.
- 4. Ilchester, Hen. Fox, ii. 121.
- 5. Add. 32903, f. 81.
- 6. Fitzmaurice, Shelburne, i. 5.