SPENCER, George John, Visct. Althorp (1758-1834).

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



1780 - Apr. 1782
10 Apr. 1782 - 31 Oct. 1783

Family and Education

b. 1 Sept. 1758, o.s. of John Spencer.  educ. Harrow 1770-5; Trinity, Camb. 1776-8; Grand Tour 1778-80.  m. 6 Mar. 1781, Lavinia, da. of Charles Bingham, 1st Baron Lucan [I], 5s. 3da.  suc. fa. as 2nd Earl Spencer 31 Oct. 1783; K.G. 1 Mar. 1799.

Offices Held

A ld. of Treasury Mar.-July 1782; P.C. 111 July 1794; ld. privy seal July-Dec. 1794; first ld. of Admiralty Dec. 1794-Feb. 1801; Home sec. 1806-7.


Althorp was returned for Northampton in 1780 on the family interest. Brother-in-law of William, 5th Duke of Devonshire, he was associated politically with Rockingham and the Cavendishes. In 1782 he took a prominent part in the final opposition onslaught on North’s Government, seconding Conway’s motions of 27 Feb. and 4 Mar. He became a lord of the Treasury under Rockingham, and in April vacated his seat to stand for Surrey, where he was returned unopposed. ‘He is very popular from his character’, wrote his father-in-law, ‘and will owe his election in the county to it, as he scarcely knows any man or freeholder in Surrey except those about Wimbledon Park.’1 In July 1782 Althorp declined Shelburne’s request to remain in office,2 and adhered to Fox. He voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and supported the Coalition. But he declined Portland’s offer of the lord lieutenantcy of Ireland—‘turned it in his mind for some days’, wrote his father-in-law, ‘and chose to put it off for some years, when he says he will have more experience to serve a country he likes’.3 In October his father’s death brought to an end his career in the Commons, and left him in charge of the family borough interests—a strong influence at St. Albans, where he succeeded his father as high steward, and a rather precarious interest at Northampton and at Okehampton. As a peer he adhered to Fox until 1794 when he went over to Pitt with the Portland Whigs.

He died 10 Nov. 1834.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: I. R. Christie


  • 1. HMC 14th Rep. IX, 165.
  • 2. Althorp to Shelburne, 10 July 1782, Lansdowne mss.
  • 3. HMC 14th Rep. IX, 176.