SPENCER, John (1734-83), of Althorp, nr. Northampton and Wimbledon Park, Surr.

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



9 Dec. 1756 - 1761

Family and Education

b. 19 Dec. 1734, 1st s. of Hon. John Spencer of Althorp and Wimbledon Park (bro. of Charles, 5th Earl of Sunderland and 3rd Duke of Marlborough) by Georgiana Caroline, da. of John Carteret, 1st Earl Granville, sis. and coh. of Robert, and Earl Granville.  educ. Grand Tour.  m. 20 Dec. 1755, Margaret Georgiana, da. of Rt. Hon. Stephen Poyntz of Midgham House, Berks., 1s. 4da.  suc. fa. 20 June 1746; cr. Visct. Spencer 3 Apr. 1761, Earl Spencer 1 Nov. 1765.

Offices Held

High steward, St. Albans 1772- d.


John Spencer was the principal beneficiary under the will of his great-grandmother Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (d. 1744) who, however, stipulated that should he at any time accept ‘from any King or Queen of these realms any pension, or any office or employment, civil or military’ (other than the rangership of Windsor Great or Little Park), the estates were to pass to the next heir ‘as if the same John Spencer were actually dead’.1

In 1754 he was too young to stand for Parliament, but in return for James Grimston’s election at St. Albans was promised the support of the Grimston family for himself or his nominee on the next occasion. In March 1756 Spencer, standing on the Whig interest, unsuccessfully engaged in an exceedingly expensive by-election at Bristol; but was returned on 9 Dec. for Warwick, mainly on the interest of Lord Brooke (later Earl of Warwick). On 27 Nov. 1760 Spencer wrote to the Duke of Newcastle:2

As I am the representative of the Sunderland family, and as my particular circumstances are such (from the Duchess of Marlborough’s will) that I cannot receive any favour from the King except a title, I should hope that if his Majesty thinks me worthy of a peerage he will not confer upon me a less dignity than that of a viscount ...
I hope your Grace has observed that ever since I sat in Parliament I have never failed in supporting the King and his ministers to the best of my ability.

Newcastle replied the next day that the King had graciously received the application [backed by Lord Granville] but that there would be no immediate creations. Spencer therefore continued canvassing St. Albans3 but toward the end of February presumably on being informed of the impending creation, nominated Lord Nuneham in his place.

Spencer went with Newcastle into Opposition, and when the Rockingham Government was being formed, Newcastle noted in his lists: ‘Viscount Spencer to be created an earl’;4 which was done. Next, he adhered to the Chatham Administration. But Spencer, debarred from taking office, in poor health, and much of the time abroad, never made his mark; and attended the House from a mere sense of duty: ‘I do not relish the beginning the winter again in London so early for this abominable meeting of Parliament’, he wrote from Paris, 14 Oct. 1775, to his daughter Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.5

He died 31 Oct. 1783.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Copy of will, Spencer mss at Althorp.
  • 2. Add. 32915, f. 155.
  • 3. Add. 34735, ff. 36, 45, 53, 104, 111.
  • 4. Fortescue, i. 144, 154.
  • 5. Georgiana, ed. Bessborough, 27-28.