YORKE, Philip, Visct. Royston (1720-90).
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Family and Education
b. 9 Dec. 1720, 1st s. of Philip, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, by Margaret, da. of Charles Cocks of Worcester; bro. of Hon. Charles, Hon. John and Hon. Joseph Yorke. educ. Hackney; Corpus Christi, Camb. 1737. m. 22 May 1740, Jemima, da. of John, 3rd Earl of Breadalbane [S], 2da. She suc. her gd.-fa. as Marchioness Grey 5 June 1740. suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Hardwicke 6 Mar. 1764.
Ld. lt. Cambs. 1757- d.; teller of the Exchequer 1738- d.; P.C. 17 Dec. 1760; high steward Camb. Univ. 1764- d.
Yorke was returned for the family seat at Reigate while under age, and transferred to Cambridgeshire at the next general election. Of a reserved disposition and in poor health, his main pleasure was in literature. He was a member of several learned societies, and a trustee of the British Museum—‘a bookish man, conversant only with parsons’, was Horace Walpole’s assessment.1 He contented himself with speaking in the House of Commons on formal occasions.
Royston’s chief concern was to maintain the dignity of his family and to secure the lord chancellorship for his brother Charles. When Newcastle resigned in May 1762 Royston was anxious that his brothers should stay in office. To Charles he wrote, 27 Oct.:2 ‘I do not think it will be for the Duke of Newcastle’s or Lord Hardwicke’s credit to set themselves at the head of a weak Opposition.’ But, like a true Yorke, he was full of misgivings. When James Harris spoke to him, 17 Nov., he appeared hostile to the court: ‘seemed to think that the scheme was to eject all the old ministry and that things should be wholly governed by the royal finger’.3 The following month he had veered round again, and, much to his father’s embarrassment, voted with the Bute ministry on the peace preliminaries, 10 Dec. 1762. Newcastle explained to his wife that the Opposition’s poor showing was ‘all owing to my Lord Hardwicke’s sons’.4 But in November 1763 Charles and John Yorke succumbed to their father’s pressure, and resigned office. The family was back in the Newcastle fold, and in February 1764 Royston and his brothers voted with Opposition on general warrants.
The following month old Lord Hardwicke died. ‘We are all at sea without a pilot or rudder’, wrote the new head of the family.5 His first step was characteristic. He allowed himself to be persuaded to stand against Sandwich for the high stewardship of Cambridge University, but was so languid and aloof that he offended many of his supporters: ‘such a mere feather’, he wrote later, ‘even from such a respectable body, when not made an unanimous compliment, was scarcely worth acceptance’.6 He rejected offers of a post in the Rockingham Administration of 1765, though agreeing to attend the Cabinet. When the Duke of Grafton resigned as secretary of state in May 1766, Rockingham invited Hardwicke to succeed him. Hardwicke told Charles Yorke, 14 May: ‘the more coolly and seriously I think of undertaking this important office, the less inclined I feel myself to accept it. I am sure it would be too much for me, and, as a confinement in and about town all the summer, extremely inconvenient too, if not prejudicial to my health’.7 He continued to hover on the fringes of political life, careful never to hold office.
He died 16 May 1790.