BERTIE, Hon. Peregrine II (c.1663-1711), of Great Marlborough Street, Westminster, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c.1663, 2nd s. of Robert Bertie†, 3rd Earl of Lindsey, by his 2nd w.; bro. of Hon. Albemarle*, Hon. Philip* and Robert Bertie*, Lord Willoughby de Eresby, and half-bro. of Hon. Charles II*. educ. M. Temple 1679; Oxf. DCL 1702. unm. at least 2da. illegit. by ‘Mrs Elizabeth Allen’.1
Cornet, indep. tp. of Horse 1685; vice-chamberlain to Queen Mary 1692–Feb. 1694, to King William Feb. 1694–1702, to Queen Anne 1702–6; PC 5 May 1695–d.; receiver, rents of duchy of Lancaster, Lincs. 1696–d.; teller of Exchequer 1706–d.2
Alderman, Boston 1685–Oct. 1688; ?freeman, Hertford 1703.3
Asst. Co. for making saltpetre 1692; commr. taking subscriptions to S. Sea Co. 1711.4
Bertie was a politician of independent mind, a placeman who often voted against the government, and ready to serve under Whig and Tory administrations. To observers such as Arthur Maynwaring*, he was an unscrupulous courtier, ‘extreme envious and uneasy if anybody is taken notice of in any way whatever’. His political opportunism was exemplified by his return at a by-election at Boston in 1690, when, in order to consolidate the Tory interest of his father, he sought the aid of his kinsman, the Whig grandee Hon. Thomas Wharton*, to win Nonconformist votes. Another relation, the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†), listed him as a Court supporter at the outset of the Parliament, an assessment in which Robert Harley* concurred in April 1691. Bertie’s contribution to the business of the House is less certain, thanks to the presence there of several relations, in particular his uncle Peregrine I. During the Parliament he was eager for office, and in August 1691 Carmarthen petitioned the King to secure him appointment as guidon in the guards. He does not appear to have obtained the post, but the Court’s favour towards him was demonstrated in March 1692, when he replaced John Grobham Howe* as vice-chamberlain to Queen Mary. His name subsequently appeared on several lists of placemen.5
Despite his tenure of a crown office, Bertie often supported opposition measures in Parliament. In the 1692–3 session he took an active part in the debates on the naval failures of the previous summer, and only offered conditional support for the administration on 30 Nov., remarking:
it is agreed by most that there is a coldness to this government, if not treachery. I doubt not there are several men in this King’s councils that are not true to him, though I cannot name them. But such a general address I think not for your service, and, therefore, I am for searching into particulars.
During a debate on 20 Dec. on a motion of thanks to Admiral Edward Russell*, which developed into a Whig attack on Secretary Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), he recommended that since there were obviously divisions within the government, the House should advise the King ‘to consult only with men of one principle and interest’. Earlier that month he had backed a motion to adjourn a committee on the supply, and had spoken against committing the bill for preserving their Majesties’ persons and government. On 11 Jan. 1693 he broke with the placemen to speak in favour of a motion to address the King to appoint as Admiralty commissioners only men experienced in maritime affairs. Nine days later he joined Howe in drawing attention to Bishop Burnet’s Pastoral Letter, as containing much dangerous matter, and subsequently spoke in favour of having the pamphlet burnt. He presumably was the ‘Mr Bertie junior’ who on 2 Feb. backed the motion of Sir Thomas Clarges* that pressing men into military service was against the rights of the subject. Moreover, on the same day he was probably the ‘Mr Bertie (the younger)’ who supported the triennial bill. In the remainder of the session Mr Bertie jnr. twice contributed to debate, backing on 8 Mar. the expulsion from the Commons of William Culliford, and two days later joining Hon. John Granville’s call for the House to examine the appropriation of supplies granted in this session. This may have represented a significant switch of political loyalties on Bertie’s part, for Granville’s motion was aimed at exposing recent royal gifts to Carmarthen.6
In the next session Bertie continued to be a thorn in the government’s side, speaking on 26 Jan. 1694 in favour of a motion that those who had advised the rejection of the place bill were enemies to King and country. Significantly, in Samuel Grascome’s list of 1693–5 he was classed as a placeman who did not support the Court. Perhaps in an attempt to strengthen his wavering allegiance, or as a token of a more general reassurance to the Bertie family, in view of the Court’s shift to the Whigs, he was appointed vice-chamberlain to the King in February 1694, with an additional £600 p.a. in salary. The following July it was reported that he fought a duel with the Whig peer Lord Cholmondeley, ‘occasioned by some words’ in public, but he continued to find favour at the increasingly Whig-dominated Court, being added in May 1695 to the Privy Council. Another sign of his rapprochement with the government was his membership of the Rose Club, which probably reflected his close connexion with its leader Thomas Wharton. His name also appeared in a list of 1694–5 compiled by Henry Guy* of his likely supporters in the Commons.7
Continuing to represent Boston in 1695, Bertie was classed as ‘doubtful’ in a forecast for the division of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade, although he was seen as more likely to oppose than support the Court. None the less, he signed the Association on 27 Feb., and may well have been one of ‘two great courtiers’ who spoke against a motion that Louis XIV and James II were behind the Assassination Plot, on grounds that ‘it had not yet appeared so to the House’. The following month he voted with the Court on fixing the price of guineas at 22s., and in early April carried a message from the King for the House to attend him, a task he also fulfilled in the next session.8
The session of 1696–7 was most significant for the Bertie family, as Carmarthen led several of its members into opposition over the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. However, the stance of the vice-chamberlain is less easy to discern. On 17 Nov. Bertie contributed to the debate on the best way of questioning Fenwick, but although one source suggests that he spoke in favour of the bill of attainder, he is recorded as voting against it in the key division of 25 Nov. More puzzlingly still, according to James Vernon I*, he simply ‘went away’ when the House divided. Whichever version was correct, the King was certainly displeased with him, for during a discussion with the Duke of Shrewsbury and Lord Sunderland in April 1697, William reportedly remarked that ‘the whole family of the Berties were against him and declared himself not satisfied even with the vice-chamberlain, but Lord Sunderland excused him’. At that time L’Hermitage, the Dutch agent, expected him to lose his place, commenting:
Le Sieur Bertie . . . sera ôté à ce qu’on dit de sa place; le roi n’en a point dit la raison, mais quoi qu’il fût au nombre des officiers de S. M[ajeste] il a paru si peu d’attachement à son service, en s’opposant dans la chambre des communes à tout ce qui lui étoit favorable, qu’on ne doute pas que cela n’en soit la cause.
The rumours of dismissal, however, appear to have influenced Bertie to change his ways. He managed to retain his office, and in about September 1698 he was listed as a member of the Court party. He did not stand in the election of that year or in February 1701, possibly due to differences with his father, who remained a Tory. However, following the death of the 3rd Earl, he came back to the House in December 1701, when his return was regarded by Lord Spencer (Charles*) as a gain for the Whigs. His only discernible action of note was to pass to the Commons the King’s answer to an address concerning military quotas.9
Despite Bertie’s Whiggish inclinations, Queen Anne retained him as her vice-chamberlain in 1702, although ‘Jack’ Howe was said to have refused the post, a report later corroborated by Maynwaring. In the first Parliament of her reign Bertie was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack but did not vote in the division on 28 Nov. 1704. At the ensuing general election he was said to have ‘lost’ at Boston, and was brought in at a by-election for Truro on the interest of Hugh Boscawen II*. Once back in the House he was appointed to the committee for the conference on the Lords’ address that the Church was not in danger, supported the Court in February 1706 on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill, and in the latter stages of the Parliament was twice classed as a Whig. Outside the Commons he was busy politicking, exchanging his office of vice-chamberlain in December 1706 for a lucrative tellership of the Exchequer. According to Maynwaring, Bertie was not content with this post, and was constantly on the look-out for an appointment for life. Always critical of the activities of Bertie, whom he called ‘Old Vice’, Maynwaring was scornful of such endeavours, and was prepared to tell him to his face that
if I should ever have any interest I would not for £3,000 employ it so ill as to put him out of the power of those that should oblige him, for I believed the next thing he would do would be to hang them if he could. That he would, to be sure, he said, if they deserved it: why else should he desire to be at liberty?
Bertie did not gain his objective, and also declined to purchase Maynwaring’s office of auditor of the imprests, about which they negotiated for some time.10
At the general election of 1708 Bertie was able to regain his seat at Boston, a success which argues for his identification as the Member who in the first session aided the progress of the Boston church bill. Moreover, he may have managed a bill to confirm the title of his brother, the Marquess of Lindsey (formerly Robert Bertie, Lord Willoughby de Eresby), to part of Havering Park in Essex. He remained politically consistent, voting for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell in early 1710. Shortly after the end of the session he was active in the campaign to raise his brother to a dukedom, making a personal plea to the Queen to advance him, but to no avail.11
Anticipating the end of the ailing Whig administration, as early as May 1710 Bertie claimed to be ‘so far engaged’ with the Tories. Worryingly for him, at that time rumours also circulated that he would be dismissed, but he did manage to keep his place. He cannot have endeared himself to Harley by acting for Lindsey in an unsuccessful attempt in 1711 to prevent the new lord treasurer taking the title of Earl of Oxford, which the Berties claimed to lie in their family. Maynwaring suggested that Bertie actually had designs on the title himself, ‘but now his concern for his place keeps him silent’. Before the dispute could have any effect on his position at court, Bertie died ‘suddenly’ on 10 July 1711, ‘being seized, as he was playing at cards, with a dead palsy’. Opinion was divided on his qualities, Macky thinking him ‘a fine gentleman’, who had ‘both wit and learning’, on which Swift commented, ‘I never observed a grain of either’. His personal life was not without its controversy either, for he left his estate in trust for a Mrs Elizabeth Allen, ‘commonly called Mrs Poltney’, and his two daughters by her. Another report insisted that he had ‘several children male and female’, but none rose to prominence.12
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Perry Gauci
- 1. PCC 143 Young; Collins, Peerage, ii. 20.
- 2. Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 190.
- 3. CSP Dom. 1685, p. 50; Herts. RO, Hertford bor. recs. 25/105.
- 4. Sel. Charters, 235; Pittis, Present Parl. 347.
- 5. Add. 61459, f. 97; Bodl. Rawl. lett. 51, f. 142; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 502; A. Browning, Danby, i. 497.
- 6. Luttrell Diary, 276, 287, 318, 331, 364, 377, 381, 397–8, 471, 475.
- 7. Grey, x. 377; Wood, Life and Times, iii. 444; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 580; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/059/3, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 17 July 1694; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 209, 220.
- 8. HMC Kenyon, 405.
- 9. Oldmixon, Hist. Eng. 152; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 82; Shrewsbury Corresp. 479; Add. 17677 RR, f. 302.
- 10. DZA, Bonet despatch 17/28 Apr. 1702; Add. 61460, ff. 52, 202–3; 61459, f. 97; Northants. RO, Isham mss IC 2749, Hon. Charles Bertie I* to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 13 May 1705; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 113.
- 11. Duchess of Marlborough Corresp. i. 322.
- 12. Add. 61460, ff. 202–3; 61461, ff. 124–5; HMC Portland, iv. 689; Top. and Gen. iii. 383; Hearne Colls. iii. 193; Macky Mems. 73; Swift Works ed. Davis, v. 259; PCC 143 Young.