WATSON, Hon. Edward (1686-1722), of Lees Court, Sheldwich, Kent, and Park Place, London
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Family and Education
bap. 3 July 1686, 1st s. of Lewis Watson†, 3rd Baron Rockingham (later 1st Earl of Rockingham), by Lady Catherine, da. and h. of George Sondes†, 1st Earl of Feversham; nephew of Hon. Thomas Watson Wentworth*. educ. Merton, Oxf. 1703; travelled abroad (Germany) 1707. m. 21 Mar. 1708, Lady Catherine (d. 1734), da. and coh. of Thomas Tufton†, 6th Earl of Thanet, 3s. 1da. Styled Visct. Sondes 1714–d.1
Freeman, Canterbury 1708, New Romney 1713.2
Gent. of bedchamber to Prince of Wales ?1718–d.
The Watson family had been settled at Rockingham, Northamptonshire, since the reign of Henry VIII. Watson’s father made what he must have thought was a favourable marriage in July 1677 to the heiress of the 1st Earl of Feversham, who had died three months previously. But there followed an acrimonious court case over the Feversham inheritance, which led to a ruling by the House of Lords in July 1678 that his brother-in-law Louis de Duras, the 2nd Earl (widower of the elder daughter, Lady Mary Sondes d.v.p. in 1676), who had succeeded to the Feversham title by special remainder, should receive £3,000 p.a. for life out of the estates. The 2nd Earl therefore retained these Kentish estates. Lewis Watson succeeded to the Rockingham barony in 1689, but although his wife died in 1696, it was not until the Earl’s death in 1709 that he finally inherited the remainder of the Feversham estates. By this time, however, Rockingham was already a power in his own right in Kent, having been appointed lord lieutenant of the county in 1705. Even so, the acquisition of the Feversham lands made the Watsons the largest landholders in the county.3
Rockingham had sat as a Whig during the third Exclusion Parliament and remained staunch to his party after 1689. His son Edward Watson followed the same path. He was first mentioned as a parliamentary candidate following the fiercely contested Northamptonshire county election of 1705. The Whigs made early preparations in case another contest should ensue, and at a meeting at Wellingborough in August 1706 ‘Mr Watson (my Lord Rockingham’s son)’ and a Montagu were set up as candidates for the next election. However, no election was called and Watson went on an extended trip abroad, which took in Berlin and a visit to the reversionary interest in Hanover. He returned in time to be elected at Canterbury in 1708.4
On a list of early 1708 with the election returns added, Watson was classed as a Whig. The Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) agreed with this assessment, classing Watson’s election as a ‘gain’ for his party. In his first session in the Commons Watson gained some notoriety by proposing on 25 Jan. 1709 a motion for an address to the Queen that she should consider remarrying. He was first-named to the committee and reported the drafted address two days later, before carrying it up to the Lords to desire their concurrence. As Peter Wentworth described the motion to his brother, Lord Raby, it ‘occasioned a world of discourse. The persons that made it, help out the jest; Mr Watson who is commonly called the fillet of veal was the first . . . I have heard gentlemen of both parties laugh at it’. On 24 Feb. Watson acted as a teller for the committal of a bill to encourage the export of tobacco and other commodities grown or produced in Britain and the dominions. He also supported the naturalization of the Palatines. In the following session, on 28 Jan. 1710, he acted as a teller for the committal of a place bill. On 2 Feb. he was appointed to a committee to draft a bill for ascertaining and limiting the time allowed for public mourning, a custom which was felt to be having an increasingly adverse effect on Canterbury’s silk trade. He also voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, and possibly as a result, with the electoral tide running strongly for the Tories, lost his seat at Canterbury in the general election later that year.5
Watson was perhaps the ‘Mr Watson of Kent’ on a contemporary list of members of the Hanover Club. Oldmixon, writing in 1735, identified a Lewis Watson in the club’s membership in Nov. 1712 but probably intended Edward, Lewis being the name of Edward’s son born that same year but who had reached adulthood by the time Oldmixon came to compile his history. Watson regained a seat in the Commons at a by-election for New Romney at the beginning of the 1713 session. Thus he was in place to vote on 18 June 1713 against the French commerce bill, being marked as a Whig in a list of the division. Secure in the knowledge that he possessed a safety net at New Romney in the 1713 election, Watson stood for knight of the shire in Kent only to be defeated. In the 1714 session he voted on 18 Mar. against the expulsion of Richard Steele and was then classed as a Whig in the Worsley list and on two analyses comparing the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments.6
Returned for New Romney again in 1715, Watson joined the Whig opposition in 1718, when he accepted a post in the Prince of Wales’s household. By 1720 his letters to Dr Sloane indicate that he was not a well man, and in September of that year he took a course of treatment at Bath, his symptoms suggesting consumption. He predeceased his father, dying on 20 Mar. 1722, ten days after the dissolution of Parliament. In his will he left his lease on Park Place to his widow, and arranged to set in motion the power in his marriage settlement to raise £5,000 for the maintenance and education of his younger children. The monument she erected claimed that ‘his steady adherence to the service of God, his King and his country, his conjugal affection and exact economy of his family and his benevolence to all mankind were more eminent and conspicuous than usual in so short a period of life’. His son Lewis succeeded as 2nd Earl of Rockingham in 1724.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Arch. Cant. xviii. 295; Bodl. Ballard 21, f. 121; Northants. RO, Isham mss IC 2320, John to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 4 Oct. 1707; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 296; 7th Duke of Manchester, Court and Soc. Eliz. to Anne, ii. 327; NRA Rep. 25865, p. 92.
- 2. Canterbury Freemen Roll ed. Cowper, 326; Centre Kentish Stud. New Romney bor. recs. NR/Ac3.
- 3. Bridges, Northants. ii. 335; C. Wise, Rockingham Castle and the Watsons, 96, 99–100, 243; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 2, 119; HMC Bath, ii. 167; LJ, xiii. 280; Luttrell, vi. 296; N. Landau, JPs, 297.
- 4. Bull. IHR, xli. 189; Party and Management ed. C. Jones, 158; Isham mss IC 2754, Hon. Charles Bertie* to Isham, 29 Aug. 1706; IC 2320, John Isham to same, 4 Oct. 1707; Ballard 21, f. 121.
- 5. Wentworth Pprs. 75; Add. 17677 DDD, f. 52.
- 6. Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Osborn Coll. F1, list of Hanover Club; Oldmixon, Hist. Eng. 509.
- 7. Sloane 4046, f. 21; Wise, 101, 247; Boyer, Pol. State, xxiii. 345; PCC 84 Marlbro’.