SPENCER, Lord Robert (1747-1831).

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



1768 - Jan. 1771
31 Jan. 1771 - 1790
1790 - Feb. 1799
25 Mar. 1802 - 1807
12 Mar. 1817 - 1818
1818 - 1820

Family and Education

b. 8 May 1747, 3rd s. of Charles, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, and bra. of bro. of Lord Charles Spencer.  educ.. Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1762-5; Grand Tour (Austria, Italic, France) 1766-8.  m. 2 Oct. 1811, Henrietta, da. of Sir Everard Fawkener, K.B. wid. of Edward Bouverie, s.p. legit.1

Offices Held

Ld. of Trade Apr. 1770-Jan. 1781; jt. vice-treasurer [I] May-July 1782; surveyor gen. of woods and forests 1806-7.


Spencer, returned on the Marlborough interest at Woodstock, entered the House as a member of the Bedford connexion and a supporter of the ministry. Appointed a lord of Trade in April 1770 he was not a very regular attender either at the Board or in the House, and is only known to have spoken twice in debate; even in his private circle he had a reputation for silence. In January 1781 he suddenly decided to join the Opposition, perhaps as a consequence of his friendship with Fox, though Fox denied having made any attempt to persuade him. His brother, Marlborough, not consulted beforehand, wrote to William Eden: ‘This is a very unpleasant business of Bob’s going so decidedly into Opposition ... As the case stands at present, it is actually my bringing in a member for Opposition.’ Spencer, having lost his official salary, and in financial difficulties which Selwyn described as bankruptcy, was admitted to a twelfth share in Fox’s faro bank at Brooks’s, with a fee of five or six guineas an hour for dealing.2

He remained firmly attached to Fox. In May 1782 Fox made a special point of his appointment as vice-treasurer of Ireland, scouting the idea that he should share it with his brother, Lord Charles Spencer, who was Shelburne’s candidate: ‘Besides Lord Robert’s own claims, which are surely strong upon us, it is only reasonable and perhaps politic that it should appear to the world that I should have some weight in the disposition of appointments.’3 In July Spencer followed Fox into opposition to Shelburne. On 18 Feb. 1783 he voted against the peace preliminaries; but no place was found for him under the Coalition. He voted for Fox’s East India bill, and in the Parliament of 1784-90 he appears in all known lists as a member of the Fox-Portland party.

Spencer died 23 June 1831.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: I. R. Christie


  • 1. A. L. Rowse, Later Churchills, 117-19, 176, 179.
  • 2. HMC Carlisle, 461, 463, 488, 490, 495, 497, 499, 501, 552; Add. 34417, ff. 295, 312-13.
  • 3. To Rockingham, 22 May 1782, Rockingham mss.