STANHOPE, Hon. James Hamilton (1788-1825), of 72 South Audley Street, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



23 June 1817 - 1818
1818 - 5 Mar. 1819
8 Apr. 1822 - 5 Mar. 1825

Family and Education

b. 7 Sept. 1788, 3rd s. of Charles Stanhope†, 3rd Earl Stanhope (d. 1816), and 2nd w. Louisa, da. and h. of Hon. Henry Grenville†, gov. Barbados. educ. privately by Rev. Jeremiah Joyce, his fa.’s sec.; after 1802 by Rev. John Stonard. m. 9 July 1820, Lady Frederica Louisa Murray, da. of David William, 3rd earl of Mansfield, 1s. surv. d. 5 Mar. 1825.

Offices Held

Ensign 1 Ft. Gds. 1803; a.d.c. to ld. lt. [I] 1807-9; lt. and capt. 1 Ft. Gds. 1808; a.d.c. to Sir John Moore 1809, to Gen. Thomas Graham† 1810-14; dep. asst. q.m.g. 1812, asst. 1813; brevet-maj. 1813, lt.-col. 1814; capt. and lt.-col. 1 Ft. Gds. 1814-22; asst. adj. to duke of Wellington 1815; a.d.c. to duke of York 1815-d.; half-pay Portuguese service 1822-d.

Commr. of alienations 1806-d.


Stanhope, who had been damaged physically by the musket ball which lodged against his spine at the siege of Saint Sebastian in 1813, and emotionally by his unorthodox upbringing at the hands of his eccentric father, failed to find a seat in 1820. Later that year he married Lady Frederica Murray, ‘of mathematical celebrity’, whose family provided him with the affection which he had missed in his childhood.1 In January 1822 his regiment was stationed in Ireland, from where he reported to his brother, the 4th Earl Stanhope, that ‘the alarm has been most absurd and uncalled for’; in his opinion there was ‘nothing religious or political in the riots’. On the problem of distress in England, he did ‘not ... consider things in so desponding a view as you ... I believe landlords now not to be worse off than they were during the war, though the nominal amount of their incomes is much and must remain diminished’. He favoured repealing ‘some of the taxes on the necessary articles of life, salt particularly’, and imposing ‘a proportionate income tax which should touch the fundholders’, but thought this was ‘as much as public faith will admit of’.2 Three months later he was brought in for Dartmouth on the Holdsworth interest, as a supporter of Lord Liverpool’s ministry. Ironically, he now found his second cousin the duke of Buckingham, to whose ‘third party’ line he had been unable to adhere when returned under his aegis in 1817, in alliance with the government.3

He divided against the removal of Catholic peers’ disabilities, 30 Apr. 1822. He was in the protectionist minority of 24 in favour of a fixed duty of 40s. on imported corn, 8 May, but voted with government against repeal of the salt duties, 28 June. He divided for the aliens bill, 19 July 1822, arguing that ‘no person would object to it, who had not done something wrong in his own country’; he thought his ‘20 minutes oration ... went off pretty well’.4 He was devastated by his wife’s death in childbirth, 14 Jan. 1823, and made no effort to hide his grief, commissioning Chantrey’s celebrated memorial to her at Chevening. No trace of parliamentary activity by him has been found for that session, when he gave up his London house and moved in with the Mansfields at Kenwood, Hampstead.5 He was present to vote against the motion condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. Later that year his behaviour gave cause for alarm: tortured by increasing pain from his wound, he lapsed into long bouts of depression and abstraction. He attended Parliament on the first day of the 1825 session and ‘about seven o’clock left it and roamed about the whole night towards Battersea’. He was placed for a while under close surveillance, but this was relaxed when he showed signs of improvement. On the afternoon of 5 Mar. 1825 he created a ‘sensation ... in the public mind’ by hanging himself with his own braces in an outhouse at Kenwood. Lord George William Russell*, with whom he had served in the Peninsula, observed to Lord Lynedoch:

What a sad and unexpected ending to our former gay companion. It is to be regretted he did not end his days in the trenches of San Sebastian, for he met with nothing but disappointments and misfortunes afterwards. He was cut by many on account of his supposed change in politics, he lost his wife, the fashionable world that thought him so agreeable in a capricious humour suddenly voted him a bore, and at last he finished his days by a desperate act of insanity.

The Whig George Agar Ellis* noted that Stanhope was ‘a good and clever though not agreeable person’.6 He was heir to the Revesby Abbey estate in Lincolnshire of his kinsman Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), the eminent botanist, subject to the life interest of Lady Banks. On her death in 1828 Revesby passed to Stanhope’s only child, James Banks Stanhope (1821-1904), Conservative Member for North Lincolnshire, 1852-68. In his will, Stanhope charged other property in Lincolnshire, which likewise went to his son, with an annuity of £1,500 for his elder half-sister Hester, then living reclusively in Syria, whose affection had mitigated the harshness of his childhood. He also directed that in the event of his death before remarrying £10,000 should be paid ‘as a mark of affectionate esteem’ to Lady Mansfield’s niece Elizabeth Barnett, to whom he was thought to be on the verge of marriage at the time of his suicide.7

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: David R. Fisher / Terry Jenkins


  • 1. A. Newman, Stanhopes of Chevening, 195-8; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC8/41.
  • 2. Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/C190/1.
  • 3. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 304.
  • 4. Stanhope mss U1590/C368/1.
  • 5. Newman, 199.
  • 6. Ibid.; Buckingham, ii. 224-5; Gent. Mag. (1825), i. 465; Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 6 Mar.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 7 Mar. 1825.
  • 7. PROB 11/1698/228; Newman, 200.