STANHOPE, Robert Henry (1802-1839), of 21 Chester Street, Grosvenor Place, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 21 Apr. 1802, 3rd but o. surv. s. of Hon. Henry Fitzroy Stanhope† and Elizabeth, da. of Capt. Robert Faulknor, RN. m. 29 Mar. 1830, Elizabeth Rosamund, da. of James Ward of Willey Place, Surr., s.p. suc. fa. 1828. d. 2 Mar. 1839.
Lt. RN 1824, cdr. 1828.
Gent. usher daily waiter to Queen Adelaide 1830-6.
Sub-inspector of constabulary, co. Leitrim 1836.
In August 1830 Thomas Creevey* witnessed a ludicrous episode at a fashionable gathering at Ascot races:
Captain Stanhope of the navy ... is one of our visitors here, so Lord Sefton* said to him, ‘You must go into the royal stand, Bob, as you know him’; an honour Bob would have willingly declined, but was made to do so, and nothing could be kinder than the king, who said, ‘I have you always in my eye, Bob, and you shall have the first ship I can find for you’. As they sat down to luncheon immediately after this, the king said out aloud, ‘Although Bob and I are very near relations, I don’t think there is any family likeness’, and after some pause he said to Lady Jersey, ‘Do you think there is, Madam?’. So upon Sally’s observing she did not exactly know what His Majesty alluded to, ‘Why, Ma’am’, said he equally publicly, ‘my great aunt, the Princess Amelia, had a natural daughter who married Admiral Faulkner, and Mrs. Stanhope (Bob’s mother) was their granddaughter’; and so you see it was true enough.1
It was almost true. Stanhope’s maternal grandmother was the celebrated courtesan Elizabeth Ashe, known as ‘little Ashe or the pollard Ashe’, who was reputedly the bastard child of George II’s daughter Amelia. (The later attribution of her paternity to the 1st Lord Rodney can be disregarded.) She was the companion in debauchery of Caroline Fitzroy and her libertine husband William Stanhope, 2nd earl of Harrington, Robert Stanhope’s paternal grandfather. In 1751 Miss Ashe went through a form of bigamous marriage with the degenerate Edward Wortley Montagu†, who left her almost immediately afterwards.2 Ten years later she attained respectability by marrying Captain Robert Faulknor, the naval hero of the hour. Poor health forced him to leave the service and he died at Dijon in 1769. His pregnant widow returned to England with their four children and, through the intercession of Amelia’s brother, the duke of Cumberland, secured a pension. Her eldest son Robert Faulknor entered the navy in 1777, distinguished himself in the West Indies in 1794, but was killed in action, aged 31, 5 Jan. 1795. A monument to his memory was erected in St. Paul’s.3 His sister Elizabeth, a ‘very pretty’ woman much admired by the decrepit Horace Walpole, married in about 1786 Henry Fitzroy Stanhope, Harrington’s second son.4 He, a soldier in the family tradition, was Member for Bramber, 1782-4, when he became one of ‘Fox’s Martyrs’. He was a groom of the bedchamber in the prince of Wales’s household, 1787-95, and in March 1812, with his cousin Charles Stanhope, an eccentric leader of fashion who succeeded as 4th earl of Harrington in 1829, he was appointed to a place in his household as regent. His daughter Harriet married the 3rd Lord Southampton in 1826 and he settled £10,000 on her. On his death, worth about £30,000, in 1828, the residue of his estate passed to his only surviving son, this Member.5
He took a post in the new queen’s household in July 1830. At the general election of 1831 he stood for Dover at the invitation of a group of electors who wished to turn out one of the sitting Members, Sir John Reid, on account of his opposition to the Grey ministry’s reform bill. Stanhope ‘avowed his principles as a thorough reformer’ and promised to support the measure ‘as the first and surest blow against that corrupt influence which has so long stood between the people and the people’s rights’. According to a hostile reporter, he spoke ‘with more force than eloquence’, but the strength of support for reform gave him and Poulett Thomson, a member of the government, a walkover.6 At a dinner in his honour, 28 May 1831, Stanhope argued that the reform bill would ‘ensure strict accountability and dependence of ministers towards the Parliament, and of the House of Commons towards the country’. At the same time, he warned against the raising of ‘too sanguine anticipations of immediate benefits’ from reform, in the shape of reduced taxation; rather, he forecast ‘a more equal distribution of the public burthens’. He favoured a ‘graduated income tax’ and a cautious implementation of free trade.7
Stanhope, who joined Brooks’s Club on 29 June 1831, sponsored by his kinsmen Sefton and Lord Tavistock*, made no mark in the House, where he is not known to have uttered a word in debate. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and at least twice against adjournment, 12 July. He voted steadily for its details, though he was in the minority for the disfranchisement of Aldborough, 14 Sept. He divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He voted for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and the motion of confidence in the ministry, 10 Oct. He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. His name appears on the ministerial side in four of the 11 divisions in committee on the measure for which full lists have been found. He also voted for the disfranchisement of Amersham, 21 Feb. 1832. He voted for the third reading, 22 Mar., and for the address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry undiluted reform, 10 May. He was credited with a vote against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., but he sided with them in the divisions of 12 and 20 July on the issue. He was in their majority on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. 1832.
He stood for Dover at the general election of 1832, but finished in fourth place behind Poulett Thomson, Reid and John Halcomb†, whose intervention as a Tory reformer helped to dish him.8 Almost immediately he and Halcomb began vying to replace Poulett Thomson, who chose to sit for Manchester. Stanhope, who was backed by government and denounced his opponent as a ‘political changeling’, was confident of success; but Halcomb, supported by the duke of Wellington as lord warden of the Cinque Ports, the corporation and the friends of Reid, proved just too strong for him. Beaten by 69 in a poll of 1,399 (254 did not vote), he was reported to have flounced from the hustings in a huff, vowing never to return to Dover. An electors’ petition challenging the validity of Halcomb’s qualification was unsuccessful.9
Stanhope subsequently went to live in Ireland at Drumsna, county Leitrim, where he became a sub-inspector of police. On 17 July 1838, ‘being sick and weak in body’, he made a short will, by which he left everything to his wife.10 He died ‘after a long illness’ in March 1839 at 81 Eaton Square, the London home of the widow Selina Marx.11 His personalty was sworn under a derisory £450.12
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 25 Aug. 1830.
- 2. Wraxall Mems. ed. H.B. Wheatley, i. 224-5; Horace Walpole Corresp. (Yale edn.), ix. 106-7, 129; xx. 289; xxxv. 195, 222-3; xxxvii. 433; HP Commons, 1715-54, ii. 556-7.
- 3. J. Ralfe, Naval Biog. iii. 308-9; Oxford DNB.
- 4. Walpole Corresp. xii. 33, 83, 136; M. D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, vi. 7746.
- 5. HP Commons, 1754-90, iii. 463; Williams Wynn Corresp. 342; Gent Mag. (1828), ii. 283; PROB 8/221 (27 Aug. 1828); 11/1745/505.
- 6. The Times, 25, 28, 29 Apr.; Kent Herald, 26 Apr., 5 May 1831.
- 7. Hastings Iris, 28 May 1831.
- 8. Kentish Chron. 27 Nov., 11, 18, 25 Dec. 1832.
- 9. Kentish Gazette, 4, 8, 18, 22 Jan., 26 Feb., 1, 8, 12 Mar. 1833; Wellington Pol. Corresp. i. 13, 16; CJ, lxxxviii. 190, 422-3.
- 10. PROB 11/1908/189.
- 11. Gent. Mag. (1839), i. 665.
- 12. PROB 8/232 (16 Mar. 1839).