1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Harrington, Earls of

21806261911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 13 — Harrington, Earls of

HARRINGTON, EARLS OF. The first earl of Harrington was the diplomatist and politician, William Stanhope (c. 1690–1756), a younger son of John Stanhope of Elvaston, Derbyshire, and a brother of Charles Stanhope (1673–1760), an active politician during the reign of George I. His ancestor, Sir John Stanhope (d. 1638), was a half-brother of Philip Stanhope, 1st earl of Chesterfield. Educated at Eton, William Stanhope entered the army and served in Spain, but soon he turned his attention to more peaceful pursuits, went on a mission to Madrid and represented his country at Turin. When peace was made between England and Spain in 1720 Stanhope became British ambassador to the latter country, and he retained this position until March 1727, having built up his reputation as a diplomatist during a difficult period. In 1729 he had some part in arranging the treaty of Seville between England, France and Spain, and for his services in this matter he was created Baron Harrington in January 1730. Later in the same year he was appointed secretary of state for the northern department under Sir Robert Walpole, but, like George II., he was anxious to assist the emperor Charles VI. in his war with France, while Walpole favoured a policy of peace. Although the latter had his way Harrington remained secretary until the great minister’s fall in 1742, when he was transferred to the office of president of the council and was created earl of Harrington and Viscount Petersham. In 1744, owing to the influence of his political allies, the Pelhams, he returned to his former post of secretary of state, but he soon lost the favour of the king, and this was the principal cause why he left office in October 1746. He was lord lieutenant of Ireland from 1747 to 1751, and he died in London on the 8th of December 1756.

The earl’s successor was his son, William (1719–1779), who entered the army, was wounded at Fontenoy and became a general in 1770. He was a member of parliament for about ten years and he died on the 1st of April 1779. This earl’s wife Caroline (1722–1784), daughter of Charles Fitzroy, 2nd duke of Grafton, was a noted beauty, but was also famous for her eccentricities. Their elder son, Charles (1753–1829), who became the 3rd earl, was a distinguished soldier. He served with the British army during the American War of Independence and attained the rank of general in 1802. From 1805 to 1812 he was commander-in-chief in Ireland; he was sent on diplomatic errands to Vienna and to Berlin, and he died at Brighton on the 15th of September 1829.

Charles Stanhope, 4th earl of Harrington (1780–1851), the eldest son of the 3rd earl, was known as Lord Petersham until he succeeded to the earldom in 1829. He was very well known in society owing partly to his eccentric habits; he dressed like the French king Henry IV., and had other personal peculiarities. He married the actress, Maria Foote, but when he died in March 1851 he left no sons, and his brother Leicester Fitzgerald Charles (1784–1862) became the 5th earl. This nobleman was a soldier and a politician of advanced views, who is best known as a worker with Lord Byron in the cause of Greek independence. He was in Greece in 1823 and 1824, where his relations with Byron were not altogether harmonious. He wrote A Sketch of the History and Influence of the Press in British India (1823); and Greece in 1823 and 1824 (English edition 1824, American edition 1825). His son Sydney Seymour Hyde, 6th earl (1845–1866), dying unmarried, was succeeded by a cousin, Charles Wyndham Stanhope (1809–1881), as 7th earl, and in 1881 the latter’s son Charles Augustus Stanhope (b. 1844) became 8th earl of Harrington.

Before the time of the first earl of Harrington the Stanhope family had held the barony of Stanhope of Harrington, which was created in 1605 in favour of Sir John Stanhope (c. 1550–1621) of Harrington, Northamptonshire. Sir John was a younger son of Sir Michael Stanhope (d. 1552) of Shelford, Nottinghamshire, who was a brother-in-law of the protector Somerset. Sir Michael’s support of Somerset cost him his life, as he was beheaded on the 26th of February 1552. Sir John was treasurer of the chamber from 1596 to 1616 and was a member of parliament for several years. He died on the 9th of March 1621, and when his only son Charles, 2nd baron (c. 1595–1675), died without issue in 1675 the barony became extinct.