Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dunch, Edmund

DUNCH, EDMUND (1657–1719), politician and bon-vivant, was descended from a very ancient family resident at Little Wittenham, in the hundred of Ock, Berkshire, monuments to several of whom are printed in Ashmole's ‘Berkshire,’ i. 58–67. The chief of his ancestors was auditor of the mint to Henry VIII and Edward VI, and squire-extraordinary to Queen Elizabeth, who bestowed on him the manor of Little Wittenham. Another, Sir William Dunch, who died in 1612, married Mary, the aunt of Oliver Cromwell, and his great-grandson was Edmund, son of Hungerford Dunch, M.P. for Cricklade, who died in 1680. Dunch was born in Little Jermyn Street, London, 14 Dec. 1657, and baptised 1 Jan. 1658. He joined heartily in the revolution of 1688, and seems to have adhered to whiggism throughout life. From January 1701 to July 1702, and from May 1705 to August 1713, he represented in parliament the borough of Cricklade. In the ensuing House of Commons (November 1713 to January 1715) he sat for Boroughbridge in Yorkshire, and from the general election in January 1715 until his death he was member for Wallingford, a constituency which several of his ancestors had served in parliament. The freedom of that borough had been conferred on him on 17 Oct. 1695, and he was at one time proposed as its high steward, but was defeated by Lord Abingdon, who polled fifteen votes to his six. On 2 May 1702 Dunch married Elizabeth Godfrey, one of the maids of honour to the queen, and one of the two daughters and coheiresses of Colonel Charles Godfrey, by Arabella Churchill, sister to the Duke of Marlborough. Her elder sister married Hugh Boscawen, afterwards Lord Falmouth. It was rumoured in June 1702 that he would be created a baron of England; gossip asserted in April 1704 that Colonel Godfrey would become cofferer of the household, and that Dunch would succeed his father-in-law as master of the jewel office; and a third rumour, in 1708, was that Dunch would be made comptroller of the household. The place of master of the household to Queen Anne was the reward of his services on 6 Oct. 1708; when the comptrollership fell vacant on Sir Thomas Felton's death, in March 1709, Dunch tried for it in vain; he was deprived of the mastership in 1710, but was reappointed 9 Oct. 1714. He died on 31 May 1719, and was buried in the family vault at Little Wittenham on 4 June. The male line of this branch then became extinct, but he had cut off the entail of the property and left it to his four daughters—Elizabeth, married in 1729 to Sir George Oxenden; Harriet, the wife (3 April 1735) of the third Duke of Manchester; Catherine, who died young and unmarried; and Arabella, the wife (6 Feb. 1725) of Edward Thompson, M.P. for York. The fate of the last lady is told by Lord Hervey, in his ‘Memoirs of the Reign of George II,’ ii. 346. According to this chronicler she had two children by Sir George Oxenden, and on his account was separated from her husband, and died in childbirth. An elegy to Mrs. Thompson was written by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and is printed in her ‘Letters’ (1861 ed.), ii. 484–5. Dunch was one of the Kit-Cat Club, and his portrait was duly painted and engraved. He was a descendant of Oliver Cromwell, and his wife, who was one of the beauties commemorated in the Kit-Cat Club verses, was half-sister to the illegitimate children of James II. He was a great gamester, and is said to have clipped his fortunes by his gambling.

[Noble's continuation of Granger, iii. 175; Memoirs of Kit-Cat Club (1821), p. 209; Nichols's Collection of Poems, v. 171–2; Lady M. W. Montagu's Letters (1861), i. 481, ii. 298; Noble's Cromwell, ii. 155–6; Wentworth Papers, p. 78; Hedges's Wallingford, ii. 211, 239; Luttrell's Relation of State Affairs (1857) v. 169, 185, 419; Bliss's Rel. Hearnianæ (1857), i. 429–30; Burn's Fleet Marriages, p. 75.]

W. P. C.