Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Yorke, Joseph (1724-1792)

YORKE, JOSEPH, Baron Dover (1724–1792), diplomatist, the third son of Philip Yorke, first earl of Hardwicke [q. v.], by his wife Margaret, was born on 24 June 1724. His brothers Charles [q. v.] and Philip [q. v.] are separately noticed. He was educated at Dr. Newcome's school at Hackney, and entered the army as an ensign in April 1741, was given a company in the first regiment of foot guards (Coldstreams) with the rank of lieutenant-colonel on 1 May 1745, and served as aide-de-camp to Cumberland at the battle of Fontenoy on 11 May 1745. ‘My brother,’ wrote Philip Yorke to Horace Walpole, ‘who attended upon the duke, has, thank God! escaped without a hurt.’ He again served on the duke's staff throughout the campaign of the Scottish rebellion, and was present at the battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746. In 1747 he was aide-de-camp to the duke at the battle of Laffeldt, and in October 1749 he was appointed aide-de-camp to the king. After this he does not appear to have seen further active service, but his subsequent regimental appointments were as follows: on 18 March 1755 he was made colonel of the 9th foot, on 27 Nov. 1760 colonel of the 5th dragoons, on 4 April 1787 colonel of the 11th dragoons, and on 12 March 1789 colonel of the 1st life guards. In 1772 he was for a short time with his regiment, the 5th or royal Irish dragoons in Ireland, and was presented with the freedom of the city of Dublin. He was promoted major-general on 18 Jan. 1758, lieutenant-general on 11 Dec. 1760, and general on 6 Sept. 1777.

The diplomatic career of ‘Colonel Yorke’ commenced in 1749, when he preceded Lord Albemarle to Paris as secretary of the embassy. In May 1751 Chesterfield wrote to his son, ‘Mr. Yorke is by this time at Paris. Make your court to him, but not so as to disgust, in the least, Lord Albemarle, who may possibly dislike your considering Mr. Yorke as the man of business, and him only pour orner la scène.’ At Paris in September 1751 he asked for an explanation of the appointment of George Keith, tenth earl Marischal [q. v.], a notorious Jacobite, as Prussian ambassador, but received only a sharp answer from Berlin; the incident was long a cause of ill-feeling in London. At the close of 1751 Yorke was removed from Paris in order to act as British minister at The Hague. Thence, early in 1756, he was the first to communicate to Frederick the Great news of the prospective attack upon Prussia by Austria and France. He probably got the news through Golowkin, the Russian envoy at The Hague (Politische Corresp. Friedr. des Grossen, xiii. 95–6). Through him, later in 1756, the French government communicated their demand to George II that he would punish the ‘brigands’ who had taken so many French ships. In February 1757 he warned the British secretary, Lord Holdernesse, that the overtures of Austria regarding the neutralisation of Hanover were a mere blind. His value and influence were steadily appreciated at the court of St. James's. ‘If,’ wrote Walpole to Mann on 3 Sept. 1757, ‘you could wind into any correspondence with Colonel Yorke at The Hague, he may be of great service to you. That family is very powerful … if, without appearing too forced, you could at any time send him uncommon letters, papers, manifestoes, and things of that kind, it might do you good service.’ He was the first to send home from The Hague the news of Minden on 1 Aug. 1759, though but a few weeks later Walpole sneers at him for ‘laying himself most humbly every week at his majesty's feet with some false piece of news,’ and almost ‘ruining us in illuminations for defeated victories.’ On 24 April 1761 he was nominated one of the three plenipotentiaries to represent Britain at the abortive peace congress at Augsburg. Shortly afterwards his status at The Hague was raised to that of ambassador, and he was installed knight of the Bath on 26 May 1761. In 1764 it was rumoured that he was to replace Lord Stormont at Paris; but for sixteen years longer he remained ambassador at The Hague. Richard Rigby [q. v.] paid a state visit to the diplomatist in the summer of 1764, and wrote of him in July to his patron, the Duke of Bedford: ‘At The Hague we found Yorke's character for pride and hauteur established, which made us determine to screw up our dignity to the highest pitch; and it had its effect, for he was remarkably more civil to us than usual.’ Yorke, he added, took an unreasonable pride in setting himself against France and the French.

The ambassador's position became difficult on the outbreak of the American war, when the French party in Holland strongly advocated that the old national policy of friendship with England should be abandoned. Yorke addressed a protest against these views to the States-General on 2 Nov. 1778. In 1779 he declared that the British government would seize and confiscate all naval stores destined for France upon which it could lay its hands in Dutch waters. On 21 March 1780 Yorke made on behalf of George III a formal appeal to the States-General to disavow French sympathies, coupled with an appeal to the spirit of the treaty of 1716. But the French party in Holland proved the stronger, the correspondence, of which the English complained, with America was continued, and the outbreak of hostilities was with difficulty postponed until December 1780, when Sir Joseph Yorke left Holland. He was warmly received by the ministerialists, and Walpole laughed at his ‘newspaper greatness.’ The opposition, however, led by his old enemies, the Cavendishes and Russells, declared that his conduct as an ambassador had been harsh and overbearing.

Yorke gave up the seat in parliament which he had retained since 1751 (for East Grinstead, 1751–61; Dover, 1761–74; and Grampound, 1774–80), and seems to have busied himself with military affairs. He was created Baron Dover on 18 Sept. 1788. He died at his house in Hill Street, Mayfair, on 2 Dec. 1792, when the peerage became extinct, he leaving no issue by his wife Christiana Charlotte Margaret, daughter of Hans Henry, baron de Stöcken of Denmark, and widow of the Baron de Boetzalaer of Holland, whom he had married at Antwerp on 23 June 1783. His personalty he left mainly to his nephews, his houses at Roehampton and Hill Street to his widow, and his private and political papers to the Earl of Hardwicke, forming a portion of the ‘Hardwicke Papers’ now in the British Museum (cf. Gent. Mag. 1792, ii. 1218).

[Mémoire présenté par Mr. le Chevalier Yorke le 10 Nov. 1780 à leurs Hautes Puissances; Discours de Son Excellence M. le Chev. Yorke dans une conference avec les deputés des États-Generaux, 2 Nov. 1778; Westminster Magazine, April 1780 (with portrait); Annual Register, 1792; Collins's Peerage, 1779 v. 319, 1812 iv. 491; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage (Yorke is here wrongly described as field marshal); Beatson's Political Index, vol. ii. passim; Bedford Corresp. ii. 25, iii. 265, 272; Walpole Corresp. ed. Cunningham, iii. 392, iv. 34, 150, 261, vi. 309, vii. 301, 488, 498, viii. 15, 18, 19, 25, 286; Walpole's Memoirs of George II, and Memoirs of George III, ed. Barker, i. 43; Stanhope's Hist. of England, vii. 64, 120; Waddington's Guerre de Sept Ans, 1899, p. 181; Tuttle's Frederick the Great, ii. 185; Maclachlan's William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, 1876, pp. 115–16; Doniol's Participation de la France à l'Étab. des États-Unis, 1886–92, iii. 718; Courtney's Parliamentary Representation of Cornwall, p. 193; Egerton MSS. 2700, 2703 (corresp. with R. Gunning, 1771–5); Stowe MSS. 257–60 (corresp. with Sandwich, 1763–5); Addit. MSS. 32026–7 (Paris letter-books of 1751), 32830–919 (corresp. with Lord Holdernesse, 1751–61), 32817 (corresp. with Duke of Bedford), 32832–990 (corresp. with Duke of Newcastle, 1749–68), 34413–16 (corresp. with W. Eden, 1776–86), 34412, f. 263 (report on Anglo-Dutch Trade, 1773).]

T. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.286
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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345 ii 21 Yorke, Joseph, Baron Dover: for 1761-4 read 1761-74