Open main menu


HOBART, JOHN, second Earl of Buckinghamshire (1723–1793), lord-lieutenant of Ireland, second son of John, first earl of Buckinghamshire [q. v.], by his first wife, was born on 17 Aug. 1723. He was educated at Westminster School and afterwards matriculated at Christ's College, Cambridge, as a fellow-commoner on 29 March 1740, but did not take any degree. On 4 Oct. 1745 Hobart was appointed a deputy lieutenant for the county of Norfolk, and at the general election in June 1747 was returned to parliament for the city of Norwich and the borough of St. Ives, Cornwall. He elected to sit for Norwich, and was again returned for that city at the general election in April 1754. In December 1755 he was appointed comptroller of the household to George II, and on 27 Jan. 1756 was sworn a privy councillor. He succeeded his father as second Earl of Buckinghamshire on 22 Sept. 1756, and took his seat in the House of Lords on 14 Dec. following (Journals of the House of Lords, xxix. 12). Resigning the comptrollership he was appointed on 15 Nov. 1756 a lord of the bedchamber, in which capacity he also served George III until his dismissal from that post in November 1767. On 17 July 1762 he was appointed ambassador and minister plenipotentiary to Russia. He left England on 23 Aug. 1762, and resided at the Russian court until January 1765, when he resigned his post and returned to England in the following March. Two large folio volumes, containing copies of letters to Grenville, Lord Halifax, and the Earl of Sandwich from Buckinghamshire while he was ambassador at St. Petersburg, are preserved by the Marquis of Lothian at Blickling Hall, Norfolk. These letters, the dates of which range from 24 Sept. 1762 to 12 Jan. 1765, throw considerable light upon the political and social intrigues of the court of Catherine II, and its relations with this country (Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. App. p. 14). In October 1766 Buckinghamshire refused Lord Shelburne's request that he would undertake a mission to Spain (Grenville Papers, 1853, iii. 328). In spite of the king's resolution ‘not to accept of him’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. App. vi. p. 15), Buckinghamshire was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland in the place of Simon, earl Harcourt [q. v.], on 18 Dec. 1776, and arrived at Dublin on 25 Jan. 1777. During his viceroyalty free trade was granted to Ireland, and a Roman Catholic Relief Bill, as well as a bill for relieving Irish dissenters from the sacramental test, passed. He viewed the rapid rise of the volunteer movement with impotent dismay, and it was only by means of the most flagrant and lavish bribery that he was able to pass the Perpetual Mutiny Bill. Having ‘lost the countenance of the British court on account of your address for trade, your short money bill, and, above all, the growth of the armed societies, and the thanks of both Houses of Parliament’ (Grattan, Observations on the Mutiny Bill, with some Strictures on Lord Buckinghamshire's Administration in Ireland, 2nd edit. 1781, p. 72), he was recalled, and was succeeded by Lord Carlisle, who was sworn in on 23 Dec. 1780. William Knox, writing to Lord George Germain on 26 May 1780, says that Lord Buckinghamshire would be a good lord-lieutenant were it not for his family connections and his incompetent secretary, ‘but Mr. Conolly and Sir Richard [Heron] are two millstones about his neck’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. App. iii. p. 64). Buckinghamshire was an amiable nobleman, with pleasing manners and good intentions. Horace Walpole used to call him in his younger days ‘the Clearcake; fat, fair, sweet, and seen through in a moment’ (Letters, 1857, ii. 26). He was quite unable to cope with the difficulties of his position in Ireland, and in a letter written in March 1780 describes himself as ‘a man whose mind has been ulcerated with a variety of embarrassments for thirty weary months.’ On several occasions he was compelled by the home government to pursue a policy which was opposed to his own judgment, and in a letter to Lord George Germain dated 5 Feb. 1780 complains of misrepresentations which had injured him in ‘Lord North's interior cabinet’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. App. iii. p. 63). A number of his official letters written while he was lord-lieutenant of Ireland are printed in Grattan's ‘Life,’ (vols. i. and ii.); and several letters written by him between 1777 and 1780 to Lord George Germain are in the possession of Mr. Stopford Sackville of Drayton House, Northamptonshire (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. App. iii. pp. 1, 58–67). Buckinghamshire died at Blickling Hall on 3 Sept. 1793, aged 70, and was succeeded in the earldom by his brother George. He married, first, on 14 July 1761, Mary Anne, daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Drury, bart., of Overstone, Northamptonshire, by whom he had four daughters. His first wife died on 30 Dec. 1769, and on 24 Sept. 1770 he married, secondly, Caroline, daughter of William Conolly of Stratton Hall, Staffordshire (Register of Marriages of St. George's, Hanover Square, i. 201), by whom he had three sons, all of whom died in infancy, and one daughter, Emily Anne, who, on 9 June 1794, was married to the Hon. Robert Stewart, afterwards second marquis of Londonderry, but better known as Viscount Castlereagh. His second wife died on 26 Jan. 1817. Buckinghamshire was elected F.S.A. on 1 April 1784. Until the creation of the marquisate of Buckingham in December 1784, he used always to sign and call himself Buckingham, a practice which has been the source of much confusion. Only two speeches of his are recorded in the volumes of ‘Parliamentary History’ (xviii. 455–6, 627). His correspondence with his aunt, Henrietta Howard [q. v.], countess of Suffolk, is printed in the second volume of Lady Suffolk's ‘Letters,’ &c., 1824. Portraits by Gainsborough of Buckinghamshire and his first wife were exhibited by the Marquis of Lothian at the Loan Collection of National Portraits in 1867 (Catalogue, Nos. 706, 701). They were again exhibited at the winter exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1887 (Catalogue, Nos. 150, 148), and have both been engraved by Simmons. A medallion of Buckinghamshire, done by order of a society of ladies when he was ambassador at St. Petersburg, was engraved by Guericiffinoff in 1766 (Bromley, p. 324).

[Collins's Peerage, 1812, iv. 369–71; Doyle's Official Baronage, 1886, i. 272; Lipscomb's Hist. and Antiquities of the County of Buckingham, 1847, ii. 274, 276–7; Blomefield's Norfolk, 1769, iii. 638; Lecky's Hist. of England, 1882, iv. 442–518; Memoirs of Henry Grattan by his son, 1839, vols. i. ii.; Correspondence of the Right Hon. John Beresford, 1854, vol. i.; Horace Walpole's Memoir of the Reign of George III, 1845, iii. 111–12; Gent. Mag. 1761 xxxi. 334, 1762 xxxii. 340, 342, 1770 xl. 486, 1793 vol. lxiii. pt. ii. pp. 867–8, 1049, 1794, vol. lxiv. pt. i. p. 575, 1817 vol. lxxxvii. pt. i. p. 183; Alumni Westmon. 1852, p. 575; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 99, 102, 114; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1851.]

G. F. R. B.