Holles, John (1662-1711) (DNB00)

HOLLES, JOHN, Duke of Newcastle (1662–1711), born on 9 Jan. 1661–2, was the eldest son of Gilbert Holles, third earl of Clare [see under Holles, John, second Earl of Clare]. Like his father, he was a staunch protestant and whig. To him, when Lord Haughton, Dryden dedicated his play, ‘The Spanish Friar’ (1681), saying that he recommended ‘a Protestant play to a Protestant patron’ (Poetical Works, ed. Christie, p. xliv). On 14 Jan. 1688–9 he was returned to the Convention parliament as member for Nottinghamshire, but on his father's death, two days later, he was called to the upper house as Earl of Clare. He took an active part in promoting the accession of William and Mary (Kennett, Hist. of England, iii. 543–4), was made gentleman of the bedchamber to the king on 14 Feb. 1688–9, and acted as bearer of the queen's sceptre with the cross at the coronation on 11 April following. In March of the same year he became lord-lieutenant of Middlesex, and in June gave orders for a strict search to be made for the arms and horses of papists (Luttrell, Brief Relation, 1857, i. 542, 561). In February 1689–90 he married Lady Margaret Cavendish, third daughter and coheiress of Henry, second duke of Newcastle (ib. ii. 13). The duke, at his death in July 1691, left him the bulk of his estate (ib. ii. 270). His brothers-in-law, the Earls of Thanet and Montague, disputed the will, but Holles eventually triumphed in the law courts (ib. iii. 208, 272). With Lord Thanet he fought a duel on the night of 13 May 1692, in which both were wounded (ib. ii. 451). In October 1691 Holles asked the king to create him Duke of Newcastle. The king merely promised to consider the request, whereupon Holles immediately resigned his offices, and retired to his seat at Welbeck in Nottinghamshire (ib. ii. 301). In January 1693–4 he succeeded to the estates of his kinsman, Denzil, third lord Holles of Ifield (ib. iii. 259).

Holles was now one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom. The king promised to make him Duke of Clarence (ib. iii. 300). It was, however, pointed out that the title of Clarence had always been appropriated to princes of the blood, and that of Newcastle-upon-Tyne was therefore substituted, 14 May 1694. To compensate him for the disappointment, he was promised the next Garter that should fall vacant. He was also made high steward of East Retford, lord-lieutenant of Nottinghamshire (4 June 1694), and a commissioner of Greenwich Hospital (20 Feb. 1695). In the latter year, when William III made his progress after his return from the Netherlands, Holles met him on 30 Oct. at Dunham Ferry, seven miles from Welbeck, and sumptuously entertained him at Welbeck for two days. He became colonel of the Nottinghamshire regiment of militia in 1697, K.G. on 30 May 1698, lord-lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire on 11 Aug. following, steward of Sherwood Forest on 23 March 1699, and on 1 Aug. in the same year governor of Hull. On 26 March 1705 he was appointed lord privy seal, an office which he discharged with ‘great caution and exactness’ (Burnet, Own Time, Oxf. edit., vi. 41). He was placed on the privy council three days later. He was also lord-lieutenant of the North Riding of Yorkshire (14 April 1705), a commissioner for the union with Scotland (10 April 1706), warden and chief justice in eyre of the royal forests north of Trent (9 May 1711), high steward of Dorchester, and lord-lieutenant of Middlesex (5 July 1711). Holles was present when De Guiscard made his murderous attack on Harley, 8 March 1710–11 (Swift, Works, ed. Scott, 1824, v. 343, 346). He died on 15 July 1711, from the effects of a fall from his horse while hunting at Welbeck, and was buried in Westminster Abbey on 9 Aug., where, in 1723, his daughter erected an enormous monument to his memory (Chester, Westminster Abbey Registers, p. 272). His wife died on 24 Dec. 1715, leaving an only daughter, Henrietta-Cavendish (1693–1755), who was married, on 31 Oct. 1713, to Edward Harley, afterwards second earl of Oxford and Mortimer [q. v.] (ib. p. 389). The daughter would have been the ‘richest heiress in Europe’ had not Holles endowed his nephew, Thomas Pelham-Holles, afterwards Duke of Newcastle (1693–1768) [q. v.], with the greater part of his vast possessions (Swift, i. 192, ii. 315, 411, xii. 236).

In person Holles is described as a ‘black, ruddy-complexioned man’ (Macky, Memoirs, p. 35). Though avaricious and very tenacious of what he considered to be his rights, he was not incapable of generous actions. Letters of Holles will be found in British Museum Additional MSS. 29564 and 33084.

His portrait by Kneller has been engraved by R. White.

[Doyle's Official Baronage, ii. 560–1; Collins's Noble Families, pp. 174, 178–84; Noble's Continuation of Granger, ii. 25–6.]

G. G.