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Fox, Henry

Fox, Henry (1705–74). Fox entered Parliament in 1735 and quickly found favour with Walpole. Walpole's successor Henry Pelham also regarded Fox highly and had him appointed secretary at war in 1746. Fox was a skilled and witty debater, a talented manager of men and money; many believed he would succeed Pelham when he died in 1754. But Pelham's brother the duke of Newcastle did not trust Fox and would not give him sufficient patronage to control the Commons. Fox was a secretary of state briefly, 1755–6, but his lack of expertise in foreign affairs as the Seven Years War began told against him. When his greatest rival William Pitt formed a coalition with Newcastle in 1757, Fox was ‘bought off’ with the lucrative but uninfluential office of paymaster-general. Fox's opportunity for revenge came in 1762–3 when Bute and George III employed him to push the peace of Paris through the Commons. To do so, Fox purged from office most supporters of Newcastle. He was created Lord Holland, but George III regarded his cynical methods with contempt and, politically isolated, his career was over.

One sees Henry Fox most favourably through his love of family. He eloped with a daughter of the duke of Richmond in 1744 and they were a devoted couple, dying within days of one another. He was highly indulgent to his children, particularly his third son, Charles James Fox. His children repaid this indulgence by gambling away most of his vast fortune and Fox's final years were not happy.

Andrew Iain Lewer

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