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Harrington, William Stanhope, 1st earl of

Harrington, William Stanhope, 1st earl of (c.1683–1756). Stanhope was a younger son who, with moderate abilities but good connections, built an extremely distinguished career. Queen Anne complained of his ‘insipid sloth’, Lord Hervey of his ‘infinite laziness’, and Horace Walpole admitted that he had no talent for speaking in Parliament. But the earls of Chesterfield were distant cousins and James Stanhope, commander in Spain and briefly first minister, was another cousin. William Stanhope served in the army in Spain under his cousin, was soon given a regiment, and continued to hold rank, rising to full general. In 1715 he was returned to Parliament for Derby and began a diplomatic career as envoy and then ambassador to Spain. In 1730 he joined Walpole's cabinet as secretary of state, receiving a barony. His connections were with the duke of Newcastle and he survived Walpole's fall, gaining promotion to an earldom in 1742 and serving as lord president of the council 1742–5. In 1744 he resumed as secretary of state and finished his career as lord-lieutenant of Ireland between 1746 and 1750. There the agitation of Charles Lucas and the radicals made for a turbulent ending to his public life.

J. A. Cannon

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