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Halifax, George Savile, 1st marquess of

George Savile Halifax, 1st marquess of, 1633–95, English statesman. A protégé of the 2d duke of Buckingham, he was made Viscount Halifax (1668) and sat (1672–76) in the privy council. An opponent both of the pro-Catholic faction that arranged the alliance (1670) with France and of the ministry of Lord Danby, which reversed that policy, Halifax became known as the Trimmer because of his practice of "trimming," or balancing between factions. He was expelled from the council for opposing Danby, but he regained favor with Charles II and was readmitted (1679) to the council, created an earl (1679) and a marquess (1682), and made lord privy seal (1682). He led the successful opposition to the bill (1680) to exclude the future James II from the throne. On the accession (1685) of James II, Halifax was made lord president of the council, but he resigned almost immediately in opposition to James's pro-Catholic policies. When William of Orange (see William III) landed in England in 1688, Halifax at first sought to mediate between William and James, but then joined William. As leader of the Whig peers, he formally requested (1689) William to accept the crown of England. He was appointed (1689) lord privy seal and chief minister, but lack of a supporting group in Parliament made it impossible for him to form a viable ministry, and he resigned (1690). His most famous political pamphlet, The Character of a Trimmer (written 1684, published 1688), describes the virtues of his middle course in politics.

See his complete works, ed. by W. Raleigh (1912, repr. 1970); his life and letters by H. C. Foxcroft (2 vol., 1898; repr. 1969); biography by H. C. Foxcroft (1946).

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Halifax, George Savile, 1st marquis of

Halifax, George Savile, 1st marquis of (1633–95). Politician and essayist. Halifax both epitomized and advocated the ‘middle path’ in politics (‘the Trimmer’), but in the shifting partisan atmosphere of the post-Restoration era he was regarded as an oddity, with whom few politicians could work easily. A wealthy Yorkshire baronet, and of royalist background, he entered politics in the 1660s and was made a viscount in 1668. But successive administrations felt the edge of his finely tuned intellect. Initially hostile towards Clarendon, he was then critical of the pro-catholic policies of the cabal, and then of the Anglican reaction of Danby. He emerged by 1679 as a firm opponent of ‘exclusion’, was reappointed to the Privy Council and in 1682 was created a marquis. As lord privy seal, however, he was increasingly unhappy in the enclaves of high Toryism. In 1685 James II dismissed him. Although in 1688 he threw aside his neutrality and supported William of Orange, he soon found himself out of favour with other power-politicians and retired in 1690. See trimmer.

Andrew Hanham

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