Sir Stephen Fox - Encyclopedia

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SIR STEPHEN FOX (1627-1716), English statesman, born on the 27th of March 1627, was the son of William Fox, of Farley, in Wiltshire, a yeoman farmer. At the age of fifteen he first obtained a situation in the household of the earl of Northumberland; then he entered the service of Lord Percy, the earl's brother, and was present with the royalist army at the battle of Worcester as Lord Percy's deputy at the ordnance board. Accompanying Charles II. in his flight to the continent, he was appointed manager of the royal household, on Clarendon's recommendation as "a young man bred under the severe discipline of Lord Percy ... very well qualified with languages, and all other parts of clerkship, honesty and discretion." The skill with which he managed the exiguous finances of the exiled court earned him further confidence and promotion. He was employed on several important missions, and acted eventually as intermediary between the king and General Monk. Honours and emolument were his reward after the Restoration; he was appointed to the lucrative offices of first clerk of the board of green cloth and paymaster-general of the forces. In November 1661 he became member of parliament for Salisbury. In 1665 he was knighted, was returned as M.P. for Westminster on the 27th of February 1679, and succeeded the earl of Rochester as a commissioner of the treasury, filling that office for twenty-three years and during three reigns. In 1680 he resigned the paymastership and was made first commissioner of horse. In 1684 he became sole commissioner of horse. He was offered a peerage by James II., on condition of turning Roman Catholic, but refused, in spite of which he was allowed to retain his commissionerships. In 1685 he was again M. P. for Salisbury, and opposed the bill for a standing army supported by the king. During the Revolution he maintained an attitude of decent reserve, but on James's flight, submitted to William III., who confirmed him in his offices. He was again elected for Westminster in 1691 and 1695, for Cricklade in 1698, and finally in 1713 once more for Salisbury. He died on the 28th of October 1716. It is his distinction to have founded Chelsea hospital, and to have contributed 13,000 in aid of this laudable public work. Though his place as a statesman is in the second or even the third rank, yet he was a useful man in his generation, and a public servant who creditably discharged all the duties with which he was entrusted. Unlike other statesmen of his day, he grew rich in the service of the nation without being suspected ,of corruption, and without forfeiting the esteem of his contemporaries.

He was twice married (1651 and 1703); by his first wife, Elizabeth Whittle, he had seven sons, who predeceased him, and three daughters; by his second, Christian Hopes, he had two sons and two daughters. The elder son by the second marriage, Stephen (1704-1776), was created Lord Ilchester and Stavordale in 1747 and earl of Ilchester in 1756; in 1758 he took the additional name of Strangways, and his descendants, the family of Fox-Strangways, still hold the earldom of Ilchester. The younger son, Henry, became the 1st Lord Holland.

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