Charles Watson Wentworth, 2nd marquess of Rockingham - Encyclopedia

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CHARLES WATSON WENTWORTH, 2ND ROCKINGHAM Marquess Of (1730-1782), twice prime minister of England, was the son of Thomas Watson Wentworth (c. 1690-1750), who was created earl of Melton in 1733 and marquess of Rockingham in 1746. The family of Watson was descended from Sir Lewis Watson (1584-16J3), son and heir of Sir Edward Watson (d. 1616) of Rockingham Castle in Northamptonshire. For his services to the king during the Civil War Sir Lewis was .created Baron Rockingham in 1645. His grandson Lewis, the 3rd baron (16J5-1724), was created earl of Rockingham in 1714, and was succeeded by his grandson Lewis (c. 1709174J), whose brother Thomas, the 3rd earl, died unmarried in February 1746, when the earldom became extinct. The barony of Rockingham, however, descended to a cousin, Thomas, father of the prime minister, a grandson of Edward, the 2nd baron (1630-1689), who had married Anne, daughter and heiress of Thomas Wentworth, 1st earl of Strafford. The vast estates of the Wentworths had passed to Edward's son, Thomas, who took the additional name of Wentworth, and then to his son, the 1st marquess of Rockingham.

Charles Watson Wentworth was born in 1730 on the 19th of March (according to some, the r3th of May), and was educated at Westminster school and St John's College, Cambridge. He showed his spirit as a boy by riding across from Wentworth to Carlisle in 1746 to join the duke of Cumberland in his pursuit of the Young Pretender. He was created earl of Malton in the peerage of Ireland in September 1750, and succeeded his father as 2nd marquess of Rockingham in December of the same year. In 1751 he became lord-lieutenant of the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire and a lord of the bedchamber, and in 1760 was made a knight of the Garter. After George III. had begun his policy of dividing the great Whig families, those Whig noblemen and gentlemen who did not choose to join the sections headed by the Grenvilles, the duke of Bedford, or any other great noblemen, selected as their chief the young marquess of Rockingham. In May 1762 the king's favourite, the earl of Bute, became first lord of the treasury, and the marquess of Rockingham was amongst those who in the following year were dismissed from their lord-lieutenancies. The opposition now grew so strong that Lord Bute resigned in April 1763, and the king, true to his policy, appointed George Grenville to be his successor. But Grenville's section of the Whig party was not strong enough to maintain him in power long, and in July 1765 Lord Rockingham formed his first administration with General Conway and the duke of Grafton as secretaries of state. The cabinet seemed stronger than it really was, for it was divided by intestine quarrels, and the earl of Chatham refused to have anything to do with it. Nevertheless, Rockingham recovered his lord-lieutenancies and won reputation as a good administrator. In May 1766 the duke of Grafton, a far abler man than Rockingham, though neither so conciliatory in his manners nor so generally popular, seceded from the government, and in August 1766 he succeeded his former chief as first lord of the treasury and prime minister. Then followed many years of fruitless opposition to the king's personal authority as exhibited through his ministers, but at last, on the 27th of March 1782, Lord Rockingham again became prime minister with Fox and Shelburne (afterwards marquess of Lansdowne) as secretaries of state. This time he enjoyed office for but a few weeks, for he died on the 1st of July 1782. He left no issue, and his property went to his nephew, the 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam, his titles becoming extinct. A few words from his epitaph by Burke deserve quotation as giving the reason of the predominance of such an ordinary man as Lord Rockingham over a party abounding in men of great abilities: "A man worthy to be held in esteem, because he did not live for himself.. .. He far exceeded all other statesmen in the art of drawing together, without the seduction of self-interest, the concurrence and co-operation of various dispositions and abilities of men, whom he assimilated to his character and associated in his labours." See Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham and his Contemj,oraries, by George Thomas, earl of Albemarle (2 vols., 1852); Horace Walpole's Memoirs of the reign of George III., edited by G. F. R. Barker (1894); and the other letters, papers and diaries of the time.

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