GEORGE TOWNSHEND TOWNSHEND, 1ST Marquess (1724-1807), eldest son of Charles, 3rd Viscount Townshend (1700-1764), and brother of the politician Charles Townshend, was born on the 28th of February 1724, his godfather being George I. Joining Cope's dragoons as a captain, he saw some service in the Netherlands in 1745, and as a member of the duke of Cumberland's staff was present at Culloden. Afterwards he accompanied the duke to the Netherlands, and was present at Lauffeld. By 1750 he had become lieutenant-colonel in the ist Foot Guards, but differences with the duke of Cumberland led to his retirement in that year. This difference soon became hostility, and, coupled with his dread of permanent armies, caused him to give vehement support to the Militia Bill. In this matter his views and his methods of expressing them raised up a host of enemies. The retirement of the duke after the disastrous campaign in North Germany in 1757 brought Townshend back to active service as a colonel, and in 1758 he sailed for North America as one of Wolfe's three brigadiers. In the long and painful operations against Quebec he showed himself a capable officer, but his almost open dissatisfaction with Wolfe's methods sensibly added to the difficulty of the enterprise. At the battle of the Heights of Abraham the command, on the death of Wolfe and the wounding of Monckton, devolved upon Townshend, whose over-caution for a time imperilled the success of the British arms. The loss of Montcalm, however, had similarly paralyzed the French, and the crisis passed. Townshend sent home a despatch, announcing the fall of Quebec, which at once became the butt of the wits and the object of criticism of a more serious kind; and when, Monckton having taken over the command in Canada, Townshend returned to England to enjoy, as he hoped, the hero-worship of the public, he was soon involved in bitter controversies. He succeeded to the title in 1764 on his father's death, and in 1767, through his brother's influence, was made lord-lieutenant of Ireland. The story of his viceroyalty may be read in the article on him in the Dict. Nat. Biog., and in Lecky's History of England in the Lath Century (vol. iv.). With the best will in the world, and in spite of excellent capacity, he came into continual conflict with the Irish House of Commons in his attempt to form an English party in Ireland, and he excited unmeasured abuse. In 1772 he was recalled. In 1787 he was created Marquess Townshend of Rainham. He died on the 14th of September 1807.
Townshend was twice married - first to Charlotte, Baroness de Ferrars (d. 1770) and secondly to Anne Montgomery (d. 1819). His eldest son George (1755-1811), who became the second marquess, had succeeded to the barony of de Ferrars in 1770 and had been created earl of Leicester in 1784. Although he was in turn master of the mint, joint postmaster-general and lord steward of the royal household, he did not take much part in politics, but showed a great taste for antiquarian studies. His elder son, George Ferrars Townshend, the 3rd marquess (1778-1855), was disinherited by his father for conduct which also compelled him to reside outside England. When he died at Genoa in December 1855 the earldom of Leicester became extinct. The marquessate, however, passed to a cousin, John Townshend (1798-1863), who became the 4th marquess. John James Dudley Stuart Townshend (b. 1866), who became the 6th marquess in 1899, came prominently before the public in 1906 in consequence of a judicial inquiry into his sanity, the decision being that he was not capable of managing his own affairs.
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