Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle K.G. (1693-1768) c.1752 1750c.

William Hoare of Bath 

Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle K.G. (1693-1768) c.1752, William Hoare of Bath
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25 inches 76.2 x 63.5 cm
The Dukes of Newcastle at Clumber House, Worksop; By descent to Henry Edward Hugh Pelham-Clinton-Hope Earl of Clinton, later Duke of Newcastle (1907 -1988); His sale Christie''s June 14th 1937 lot 35 bt. Isitt.
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This portrait, which has descended in the ownership of the sitter’s heirs and kinsmen the Clinton Earls of Lincoln and Dukes of Newcastle, shows the Duke shortly before he formed his first administration in March 1754 after the death of his brother the Prime Minister Henry Pelham. William Hoare, who was patronised by both brothers, produced several portraits from a sitting, perhaps r.1752, since this was the date that Hoare painted a portrait of Pelham and of Newcastle’s nephew and heir the Earl of Lincoln and his wife.1 Variants include a pastel version of the present portrait (National Portrait Gallery) and a three-quarter length in Garter robes (Palace of Westminster).

Thomas Pelham Holles 1st Duke of Newcastle was the son of Thomas, first Lord Pelham, through whom he gained an entree into the world of aristocratic politics, though his greatest advantage came from his uncle, John Holles, Duke of Newcastle, who made him his heir.

His espousal of the cause of Hanover at moments when others wavered guaranteed him considerable rewards. At the accession of George I he was created Viscount Haughton and Earl of Clare, and appointed to a clutch of lord-lieutenancies and lesser dignities. At the Pretender’s insurrection in 1715 he raised a troop in conjunction with his brother Henry, and received the title of Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne on August llth that year.
When his brother-in-law, Charles second Viscount Townshend, married Dorothy Walpole in 1713 he was brought within the orbit of the great Sir Robert. His own marriage in 1717 with the daughter of the Earl of Godolphin, and granddaughter of John Churchill Duke of Marlborough, connected him with Charles Spencer, third Earl of Sunderland. Newcastle’s rent roll alone, however, standing at some £25,000, guaranteed that he was a person of consequence and able to exercise influence over a great many constituencies.

During the ascendancy of Walpole and the reign of George I Newcastle was content to be a relatively unobtrusive member of Walpole’s inner group. Following the death of Queen Charlotte in 1737, however, Walpole’s influence declined, and Newcastle was able to demonstrate a more forceful independence. He urged Britain’s entry into the War of the Austrian Succession in 1741, against Walpole’s opposition.

Newcastle took over as Prime Minister on the death of his brother Henry Pelham in 1754 -becoming the first man to do so without having been a member of the House of Commons - entering almost at once into the turmoil of the Seven Years War against France. Defeats, such as the loss of Minorca, resulted in his resignation, though with the support of Pitt he was reinstated in the following year. The accession of George III in 1760 weakened his position, as did the resignation of William Pitt in the following year. His final year as Prime Minister was clouded by disputes over the financing of the war in Europe, and his influence was reckoned a spent force after he resigned in 1762. His final political appointment was as Lord Privy Seal to the government of Lord Rockingham in 1765.

Newcastle had no children, but by special remainder the heir to his Dukedom was his nephew Henry Clinton 9th Earl of Lincoln. This inheritance was achieved by a curious expedient. When his Dukedom had been created in 1715, the title was allowed in the patent to pass to his brother Henry Pelham. In 1756, two years after Pelham’s death, and with no issue from the Duke’s marriage in 1717 Henrietta daughter of the Earl of Godolphin, Newcastle was further created Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme, with a remainder in this instance to the 9th Earl of Lincoln, the husband and cousin of Henry Pelham’s daughter Catherine. Such were the Baroque machinations necessary to preserve Newcastle’s childless Dukedom and his reputation for posterity. The considerable energy that Newcastle must have put into this inheritance can be imagined from the fact that he was able to persuade George II, that least pliable of monarchs, to create the only non-Royal dukedom of his thirty three year reign. Lesser cousins were not overlooked either, and the second of Newcastle’s peerages to be granted in 1756, the Barony of Pelham of Stanmer passed by a different remainder to Thomas Pelham, the Duke’s cousin and heir male, later created in 1801 Earl of Chichester.
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