Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle KG (1693-1768) 1735c.

Charles Jervas (1675–1739)

Portrait of Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle KG (1693-1768), Charles Jervas
Oil on canvas
18th Century
50 x 40 inches, 127 x 101 cm
The Hon. George Vestey, Yorkshire
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This portrait of the Duke of Newcastle, the Prime Minister and great Whig fixer who dominated British politics for the first half of the eighteenth century, shows him in the robes of a Knight of the Garter, a dignity which was conferred on him in 1718. His father was 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 11th 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.
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