BRUCE, Hon. Robert (1668-1729).
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
bap. 11 Feb. 1668,1 7th but 2nd surv. s. of Robert Bruce, M.P., 1st Earl of Ailesbury and 2nd Earl of Elgin [S], by Lady Diana Grey, 2nd da. of Henry, 1st Earl of Stamford. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1684; Mr. Coulon’s academy in Paris 1685.2 unm.
Robert Bruce, whose elder brother, Thomas, the 2nd Earl of Ailesbury, became a Jacobite exile, joined the Queen’s Royal regiment of Horse in 1688 as a volunteer against the Prince of Orange.3 For most of his life he helped his nephew Charles, Lord Bruce, to manage the family properties and interest in Bedfordshire and Wiltshire. Returned on his family’s interest in 1722, he appears to have been one of the Tories in favour of an alliance with Sunderland, after whose death he hoped that Lord Carleton would succeed to George I’s confidence. On 15 Dec. 1722 he wrote to his nephew:
[I] am in great fears that he [Carleton] has let slip his opportunity and through want of resolution ... will fail of what everybody thought at my Lord Sunderland’s death he could not fail of, but by his own fault, the consequences of which will be a disadvantage to the public, a very great one to himself and will certainly be fatal to me. You may easily judge what temper I must be in on such occasion, being entirely in the dark and uncertain what to do ... all I have to hope is that I judge ill that what must befall me by it makes me apprehend more than really is ... I will endeavour to see him in a day or two for I ... think it would be of some use to you to know his opinion concerning your going into Yorkshire, since the common discourse is that it is in the north, if anywhere, that a rising was to be.4
On George I’s death Bruce took Lord Ailesbury’s ‘most respectful compliments’ to the new King.5 He changed sides about that time, as did his fellow Member for Bedwyn, Charles Longueville. Lord Bruce wrote to him, 16 July 1727:
I am extremely surprised that you should apply to Sir Robert Walpole in the manner you have done without first having my approbation ... I cannot, nor will not, agree to what you propose, nor would not do it for all that Sir Robert is worth.6
For this reason, presumably, he was not nominated by Lord Bruce for Bedwyn at the 1727 election, though Lord Ailesbury himself was ‘troubled ... very much’ at this omission.7 Next year he wrote to the Duke of Grafton, 11 Aug. 1728:
I was on Tuesday last with Sir Robert Walpole as you thought it proper for me to do. He said that as to what your Grace had spoken to him about me he could not possibly do anything in it, and then said in a very obliging manner, can I serve you in anything else? My answer to that was that there was a vacancy in Parliament [at Tregony] by the death of Mr. Smith. He said that was so and that he was under no engagement to anybody, so he believed he could do it.8
He did not get Tregony and died 19 May 1729.