COKE, Thomas (1697-1759), of Holkham, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 17 June 1697, 1st s. of Edward Coke of Holkham by Carey, da. of Sir John Newton, 3rd Bt., of Barrs Court, Bitton, Glos. educ. Mr. Ellis’s sch., Isleworth; Grand Tour (France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany) 1712-16 m. 3 July 1718, Lady Margaret Tufton, da. and coh. of Thomas Tufton, M.P., 6th Earl of Thanet, 1s. d.v.p.; she became suo jure Baroness de Clifford 1734. suc. fa. 13 Apr. 1707; K.B. 27 May 1725; cr. Baron Lovel 28 May 1728; Earl of Leicester 9 May 1744.
Capt. of gent. pensioners 1733; jt. postmaster gen. 1733-45, 1745-58; postmaster gen. Mar.-May 1745, 1758-d.
Descended from the great chief justice, Coke succeeded to estates worth over £10,000 a year, which, in spite of heavy losses in the South Sea bubble, had increased by 1741 to £15,000. He became Walpole’s chief electoral manager for Norfolk, which he represented unopposed from 1722 to 1728, when he was raised to the peerage at George II’s coronation. Two years later he was saying: ‘I have an estate sufficient for an earl or a viscount at least, and I shall expect to be made one of them’;1 but he had to wait fourteen years for his earldom, which was granted him in 1744 on an old promise obtained for him from the King by Walpole.2 Meanwhile his electoral services were rewarded with the office of joint postmaster general, worth about £3,000 a year.3 With these additional resources he was able to make a start in 1734 on the chief work of his life, the creation of Holkham, a seat which, in the words of his own inscription,
on an open barren estate was planned, planted, built, decorated, and inhabited the middle of the XVIIIth century by Thos. Coke, Earl of Leicester.4
When he died, 20 Apr. 1759, the house was still unfinished.