SPENCER, John (1767-1831), of Wheatfield, Oxon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



12 Feb. 1801 - 12 May 1804

Family and Education

b. 21 Dec. 1767, 1st s. of Lord Charles Spencer*. educ. Harrow 1779; northern European tour 1787. m. 5 Feb. 1790, his cos. Lady Elizabeth Spencer, da. of George, 4th Duke of Marlborough, 2s. d.v.p. 4da. suc. fa. 1820.

Offices Held

Receiver-gen. land tax, Oxon. 1804-d.

Capt. Lewknor vols. 1803, Pyrton vols. 1803.


When John Spencer married his Blenheim cousin in 1790, Lady Bessborough reported:

The Duchess of Bedford says that it is the most charmingest match that can be, that Mr Spencer is a good actor, a good musician and a good composer, and that they will be very happy. Don’t you like the reasons her Grace gives to constitute their happiness?

Sir Gilbert Elliot reported that

they seemed unusually well and comfortable together for that sort of young couple of fashion. His passion is playing on the organ, and they have accordingly set up an organ in their parish church in the country where he plays and she has taught the children and girls to sing. They sing psalms together in company in London as other people sing Italian duets.

The marriage occasioned a quarrel, probably over the settlement, between the Duke of Marlborough and his brother, and John had to rely entirely on his father for advancement.1

On 6 May 1790 Spencer was admitted to Brooks’s Club. His father was then a Portland Whig, even less reason for Marlborough to return the son for Woodstock. His father complained of his extravagance: ‘we cannot teach John economy’, so he informed the Duke of Portland, 2 Aug. 1794, in pursuit of an addition to his income. On 13 Jan. 1799 he wrote to Earl Spencer about a potential vacancy in the receiver-generalship of the customs, worth £1,200 or £1,300 a year, which he wished to secure for John. Spencer obtained Pitt’s assent, but the ailing receiver-general whose death was expected to cause the vacancy recovered his health. A year later Pitt agreed to find some equivalent place instead.2

In February 1801 when Spencer’s father went out of the House with the place of joint postmaster-general, he entered it as Member for Wilton on the interest of his cousin the 11th Earl of Pembroke. He gave a silent support to government, his presence doubtless serving merely as a reminder of his claims. He vacated his seat in May 1804 on becoming receiver of the land tax for the county. Pitt had previously talked of ‘either the revenue board or an agency of the colonies’ and Spencer’s place was worth ‘not £600 a year’, so his father subsequently complained. When Lord Charles surrendered the Mint in October 1806, he tried to bargain for a share in his compensation for his sons, such as pensions of £600 a year each, and would not have been averse to John’s having a better place. The Duchess of Marlborough threw in the caveat that he should not be required to reside in London, as he would fall into his ‘former expensive pursuits of music’. In the end, the compensation was awarded to his father alone. On 4 Nov. 1808 the latter wrote to the King, whose lord of the bedchamber he then was, asking for John to be appointed a groom of the bedchamber on a vacancy. Nothing came of this. Spencer’s character degenerated after his wife’s death in 1812. He died at Breda, 17 Dec. 1831.3

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Leveson Gower, i. 20; Minto, ii. 16.
  • 2. Add. 34430, f. 12; Portland mss PwF8510; Spencer mss, Ld. C. to Earl Spencer, 13, 22 Jan., 20 Feb., 8 May 1799, 10 July 1800; PRO 30/8/195, f. 205.
  • 3. Add. 34457, ff. 49, 130; Spencer mss, Ld. C. to Earl Spencer, 27 Oct. 1806; Geo. III Corresp. v. 3751; Gent. Mag. (1832), i. 80.