ST. JOHN, Hon. Frederick (1765-1844), of Chailey, Sussex.

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



1818 - 1820

Family and Education

b. 20 Dec. 1765, 2nd surv. s. of Frederick, 3rd Visct. St. John and 2nd Visct. Bolingbroke, by Lady Diana Spencer, da. of Charles, 3rd Duke of Marlborough. educ. Harrow 1774-6. m. (1) 8 Dec. 1788, Lady Mary Kerr (d. 6 Feb. 1791), da. of William John, 5th Mq. of Lothian [S], 1s.; (2) 6 Apr. 1793, Hon. Arabella Craven (d. 9 June 1819), da. of William, 6th Baron Craven, 4s. 3da.; (3) 14 Nov. 1821, Caroline Elizabeth, da. of J. Parsons, 1s.

Offices Held

Ensign, 85 Ft. 1779, lt. 1780; capt. 95 Ft. 1781; maj. 104 Ft. 1783; lt.-col. 2 Ft. 1791, col. 1795; maj.-gen. 1798, lt.-gen. 1805, gen. 1814.


St. John served in the West Indies and the Channel Isles until 1783. He was provided with £240 p.a. out of his father’s secret pension of £1,200. The supply was cut off by Bolingbroke’s death in 1787, when St. John’s uncle the 4th Duke of Marlborough tried to induce the prime minister to compensate him somehow.1 By then St. John (like his brother George Richard St. John) had been bear led by their uncle Lord Robert Spencer* into the opposition camp. He joined Brooks’s 17 May 1783 and the Whig Club on 6 Mar. 1787; moreover, the Prince of Wales recommended him to the Duke of York as ‘one of the most amiable young men I know’, finding the ‘degree of naiveté in his character ... quite charming’. His military career subsequently took first place, but he contrived to annoy the Prince by attaching himself, with his friend Lord Hugh Seymour, to Mrs Fitzherbert, and he was one of the ‘ringleaders’ among the partisans of the Princess of Wales in 1796.2 He served in Ireland in 1798 and was second in command to Gerard Lake* in the two Mahrattas campaigns in India. He was commended for his services in Ireland and on 3 May 1804 received parliamentary acknowledgment of his services in India. In 1806 he wanted to be in Parliament and his uncle reported him to William Adam as being prepared to give ‘a moderate sum— perhaps £2,000 or £3,000’ for a seat (doubtless less than his brother got from paying guests on his interest at Wootton Bassett).3

St. John had fallen out with Lake in India, which resulted in his misconduct. A court of inquiry ‘came to no decision or opinion’, but the commander-in-chief’s view reflected on St. John’s ‘personal courage’ and prejudiced his prospects of employment and of recognition of his services. His cousin Lord Pembroke described him to Lord Bathurst, 10 Oct. 1809, after the latter had attempted to do something for him, as ‘an innocent and injured man’, sacrificed not so much ‘to party’ as

to his own vapouring vanity which sometimes entertains and amuses us who know him in private life, but which is never forgiven by men of narrow minds and low understandings at home and abroad, whose characters or proceedings he has loudly meddled with, in some measure to gratify that same vanity, and as the strong only are merciful, I see no end to his persecution. Amen.

The King advised against reopening inquiry into St. John’s conduct.4

In 1818 St. John was returned for Oxford after a contest, his cousin the 5th Duke of Marlborough seizing an opportunity to restore the family influence there.5 He voted with ministers against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819, and remained in town as late as 23 Dec. in support of their measures against sedition and blasphemy. He was silent in the House, but it is clear that his Whig past was sunk without trace. In 1820 he was defeated at the poll and did not seek to re-enter Parliament.

St. John died 19 Nov. 1844, the second senior general in the army.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. PRO 30/8/156, ff. 25-31, 75.
  • 2. Prince of Wales Corresp. i. 145, iii. 1118.
  • 3. Blair Adam mss, Spencer to Adam, n.d. [Oct. 1806].
  • 4. Bathurst mss; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4117.
  • 5. The Late Elections (1818), 253.
  • 6. Gent. Mag. (1845), i. 201.