BERTIE, Hon. Robert (1677-1710), of Benham Valence, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. 28 Feb. 1677, 4th s. of James Bertie, 1st Earl of Abingdon, by 1st w.; bro. of Hon. Henry II*, Hon. James* and Montagu Venables-Bertie*, Lord Norreys. educ. New Coll. Oxf. 1693; M. Temple 1696, called 1700. m. lic. 13 Jan. 1709, Catherine, da. of Richard Wenman†, 4th Visct. Wenman of Tuam [I], s.p.1
Freeman and bailiff, Oxford 1699; recorder, Hertford 1701–d., freeman 1703.2
Counsel for the duchy of Lancaster and steward in Oxon. and Berks. 1703–d.3
Bertie’s enviable family connexions catapulted him into public life at the age of 19, when he was returned at Westbury on his father’s interest. Until at least the following year he continued his studies in Oxford, whence an acquaintance enthused about his suitability for a career in the law, observing that ‘he has capacity enough for it, and a steady resolution to pursue it’. The presence of no fewer than five Berties in the 1695 Parliament obscures his Commons activity, although occasionally the Journals do allude to his contribution. In his first session he was predictably keen to serve his university, carrying up a bill to secure the payment of impropriated tithes to Balliol College. A Tory in politics, he was listed as a probable opponent of the Court in a forecast of a division on 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade, refused to sign the Association the following month, and in March voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. Moreover, in the next session he voted against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. No doubt at the behest of his constituents, soon afterwards he showed particular interest in the textile trade, sponsoring a bill for encouraging woollen manufacture, and acting as a teller on 20 Mar. 1697 on a question concerning a conference with the Lords on the bill to restrain the wearing of imported silks. He was also active in securing the services of Dr Lancaster to preach the sermon to mark the anniversary of the death of Charles I.4
In July 1697 Bertie fought a duel over a lady, but wrote to assure his father that he would never marry without his approval. He was involved in further trouble in March 1698, when he drew up a paper to aid his brother, James Bertie, in a dispute with Lord Falkland, which ultimately led to a hearing in the Lords. Robert’s paper, an abstract of the case, contained an attack on Lord Chancellor Somers (Sir John*), who on 17 Mar. drew it to the attention of the Lords. The Upper House pronounced it to be a ‘false, scandalous and malicious libel’, and a message was sent to the Commons requesting leave for Bertie to appear before them. The Lower House decided that the Lords should first be requested to specify the grounds on which they wanted to examine him, and a dispute between the two Houses was only prevented by the Earl of Abingdon apologizing to the chancellor and the Lords on behalf of his son. This was accepted and the paper was ordered to be burnt by the common hangman.5
Bertie won re-election for Westbury in 1698, and soon afterwards was classified as a Country supporter, and probably forecast as likely to oppose a standing army. In the opening session he may well have played a prominent role in promoting the Blackwell Hall restoration bill, an issue of great significance for the Wiltshire cloth trade. During the next session he possibly played an important role in advancing the bill to repeal the Act banning the import of bone-lace, a measure desired by Salisbury clothiers. Not surprisingly, in early 1700 he was bracketed with the ‘interest’ of his kinsman, the Duke of Leeds (Sir Thomas Osborne†). Following another unopposed victory at Westbury, in February 1701 he was listed as likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’, and was later blacklisted as having opposed preparations for war. Returned for Westbury alongside his uncle Hon. Henry Bertie I in November, he was classed by Robert Harley* as a Tory, and voted for the resolution vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the preceding Parliament over the impeachments of Whig ministers.6
Although defeated at Westbury in 1702, Bertie was seated on petition. His discernible contribution to Commons’ business in that Parliament is confined to two drafting committees. In the third session he voted on 28 Nov. 1704 for the Tack, and was listed as ‘True Church’ in an analysis of the Membership in 1705. In the new Parliament he voted on 25 Oct. against the Court candidate for Speaker, and was the principal manager of a private bill to settle a cleric’s estate. Moreover, he may have been the Bertie who on 23 Nov. acted as a teller in support of an adjournment of the committee on the Hertford election. In the latter stages of the Parliament he was identified as a Tory, but his political activity was curtailed by family matters, since on 4 Feb. 1708 he was granted a six-week leave of absence. Possibly still distracted by personal affairs, he reportedly did ‘not care to stand’ for Westbury in 1708. Uncertainty surrounds his subsequent parliamentary ambitions, for he died shortly before the next general election. Although the date of his demise is usually cited as 16 Aug. 1710, his death was actually noted by Dyer on 8 Aug., who recorded the cause to be ‘a dead palsy’. His recent marriage had produced no offspring, and he left his estate to his wife, whom he praised for ‘having been so extraordinary kind and civil to me’.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Perry Gauci
- 1. PCC 263 Smith; F. G. Lee, Church of Thame, 445; Collins, Peerage, iii. 631.
- 2. Oxford Council Acts (Oxford Hist. Soc. n.s. ii), 287; Herts. RO, Hertford bor. recs. 1/76, 25/105.
- 3. Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 56, 220.
- 4. Bodl. Ballard 11, f. 135.
- 5. HMC Var. ii. 344; LJ, xvi. 236–8, 240, 241, 244, 246, 247–8; CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 149, 150–1, 154, 161, 236–8, 241–2; HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 92–96.
- 6. Ballard 39, f. 131.
- 7. Hertford bor. recs. 25/315; HMC Bath, i. 190; Add. 70421, Dyer’s newsletter 8 Aug. 1710; PCC 263 Smith.