BOSCAWEN, Hugh II (c.1680-1734), of Tregothnan, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1702 - 1705
1705 - 1710
1710 - 1713
1713 - 9 June 1720

Family and Education

b. c.1680, o. surv. s. of Edward Boscawen† of Wortherall and Roscarrock by Jael, da. of Sir Francis Godolphin†, sis. of Charles*, Sidney†, and Sir William Godolphin†, 1st Bt.  educ. King’s, Camb. 1697; travelled abroad (Low Countries, Austria) 1701.  m. 23 Apr. 1700, Charlotte (d. 1754), da. and coh. of Charles Godfrey*, sis. of Francis Godfrey*, 8s. (1 d.v.p.), 10 da. (5 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1685; uncle Hugh Boscawen I* at Tregothnan 1701; cr. Visct. Falmouth 9 June 1720.1

Offices Held

Groom of bedchamber to Duke of Gloucester 1698–1700; groom of bedchamber to Prince George of Denmark 1702–8; warden of the stannaries and high steward of duchy of Cornwall 1708–34; comptroller of the Household 1714–20; PC 12 Oct. 1714; jt. vice-treasurer [I] 1717–34.2

Capt. St. Mawes castle 1701–10, 1714–34; recorder, Penryn, Penzance and Tregony ?1701–?d.3


Boscawen’s father, a wealthy Turkey merchant, left him a considerable fortune which included two Cornish manors. His mother, the sister of Lord Godolphin, and his uncle Hugh, a Privy Councillor under William III, provided him with important connexions. Thus, in September 1698 the King and his Dutch favourite Albemarle personally selected Boscawen as a member of the Duke of Gloucester’s bedchamber at a salary of £200 p.a. This brought him into court circles and in 1700 he secretly married the daughter of Charles Godfrey, the master of the Jewel Office, the marriage not being made public until August. This marriage strengthened his connexions with Marlborough’s (John Churchill†) circle. In May 1701 Boscawen was travelling abroad when his uncle died, leaving him Cornish estates worth £3,000 p.a., as well as extensive parliamentary interests. Almost immediately, his mother sought to secure the governorship of St. Mawes from her brother, although Godolphin felt that his age and absence might preclude his appointment. In any case Boscawen left Vienna, where he was studying French and learning ‘the knowledge of men and business’ under George Stepney, arriving at The Hague in July, possibly with a view to persuading Marlborough of his suitability for the post or in order to seek a commission. Godolphin informed his sister in August that Boscawen was not to accept the latter ‘unless he designs to follow it the next year too, in case of a war’. In November 1701 he duly succeeded his uncle as captain of St. Mawes castle, and did not stand at the general election, possibly because he was under age. However, the new Parliament held some interest for him as in February 1702 a bill was passed naturalizing his wife.4

As a nephew of Lord Treasurer Godolphin and nephew by marriage of the Duke of Marlborough, Boscawen was soon given a place in Prince George’s household worth £400 p.a. He duly entered Parliament for Tregony in 1702, his mother reporting in August that he had returned ‘from Cornwall with as good success as he could expect at present from his affairs there’. In the new Parliament he supported the Court, voting on 13 Feb. 1703 for the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration and on the 19th telling against adjourning the debate on the bill for better carrying on the war in the West Indies. In the 1703–4 session he received leave of absence on 15 Nov. for three weeks and acted as a teller on 14 Mar. 1704 against adjourning the debate on rewarding the heirs of a Colonel Baker for his services at Derry in 1690. In the following session he was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack and was given the task of lobbying his fellow Cornish MP, Sir John Molesworth, 2nd Bt., on the issue. He did not vote for it on 28 Nov.5

By 1705 Boscawen, in league no doubt with Lord Treasurer Godolphin and Bishop Trelawny, had consolidated his electoral interest in Cornwall to such an extent that he was returned as knight of the shire at the top of the poll. Indeed, having secured his return for Truro as well, he was in the position of being solicited by his relatives for the borough seat when he elected to serve for the county. Further, Godolphin acknowledged his role in managing the government interest in the county when he informed Robert Harley* shortly before Parliament sat that ‘having looked out this morning the list of the Cornish Members which I received from Mr Boscawen, with his letter in which it was enclosed, I send both to you, and if you want explanation of any part of it, Mr Boscawen will be glad to wait upon you’. Boscawen’s own election was classed as a ‘gain’ by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), and he was marked as a placeman and a High Church courtier in two lists of that year. He duly voted for the Court candidate as Speaker on 25 Oct. On 15 Jan. 1706 he spoke on the regency bill, presumably on the government side, and voted for the Court on 18 Feb. over the ‘place clause’ in the bill. Like his father-in-law, he opposed the confiscation of Roman Catholic estates as proposed by the bill to prevent the growth of popery at its third reading on 4 Mar. 1706 because it would offend some of the allies and seemed to herald a policy of persecution as adopted in France. An indication of how Boscawen was perceived by his contemporaries can be seen by John Crewe Offley’s* comment that Boscawen was ‘a very good friend of mine and nephew to my Lord Treasurer’.6

In the 1706–7 session Boscawen managed an estate bill on behalf of the widow of the recently deceased Cornish MP, Henry Darell, through all its stages in the Commons. The 1707–8 session saw Boscawen identified as a ‘Lord Treasurer’s Whig’, as opposed to a Junto Whig engaged in factious opposition to the ministry. On 19 Dec. he received leave of absence for six weeks, but had returned by 16 Jan. 1708 when he was named to draft a bill for ‘the more effectual discovery of dead people pretended to be alive’, presenting it on the 20th. On the 21st he was present to defend the ministry during the debate on the report of the committee considering more effective recruitment for the army. It was proposed that the resultant bill include a clause preventing the sale of commissions. Boscawen justified the practice

in cases where officers were worn out in the service, or disabled by wounds; there being no other provision for them, it was a sure compassion to let them sell that they might have a little means of living rather than continue them their pay, when they were not able to serve.

Also on the 17th he reported from the committee on the Plymouth workhouse bill. On the 28 Jan. he spoke at the third reading of the bill to render the Union more complete in support of a rider forbidding judges to accept presents, suggesting that this measure should be extended to England. The fall of the Harleyites from office led to speculation that Boscawen would replace Thomas Mansel I* as comptroller of the household, but if he sought this office he was disappointed. On 16 Feb. he reported from the committee considering the petition of army aides-de-camp concerning arrears.7

No doubt as a reward for Boscawen’s efforts in support of the lord treasurer and as a boost to his electoral interest in Cornwall, he was made warden of the Stannaries for life with an additional salary of £1,000 p.a. just before the general election of 1708. With his own as well as the Court’s interest at his disposal he was active in many of the Cornish boroughs. James Craggs I* wrote on 7 May:

Mr Boscawen has a very great command in this country and his new powers of warden of the stannaries will not a little improve it. We have been at several corporations a burgessing as they call it, where I do not see he is like to miscarry in any he pretends to.

When Parliament met, Boswcawen was appointed in December to draft bills on the prevention of embezzlement of shipwrecked goods (14th) and to encourage the fishery (18th). On 9 Feb. 1709 he told against adjourning the debate on the eligibility of Sir Richard Allin, 1st Bt., to sit in the Commons, which resulted in a resolution in his favour. On 23 Feb. he was added to the drafting committee on the bill ascertaining allowances for Scottish fish exports. In March he told twice: on the 3rd in favour of the election of Sir Orlando Bridgeman, 2nd Bt.*, for Coventry and on the 31st that a petition be brought up relating to the Earl of Clanricarde’s estate bill. On 8 Mar. in a debate on papers concerning the treasonable activities of Harley’s former clerk, William Greg, William Bromley II ‘desired that since those papers were brought in as reflecting upon an honourable Member of the House [Harley], they might then go into consideration of them. At which Mr Boscawen was very angry and said he knew [of] nobody reflected upon.’ His final important act of the session was on 18 Apr. 1709, when he told against adjourning the consideration of amendments to the bill improving the Union.8

On 9 Jan. 1710 Boscawen was given leave of absence for two months. In the event he remained away for longer, no doubt preparing for his quasi-regal progress through Cornwall on the way to the convocation of the Stannaries, and towards which he was given £1,100 by the government. Controversy followed when he was accused by opponents of organizing a mob of 5,000–6,000 from his tin mines near Truro to put pressure on the convocation to accept his terms for the tin contract with the government. In May Craggs felt that Boscawen was ‘mistaken when he supposes that if this present Parliament be dissolved we shall be able to deal with the adversary in the next elections’. Craggs proved accurate in his forecast, with Boscawen unable to exercise his normal influence despite a life patent as warden of the stannaries, so much so that he even lost the county contest. Here the Sacheverell affair was crucial, even though Boscawen had been absent from the trial. As a correspondent of John Evelyn II* put it,

though he was not at all concerned in his impeachment, as I satisfied many people yet they could not be persuaded, but he would have had a hand in it had he been in the House, so that mere surmises were looked on as matters of fact, and for this and no other reason he was so unfortunate as to miscarry.

Boscawen’s candidates lost out to George Granville’s*, and he himself took refuge at Truro.9

Boscawen was wrongly classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’. In the 1710–11 session he was one of the placemen voting on 7 Dec. 1711 for the motion ‘No Peace without Spain’. He acted as a teller on 11 Apr. 1712 against a motion sending into custody the printer of the Dutch memorial opposing the peace, and on 21 Apr. against tacking to a supply bill legislation setting up a commission inquiring into crown grants. In the 1713 session his name appears on a list probably of those voting against the French wines duty bill on 6 May, but he is not recorded as voting on 18 June on the French commerce bill.10

At the general election of 1713 an agent of Lord Lansdown (George Granville*) complained that ‘if honest men attack Mr Boscawen’s friends, a means is found to discharge them, and give their posts to his agents’, and deplored Harley’s (now Lord Oxford) failure to remove ‘Mr Boscawen’s creatures’. Returned himself for Penryn, Boscawen was reported as criticizing the Address on 4 Mar. 1714 because it precluded further measures to secure the succession. He took part in the management of the bill for the relief of poor debtors, which he reported on 28 May and told in favour of passing on 28 June. He also voted against the expulsion of Richard Steele on 18 Mar. 1714. On 24 June he seconded the motion by Lord Hertford (Algernon Seymour) to place a reward of £100,000 on the Pretender’s head, answering the criticism that it was an affront to the Queen’s offer of £5,000 with the observation that £5,000 out of her private purse was equal to £100,000 from the nation. He told on 8 July in favour of allowing William Lowndes* and the South Sea Company committee men to attend the Lords in the investigation into the asiento treaty. Later that month he was involved in a controversy over the publication by the Whig journalist Abel Boyer of letters from the Queen and Lord Treasurer Oxford to the Elector of Hanover, which were said to compromise Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*). The story was that

the Elector communicated them to the Duke of Marlborough as a great secret; but that the Duchess accidentally lighting on them, thought it her duty to communicate a matter of so great consequence to one Mr Boscawen, a relation of hers in London, who was so generous as to communicate it to his friends, and they to theirs, and so on.

He was classed as a Whig in the Worsley list and on two lists classifying members returned in 1715.11

Boscawen was in high favour at court in the reign of George I, serving as comptroller of the household. In compensation for losing his office in 1720 he was made a peer. He died on 25 Oct. 1734 ‘of an apoplexy fit as he came down the stairs’ at the seat of Robert Trefusis† in Cornwall.12

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 47–48; Collins, Peerage, vi. 68–70.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxii. 366.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 447.
  • 4. Vernon– Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 177; Add. 40772, f. 102; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/O59/7, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 18 Oct. 1698; HMC Cowper, ii. 403; BL, Evelyn mss, Godolphin to Mrs Boscawen, 17 May [1701]; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 10, 21; S. Spens, George Stepney, 200; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 447.
  • 5. Evelyn mss, Mrs Boscawen to John Evelyn II*, 14 Aug. 1702; Bull. IHR, xxxiv. 96.
  • 6. Marlborough– Godolphin Corresp. 433, 469; Parlty Lists Early 18th Cent. ed. Newman, 65; Cam. Misc. xxiii. 68; Boyer, Anne Annals, iv. 225; Cobbett, Parlty Hist. vi. 515; Cheshire RO, Arderne mss DAR/H/14, Offley to Sir John Crewe, 18 Apr. 1706.
  • 7. G. Holmes, Pol. in the Age of Anne, 229; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 320; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss, 48/183, James Vernon I* to Shrewsbury, 29 Jan. 1707–8; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 267; 7th Duke of Manchester, Court and Soc. Eliz. to Anne, ii. 280.
  • 8. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxii. 366; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 294; Add. 61164, f. 183; Parlty. Lists Early 18th Cent. 65; HMC Portland, iv. 521.
  • 9. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiv. 298–9; Parls. Estates and Repn. vi. 62–63; Duchess of Marlborough Corresp. i. 324; Evelyn mss, Sam. Thompson to Evelyn, 5 Jan. 1710–11.
  • 10. Bull. IHR, xxxiii. 231.
  • 11. HMC Cowper, iii. 107; NSA, Kreienberg despatch 5 Mar. 1714 (Szechi trans.); Wentworth Pprs. 392, 402.
  • 12. HMC Polwarth, ii. 567; HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 131–2; Gent. Mag. 1734, p. 573.