FINCH, Hon. Heneage II (1683-1757), of Albury, Surr.
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Family and Education
bap. 27 Aug. 1683, 1st s. of Hon. Heneage Finch I* and bro. of Hon. John Finch†. educ. Westminster; Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 1700. m. 9 Dec. 1712, Mary, da. and h. of Sir Clement Fisher, 3rd Bt., of Packington, Warws., 1s. 4da. Styled Ld. Guernsey, 1715–19; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Aylesford 22 July 1719.
Master of jewel office 1711–16.1
Finch gave a fine demonstration of his talent at public speaking – and of his promise as a future parliamentarian – when as an Oxford student he ‘complimented’ Queen Anne in verse during her stay at Christ Church at the end of August 1702. He was returned to Parliament almost as soon as he came of age, a by-election conveniently arising early in November 1704 at Maidstone, where his father had an interest through ownership of the nearby manor of Aylesford. It was appropriate that Finch’s entry to the House should occur during the controversy over occasional conformity: as a scion of one of the most influential High Church families in the land he was easily identifiable as a prospective supporter of the Tack, and duly voted for the measure on 28 Nov. At the 1705 election, however, he lost his seat. For the next five years he settled down to the typical existence of a country gentleman, and it was presumably during this period of his life that he made Albury in Surrey, recently rebuilt after a devastating fire, his ‘constant residence’. There he occupied his time as a ‘very useful’ magistrate, indulged a fondness for country sports, and bred pheasants. Only in 1708 do these routines appear to have been disrupted, when he attempted to gain a seat at Wigan on the interest of his uncle, Hon. Edward Finch*.2
As Tory fortunes began to revive during the spring of 1710, Finch became more active in Surrey politics where increasingly he was seen as a leader of the Tory interest. In May he was ‘graciously received’ by the Queen and presented a loyal address signed by over 2,000 of the county’s freeholders. But such was the arduousness of the ensuing contest that Finch did not refuse the opportunity of standing also at Maidstone. Ironically, it was for the latter constituency that he was beaten, while in Surrey he obtained second place in a precariously close poll. He was marked as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament, and was included in a list published after the first session of those ‘worthy patriots’ who had contributed to the detection of the ‘mismanagements’ of the Marlborough–Godolphin administration. But his eagerness to see censure heaped upon the previous ministry was more evident in an initiative of his own to expose the public costs involved in resettling the Palatine refugees in Britain, a favourite Whig venture which had received bitter Tory condemnation. Under Finch’s chairmanship an inquiry was set up on 15 Jan. 1711 into the circumstances of the invitation and the costs involved, from which he reported on 23 Feb., but it was not until 14 Apr. that the House gave the report consideration. Although the Commons agreed with the committee’s findings that there had been a ‘scandalous misapplication’ of public money in resettling the Palatines, the matter lapsed. The inquiry was part of the attack upon the General Naturalization Act of 1709, whereby foreigners of any Protestant persuasion could become naturalized subjects. Finch was one of the Members authorized to bring in a bill of repeal, but this was later rejected in the Lords. During proceedings on 16 Jan. the House was forced to intercede in a personal quarrel which erupted between Finch and Hon. John Noel, the Whig Member for Rutland. The issue concerned the Rutland election, which was currently under review in the elections committee, and in which the Finches were at odds with Noel for reneging on a pact to exclude any but ‘true freeholders’ from the poll. A week later, on the 23rd, when the committee’s report on the election was received, Finch had the pleasure of telling for the majority against the motion declaring Noel duly elected. Finch was among the members of the October Club whom Lord Treasurer Harley (Robert*) was anxious to bring into the ministry during the summer. As the session drew to its close early in June, Finch was given the Household appointment of master of the jewel office. During the following month he supervised all stages of a second bill for the repeal of the General Naturalization Act, which this time passed into law. It was undoubtedly this personal success which led to his being distinguished as a ‘leader’ of the October Club in a list of the members published in February 1712.3
Though apparently less active in the 1713 session, Finch began to emerge as a ‘whimsical’ critic of the peace terms, following the line set by his father and his uncle, Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†). On 18 June he voted against the French commerce bill. In the general election in the autumn of that year, he was re-elected knight of the shire for Surrey, this time achieving first place in the poll. The 1714 session saw him acting regularly with the Whigs. He was regarded within the ministry, certainly by Secretary Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*), as a leading figure among (Sir) Thomas Hanmer’s (II)* following of ‘whimsical Tories’, ‘the busiest spark among them’. With growing apprehension, Bolingbroke appealed urgently to the lord treasurer on 21 Apr. for Finch’s immediate dismissal from the jewel office: ‘it will be worth the remove of two Whigs, and more grateful to our friends’. But Finch was kept on. Indeed, his High Anglican loyalties were easily provoked on 12 May when the ministry introduced the schism bill, aimed against Dissenting schools and masters, and designed primarily to paper over the recent cracks in Tory unity. Not only was he included in the cross-section of Tories ordered to produce the bill, but he also acted during the debate as teller against a Whig attempt to broaden it to include Catholics. He also showed unequivocal support for his own party during the hearings on the disputed Southwark election, wherein the defeated Tory candidates attempted to prove corruption against the Whig victors, and on three separate occasions (25 May, 15 June and 3 July) was teller for the Tory side. But these strictly party considerations did not obviate his critical attitude towards the ministry. On 3 June, for instance, he appeared as one of the sponsors of the bill to renew the commission of accounts. The Worsley list, published after the 1715 election, characterized Finch’s overall political conduct during the sessions of 1713–14 as being that of a Tory who would often vote with the Whigs. Along with other Hanoverian Tories he attended at St. James’s Palace on 1 Aug. 1714 to sign the proclamation of George I. By virtue of his custodianship of the jewel office he was ordered by the lords justices on 12 Aug. to convey the late Queen’s jewels to the Tower for greater safety.4
Re-elected for Surrey in 1715, Finch enjoyed office only for a short while longer. His father and uncle’s relations with the new ministry, already uneasy, deteriorated rapidly towards the end of February 1716 over Nottingham’s and Guernsey’s desire to save from execution the lords condemned for taking part in the Fifteen. Finch, too, had voted in their favour, and resigned, no doubt sensing that he too would soon be dismissed. Thereafter, both as an MP and subsequently as a peer, he was invariably in opposition to the Whig establishment. Succeeding his father as Earl of Aylesford in 1719, he also inherited the extensive family estates around Maidstone, where for many years the High Church interest thrived under his patronage. He died on 29 June 1757, and was succeeded as 3rd Earl by his only son, Lord Guernsey (Heneage Finch†).5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. Info. from Prof. R. O. Bucholz.
- 2. Boyer, Anne Annals, i. 76; Manning and Bray, Surrey, ii. 125.
- 3. Add. 70421, newsletter 4 May 1710; 70332, [memo. by Robert Harley, 4 June 1711]; Huntington Lib. Q. xxxiii. 164.
- 4. HMC Portland v. 425, 487; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 104, 475; Boyer, Pol. State, viii. 118.
- 5. J. Beattie, Eng. Ct. in Reign of Geo. I, 175.