MARSHAM, Sir Robert, 5th Bt. (1685-1724), of The Mote, Maidstone, Kent
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Family and Education
b. 17 Sept. 1685, o. surv. s. of Sir Robert Marsham, 4th Bt.* educ. St. John’s, Oxf. 1701. m. 19 Aug. 1708 (with £15,000 and £20,000 later), Elizabeth (d. 1750), da. and coh. of Sir Clowdesley Shovell*, 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 4da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. as 5th Bt. 25 July 1703; cr. Baron Romney 22 June 1716.1
Member, SPCK 1712.2
Gov. Dover Castle 1717–d.
Draft letters by Marsham, which survive from his Oxford days, demonstrate that he took an early interest in national politics. He read Dyer’s newsletters but would seem to have been a Whig, for he wrote of St. John’s College soon after Queen Anne’s accession: ‘I find several of our college to be honester men than I expected, they do not brag so much of the Queen’s answer to their address since she returned the same answer to the Cambridge address’. Marsham was only 17 when he succeeded his father, and thus too young to contemplate a challenge for the seats at Maidstone vacant by order of the Commons. However, he was clearly a potential Member for the borough, and by February 1707 had been appointed to the county bench. His election in 1708 was followed, on the thanksgiving day for the battle of Oudenarde, by a financially advantageous marriage to a daughter of Admiral Shovell. Contemporaries were unanimous in their classification of Marsham as a Whig. A list of early 1708, with the election returns added, marked him as such, and the Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) regarded his return as a gain for the party. In his first Parliament Marsham’s political stance was confirmed, as in 1709 he supported the naturalization of the Palatines, and the following year he voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.3
Faced by a Tory challenge in 1710, Marsham won convincingly, and was classed as a Whig on the ‘Hanover list’. In the new Parliament, on 26 Mar. 1711, he was one of three Members ordered to draft a bill to ascertain the tithe of hops, a contentious matter in Kent. Although he presented the bill on 10 May, it progressed no further. On 15 May 1711 Marsham voted against an amendment to the South Sea bill, in a division traditionally seen as a benchmark of determined Whig opposition to the Tory ministry. Likewise, in the following session, on 7 Dec. 1711, he voted for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion. He appears to have continued his opposition throughout the Parliament, voting on 18 June 1713 against the French commerce bill. Returned again that year, his name appears in November on a membership list of the Hanover Club. He voted on 18 Mar. 1714 against the expulsion of Richard Steele. Following the death of Queen Anne, he was one of the signatories to the proclamation of her successor. The uncertainty of the times disrupted his plans to spend the summer season at Tunbridge Wells, he being ‘so taken up with the Parliament that the world could not have got him into the county’. Not surprisingly, he was classed as a Whig on the Worsley list and on two analyses comparing the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments. By November 1714, he was campaigning in Rochester on behalf of his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Palmer, 4th Bt.*, both men reportedly ‘full content with their new king, who I think has encouraged their interest with most surprising zeal’.4
Marsham’s own political position was made secure by the accession of George I, though he seems to have left nothing to chance, for at least one authority dates to 1714 the building at his expense of a new gallery in All Saints church in Maidstone. Although returned in 1715, he did not stay long in the Lower House, taking a peerage in the summer of 1716 (reputedly at a cost of £5,000). He became governor of Dover Castle in 1717, dying in office on 28 Nov. 1724. Before his death he had further consolidated the family’s estates in Kent by arranging an exchange of lands in 1720 with Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Bt.*, which saw the acquisition of Allington Castle and manor in Kent, purchased for £16,000, in return for property in Norfolk (which required an Act of Parliament passed in 1720). His will provided £5,000 each in portions for his two daughters, and for the estates to return to a Norfolk branch of the Marshams if neither his son Robert nor his daughters produced an heir. The next Member to sit in the Commons was his grandson Hon. Charles Marsham†, later 1st Earl of Romney.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. R. M. Townshend, Chart and Peds. of Marsham, 9.
- 2. SPCK Archs. min. bk. 5, p. 284.
- 3. Centre Kentish Stud. Romney of the Mote mss U1300 C3/1, Marsham to [–], n.d. (draft); info. from Prof. N. Landau; Top. and Gen. iii. 268.
- 4. Hist. Jnl. iv. 202; Oldmixon, Hist. Eng. 509; Boyer, Pol. State viii. 118; Arch. Cant. v. 92–93, 95.
- 5. J. M. Russell, Hist. Maidstone, 129; HMC Egmont Diary, iii. 260; Romney of the Mote mss U1300 T1, indenture, 13 July 1720; Arch. Cant. xxviii. 360; PCC 236 Romney.