SACHEVERELL, Robert (1669-1714), of Barton, Notts. and Morley, Derbys.
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Family and Education
bap. 5 Aug. 1669, o. surv. s. of William Sacheverell* by 1st w. educ. Derby sch. 1682; privately at Derby (Mr Ogden); Trinity, Camb. 1687; I. Temple 1690. m. (1) Elizabeth (d. 1702), da. and coh. of Harvey Staunton of Staunton, Notts., 2s. d.v.p. 3da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 27 Nov. 1705, Anne, da. of Thomas Marshall of Barton, 1da.; 1ch. illegit. by Mary Castle. suc. fa. 1691.1
Guardian, Plumptre hosp. 1696–1704; freeman, Nottingham 1698.2
The son of a staunch Whig, Sacheverell inherited an income of over £1,000 p.a. Coming from an established family, he quickly assumed his place among the Nottinghamshire elite, being appointed a deputy-lieutenant in 1692. In the county election of 1698, Sacheverell voted for Sir Scrope Howe* and John White*, two Whig colleagues of his father from the days of Exclusion. The close proximity of his estates to Nottingham enabled him to enter the Commons by defeating the Whig George Gregory* in a by-election for the borough in 1699. Little is known about the victory except that his opponent petitioned against the return, alleging the use of illegal practices, and that Robert Harley* considered the result a defeat for the Court. Before the committee of elections had finished their proceedings on the petition, he was given leave on 1 Feb. 1700 to go into the country to recover his health. In the closely fought election of January 1701 Gregory defeated Sacheverell by 24 votes only to be ousted on petition in June. Despite being ‘blacklisted’ as one of the Members opposed to making preparations for war, Sacheverell emerged victorious over Gregory in December 1701, a result marked by Lord Spencer (Charles*) as a loss for the Whigs. In the ensuing Parliament he voted on 26 Feb. 1702 for the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the previous session over the impeachment of the King’s ministers. In March he presented Nottingham’s congratulatory address to the Queen on her accession to the throne. However, he does not appear to have contested the election of July 1702, possibly due to the death of his wife in January and the need to provide for the upbringing of his children.3
Although the espousal of Country views, inherited from his father, increasingly led Sacheverell towards the Tories, this transition was incomplete in the period 1700–2. It is perhaps best illustrated by his participation in Derbyshire elections by virtue of his Morley estate and ownership of mines at Smalley and Kiddersley. The bitter election of January 1701 placed him in a quandary because the sitting Members (Thomas Coke and the Marquess of Hartington) opposed each other, yet both could plausibly portray themselves as guardians of the ‘Country’ tradition. Coke saw the value of Sacheverell’s support in terms of his father’s popular appeal, Coke’s agent noting: ‘the old savour of his father sticks by the mob’. Late in December 1700, a report indicated that perhaps Sacheverell was keeping a low profile as the worst Coke could expect from the voters in the area was widespread abstention ‘if Mr Sacheverell prevent them not’. Sacheverell’s reasons for shying away from entanglements in Derbyshire had much to do with their ramifications in Nottingham.4
Sacheverell’s name was mooted to fill the vacancy for the county of Nottinghamshire on the death of Gervase Eyre* in 1704, but it was perceived as likely to create new disputes, and John Thornhagh was elected unopposed. In the aftermath of the Tack, Sacheverell regained his seat at Nottingham in a highly charged election. Dyer portrayed this as a victory for the Tory gentry, marshalled by Sir Thomas Willoughby, 2nd Bt.*, in the face of strenuous opposition led by the Duke of Newcastle (John Holles†), the Marquess of Kingston (Evelyn Pierrepont*) and Lord Howe (Sir Scrope). Not surprisingly, an analysis of the 1705 Parliament marked him as a ‘Churchman’ while the Earl of Sunderland (previously Lord Spencer) marked his election as a ‘loss’. His first act in the Commons was to vote on 25 Oct. against the Court candidate for Speaker. That he remained consistent in his views is confirmed in an analysis of the Commons early in 1708 which classed him as a Tory. In the 1708 election, Sacheverell failed to find a partner and was defeated by two Whig candidates.5
Although out of Parliament, Sacheverell presented an address from Nottingham to the Queen in July 1710 which was sufficiently controversial to provoke a counter-address from the Whigs. This was merely one manoeuvre in the preparations for another bitterly contested election in which Sacheverell was elected, although his partner, Borlase Warren*, came bottom of the poll. Not surprisingly, on the ‘Hanover list’ he was marked as a Tory and after the 1710–11 session was listed as a ‘Tory patriot’ opposed to the continuance of the war and as a ‘worthy patriot’ who helped in detecting the mismanagements of the previous ministry. He was also noted as a member of the October Club.6
The death of Newcastle in 1711 made Sacheverell’s electoral position in Nottingham more secure as he had often opposed ducal nominees in the past. In the forthcoming election of 1713 the Duchess of Newcastle had given early indication that the Holles interest would back a joint Sacheverell–Warren candidature. However, Sacheverell appears to have sought assurances of financial support for the campaign, possibly in the form of an office after the election. In January 1713, an agent of the Duchess wrote to Lord Harley (Edward*) (who was to marry the Holles heiress in August 1713) ‘your lordship sees for what reason Sacheverell, though it be thus late, delays his resolution what to do’, adding further that he was being tempted to stand with the Whig John Plumptre* and suggesting that Lord Treasurer Oxford (Harley) write to him ‘to make Mr Sacheverell easy’ or else Warren might be left to carry the Tory banner alone. In the event, Sacheverell topped the poll, closely followed by Warren. The Worsley list illustrates that he remained unreservedly Tory. In the long run-up to the 1715 election Sacheverell was said to be ‘giving it up’ in Nottingham, a belief which was never tested as he died in somewhat bizarre circumstances on 8 Dec. 1714. After a hard night’s drinking he rode from Barton towards London, refusing to rest, as he told a travelling companion, for fear of being pursued, but dropped dead of a fit before he reached his destination. The family historian attributed his strange behaviour shortly before his death to his complicated relationships with several women, no less than three of whom appeared after his death armed with affidavits purporting to prove that he had married them. After numerous actions one of them, Anne Marshall, had her claim for one-third of the estate upheld despite vigorous opposition from the two daughters of his first marriage. His brother’s two sons died aged 15 and 16 respectively, leaving the family without male heirs, and the Nottinghamshire estate was sold to Sir Robert Clifton, 5th Bt.†, for £17,500.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Add. 6667, f. 254; 6696, f. 75; Derby Sch. Reg. ed. Tacchella, 6; info. from Dr D. F. Lemmings; G. Sitwell, Letters of Sitwells and Sacheverells, ii. 137–59.
- 2. J. Bramley, Hist. Plumptre Hosp. 21; Notts. RO, card index of freemen.
- 3. Sitwell, 53; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 277; Harl. 6846, f. 340; Add. 70019, [Robert] to [Sir Edward Harley*], 2 Dec. 1699; London Gazette, 26–30 Mar. 1702.
- 4. HMC Cowper, ii. 408; BL, Lothian mss, Robert Harding to Coke, 15 Nov. 1700, 17, 31 Jan. 1702, M. Smith to same, 19 Dec. 1700; Sitwell, 73.
- 5. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Holles) mss Pw2 301a, Willoughby to [Newcastle], n.d. ; W. A. Speck and G. Holmes, Divided Soc. 105–6.
- 6. Add. 70421, newsletter 20 July 1710.
- 7. Add. 70373, Matthew Brailsford to Ld. Harley, 13 Jan. 1713; 70388, William Levinz* to same, 11 Sept. 1714; Sitwell, 137–59.