DIGBY, Henry (1731-93), of Minterne House, Cerne Abbas, Dorset

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



21 Nov. 1755 - 1761
1761 - 13 Aug. 1765

Family and Education

b. 21 July 1731, 2nd s. of Edward Digby, M.P., and bro. of Edward, 6th Baron Digby [I] and Robert Digby. educ. Westminster 1739, re-adm. 1743-8. m. (1) 4 Sept.1 1763, Elizabeth (d. 19 Jan. 1765), da. of Hon. Charles Feilding, s.p.; (2) 10 Nov. 1770, Mary, da. and h. of John Knowles,2 recorder of Canterbury, 3s. 2da. suc. bro. as 7th Baron Digby [I] 30 Nov. 1757;  cr. Baron Digby [GB] 13 Aug. 1765; Earl Digby [GB] 1 Nov. 1790.

Offices Held

Under-sec. of state 1755-6; ld. of Admiralty Apr. 1763-July 1765; ld. lt. Dorset 1771- d.


Digby was closely connected with his uncle Henry Fox to whom he owed his political promotions. In May 1749 he became a clerk in the secretary of state’s office under the Duke of Bedford, and in 1750 secretary to Fox’s friend Sir Charles Hanbury Williams with whom he travelled in Germany and Poland. In 1754, with Fox’s support he was to stand for Wells, and Lord Digby for Dorset; but when the latter moved to Wells, Henry, left without a seat, wrote to him on 19 Mar.:

Things have turned out unlucky for me. I wish now I knew where to come into Parliament for fifteen hundred pound. For if I do not come in at the general election I am pretty sure I shall not come in at all till Mr. Fox comes into power and that must be very uncertain.

And next day, thanking his brother for an offered loan of £500:

I don’t know where I can come in for fifteen hundred. I ... would readily give that and hope in that case you would be so good as to help me proportionably. At all events you may be sure I will try all I can and be at the same time as careful of your money as if it was my own.3

In September 1755, on a vacancy at Tiverton, Fox unsuccessfully approached Newcastle on Digby’s behalf;4 but in November, as secretary of state, arranged for Digby’s return for Ludgershall on the interest of George Selwyn, and the same month appointed Digby his under-secretary. He left office with Fox who, while attempting to form an Administration, on 4 Mar. 1757 wrote to Lord Ilchester: ‘I shall easily I fancy get Harry Digby the Board of Trade.’5

As part of Fox’s reward in Apr. 1763, Digby was appointed a lord of the Admiralty with the promise of a British peerage ‘in the next session’;6 which, however, he did not receive till after he lost his place in July 1765. There is no record of his having spoken in the Commons.

Lady Holland wrote to her sister, the Duchess of Leinster, 6 Dec. 1764:7

One thing I believe makes Holland House pleasant just now is all those poor dull Digbys being out of town. Lord Holland loves them, and they are good people, so I don’t tell him so, but they give me an ennui I can’t support.

The Royal Register in 1781 described Digby as ‘the only man of sterling character whom Lord Holland was concerned in promoting’; and George Selwyn called him ‘worthy’, but wished for ‘a little more sprightliness in his mind’.8

He died 25 Sept. 1793.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. Gent. Mag. 1763, p. 465; CP gives 5 Sept.
  • 2. Gent. Mag. 1770, p. 487; CP and Collins, v. 385 give her name as Knowler.
  • 3. Digby mss.
  • 4. Add. 32858, ff. 386-7.
  • 5. Ilchester, Letters to H. Fox.
  • 6. Sedgwick, 214.
  • 7. Leinster Corresp. i. 423.
  • 8. HMC Carlisle, 584.