DRAKE, Sir Francis Henry, 5th Bt. (1723-94), of Buckland and Nutwell Court, Devon

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



1747 - 6 Jan. 1771
1774 - 1780

Family and Education

b. 29 Aug. 1723 1st s. of Sir Francis Henry Drake, 4th Bt., M.P., by Anne, da. of Samuel Heathcote of Clapton House, Hackney, Mdx., sis. of Sir William Heathcote of Hursley, 1st Bt., M.P. educ. Winchester 1734-9; Eton 1740; Corpus Christi, Camb. 1740-4; L. Inn 1740. unm. suc. fa. 26 Jan. 1740.

Offices Held

Ranger of Dartmoor forest 1752- d.; clerk comptroller of the Board of Green Cloth 1753-1770, master of the Household 1771- d.


At the first general election after Drake had come of age, he was returned for the seat which by then had for a century been ‘practically an appanage of the Drakes of Buckland’.1 A good summary of his parliamentary career was given by the Public Ledger in 1779: ‘He is a silent, eccentric man, votes always with the ministry ...’ There is no record of a speech by him during his 30 years in the House, and only of one vote against an Administration (although it is hard to believe that he did not vote against the cider bill if present). Drake’s father and his uncle Samuel Heathcote, who held the family seat at Bere Alston during Drake’s minority, had both been Walpolians; and Drake adhered to the Pelhams—there is a ‘State of the borough of Exeter’, dated 6 Sept. 1753, which Drake drew up at Pelham’s request, and transmitted to him ‘at the earnest request of the principal Whigs there’.2 ‘Busts of George II and Frederic, Prince of Wales, have long been amongst the adornments of the hall at Buckland Abbey’, writes Lady Eliott-Drake;3 and F. H. Drake seems soon to have fallen in with the new court: in July 1761 he was sent with Lord Harcourt to bring Princess Charlotte, the future Queen, over to England.4 In Bute’s parliamentary list, compiled in December 1761, he is marked ‘Bute and Government’, to which ‘Talbot’ (the new lord steward) is added. Even Newcastle, in his list of 13 Nov. 1762, concedes Drake as ‘contra’; and Fox, early in December, places him among those favourable to the peace preliminaries. In the autumn of 1763 Jenkinson marked him as ‘pro’; and when on 18 Feb. 1764, over general warrants, Drake gave his one recorded Opposition vote, he is listed by Jenkinson among ‘persons who voted with the minority’ but ‘are friends or nearly so’.

When the Rockingham Government was being formed, Drake was at first listed among those to be replaced,5 but by 9 July he was reprieved,6 and in Rockingham’s parliamentary list of July 1765 appeared as ‘pro’—and he did not vote against the repeal of the Stamp Act. Under the Chatham Administration he was counted in all parliamentary surveys as a Government supporter, and, although a country gentleman, voted with them even for the higher land tax, 27 Feb. 1767. In the next Parliament his name appears in only one of the three division lists on Wilkes and the Middlesex election in which the names of the Government side are given; and when his appointment as master of the Household, 6 Jan. 1771, vacated his seat, he did not seek re-election but returned his brother Francis William. In 1774 he re-entered Parliament, and his name appears in every division list which names those voting with the Government. Averse to standing again, Drake sold his share in the borough of Bere Alston to the Duke of Northumberland before the next general election.7

During the office reshuffles of June 1779 Drake’s resigning his office seems to have been considered;8 but he retained it even after having left the House. When in 1782 Grafton was in search of a place for a friend, Rockingham wrote to him about Drake and his office: ‘He is no Member of Parliament—and as I understand from his Majesty was active and useful in assisting the late Lord Talbot in his reforms.’9 And George Selwyn writing to Lord Carlisle, 9 Dec. 1775, about an enclosure bill in which Carlisle was interested, referred to Drake as ‘the most conscientious man in the House in questions of this nature’.10 Obviously he was attentive to matters within the range of his real interests; but he was no politician.

Drake died 19 Feb. 1794.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Lady Eliott-Drake, Fam. Heirs of Sir F. Drake, ii. 315.
  • 2. Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
  • 3. Op.cit. ii. 301.
  • 4. See ibid. 301-2; also John Secker to Sir John Cust, 9 July 1761, Recs. Cust Fam., iii. 195.
  • 5. See e.g. lists of 2 and 5 July 1765, Fortescue, i. 131, 137.
  • 6. Ibid. 154.
  • 7. Drake to Ld. Buckinghamshire, 3 June 1780, HMC Lothian, 366.
  • 8. Fortescue, iv. 353.
  • 9. 3 May 1782, Grafton mss. See also Shelburne to the King, 7 Oct. 1782, Fortescue, vi. 140.
  • 10. HMC Carlisle, 310.