OSBORNE, Francis Godolphin, Mq. of Carmarthen (1751-99).

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



22 Mar. 1774 - 30 Sept. 1774
1774 - 15 Mar. 1775

Family and Education

b. 29 Jan. 1751, o. surv. s. of Thomas, 4th Duke of Leeds, by Lady Mary Godolphin, da. and coh. of Francis, 2nd Earl of Godolphin.  educ. Westminster 1764-7; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1767.  m. (1) 29 Nov. 1773, Lady Amelia Darcy (div. 31 May 1779), da. and h. of Robert, 4th Earl of Holdernesse, 2s. 1da.; (2) 11 Oct. 1788, Catherine. da. of Thomas Anguish, master in Chancery, 1s. 1da.  summ. to Lords in his fa.’s barony as Lord Osborne 15 May 1776;  suc. fa. as 5th Duke of Leeds 23 Mar. 1789; K.G. 15 Dec. 1790.

Offices Held

Ld. of the bedchamber 1776-7; P.C. 24 Dec. 1777; ld. chamberlain to the Queen 1777-80; ld. lt. Yorks. (E.R.) 1778-80, 1782- d.; sec. of state for foreign affairs Dec. 1783-Apr. 1791.


Lord Carmarthen’s brief career in the Commons is best described in his own words.1 In March 1774, in order to accommodate a ministerial reshuffle, it was proposed to the Duke of Leeds that he should vacate his place as chief justice in eyre North of Trent, and that as part compensation Carmarthen should be brought into Parliament.

I immediately went to my father [writes Carmarthen] who did not much approve the plan; but, seeing my wish to come into the House of Commons, merely to oblige me consented. The arrangement took place, and Capt. Cornwallis, who wished as much to quit as I did to enter the House of Commons, vacated his seat for Eye, in Suffolk, and I was chose in his room. The Boston port bill had just passed, matters with America were coming to extremity; convinced of the necessity of strengthening Government as far as so great an object demanded, I had no scruple in voting uniformly with them, except on the petition from the Massachusetts [28 Apr.], when I divided with the minority, as I could by no means approve of the rejecting it unheard.

He adds in a footnote: ‘The Quebec bill I never attended.’ He is recorded as having spoken four times for the bills regarding Massachusetts Bay, and his only other known speech in the Commons, 5 May 1774, was against the petition of the clergy for relief from subscription to the 39 Articles.

At the general election of 1774 he refused a ministerial invitation to contest Westminster. He had inherited from his grandfather, Lord Godolphin, an interest at Helston; but his control of the borough was precarious, and he seems to have felt it desirable that he should himself be a candidate. He was returned, together with his relation Francis Owen, but a petition was presented against them. About his second spell in the Commons he writes:

I took no active part the short time I sat for Helston on account of the uncertainty of my situation; however, I voted with Government except upon Lord North’s conciliatory plan [20 Feb. 1775], when Lord Stanley, Mr. Welbore Ellis, and myself, voted with the minority.

After being unseated for Helston he was again asked to stand for Westminster, and Sandwich was willing to return him for Huntingdon.2 But Carmarthen had planned that in the event of his defeat he would ask to be called up to the Lords; and his request was granted.

Throughout his career in the Commons he had been a strong supporter of the rights of Great Britain over the Colonies. He dates his first dissatisfaction with North’s Administration to the time of Keppel’s court martial, January 1779, and his conduct seems to have been much influenced by the resignations of Gower and Weymouth later in the year. He approved of the demand for economy in government, and took the occasion of the York meeting of 31 Dec. 1779 to resign his place. His dismissal in February 1780 from the lord lieutenancy of the East Riding drove him into active opposition. Yet he did not change his views about America, and in November 1781 refused to sign a protest in the Lords ‘on account of the epithet unjust being applied to the American war’.3

On friendly terms with both Rockingham and Shelburne, he belonged to neither faction; and when the Rockingham Administration was formed in March 1782 asked for a diplomatic appointment. Fox’s resignation he described as ‘the most ill-judged and ill-timed measure I ever heard of’.4 He supported Shelburne’s Administration, and in February 1783 was nominated ambassador to France but resigned with Shelburne. He voted against Fox’s East India bill, and took office under Pitt.

He died 31 Jan. 1799.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Pol. Mem. Francis, 5th Duke of Leeds, ed. Browning, 1-6.
  • 2. Sandwich to Robinson, 6 Sept. 1775, Abergavenny mss.
  • 3. Pol. Mem. 47.
  • 4. Ibid. 71.