Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of, 1694-1773

Alternative names
Birth 1694-09-22
Death 1773-03-24

Biographical notes:

British statesman, diplomat, and wit.

From the description of Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield letters : London and The Hague, 1730-1759. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702148264

From the description of Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield letters : London and The Hague, 1730-1759. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82154307

Brief Biographical Sketch

Born into the English aristocracy, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield had the family connections and wealth to live, in the words of the Dictionary of National Biography, as "politician, wit, and letter-writer." Upon the death of Queen Anne in 1714, his family connections enabled him to leave his life of travel and leisure to take up at the age of 20 what was the beginning of a fluctuating political career.

Chesterfield was influential in government circles but the role of opposition was more suited to his temperament. He produced a number of effective political satires against his opponents and also displayed gifts of oratory in the House of Lords. The major fact of his political career was his opposition to Robert Walpole whom he helped to force out in 1742.

Chesterfield's ill health and recurring political misfortunes affected his official career. George II, whose favorite he was for a time, secured him the ambassadorship to The Hague in 1728. There he met Mlle du Bouchet by whom he became the father of an illegitimate son Philip whose education became one of his main concerns. Ill health forced him to leave this post in 1732. In 1733 he arranged a marriage with Petronilla Melusina von der Schulenburg, a union of financial convenience.

As the result of a new political coalition in 1744 Chesterfield became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The next year he was sent on special mission to The Hague to induce the Dutch to join in the War of the Austrian Succession. Better relations with the King lead to Chesterfield's appointment as Secretary of State for the North in 1746. His resignation two years later after political differences with the Duke of Newcastle ended his official career. Although he retained some influence in politics, he spent most of his time pursuing his own interests--building a house, directing the education of his natural son, and reading. He died in March, 1773.

Chesterfield is best known for his "Letters written... to his son", a correspondence, including elaborate essays, which he continued until his son's death.

From the guide to the Diplomatic Papers of Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, 1720-1748, (The Bancroft Library)


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