Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer
|The Right Honourable
15th Baron le Despencer
|Preceded by||The Earl of Bessborough|
|Succeeded by||The Viscount Barrington|
|Master of the Great Wardrobe|
|Preceded by||The Earl Gower|
|Succeeded by||The Earl of Ashburnham|
|Chancellor of the Exchequer|
|Prime Minister||The Earl of Bute|
|Preceded by||The Viscount Barrington|
|Succeeded by||George Grenville|
|Treasurer of the Chamber|
|Preceded by||Charles Townshend|
|Succeeded by||Sir Gilbert Elliot|
|Member of Parliament
for New Romney
|Preceded by||Sir Robert Austen|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Knight|
|Died||11 December 1781(aged 73)|
|Alma mater||Eton College|
Early life 
He was born in London, and educated at Eton College where he became associated with William Pitt the Elder. He was orphaned in 1724 at the age of 16. In 1726 he went on a Grand Tour of Europe, becoming one of the first Britons to include Russia on his itinerary.
He was too young to have been a member of the very first Hellfire Club founded by the Duke of Wharton in 1719 and disbanded in 1721, but he and the Earl of Sandwich are alleged to have been members of a Hellfire Club that met at the George and Vulture Inn throughout the 1730s.
In 1732 he formed a dining club called the Society of Dilettanti with around 40 charter members (some of whom may have been members of Wharton's original club) who had returned from the Grand Tour with a greater appreciation of classical art. William Hogarth drew Sir Francis Dashwood at his Devotions for dilettante Viscount Boyne.
On 19 December 1745, he married Lady Sarah Ellys (née Gould) (d. 19 January 1769), the widow of Sir Richard Ellys, 2nd Baronet.
Early political career 
In 1741 he was elected Member of Parliament for New Romney and subsequently abandoning his earlier Jacobite sympathies he joined the court of Frederick, Prince of Wales and sponsored alleged spy-master Lord Melcombe’s membership of the Dilettanti.
In 1744 he and fellow Dilettante the Earl of Sandwich founded the short-lived Divan Club for those who had visited the Ottoman Empire to share their experiences, but this club was disbanded two years later.
The Hellfire Club 
Dashwood leased Medmenham Abbey on the Thames from his friend, Francis Duffield in 1751 and had it rebuilt by the architect Nicholas Revett in the style of the 18th century Gothic revival, at this time, the motto Fait ce que voudras was placed above a doorway in stained glass, and it is thought that Hogarth may have executed murals for this building; none, however, survive.
The first meeting of the group known facetiously as Brotherhood of St. Francis of Wycombe, Order of Knights of West Wycombe was held at Sir Francis' family home in West Wycombe on Walpurgis Night in 1752.
According to the 1779 book Nocturnal Revels, on the Grand Tour he had visited various religious seminaries, "founded, as it were, in direct contradiction to Nature and Reason; on his return to England, [he] thought that a burlesque Institution in the name of St Francis, would mark the absurdity of such Societies; and in lieu of the austerities and abstemiousness there practised, substitute convivial gaiety, unrestrained hilarity, and social felicity."
The initial meeting was something of a failure and the club subsequently moved their meetings to Medmenham Abbey (about 6 miles from West Wycombe) where they called themselves the Monks of Medmenham.
For his activities in the Hellfire Club, he was in his day widely regarded as being involved in devil worship.
Later political career 
He was appointed Treasurer of the Chamber in 1761 and Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1762 but was forced to resign the following year after announcing an unpopular budget and subsequently served as Master of the Great Wardrobe After leaving that post, the Barony of le Despencer was called out of abeyance for him (in right of his mother Mary, eldest daughter of 4th Earl of Westmorland).
From 1765 until his death he served as joint Postmaster General. During this time he met and befriended Benjamin Franklin, his opposite number in the North American colonies, and agreeing that church services were too long, the two produced an anonymous Abridgement of the Book of Common Prayer in 1773.
He also served as an honorary vice president of London's charitable Foundling Hospital from 1777 until his death.
Francis Dashwood's father, Sir Francis Dashwood, 1st Baronet, married four times; his second wife was Mary, the eldest daughter of Vere Fane, 4th Earl of Westmorland, Baron Le Despencer and Burghersh. Francis and Mary had two children: a son Francis and a daughter Rachael. Sir Francis also had two surviving daughters from his first marriage, and two daughters and two sons from his third. So Francis Dashwood had a sister Rachael, and six half siblings.
When the 7th Earl of Westmorland died childless, the Earldom of Westmorland passed to Thomas Fane a direct male descendent of the 1st Earl. The title of Baron le Despencer, passed through Mary to Francis.
Portrayal in popular culture 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2011)|
Francis Dashwood has appeared in literary works by the following authors:
- Charles Brockden Brown in his 1798 novel Wieland describes the character Carwin as "specious seducer Dashwood."
- Robert Anton Wilson in his 1975 The Illuminatus! Trilogy and 1980–81 Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy.
- James Herbert in the 1994 novel The Ghosts of Sleath.
- Eddie Campbell in the 1994 four-issue story arc Warped Notions for the comic book Hellblazer.
- Kathy Reichs in the 2001 Novel Fatal Voyage.
- Carrie Bebris in her 2005 Regency novel Suspense and Sensibility.
- Mike Carey in the 2006 four-issue story arc Reasons to Be Cheerful for the comic book Hellblazer.
- Kage Baker in her 2007 short story "Hellfire at Twilight".
- Tom Knox in the 2009 novel The Genesis Secret.
- Diana Gabaldon in her 1998 short story Lord John and the Hellfire Club. The story was originally published in Past Poisons: An Ellis Peters Memorial Anthology of Historic Crime, edited by Maxim Jakubowski. Because of the character Lord John's popularity, Gabaldon reworked the story to be included with a set of Lord John novellas, in total being published as Lord John and the Hand of Devils.
- Received a name check from Vivian Stanshall at the end of side two of the original recording of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, as found in the Mike Oldfield Boxed collection (Virgin Records – CDBOX1).
- The Inkubus Sukkubus song 'Hell-Fire' from the album Vampyre Erotica mentions him, the motto Do What Thou Will, and Breast of Venus.
Film and TV 
- Appears in the anime Le Chevalier D'Eon as the leader of a powerful cult – the Revolutionary Order – based in Medmenham Abbey, Medmenham, England, that seeks to manipulate Europeon powers using magical powers latent in the biblical Book of Psalms.
See also 
- Ashe 2000, p. 65.
- Ashe 2000, p. 100.
- Ashe 2000, p. 104.
- Ashe 2000, p. 102.
- BBC staff 2003, p. 1.
- Ashe 2000, p. 118.
- Ashe 2000, p. 111.
- Ashe 2000, p. 112.
- BBC staff 2003, p. 3.
- John Fane, 7th Earl of Westmorland, died without issue, in 1762, when the barony of Le Despencer, being a barony in fee, devolved upon his nephew Sir Francis Dashwood, bart. (the subject of this article); but the earldom of Westmorland went to the male heir, Thomas Fane, of Bristol, merchant, son of Henry Fane, (d. 1726,) attorney at law, grandson of Sir Francis Fane, K.B. and great grandson of Sir Francis Fane, of Fulbeck, co. Lincoln, K.B. the third son of Francis Fane, 1st Earl of Westmorland.(Debrett 1820, 160)
- Edmondson 1785, p. 117.
- Ashe, Geoffrey (2000). The Hell-Fire Clubs: A History of Anti-Morality. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2402 Check
- BBC staff (2003). "Sir Francis's Folly". BBC. Retrieved 19 January 2009.
- Debrett, John, ed. (1820). Debrett's Correct Peerage of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1 (13 ed.). London: Printed G. Woodall, Angel Court, Skinner Street.
- Edmondson, Joseph (1785). The present peerages: with plates of arms, and an introduction to heraldry ; together with several useful lists incident to the work. Printed for J. Dodsley.
- Woodland, Patrick (2004). "Dashwood, Francis, eleventh Baron Le Despencer (1708–1781)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/7179.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Debrett's Correct Peerage of England, Scotland, and Ireland" by John Debrett
- Sir Francis Dashwood (1708- 1781) by George Knowles at controverscial.com
The Hellfire Club 
- The Hell-Fire Clubs from the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon
- The 'Hell Fire Club' by Marjie Bloy, PhD at The Victorian Web
- The Hellfire Club by Mike Howard at Talking Stick
- Francis Dashwood of the English Hellfire Club
- The Lives & Times of the Hell-Fire Club
- High politics and Hellfire: William Hogarth’s portrait of Francis Dashwood by Robin Simon editor of The British Art Journal
- Photographs of Dashwood's tunnels in West Wycombe