Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope
|The Right Honourable
The Earl Stanhope
Portrait of Earl Stanhope by John Opie
|Member of Parliament for Wycombe
with Robert Waller
18 October 1780 – 1786
|Preceded by||Thomas FitzMaurice|
|Succeeded by||Earl Wycombe|
|Born||3 August 1753|
|Died||15 December 1816 (aged 63)|
|Spouse(s)||Lady Hester Pitt
Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope aka Charles Mahon, 3rd Earl Stanhope FRS (3 August 1753 – 15 December 1816) was a British statesman and scientist. He was the father of the great traveller and Arabist Lady Hester Stanhope and brother-in-law of William Pitt the Younger. He is sometimes confused with an exact contemporary of his, Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl of Harrington. His lean and awkward figure was extensively caricatured by James Sayers and James Gillray, reflecting his political opinions and his relationship with his children.
The son of Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl Stanhope, he was educated at Eton and the University of Geneva. While in Geneva, he devoted himself to the study of mathematics under Georges-Louis Le Sage, and acquired from Switzerland an intense love of liberty.
In politics he was a democrat. As Lord Mahon he contested the Westminster without success in 1774, when only just of age; but from the general election of 1780 until his accession to the peerage on 7 March 1786 he represented through the influence of Lord Shelburne the Buckinghamshire borough of High Wycombe. During the sessions of 1783 and 1784 he supported William Pitt the Younger, whose sister, Lady Hester Pitt, he married on 19 December 1774. He was close enough to be singled out for ridicule in the Rolliad:
- ——This Quixote of the Nation
- Beats his own Windmills in gesticulation;
- To strike, not please, his utmost force he bends,
- And all his sense is at his fingers' ends, &c. &c.
When Pitt strayed from the Liberal principles of his early days, his brother-in-law severed their political connection and opposed the arbitrary measures which the ministry favoured. Lord Stanhope's character was generous, and his conduct consistent; but his speeches were not influential.
He was the chairman of the "Revolution Society," founded in honour of the Glorious Revolution of 1688; the members of the society in 1790 expressed their sympathy with the aims of the French Revolution. In 1794 Stanhope supported Thomas Muir, one of the Edinburgh politicians who were transported to Botany Bay; and in 1795 he introduced into the Lords a motion deprecating any interference with the internal affairs of France. In all these points he was hopelessly beaten, and in the last of them he was in a "minority of one"—a sobriquet which stuck to him throughout life—whereupon he seceded from parliamentary life for five years.
Business, science and writing
Stanhope was an accomplished scientist. This started at the University of Geneva where he studied mathematics under Georges-Louis Le Sage. Electricity was another of the subjects which he studied, and the volume of Principles of Electricity which he issued in 1779 contained the rudiments of his theory on the "return stroke" resulting from the contact with the earth of the electric current of lightning, which were afterwards amplified in a contribution to the Philosophical Transactions for 1787. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society so early as November 1772, and devoted a large part of his income to experiments in science and philosophy. He invented a method of securing buildings from fire (which, however, proved impracticable), the first iron printing press and the lens which bear his name, and a monochord for tuning musical instruments, suggested improvements in canal locks, made experiments in steam navigation in 1795–1797 and contrived two calculating machines.
His principal labours in literature consisted of a reply to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution (1790) and an Essay on the rights of juries (1792), and he long meditated the compilation of a digest of the statutes.
Marriages and progeny
He married twice:
- Firstly on 19 December 1774 to Lady Hester Pitt (19 October 1755 – 20 July 1780), daughter of William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham ("Pitt the Elder"), Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, by whom he had three daughters:
- Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope (1776–1839) a traveller and Arabist who died unmarried at the age of 63 in Syria.
- Lady Griselda Stanhope (21 July 1778 – 13 October 1851), wife of John Tekell.
- Lady Lucy Rachel Stanhope (20 February 1780 – 1 March 1814) who eloped with Thomas Taylor of Sevenoaks, the family apothecary, following which her father refused to be reconciled to her; but Pitt made her husband Controller-General of Customs and his son was one of the Earl of Chatham's executors.
- Secondly in 1781 he married Louisa Grenville (1758–1829), daughter and sole heiress of the Hon. Henry Grenville (Governor of Barbados in 1746 and ambassador to the Ottoman Porte in 1762), a younger brother of Richard Grenville-Temple, 2nd Earl Temple and of George Grenville. She survived him and died in March 1829. By his second wife he had three sons:
- Philip Henry Stanhope, 4th Earl Stanhope (1781–1855), eldest son and heir.
- Maj. Hon. Charles Banks Stanhope (3 June 1785 – 16 January 1809), aide-de-camp to John Moore. He was killed at the Battle of Corunna
- Lt Col Hon. James Hamilton Stanhope (1788–1825) captain and lieutenant-colonel of the 1st Foot Guards.
Death and succession
Styles of address
- 1753–1763: The Honourable Charles Stanhope
- 1763–1772: Viscount Mahon
- 1772–1780: Viscount Mahon FRS
- 1780–1786: Viscount Mahon MP FRS
- 1786–1816: The Right Honourable The Earl Stanhope FRS
- The Britannica Encyclopaedia, 1911
- Michael Kassler, 'Earl Stanhope's "Letter-Music"' and 'Stanhope's Novel Musical Instruments' in Michael Kassler (ed.), The Music Trade in Georgian England, Farnham, Ashgate, 2011, pp. 389–449
- Thomson, T. (1818), "Biographical account of Lord Stanhope", Annals of Philosophy, Robert Baldwin: 81–85
|Parliament of Great Britain|
Hon. Thomas FitzMaurice
|Member of Parliament for Wycombe
with Robert Waller
|Peerage of Great Britain|
Philip Henry Stanhope