Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin
Godolphin, only child of Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin, was born in Whitehall, London, on 3 September 1678, and baptised the same day. His mother, Margaret Godolphin, died six days later on 9 September. John Evelyn, who had been her most intimate acquaintance, transferred his friendship to her infant son, took charge of the general superintendence of his education, and continued to take an interest in his welfare as he grew.
Francis Godolphin was educated at Eton College, and at King's College, Cambridge, where he took his M.A. degree in 1705. His first public appointment was that of joint registrar of the court of chancery on 29 June 1698, which he held to 20 January 1727, holding also the place of one of the tellers of the exchequer from 1699 to 1704. He was chosen a member of parliament for East Looe in Cornwall on 1 December 1701, but on 4 February 1701–2 elected to serve for Helston, and sat for that constituency till 21 September 1710. As cofferer of the household he was in office from 1704 to 1711, and acted as lord warden of the stannaries, high steward of the duchy of Cornwall, and rider and master forester of Dartmoor from 1705 to 1708. He was known under the courtesy title of Viscount Rialton from 29 December 1706 till 1712. He sat for the county of Oxford from 1708 to 1710, and for Tregony in Cornwall from the latter date until he was elevated to the upper house as second Earl of Godolphin on the death of his father on 15 September 1712.
He was again cofferer of the household 1714–23, lord lieutenant of the county of Oxford 1715–1735, lord of the bedchamber to George I 1716, High Steward of Banbury 1718, and a privy councillor 26 May 1723. To George II he was groom of the stole, and first lord of the bedchamber 1727–35. He was named high steward of Woodstock 18 March 1728 and, on 18 April 1733, appointed Governor of the Scilly Islands.
On 23 January 1735, he was created Baron Godolphin of Helston in Cornwall, with special remainder, in default of his own issue, to the heirs male of his deceased uncle, Dr. Henry Godolphin, dean of St. Paul's. During the king's absence from Great Britain in 1723, 1725, and 1727, he acted as one of the lords justices of the United Kingdom. Finally, as lord privy seal, he was in office from 14 May 1735 to 25 April 1740. The pocket borough of Helston, not far from his ancestral home, Godolphin House, was under his patronage for many years, and sent his nominees to parliament. In return for this complaisance, he rebuilt Helston Church in 1763, at an expense of £6,000, and it was also his custom to pay the rates and taxes for all the electors in the borough. It is said that he only read two works, Burnet's History of my own Time and Colley Cibber's Apology. When he had perused them throughout, he began them again. He died on 17 January 1766, and was buried in Kensington Church on 25 January, when the earldom of Godolphin, viscounty of Rialton, and barony of Godolphin of Rialton became extinct; the barony of Godolphin of Helston devolved upon his cousin Francis Godolphin, 2nd Baron Godolphin of Helston.
He married, in March 1698, Lady Henrietta Churchill, eldest daughter of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and Sarah Jennings. She was born 20 July, and baptised at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, 29 July 1681. On the death of her father, 16 June 1722, she became Duchess of Marlborough, and dying 24 October 1733, was buried in Westminster Abbey on 9 November. She acquired much notoriety by her attachment to William Congreve, the dramatist.
Godolphin was one of the founding Governors of the charity called the Foundling Hospital, created in 1739. The charity aimed to tackle the problem of child abandonment in London by providing an orphanage where parents could leave babies they considered themselves incapable of raising. He also had the distinction of owning one of the founding thoroughbred sires, the Godolphin Arabian. Among his protegés was the physician and humourist Messenger Monsey, for whom he obtained the position of physician to Royal Chelsea Hospital.
He died at his house in the Stable Yard, St James's on 17 January 1766, whereupon the earldom of Godolphin became extinct.
- William Godolphin, Marquess of Blandford (c. 1699 ––1731), married Maria Catherina de Jong.
- Lord Henry Godolphin (b. February 1701)
- Lady Margaret Godolphin (born c. 1703)
- Lady Henrietta Godolphin (c. 1707 –1776), married the 1st Duke of Newcastle.
- Lady Mary Godolphin (1723–1764), married the 4th Duke of Leeds.
- Nichols and, R. H.; Wray, F. A. (1935). The History of the Foundling Hospital. London: Oxford University Press. p. 345.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Boase, George Clement (1890). "Godolphin, Francis". In Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 22. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 39–40.