Southern Anthology

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George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer, KG

George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer, KG

Male 1758 - 1834  (76 years)

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  • Name George John Spencer 
    George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer
    George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer
    John Singleton Copley, 1800
    Suffix 2nd Earl Spencer, KG 
    Born 1 Sep 1758  Wimbledon Park, London Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 10 Nov 1834  Althorp, Brington, Northamptonshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Althorp House
    Althorp House
    Buried St Mary's Church, Great Brington, Northamptonshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Notes 
    • Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 53, "Spencer, George John" by John Knox Laughton.

      SPENCER, GEORGE, second Earl Spencer (1758-1834), eldest son of John, first earl Spencer (1734-1783), and great-grandson of Charles Spencer, third earl of Sunderland [q. v.], was born at Wimbledon on 1 Sept. 1758. His sister Georgiana, the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire [q. v.], is separately noticed [see Cavendish]. By the elevation of his father to an earldom on 1 Nov. 1765, he became by courtesy Viscount Althorp. He received his early education at Harrow; graduated M.A. at Cambridge in 1778, as a nobleman of Trinity College; travelled on the continent for two years, and in 1780 was returned to the House of Commons as member for Northampton. In 1782 he was returned for Surrey. Affiliated by birth to the whig party, he was more closely knit to it by the marriage of two of his sisters to the Duke of Devonshire and the Earl of Bessborough respectively, and during the short Rockingham ministry he was one of the junior lords of the treasury.

      On 23 Oct. 1783 he succeeded his father as Earl Spencer, and was thus removed from the strife of factions in the lower house. On the break up of the party after the execution of the French king and the declaration of war between France and England, he joined with Burke and gave in his adhesion to the policy of Pitt, of whom he continued a warm supporter. On 11 June 1794 he was nominated a privy councillor and lord keeper of the privy seal. A few days later he was sent to Vienna as ambassador extraordinary, and on his return was appointed, 17 Dec. 1794, first lord of the admiralty. This office he held for upwards of six years, the most stirring, the most glorious in our naval history, so that for him, more distinctly perhaps than for any other English administrator, may be claimed the title of organiser of victory. It was under his rule that the battles of St. Vincent and Camperdown were fought and won; that the mutiny of Spithead, the outcome of years of neglect, was happily ended; that the treasonable revolt at the Nore was suppressed; and it was still more directly by him that Nelson was singled out for independent command and sent into the Mediterranean to win the battle of the Nile. During the two years that followed, a continual semi-official correspondence was carried on between Spencer and Nelson, some of which has been preserved in the pages of Nicolas, but much, especially of Nelson's contribution to it, was unfortunately destroyed as waste paper by an over zealous servant. Some of Spencer's letters written to Nelson in the spring of 1800 are particularly interesting, and most of all Spencer's final suggestion that, if Nelson's health did not permit him to be with the fleet, he ought to return to England. It was probably the necessity of this recall which led Spencer to doubt the advisability of sending Nelson to the Baltic as commander-in-chief, and therefore to appoint him as second under Sir Hyde Parker, a mistake which Lord St. Vincent, who knew Nelson better, endeavoured to rectify when too late. With the resignation of Pitt in February 1801, Spencer also went out of office. He had been made a K.G. on 1 March 1799. It is said that it was offered him two years before, but that he declined it in favour of Lord Howe [see Howe, Richard, Earl].

      He was home secretary during Fox's administration, 1806?7, and master of the Trinity House; after which he held no office under the government, devoting himself principally to administrative work in his county of Northampton, and to literary or scientific pursuits. He was colonel of the Northamptonshire yeomanry: he was for thirty years chairman of quarter sessions; it was by his energy that the infirmary at Northampton was built and endowed. He was president of the Royal Institution, for forty years was a trustee of the British Museum, and in 1812 was one of the founders and first president of the Roxburghe Club. But during these later years his fame must principally rest on the rehabilitation of the Althorp library (founded by his ancestor, Charles Spencer, third earl of Sunderland [q. v.]), said, probably with truth, to be the finest private library in Europe. Of this, with the house and its works of art, an account was published by Thomas Frognall Dibdin [q. v.], under the titles of ?Bibliotheca Spenceriana? (1814?15), ?Ędes Althorpianę? (1822), and ?Book Rarities in Lord Spencer's Library? (1811). The collection, which was specially rich in Caxtons and other fifteenth-century works, was, with some unimportant reservations, bought in 1892 by Mrs. Rylands, and was removed to Manchester to form a memorial of her husband, under the name of the ?John Rylands Library? in Manchester [see Rylands, John]. Spencer died at Althorp on 10 Nov. 1834. He married, in March 1781. His wife was Lavinia, eldest daughter of Charles Bingham, first earl of Lucan, a woman of great beauty and intelligence, brilliancy of conversation and charm of character. For many years, at the end of the last century and the beginning of this, she was well-nigh the most prominent lady in London society, and was remarkable for having been the friend of a singularly large number of men of eminence, literary, naval, and political. As a girl she had known Johnson well; his visits to her mother's house were frequent, and the personal tradition of him which she preserved is recorded by Rogers (Table Talk, p. 10). She often sat to Reynolds, and figures in several of his pictures. Ill health compelled her about 1783 to reside abroad (G. Birkbeck Hill, Letters of Samuel Johnson, ii. 65); and at Lausanne in 1785 she met Gibbon, who describes her (Miscell. Works, ed. 1814, ii. 384) as ?a charming woman, who with sense and spirit has the simplicity and playfulness of a child.? The letters of Nelson and Collingwood frequently refer to her as their valued and sympathetic friend, and she used to call the former her ?bulldog,? though his treatment of Lady Nelson seems latterly to have alienated her (Nelson Despatches, vol. viii. Addenda cc.) Her prominence in London society and her charm are recorded in Moore's ?Memoirs? and Redgrave's ?Diary,? and it was to her that Lord John Russell dedicated ?The Bee and the Fly? (Life of Alaric Watts, i. 272; notes supplied by J. A. Hamilton, esq.). She died in June 1831, leaving issue: John Charles, viscount Althorp and third earl Spencer [q. v.]; Sir Robert Cavendish Spencer [q. v.]; Frederick, fourth earl Spencer and father of the present earl; George; and two daughters.

      There are several portraits of Spencer. One at the age of seventeen, by Reynolds, was engraved by T. H. Robinson for the ?Bibliotheca Spenceriana;? a second portrait, by Phillips, was engraved by Finden for ?Ędes Althorpianę;? a third, by Copley, in the robes of a knight of the Garter, is engraved in Fisher's ?National Portrait Gallery;? a fourth, by Hoppner, is engraved in Cadell's ?Contemporary Portraits;? and a fifth, by Shee, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1804.
      [Gent. Mag. 1835, i. 89; Nicolas's Despatches and Letters of Lord Nelson; Doyle's Official Baronage; information from Earl Spencer, K.G.]

      J. K. L.
      [1]
    Person ID I12009  Dickinson
    Last Modified 10 Jul 2014 

    Father John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer,   b. 19 Dec 1734, Althorp, Brington, Northamptonshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 31 Oct 1783, Bath, Somerset Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 48 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Mother Margaret Georgiana Poyntz, Countess Spencer of Althorp,   b. 8 May 1737, St. James Palace, London, Greater London, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 18 Mar 1814, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 76 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Married 20 Dec 1755  Althorp, Brington, Northamptonshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F3384  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Lavinia Bingham, Countess Spencer,   b. 1762,   d. 1831  (Age 69 years) 
    Children 
     1. John Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl Spencer,   b. 30 May 1782, Spencer House, London Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 Oct 1845, Wiseton Hall, Nottinghamshire Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 63 years)  [Birth]
     2. Sarah Spencer, Baroness Lyttelton,   b. 29 Jul 1787, Althorp, Brington, Northamptonshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 13 Apr 1870, Hagley, Worcestershire Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 82 years)  [Birth]
     3. Robert Cavendish Spencer,   b. 1791,   d. 1830  (Age 39 years)  [Birth]
     4. Georgiana Charlotte Spencer,   b. 1794,   d. 1823  (Age 29 years)  [Birth]
    +5. Frederick Spencer, 4th Earl Spencer, KG,   b. 14 Apr 1798, Admiralty House, Whitehall, London Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 Dec 1857, Althorp, Brington, Northamptonshire Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 59 years)  [Birth]
     6. George Spencer,   b. 1799, Admiralty House, Whitehall, London Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 Oct 1864  (Age 65 years)  [Birth]
    Last Modified 10 Jul 2014 
    Family ID F3386  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 1 Sep 1758 - Wimbledon Park, London Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 10 Nov 1834 - Althorp, Brington, Northamptonshire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - St Mary's Church, Great Brington, Northamptonshire Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Histories
    Order of the Garter
    Order of the Garter
    "The Order of the Garter is the most senior and the oldest British Order of Chivalry and was founded by Edward III in 1348." The official website of the British Monarchy.

  • Sources 
    1. [S336351] Dictionary of National Biography, 63 volumes, Sir Sidney Lee, ed., (New York: McMillan and Company, 1885-1900), Public Domain., vol. 53, 355-356.