Turnip Townshend

CHARLES TOWNSHEND,
1674-1738

2nd Viscount of Raynham

Charles Townshend, portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Unfortunately the source of this biography is not known. It has been digitally retyped from a old typed copy on paper so brown and frail it could easily be older than fifty years.

Charles Townshend, Second Viscount, (born 1674, died 1738) a statesman of unsulli integrity, was the eldest son of Horatio, the first Viscount. He succeeded to the Peerage in December 1687, being educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge. When he took his seat in the House of Lords his sympathies leant to Toryism, but this predilection soon faded away, and in February 1701 it was rumoured among the courtiers that he would hold office of Privy Soal in the Whig Ministry which William the Third had in view. For some years after the accession of Queen Anne he remained without office, but on September 29th 1707 he was created Yeomen of the Guard, and in the same year he was summoned to the Privy Council, a distinction renewed by the queen's two successors to the throne. The command og the Yeomen remained in his hands until June 13th 1711, but its responsibilities did not prevent him from acting as joint plent-potentiary with the Duke of Marlborough in the peace negotiations with France which were carried on at Gertruydenburg, near Breda, o from serving as ambassador extraordinary at the Hague Congress (May 2, 1709 to March 26, 1711). Townshend was in high favour of George the First and on that king's arrival at the Hague in September 1714 he published the appointment of Charles as Secretary of State for the Southern Department, entrusting to his new minister the privilege of nominating his own colleague: Horace Walpole (??? Robert Walpole), his brother-in-law and private secretary recommended Stanhope for the vacant post, and Stanhope was duly appointed. Townshend did not neglect to avail himself of the advantages afforded by his attendance on the king, and before he arrival of George the First in England he had obtained complete ascendency both over his mind and the dispositions of the advisors by whom his line of conduct was usually determined. The policy of the new ministers, both at home and abroad, lay in the promotion of peace. With this object they endeavoured to limit the charges against their predecessor Harley, Lord Oxford, to high crimes and misdemeanours. To gain this and they brought about, in 1716, an alliance between those ancient rivals in arms, France and England. In spite of their success their influence was gradually undermined by the intrigues of Lord Sunderland and by the discontent of the Hanoverian favourites, who deemed the pensions and the places which they had gained as insufficient reward for their exertions.

In October, 1716 Stanhope accompanied the King on a journey to Hanover, and during this visit was seduced from his allegiance to his colleague by the wily Sunderland, who had ingratiated himself into royal favour. George the First was induced into believing that Townshend and Walpole were caballing with the prince of Wales, and were forming designs against the royal authority. Townshend was dismissed in December 1716 from his place of Secretary of State, and was afforded in lieu thereof the splendid banishment of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, a gilded sinecure which he at first contemptuously declined, but finally condescended ultimately to accept on condition that he was not required to set foot on Irish soil. His latent spirit of hostility to this arrangement quickly developed into open antagonism, and in March 1717 he was dismissed from this position. At the close of May 1720, a partial reconciliation took place between the opposing Whig sections of Stanhope and Townshend. The Latter was readmitted into the Ministry as Lord President of the Council on 11th June 1720, and his devoted colleague, Sir Robert Walpole, became Paymaster General.

When the South Sea Bubble burst, the fortunes of the Ministry shared in the misfortunes of the scheme which they had promoted. Stanhope, in a paroxysm of passion during a heated debate broke a blood vessel, and Sunderland, although acquitted of the charge of personal corruption, was forced to retire into private life. The withdrawal of these statesmen assigned to their rivals the chief positions in the state. Townshend became Secretary of State on the 10th February 1721, and Walpole gained the position of First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The death of George the First threatened a change of advisors, but the dismay of the new king's favourite, Spencer Compton, at being called upon to draw up the royal speech led to the old ministers of the Crown being retained in their places. What the attack on the opposition could not affect, the internal strife of the administration accomplished. Townshend was of a proud, impetuous nature, born more accustomed to rule than obey. His family had for many generations stood higher in the social life of Norfolk than Walpole's progenitors, and when he himself attained the distinction in politics his position as a member of the Upper House was greater than that enjoyed by his friend in the Commons.As the power of the Lower House increased, and as Walpole became more and more the object of attacks by the Tories, the pre-eminence of Townshend passed from him. So long, to use the witty remark of Sir Robert Walpole, as the firm of Townshend and Walpole was such, things went well with them, Lady Dorothy Walpole 1686-1726 but when the positions were reversed jealousies arose between the partners. The growing alienation was hastened by the death in 1725 of the Secretary's wife, Walpole's sister. At the close of 1729 Townshend endeavoured to obtain the appointment of his old and attached friend, Lord Chesterfield, as his fellow secretary of state, and the failure of the attempt brought about a fierce scene between himself and Walpole. They broke into passionate words, seized one another by the coat collars, and would have come to blows had their friends not intervened. After the outbreak of passion further co-operation was impossible and Townshend had the good sense to recognise the position. He retired tp private life on 15th May 1730.

The Chief domestic events of Townshend's ministry were the impeachment of Bishop Atterbury; the partial restoration of Lord Bolingbroke; and the troubles in Ireland over the granting to a man named Wood of a patent for coining pence. Its concluding act was the signing of the Treaty of Seville on November 9th 1729.

Charles Townshend died of apoplexy on 21st June 1738, aged 64. Slow in forming, but resolute in adhering to, his opinion, and like so many many men of that stamp, he was impatient of contradiction. His manners have been styled "course, rustic, and seemingly brutal" but these defects were not visible in his domestic life. Never did minister leave office with cleaner hands. He did not add one acre to his estate, nor leave large fortunes to his younger children.


Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount (1674 - 1738) had 12 children,

Married in 1698 to Elizabeth Pelham (b.???? - 1711) had 5 children
  • Charles Townshend, 3rd Viscount (1700-1764)
  • Thomas Townshend (1701 - 1780)
  • William Townshend (1702 - 1738)
  • Roger Townshend (1708 - 1760)
  • Elizabeth Townshend (???? - 1785)

Married in 1713 to Dorothy Walpole (b.1684????-1726) had 7 children
  • George Townshend (1714/15 - 1762/69)
  • Augustus Townshend (1716 - 1746)
  • Horatio Townshend (1718 - 1764)
  • Rev. Edward Townshend, Dean of Norwich (1719 - 1765)
  • Richard Townshend (1721 - died young)
  • Dorothy Townshend (1722 - 1779)
  • Mary Townshend (1724 - 1776)