Biography of WILMINGTON, 1st earl of - Archontology
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WILMINGTON, 1st earl of

Spencer Compton

b. 1673, Compton Wynyates, Warwickshire
d. 2 Jul 1743, London

Ministerial offices: Paymaster of the Queen's Pensions (26 Apr 1707 - 1714)
Treasurer to Prince George of Denmark (26 Apr 1707 - 1708)
Treasurer to Prince of Wales (Mar 1715 - 1727)
Paymaster General (Oct 1722 - 1730)
Lord Privy Seal (8 May 1730 - Dec 1730)
Lord President of the Council (31 Dec 1730 - 1742)
First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Lords (16 Feb 1742 - 2 Jul 1743)
Names/titles: Sir Spencer Compton [from 27 May 1725, Knight of the Bath]; Baron Wilmington [from 8 Jan 1728]; 1st Earl of Wilmington and Viscount Pevensey [from 14 May 1730]

The youngest son of the 3rd Earl of Northampton, Spencer Compton was educated at Trinity College, Oxford. He was originally elected as a Tory MP (1698-1710, 1713-1728), but rapidly switched to the Whigs (1701). He subsequently held various ministerial positions, as well as also being Speaker of the House of Commons (17 Mar 1715 - 17 Jul 1727). In 1727, he was the new King's preferred choice for the premiership in place of Sir Robert Walpole, but he doubted his own ability to hold such a post. As compensation he was sent to the House of Lords as Earl of Wilmington and was successively Lord Privy Seal and Lord President of the Council under Walpole. Despite this he did not oppose the 1741 censure motion against his leader. After the failure of the King's attempts to put the opposition in power following Walpole's fall in 1742, Wilmington was made First Lord of the Treasury [1], but he was eclipsed by his more active colleagues, such as Lord Carteret, who directed the foreign policy to keep Great Britain in the War of the Austrian Succession, fighting the forces of Prussia, France, and Spain. A significant domestic policy of Wilmington's administration was the passage of a bill to curb public drunkenness by increasing the tax on spirits, making liquor more expensive (Spirituous Liquors Act, 22 Mar 1743). He died in office on 2 Jul 1743. Biography source: [2, pp. 7-10]

[1] "London Gazette", no. 8093, 13-16 Feb 1742.
[2] Englefield, Dermot; Seaton, Janet; White, Isobel (eds.) Facts About the British Prime Ministers: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1995. online
Image: portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller, c. 1708-1710.