Henry Bilson-Legge

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The Right Honourable
Henry Bilson-Legge
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
6 April 1754 – 25 November 1755
Monarch George II
Prime Minister The Duke of Newcastle
Preceded by Sir William Lee
Succeeded by Sir George Lyttelton, Bt
In office
16 November 1756 – 13 April 1757
Monarch George II
Prime Minister The Duke of Devonshire
Preceded by Sir George Lyttelton, Bt
Succeeded by The Lord Mansfield
In office
2 July 1757 – 19 March 1761
Monarch George II
George III
Prime Minister The Duke of Newcastle
Preceded by The Lord Mansfield
Succeeded by The Viscount Barrington
Personal details
Born (1708-05-29)29 May 1708
Died 23 August 1764(1764-08-23) (aged 56)
Nationality British
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Mary, Lady Stawell (later Countess of Hillsborough)
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford

Henry Bilson-Legge PC FRS (29 May 1708 – 23 August 1764) was an English statesman. He notably served three times as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1750s and 1760s.

Background and education

Bilson-Legge was the fourth son of William Legge, 1st Earl of Dartmouth, by his wife Lady Anne, daughter of Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Aylesford. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford.

Political career

He became private secretary to Sir Robert Walpole. In 1739 was appointed secretary of Ireland by the lord-lieutenant, William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire; being chosen Member of Parliament for the borough of East Looe in 1740, and for Orford, Suffolk, at the general election in the succeeding year.

Legge only shared temporarily in the downfall of Walpole, and became in quick succession Surveyor-General of Woods and Forests, a Lord of the Admiralty, and a Lord of the Treasury. In 1748 he was sent as envoy extraordinary to Frederick the Great, and although his conduct in Berlin was sharply censured by George II, he became Treasurer of the Navy soon after his return to England. In April 1754 he joined the ministry of the duke of Newcastle as chancellor of the Exchequer, the king consenting to this appointment although refusing to hold any intercourse with the minister; but Legge shared the elder Pitt's dislike of the policy of paying subsidies to the landgrave of Hesse, and was dismissed from office in November 1755.[1]

Twelve months later he returned to his post at the exchequer in the administration of Pitt and the 4th Duke of Devonshire, retaining office until April 1757 when he shared both the dismissal and the ensuing popularity of Pitt. When, in conjunction with the duke of Newcastle, Pitt returned to power in the following July, Legge became chancellor of the exchequer for the third time. He imposed new taxes upon houses and windows, and the king refused to make him a peer.[2]

In 1759 he obtained the sinecure position of surveyor of the petty customs and subsidies in the port of London, and having in consequence to resign his seat in parliament he was chosen one of the members for Hampshire, a proceeding which greatly incensed the earl of Bute, who desired this seat for one of his friends. Having thus incurred Bute's displeasure Legge was again dismissed from the exchequer in March 1761, but he continued to take part in parliamentary debates until his death at Tunbridge Wells in 1764.[citation needed]

Legge took the additional name of Bilson on succeeding to the estates of a relative, Thomas Bettersworth Bilson, in 1754. Pitt called Legge, the child, and deservedly the favourite child, of the Whigs. Horace Walpole said he was of a creeping, underhand nature, and aspired to the lion's place by the manoeuvre of the mole, but afterwards he spoke in high terms of his talents.


Henry Bilson-Legge married Mary Stawell, daughter and heiress of the Edward Stawell, 4th Baron Stawell (d. 1755). In 1760, Mary, who had been created the 1st Baroness Stawell, bore Henry Bilson-Legge's only child, Henry Bilson-Legge, 2nd Baron Stawell (1757–1820), who became Baron Stawell on his mother's death in 1780. When the 2nd Baron Stawell died without sons his title became extinct. His only daughter, Mary (d. 1864), married John Dutton, 2nd Baron Sherborne.


  1. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Vol 32.
  2. Lord Hardwicke's Letter of 18 June 1757 in Harris's Life of Hardwicke, 1847, iii. 136.

Further reading

  •  Barker, George Fisher Russell (1892). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FLegge%2C_Henry_Bilson-_%28DNB00%29 "Legge, Henry Bilson-" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 32. London: Smith, Elder & Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • John Butler, Bishop of Hereford (1765). Some Account of the Character of the late Rt. Hon. H. Bilson-Legge. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Horace Walpole (1847). G.G.R.Barker (ed.). Memoirs of the Reign of George II. London.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • G. F. R. Barker, ed. (1894). Memoirs of the ReIgn of George III. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • W. E. H. Lecky (1892). History of England and the memoirs and collections of correspondence of the time. vol. ii. London. line feed character in |title= at position 19 (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Charles Longueville
Samuel Holden
Member of Parliament for East Looe
With: Charles Longueville
Succeeded by
James Buller
Francis Gashry
Preceded by
Richard Powys
John Cope
Member of Parliament for Orford
With: Lord Glenorchy 1741–46
The Viscount Bateman 1746–47
Hon. John Waldegrave 1747–54
John Offley 1754–59
Succeeded by
John Offley
Charles FitzRoy
Preceded by
Alexander Thistlethwayte
The Marquess of Winchester
Member of Parliament for Hampshire
With: Alexander Thistlethwayte 1759–61
Simeon Stuart 1761–65
Succeeded by
Simeon Stuart
Sir Richard Mill, Bt
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
British Envoy to Prussia
Succeeded by
Charles Hanbury Williams
Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Townshend
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
Viscount Duncannon
Preceded by
Francis Whitworth
Surveyor General of Woods and Forests
Succeeded by
John Phillipson
Preceded by
George Dodington
Treasurer of the Navy
Succeeded by
George Grenville
Preceded by
Sir William Lee
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Sir George Lyttelton, Bt
Preceded by
Sir George Lyttelton, Bt
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
The Lord Mansfield
Preceded by
The Lord Mansfield
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
The Viscount Barrington