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This English title has been held in the Hervey family since 1714, though previously an earldom of Bristol, in the Digby family, is associated with two especially famous representatives, of whom separate biographies are given. The Herveys are mentioned during the 13th century as seated in Bedfordshire, and afterwards in Suffolk, where they have held the estate of Ickworth since the 15th century. John Hervey (1616-1679) was the eldest son of Sir William Hervey (d. 1660), and was born on the 18th of August 1616. He held a high position in the household of Catherine, wife of Charles II., and was for many years member of parliament for Hythe. He married Elizabeth, the only surviving child of his kinsman, William, Lord Hervey of Kidbrooke (d. 1642), but left no children when he died on the 18th of January 1679, and his estates passed to his brother, Sir Thomas Hervey. Sir Thomas, who was member of parliament for Bury St Edmunds, died on the 27th of May 1694, and was succeeded by his son, John, who became the 1st earl of Bristol.
John Hervey, 1st earl of Bristol (1665-1751), born on the 27th of August 1665, was educated at Clare Hall, Cambridge, and became member of parliament for Bury St Edmunds in March 1694. In March 1703 he was created Baron Hervey of Ickworth, and in October 1714 was made earl of Bristol as a reward for his zeal in promoting the principles of the revolution and supporting the Hanoverian succession. He died on the 20th of January 1751. By his first wife, Isabella (d. 1693), daughter of Sir Robert Carr, Bart., of Sleaford, he had one son, Carr, Lord Hervey (1691-1723), who was educated at Clare Hall, Cambridge, and was member for Bury St Edmunds from 1713 to 1722. (It has been suggested that Carr, who died unmarried on the 14th of November 1723, was the father of Horace Walpole.) He married secondly Elizabeth (d. 1741), daughter and co-heiress of Sir Thomas Felton, Bart., of Playford, Suffolk, by whom he had ten sons and six daughters. His eldest son, John (1696-1743), took the courtesy title of Lord Hervey on the death of his half-brother, Carr, in 1723, and gained some renown both as a writer and a politician (see Hervey of Ickworth). Another son, Thomas (1699-1775), was one of the members for Bury from 1733 to 1747; held various offices at court; and eloped with Elizabeth, wife of Sir Thomas Hanmer. He had very poor health, and his reckless life frequently brought him into pecuniary and other difficulties. He wrote numerous pamphlets, and when he died Dr Johnson said of him, "Tom Hervey, though a vicious man, was one of the genteelest men who ever lived." Another of the 1st earl's sons, Felton (1712-1773), was also member for the family borough of Bury St Edmunds. Having assumed the additional name of Bathurst, Felton's grandson, Felton Elwell Hervey-Bathurst (1782-1819), was created a baronet in 1818, and on his death a year later the title descended to his brother, Frederick Anne (1783-1824), the direct ancestor of the present baronet. The 1st earl died in January 1751, the title and estates descending to his grandson.
George William Hervey, 2nd earl of Bristol (1721-1775), the eldest son of John, Lord Hervey of Ickworth, by his marriage with Mary (1700-1768), daughter of Nicholas Lepell, was born on the 31st of August 1721. He served for some years in the army, and in 1755 was sent to Turin as envoy extraordinary. He was ambassador at Madrid from 1758 to 1761, filling a difficult position with credit and dignity, and ranked among the followers of Pitt. Appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland in 1766, he never visited that country during his short tenure of this office, and, after having served for a short time as keeper of the privy seal, became groom of the stole to George III. in January 1770. He died unmarried on the 18th or 20th of March 1775, and was succeeded by his brother.
Augustus John Hervey, 3rd earl of Bristol (1724-1779), was born on the 19th of May 1724, and entered the navy, where his promotion was rapid. He distinguished himself in several encounters with the French, and was of great assistance to Admiral Hawke in 1759, although he had returned to England before the battle of Quiberon Bay in November 1759. Having served with distinction in the West Indies under Rodney, his active life at sea ceased when the peace of Paris was concluded in February 1763. He was, however, nominally commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean in this year, and was made vice-admiral of the blue in January 1778. Hervey was member of parliament for Bury from 1757 to 1763, and after being for a short time member for Saltash, again represented Bury from 1768 until he succeeded his brother in the peerage in 1775. He often took part in debates in parliament, and was a frequent contributor to periodical literature. Having served as a lord of the admiralty from 1771 to 1775 he won some notoriety as an opponent of the Rockingham ministry and a defender of Admiral Keppel. In August 1744 he had been secretly married to Elizabeth Chudleigh (1720-1788), afterwards duchess of Kingston (q.v.), but this union was dissolved in 1769. The earl died in London on the 23rd of December 1779, leaving no legitimate issue, and having, as far as possible, alienated his property from the [v.04 p.0576]title. He was succeeded by his brother. Many of his letters are in the Record Office, and his journals in the British Museum. Other letters are printed in the Grenville Papers, vols. iii. and iv. (London, 1852-1853), and the Life of Admiral Keppel, by the Hon. T. Keppel (London, 1852).
Frederick Augustus Hervey, bishop of Derry (1730-1803), who now became 4th earl of Bristol, was born on the 1st of August 1730, and educated at Westminster school and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, graduating in 1754. Entering the church he became a royal chaplain; and while waiting for other preferment spent some time in Italy, whither he was led by his great interest in art. In February 1767, while his brother, the 2nd earl, was lord-lieutenant of Ireland, he was made bishop of Cloyne, and having improved the property of the see he was translated to the rich bishopric of Derry a year later. Here again he was active and philanthropic. While not neglecting his luxurious personal tastes he spent large sums of money on making roads and assisting agriculture, and his munificence was shared by the city of Londonderry. He built splendid residences at Downhill and Ballyscullion, which he adorned with rare works of art. As a bishop, Hervey was industrious and vigilant; he favoured complete religious equality, and was opposed to the system of tithes. In December 1779 he became earl of Bristol, and in spite of his brother's will succeeded to a considerable property. Having again passed some time in Italy, he returned to Ireland and in 1782 threw himself ardently into the Irish volunteer movement, quickly attaining a prominent position among the volunteers, and in great state attending the convention held in Dublin in November 1783. Carried away by his position and his popularity he talked loudly of rebellion, and his violent language led the government to contemplate his arrest. Subsequently he took no part in politics, spending his later years mainly on the continent of Europe. In 1798 he was imprisoned by the French at Milan, remaining in custody for eighteen months. He died at Albano on the 8th of July 1803, and was buried in Ickworth church. Varying estimates have been found of his character, including favourable ones by John Wesley and Jeremy Bentham. He was undoubtedly clever and cultured, but licentious and eccentric. In later life he openly professed materialistic opinions; he fell in love with the countess Lichtenau, mistress of Frederick William II., king of Prussia; and by his bearing he gave fresh point to the saying that "God created men, women and Herveys." In 1752 he had married Elizabeth (d. 1800), daughter of Sir Jermyn Davers, Bart., by whom he had two sons and three daughters. His elder son, Augustus John, Lord Hervey (1757-1796), had predeceased his father, and he was succeeded in the title by his younger son.
Frederick William Hervey, 5th earl and 1st marquess of Bristol (1769-1859), was born on the 2nd of October 1769. He married Elizabeth Albana (d. 1844), daughter of Clotworthy, 1st Baron Templetown, by whom he had six sons and three daughters. In 1826 he was created marquess of Bristol and Earl Jermyn, and died on the 15th of February 1859. He was succeeded by his son Frederick William (1800-1864), M.P. for Bury St Edmunds 1830-1859, as 2nd marquess; and by the latter's son Frederick William John (1834-1907), M.P. for West Suffolk 1859-1864, as 3rd marquess. The latter's nephew, Frederick William Fane Hervey (b. 1863), who succeeded as 4th marquess, served with distinction in the royal navy, and was M.P. for Bury St Edmunds from 1906 to 1907.
See John, Lord Hervey, Memoirs of the Reign of George II., edited by J.W. Croker (London, 1884); John Hervey, 1st earl of Bristol, Diary (Wells, 1894); and Letter Books of Bristol; with Sir T. Hervey's Letters during Courtship and Poems during Widowhood (Wells, 1894). Also the articles in the Dictionary of National Biography, vol. xxvi. (London, 1891).