The Earl Waldegrave

Waldegrave, mezzotint by James MacArdell
First Lord of the Treasury
In office
8 June 1757 – 12 June 1757
Preceded byThe Duke of Devonshire
Succeeded byThe Duke of Devonshire
Personal details
Born(1715-03-04)4 March 1715
Died13 April 1763(1763-04-13) (aged 48)
(m. 1759)
FatherJames Waldegrave, 1st Earl Waldegrave

James Waldegrave, 2nd Earl Waldegrave, KG, PC, FRS (4 March 1715 – 13 April 1763) was a British politician who is sometimes regarded as one of the shortest-serving British prime ministers in history. His brief tenure as First Lord of the Treasury is lent a more lasting significance by his memoirs, which are regarded as significant in the development of Whig history.[1]

The Ladies Waldegrave, by Joshua Reynolds, 1770–80
Coat of arms of James Waldegrave, 2nd Earl Waldegrave, KG, PC, FRS
Coat of arms of James Waldegrave, 2nd Earl Waldegrave, KG, PC, FRS


Waldegrave was born the eldest son of James Waldegrave, 1st Earl Waldegrave, and his wife, Mary Webb, a daughter of Sir John Webb, 3rd Baronet. Waldegrave was educated at Westminster and Eton and he inherited his father's titles in 1741. He was a Lord of the Bedchamber from 1743 to 1752, appointed to the Privy Council in 1752 and Governor to The Prince of Wales (the future George III) and The Prince Edward from 1752 to 1756. On 15 May 1759, he married Maria Walpole, the illegitimate daughter of Sir Edward Walpole and they had three daughters:

After the resignation of The Duke of Newcastle as Prime Minister in November 1756, George II dismissed William Pitt (the driving force of the new government) in April 1757 and invited Lord Waldegrave to take over from Newcastle's successor, The Duke of Devonshire, as First Lord of the Treasury. Accordingly, Devonshire was briefly dismissed and Lord Waldegrave tried to form a government from 8 to 12 June that year but failed to do so and stepped down, partly because he feared that as Prime Minister, he would fall out with his close friend, the King (as his predecessors had done). Devonshire then continued as First Lord and Prime Minister for almost another two weeks, and Newcastle returned a week later.

Lord Waldegrave was awarded the Garter soon after and retired from public life upon the accession of George III in 1760. He died of smallpox three years later and lacking male heirs, his titles passed to his younger brother, John.

After his death, his widow Maria married into the British Royal Family becoming the wife of Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, King George III's brother. Waldegrave's memoirs were published in 1821.

Note: Lord Waldegrave is not usually counted as Prime Minister, but as he was First Lord of the Treasury he is sometimes regarded as the second-shortest-serving Prime Minister in British history. (See also William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath.)


  1. ^ "The Memoirs and Speeches of James, 2nd Earl Waldegrave 1742–1763 | British history after 1450". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  2. ^ Allan Chivers. The Berties of Grimsthorpe Castle p. 228
  3. ^ "To Lady Horatia Waldegrave, on the death of the Duke of Ancaster" published by Strawberry Hill Press 1779.


Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Pitt
Lord Warden of the Stannaries
Succeeded by
Humphry Morice
Preceded by
The Lord Walpole
Teller of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Robert Henley
Preceded by
The Duke of Devonshire
First Lord of the Treasury
8–12 June 1757
Succeeded by
The Duke of Devonshire
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
James Waldegrave
Earl Waldegrave
Succeeded by
John Waldegrave