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Townshend, 2nd Viscount of Raynham
Secretary of State for the Northern Department
Charles Townshend was born in 1674, the eldest son of Horatio Townshend, 1st Viscount of Raynham. He was educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge, and succeeded to the peerage in December, 1687.
A Tory when he took his seat in the House of Lords, Townshend later changed his sympathies and became a Whig. He was summoned to the Privy Council in 1707, and created Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard the following year. He served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the States-General from 1709 to 1711, during which period he took part in the negotiations preceding the Treaty of Utrecht and at the Hague Congress of 1711.
In September, 1714, King George I named Townshend to the post of Secretary of State for the Northern Department. An advocate of peace, he used this position to question England's interference in the war between Sweden and Denmark and to promote the conclusion of defensive alliances between England and France.
In December 1716, Townshend was dismissed from his position due to the intrigues of Charles Spencer, Earl of Sunderland, who persuaded King George that Townshend and his brother-in-law Sir Robert Walpole were plotting to place the Prince of Wales on the throne. Townshend was given the title Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, but accepted the position only on condition that he not be forced to set foot in Ireland. His intense dislike for the posting led to his dismissal in April, 1717.
In February, 1721, Townshend was again appointed Secretary of State for the Northern Department, and Walpole became First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. The two remained in power during the remainder of the reign of George I. Although he disliked him personally, King George II retained him in office due to his abilities. But tensions were growing between Townshend and Walpole, as Walpole's influence within the government grew and Townshend's waned. Personal differences between the two men finally led Townshend to retire, on May 15, 1730.
Townshend spent his last years at Raynham, where he interested himself in agriculture. He found that turnips could be rotated with wheat, barley, clover, and ryegrass to make soil more fertile and increase yields, and thus became known as the man responsible for introducing turnip cultivation into England. He died at Raynham on June 21, 1738.
Townshend was married twice. His first wife, Elizabeth Pelham, bore him 5 children -- Charles, Thomas, William, Roger, and Elizabeth. She died in 1711. He then married Dorothy, sister of Sir Robert Walpole, who bore him 7 children -- George, Augustus, Horatio, Edward, Richard, Dorothy, and Mary. She died in 1726.
This page was last updated on March 18, 2017.