John Spencer, 3rd Earl Spencer

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The Earl Spencer

John Charles Spencer, Viscount Althorp, 3rd Earl Spencer (1782-1845) by Henry Pierce Bone.jpg
Lord Spencer as Chancellor of the Exchequer by Henry Pierce Bone.
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
22 November 1830 14 November 1834
Monarch William IV
Prime Minister The Earl Grey
The Viscount Melbourne
Preceded by Henry Goulburn
Succeeded by Sir Robert Peel, Bt
Personal details
Born30 May 1782 (2020-01-19UTC17:38:44)
St James's, Middlesex, England
Died1 October 1845(1845-10-01) (aged 63)
Wiseton, Nottinghamshire, England
Political party Whig
Spouse(s)Esther Acklom (m. 1814–1818; her death)
Parents George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer
Lady Lavinia Bingham
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge

John Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl Spencer, PC , DL , FRS (30 May 1782 – 1 October 1845), styled Viscount Althorp from 1783 to 1834, was a British statesman. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne from 1830 to 1834. Due to his reputation for integrity he was nicknamed "Honest Jack".


Early years

His father George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer had served in the ministries of Pitt the Younger, Charles James Fox and Lord Grenville, and was First Lord of the Admiralty (1794–1801). He was married to the eldest daughter of Lord Lucan. Their eldest son, John Charles, was born at Spencer House, London, on 30 May 1782. In 1800, after Harrow, he took up his residence at Trinity College, Cambridge, [1] and for some time applied himself energetically to mathematical studies; but he spent most of his time in hunting and racing. He was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Northamptonshire on 5 June 1803. [2]

In 1804, he entered parliament as a member for Okehampton in Devon. He vacated his seat in 1806, to contest the University of Cambridge against Lord Henry Petty and Lord Palmerston (when he was hopelessly beaten), but he was elected that same year for St Albans, and appointed a lord of the treasury. At the general election in November 1806, he was elected for Northamptonshire, and he continued to sit for the county until he succeeded to the peerage. For the next few years after this speech Lord Althorp occasionally spoke in debate and always on the side of Liberalism, but from 1813 to 1818 he was only rarely in the House of Commons. His absence was partly due to a feeling that it was hopeless to struggle against the will of the Tory ministry, but more particularly because of the death of his wife.

Leader of the Commons

In 1819, on his return to political life, he pressed for establishing a more efficient bankruptcy court, and of expediting the recovery of small debts; and he saw both these reforms accomplished before 1825. During the greater part of the reign of George IV the Whigs lost their influence in the state from their want of cohesion, but this defect was soon remedied in 1830 when Lord Althorp was chosen their leader in the lower house, and his capacity for the position was proved by experience. In Lord Grey's government Althorp was both Leader of the House of Commons and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was instrumental in success of the government measures. Along with Lord John Russell, he led the fight to pass the Reform Bill of 1832, making more than twenty speeches, and is generally considered the architect of its victory.

The Lords

After the dissolution of 1833, the Whig government had been slowly dying, and was further weakened by Althorp's promotion to the House of Lords following the death of his father in 1834. The new Lord Spencer abandoned the cares of office and returned to country life with unalloyed delight. Henceforth agriculture, not politics, was his principal interest. He was the first president of the Royal Agricultural Society (founded 1838), and a notable cattle-breeder. Though often urged by his political friends to come to their assistance, he rarely quit the peaceful pleasures which he loved. He died without issue at Wiseton on 1 October 1845, and was succeeded by his brother Frederick (d. 1857).

Reputation and legacy

The Whigs required, to carry the Reform Bill, a leader above party spirit. "Honest Jack Althorp" has been called "the most decent man who ever held high Government office". Although he was not a particularly good public speaker, his integrity was an invaluable asset to the Government. Henry Hardinge, 1st Viscount Hardinge said that one of John Wilson Croker's speeches was demolished by the simple statement of Lord Althorp that he "had collected some figures which entirely refuted it, but had lost them." To Croker's credit, he replied that he would never doubt Althorp's word.

Spencer Street in Melbourne, is named in his honour.


Spencer married on 13 April 1814 to Esther Acklom (September 1788 – 11 June 1818) at Upper Brook Street, Mayfair, London. Cokayne quotes from the Farington Diaries, "in marrying He complied with the wishes of Lord and Lady Spencer, it was not of His own seeking" and from the Letter Bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope, "since Jack Althorp would not propose to her, she proposed to him; and such an unusual proceeding was fraught with happy consequences ... his devotion after marriage amply compensated for his lack of ardour before." Esther died on 11 June 1818 at the age of 29 at Halkin Street, Belgravia, London, England, in childbirth and she was buried on 18 June 1818 in Brington, Northampshire, England. John was said to be deeply upset by his wife's death and was devoted to her memory for the rest of his life: he resolved never to remarry, and it is said that he gave up hunting, his favourite pastime, to mark the depth of his loss.

Coat of arms

Coat of arms of John Spencer, 3rd Earl Spencer
Coronet of a British Earl.svg
Spencer Arms.svg
A Coronet of an Earl
Out of a Ducal Coronet Or a Griffin's Head Azure gorged with a Bar Gemelle Gules between two Wings expanded of the second
Quarterly Argent and Gules in the 2nd and 3rd quarters a Fret Or over all on a Bend Sable three Escallops of the first
Dexter: A Griffin per fess Ermine and Erminois gorged with a Collar Sable the edges flory-counterflory and chained of the last and on the Collar three Escallops Argent; Sinister: A Wyvern Erect on his tail Ermine similarly collared and chained
Dieu Defend Le Droit (God defend the right)


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  1. "Spencer, John Charles, Viscount Althorp (SPNR800JC)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. "No. 15666". The London Gazette . 14 January 1804. p. 63.
  3. Burke, (1931), p. 2202
  4. Cokayne (1896), p. 202 ; who was a younger brother of Charles Spencer, fifth Earl of Sunderland, who later became third Duke of Marlborough.
  5. Burke (1931), p. 2202 ; daughter of the Duke of Marlborough.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Cokayne (1896), p. 203.
  7. Cokayne (1896), p. 202
  8. Cokayne (1892), p. 82 ; son of Rt Hon. George Carteret, Baron Carteret of Hawnes, Bedfordshire, and his wife Grace Carteret (née Granville), Countess Granville.
  9. Cokayne (1896), p. 202.
  10. Burke and Burke (1844), p. 104
  11. Cokayne (1892), p. 83 ; daughter of Sir Robert Worsley, fourth Baronet, and his wife Frances, daughter of Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth.
  12. Burke (1836), p. 539 ; of London; son of Newdigate Poyntz
  13. Burke (1836), p. 539 ; daughter of Joseph Morteage
  14. Cokayne (1896), p. 203 ; daughter and coheir of her father.
  15. Banks (1837), p. 24 ; daughter of "Lieutenant-Colonel Collyer".
  16. Brydges (1812), p. 329
  17. 1 2 Cokayne (1902), p. 399
  18. Cokayne (1893), p. 170
  19. Cokayne (1893), p. 170 ; of Lucan, county Dublin.
  20. Cokayne (1893), p. 170 ; coheir of her father.
  21. Cokayne (1893), p. 170 ; daughter and heiress of William Sarsfield, elder brother of General Patrick Sarsfield.
  22. 1 2 Does not seem to be named in published material ; see also Weaver and Mayo (1895), p. 182.
  23. Cokayne (1896), p. 203 ; of Canons Leigh, Devon, and of St. Andries/Audries, Somerset ; very often spelt "James Smyth".
  24. Chadwyck-Healey (1901), p. 317 ; his will granted administration in 1740 ; of Pixton.
  25. Cokayne (1893), p. 170 ; Bartlett (1865), p. 87, transcribes a monument thus: "Margaret Countess of Lucan, widow of Charles Earl of Lucan, and daughter and co-heiress of James Smyth, of St. Audries, in the county of Somerset, Esqr., and of Grace Dyke, of Pixton, in the county of Devon, his wife".
  26. Chadwyck-Healey (1901), p. 317 ; her will proved 1737 ; daughter of Richard Blackford, of Dunster, a Master in Chancery, d. c. 1689, and his wife, Elizabeth ; her will mentions Grace Dyke and her husband James Smyth.


Further reading

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Francis Dickins
Member of Parliament for Northamptonshire
Succeeded by
constituency abolished
Preceded by
new constituency
Member of Parliament for South Northamptonshire
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Knightley
Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Goulburn
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Peel, Bt
Preceded by
Sir Robert Peel
Leader of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Lord John Russell
Party political offices
None recognised before
Whig Leader in the Commons
Succeeded by
Lord John Russell
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
George John Spencer
Earl Spencer
Succeeded by
Frederick Spencer