Sir Thomas Hanmer, 4th Baronet

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Sir Thomas Hanmer. Sir Thomas Hanmer by Godfrey Kneller.jpg
Sir Thomas Hanmer.

Sir Thomas Hanmer, 4th Baronet (24 September 1677 – 7 May 1746) was Speaker of the House of Commons of Great Britain from 1714 to 1715, discharging the duties of the office with conspicuous impartiality. His second marriage was the subject of much gossip as his wife eloped with his cousin Thomas Hervey and lived openly with him for the rest of her days. He is, however, perhaps best remembered as being one of the early editors of the works of William Shakespeare.


He was identified with the Hanoverian Tory faction at the time of the Hanoverian Succession in 1714.


Hanmer was born at Bettisfield in North Wales Bettisfield.jpg
Hanmer was born at Bettisfield in North Wales

He was the son of William Hanmer (b. c. 1648 in Angers, France, d. c. 1678?, [n 1] the son by his second marriage of Sir Thomas Hanmer, 2nd Baronet), and of Peregrine, daughter and co-heiress of Sir Henry North, 1st Baronet, of Mildenhall, Suffolk. [1] [2]

He was born between 10 and 11 p.m. in the house of his grandfather Sir Thomas Hanmer, 2nd Baronet, at Bettisfield Park, [3] [4] near Wrexham, Clwyd, Wales (formerly Flintshire). [5] [6] His father William seems to have died early, and Thomas was educated in Bury St Edmunds, [n 2] at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, matriculating on 17 October 1693, age 17. His tutor was Robert Freind, D.D., who was later under-master at Westminster in 1699, and headmaster 1711–1733. [7] Hanmer gained his LL.D., however, Com. Reg. [n 3] from Cambridge University in 1705. [8]

He succeeded as 4th Baronet in 1701 when his uncle, the 3rd Baronet Sir John Hanmer, died in a duel [9] leaving no issue. [10]

He was a high church Tory M.P. for Thetford in 1701–2 and 1705–8; for Flintshire in 1702–5; and for Suffolk in 1708–27. [11] [n 4] He was unanimously elected Speaker of the House of Commons in February 1714, during the last Tory government for over 100 years; the Tory party was split between those (like Hanmer) who wished to maintain the Protestant succession in Britain, and those with jacobite tendencies who supported James Stuart, the 'Old Pretender' of the Jacobite succession. After the death of Queen Anne in August 1714, George I brought in a government composed entirely of Whigs. The House of Commons was dissolved in January 1715, and Hanmer was not put forward for re-election: in his stead Spencer Compton (later 1st Earl of Wilmington and Prime Minister) was elected Speaker on 17 March 1715, [12] [9] although Hannmer continued to serve as an MP until 1727. [13] The Tory party was proscribed from government office until 1760 and the accession of George III. [14]

He was one of the founding governors of the Foundling Hospital, a charity set up for London's abandoned children in 1739, which also became a centre for the arts. [15] [16]

He also built and endowed a home for impoverished elderly in Mildenhall, his mother's home village, in 1722. The home, called Bunbury Rooms for his brother-in-law and biographer Henry Edward Bunbury, serves a similar purpose today.

Trans; in alleviation of poverty and old age Baronet Thomas Hanmer built and endowed AD 1722 Latin inscription at Bunbury Rooms, Mildenhall.jpg
Trans; in alleviation of poverty and old age Baronet Thomas Hanmer built and endowed AD 1722

Literary activities

Hanmer's Shakespeare was published at Oxford in 1743–44, with nearly forty illustrations by Francis Hayman and Hubert Gravelot. [17] The Cambridge History of English and American Literature states that "The print and binding were magnificent, and caused its value to rise to nine guineas, when Warburton’s edition was going for eighteen shillings." [18]

Hanmer's editing, however, was based on his own selection of emendations from the Shakespeare editions of Alexander Pope and Lewis Theobald, along with his own conjectures, without indicating for the reader what was in his source texts and what was editorially corrected. [19] Therefore, Hanmer's edition is not highly regarded today, with the editors of The Oxford Shakespeare assessing it in William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion as "one of the worst in the eighteenth century." [20]

Also, Hanmer became the target of ridicule by Pope, who in his Dunciad lampoons him under the name Montalto (Book IV, 105ff.) and refers to him in a note (IV 113) as "An eminent person, who was about to publish a very pompous Edition of a great Author, at his own expense" (emphasis original). [21]

However, there are some emendations of value that were made by Hanmer which have been accepted into later editions of Shakespeare. [18]

Marriages and scandal

Hanmer's first wife Isabella, Dowager Duchess of Grafton with her son Charles, 2nd Duke of Grafton 2nd Countess Arlington & 2nd Duke of Grafton.JPG
Hanmer's first wife Isabella, Dowager Duchess of Grafton with her son Charles, 2nd Duke of Grafton

He died in 1746 and was buried at Hanmer. [11] He had married firstly in 1698 Isabella FitzRoy, Duchess of Grafton, the daughter and heiress of Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, and widow of Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton, natural son of King Charles II. [22] She died in 1723.

He married secondly in 1725 Elizabeth Folkes, only daughter of Thomas Folkes of Great Barton, Suffolk. Elizabeth was much younger than her husband and the couple were ill-suited; in particular she did not share his love of Shakespeare. She caused a notable scandal a few years later by eloping with his cousin Thomas Hervey, younger son of John Hervey, 1st Earl of Bristol, by whom she had a son Thomas. Hervey, who was often said to be insane, subjected Hanmer to years of persecution over property which allegedly belonged to Elizabeth. Hanmer maintained that Elizabeth's father had settled the property strictly on his son in law, and that Elizabeth had no right to it. She died in 1741. Hanmer on his side threatened to "prosecute" Hervey (presumably he meant that he would bring a civil action for criminal conversation) but nothing seems to have come of it.

He had no heir by either marriage and so the baronetcy became extinct.

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  1. Venn & Venn 1922 , p. 299 state that William was aged 15 when he entered Pembroke College, Oxford on 17 July 1663, so he was probably born c.1648. Bunbury 1838 , p. 4 says that William predeceased his father Thomas, the 2nd Baronet (1612–1678). William thus may have been under 30 when he died. Thomas was born in 1677.
  2. His grandmother Susan, wife of Sir Thomas Hanmer, 2nd Baronet, was the daughter of William Hervey, MP for Bury St Edmunds.
  3. Comitia Regia: a 'commencement' (or comitia maxima) held at Cambridge University on the occasion of a royal visit, characterised, especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, by the conferring of 'mandate degrees' (degrees conferred in response to instructions issued by the crown or, on the occasion of royal visits, by the chancellor) on a huge number of persons at a moment’s notice. In the 19th century the expression ‘Commencement’ was applied to a congregation on the penultimate Tuesday in June, when prize exercises were recited (see prolusiones) and all M.A.s and Doctors in all faculties were created. Source: 'Glossary of Cambridge terminology'. Accessed 22 December 2015.
  4. After his mother Peregrine died, he inherited her Mildenhall estate.
  1. Burke, John Bernard. A genealogical and heraldic history of the extinct and dormant baronetcies
  2. Hayton, D. W. (2003). Hanmer, Thomas II (1677-1746), of Pall Mall, Westminster; Bettisfield Park, Flints.; and Mildenhall, Suff. The History of Parliament. Accessed 22 December 2015. Contains a lengthy and detailed political biography of Sir Thomas.
  3. Bettisfield Hall, (also known as Bettisfield Park), Bettisfield, Wales. Parks and Gardens UK. Accessed on 21 December 2015.
  4. See entry "Hanmer" under Lewis, Samuel (1849). A Topographical Dictionary of Wales: 'Halghston - Hawarden' . (London, 1849), pp. 396-411. British History Online. Accessed 17 December 2015.
  5. Hanmer, John Lord (1877). A Memorial of the Parish and Family of Hanmer in Flintshire, out of the thirteenth into the nineteenth century. London: privately printed at the Chiswick Press, pp. 63, 107, 149ff.
  6. Bunbury, Henry Edward (1838). The correspondence of Sir Thomas Hanmer ... with a memoir of his life, to which are added, other relicks of a gentleman's family. London: Edward Moxon.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) [Bunbury was Hanmer's brother-in-law]
  7. Bunbury 1838, p. 5.
  8. Venn, John; Venn, J. A. (1922). Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students, Graduates and Holders of Office at the University of Cambridge, from the Earliest Times to 1900, Volume 1, part 2: Dabbs-Juxton. Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link), p. 299
  9. 1 2 Dodd, Arthur Herbert. Hanmer family. Dictionary of Welsh Biography, online edition. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  10. George E. Cokayne Complete Baronetage, Vol. 1 (1900)
  11. 1 2 Venn & Venn 1922, p. 299.
  12. Bunbury 1838, p. 61-2.
  13. Sedgwick, Romney R. (ed.) Hanmer, Sir Thomas, 4th Bt. (1677-1746). The History of Parliament. Accessed 22 December 2015.
  14. Eveline Cruickshanks, Political Untouchables; The Tories and the '45 (Duckworth, 1979), p. 6.
  15. Copy of the Royal Charter Establishing an Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children. London: Printed for J. Osborn, at the Golden-Ball in Paternoster Row. 1739.
  16. R.H. Nichols and F A. Wray, The History of the Foundling Hospital London: Oxford University Press, 1935, p. 347.
  17. Information from Washington University in St. Louis University Libraries Website article Archived 1 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine on special collections containing Shakespearean illustrations, accessed 9 November 2006.
  18. 1 2 A.W. Ward, et al., The Cambridge history of English and American literature: An encyclopedia in eighteen volumes. "XI. The Text of Shakespeare. § 13. Hanmer’s edition." New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons; Cambridge, England: University Press, 1907–21. Accessed at on 9 November 2006.
  19. Thomas Hubeart, "Shaking Up Shakespeare," at the Wayback Machine (archived 22 June 2006), accessed 21 December 2015. (Archived from the original, accessed on 9 November 2006 - dead link)
  20. Stanley Wells & Gary Taylor, et al., William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion (NY: Norton, 1997 [reprint of Oxford University Press ed., 1987]), p. 54. ISBN   0-393-31667-X.
  21. Quoted from John Butt, ed., The Poems of Alexander Pope. New Haven: Yale UP, 1963, p. 772. ISBN   0-300-00030-8.
  22. "SELECTED BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES" (PDF). Retrieved 27 January 2013.
Political offices
Preceded by
William Bromley
Speaker of the House of Commons of Great Britain
Succeeded by
Spencer Compton
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
John Hanmer
(of Hanmer)
Succeeded by

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain:  Wood, James, ed. (1907). "article name needed". The Nuttall Encyclopædia . London and New York: Frederick Warne.