Thoresby Hall in 1725.
Thoresby Hall in 1725.

At the Restoration, notwithstanding Dorchester's compliance with the Protector's government, he was re-admitted to the privy council, and remained a member of that body until 1673.

The Marquess was a little man with a very violent temper.

In 1638 he committed an assault on Philip Kinder within the precincts of Westminster Abbey during time of Divine service, for which he obtained a pardon. In 1660 he challenged his son-in-law, Lord Roos, to a duel on account of his treatment of Lady Roos. The two peers exchanged long and abusive letters, which they published. "You dare not meet me with a sword in your hand," wrote Dorchester, "but was it a bottle, none would be more forward." "If," replied Roos, "by your threat to ram your sword down my throat, you do not mean your pills, the worst is past and I am safe enough." In December, 1667, Dorchester came to blows with the Duke of Buckingham in the painted chamber. The Marquess, who was the lower in stature, and less active in his limbs, lost his periwig, for which indignity he could not reach sufficiently high to revenge himself in the same way on the Duke. The Marquess also received from the Duke some rudeness, but to counterbalance this treatment Dorchester had much of the Duke's hair in his hand. The two combatants were committed to the Tower by the House of Lords, but released on apologising a few days after. Dorchester died at his house in Charter House yard in 1680. and was buried at Holm-Pierrepont, leaving to the College of Physicians a library valued at £4,000.

The original manuscript of the Life of Wolsey is said to be, or to have been, in the hands of the Pierrepont family.

William Pierrepont was the second son of Robert, first Earl of Kingston. He was born about 1607; and he settled at Thoresby, which, in 1633, was given to him by his father. He married Elizabeth, daughter and co-heiress of Sir Thomas Harris, Bart., of Tong Castle in Shropshire. In the Parliament of 1640, Pierrepont served as member for Great Wenlock, and soon became one of the most useful members of the popular party. He is described as an ornament to the country and one of the most excellent speakers, and wisest counsellors in the House, by whom the Bill was promoted for the continuation  of the  sittings  of the Parliament.1 He is spoken of by Whitelocke as "a man of deep foresight and prudence."

At the close of 1642, on a proposition being made for a cessation of hostilities between the King and the Parliament, Pierrepont was chosen one of the commissioners to act for the House of Commons. In the following year, on the failure of a renewed attempt to arrange terms of peace with Charles, Pierrepont requested the permission of the Parliament to leave the country, but his services were so highly valued that the request met with a friendly refusal. The high appreciation in which his efforts to serve the nation were held, is shown by the grant to him of £7,467, the amount of the fine levied on his brother's estate.

Again in 1644 Pierrepont was chosen by Parliament one of the commissioners to endeavour to arrange terms of peace with the King. To the same conference the Earl of Kingston (Mr. Pierrepont's father) was appointed by his Majesty to act on his behalf. In regard to this conference, it was said that "Pierrepont and Crewe, who were both men of great fortunes, and had always been of the greatest moderation in their councils, and most solicitous upon all opportunities for peace, appeared now to have contracted more bitterness and sourness than formerly, and were more reserved towards the King's commissioners than was expected, and in all conferences insisted peremptorily that the King must yield to whatever was required."2

Cromwell himself is said often to have sought advice from Pierrepont. In a letter from Cromwell to Hammond he is referred to as "my wise friend," an epithet which still adheres to his name.

"When on the way from Scotland, following the King's army, Cromwell passed the night of Thursday, the 21st of August, at Mr. Pierrepont's house. William Pierrepont of the Kingston family—much his friend—'the house called Thoresby, near Mansfield'; leaving there next morning for Nottingham, where he arrived that night. From Nottingham by Coventry, Stratford, and Evesham, to Worcester, where the important battle was fought on the evening of the 3rd of September."3

Mr. Pepys, in his Diary on January 23, 1659, wrote: "I met with Mr. Crewe who told me that my lord was chosen by 73 voices to be one of the council of state. Mr. Pierrepont had the most 101, and himself the next, 100."

In June, 1667, Pepys writes: "The King hath chosen Mr. Pierrepont Privy Councillor."

William Pierrepont used his influence to save the life of Colonel Hutchinson, and is said to have been greatly attached to Henry Cromwell, the son of the Protector, and through his friends Thurloe and St. John to have exercised great influence on the policy of Richard Cromwell's Government.4

He died in 1678.

Gervase, his third son, was born in 1649, and created Lord Pierrepont of Ardglass in Ireland, in March, 1703, and Lord Pierrepont of Hanslope in Buckinghamshire, in 1714. He died without issue in 1715, and these titles became extinct.

Frances, William Pierrepont's eldest daughter, married Henry Cavendish, afterwards Duke of Newcastle.5

Grace, second daughter, married Gilbert, third Earl of Clare.

Gertrude, third daughter, married, as second wife, George Savile, Marquis of Halifax.

Robert, William Pierrepont's eldest son, married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Evelyn of Wilts, and died in 1666, leaving three sons, Robert, William, and Evelyn, who became successively third, fourth, and fifth Earls of Kingston.

It was William, the fourth Earl of Kingston, who, in 1683, in consideration of the sum of £7,100, obtained from Charles II. a grant of 442 acres out of the hays of Bilhagh in Sherwood Forest, and 828 acres from the township of Perlethorpe, or Palethorpe, and Thoresby, for the formation of Thoresby Park.6

Evelyn, the fifth earl, succeeded to the title and estates on the death of his elder brother in 1690. In 1706, Queen Anne was pleased to confer upon him the title of Marquis of Dorchester, with remainder to Gervase, Lord Pierrepont, and his male heirs. He was also constituted one of the commissioners for the arrangement of the union with Scotland in the same year. In 1715 he was made a member of the Privy Council by George III., and raised to the rank of Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull. In the following year the additional honour of Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal was conferred upon him. In 1719 he became Lord President of the Council, and was elected a  Knight of the Garter. The  Duke was on  three occasions chosen one of the Lords Justices of Great Britain while his Majesty was absent at Hanover.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (after Sir Godfrey Kneller).
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (after Sir Godfrey Kneller).

He was a Whig in politics, a member of the famous Kit-Cat Club, and one of the foremost men in the fashionable world. He married Lady Mary Fielding, daughter of the Earl of Denbigh, and by her had three daughters and one son. The eldest daughter, Lady Mary, better known as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, was one of the most famous women of her time. She was witty, accomplished, philanthropic, and endowed with great literary ability. Lady Mary and Henry Fielding, the novelist, were second cousins, each being descended in the same degree from the Earl of Denbigh. Of her grandmother, the Countess Dowager of Denbigh, she speaks as having had a superior understanding, which she retained unimpaired at an extraordinary age. While her paternal grandmother was a relative of the distinguished scholar, John Evelyn, in whose diary is noted "the prodigious memory of this lady who married Mr. Pierrepont, and became mother of the Earl of Kingston." Indeed, Lady Mary, writing to her daughter, Lady Bute, many years after, says: "If there is anything in blood, you may reasonably expect your children should be endowed with an uncommon share of good sense."7

In the account given of the Duke's family in the memoirs of the members of the Kit-Cat Club, the biographer, writing of Lady Mary, says: "The first dawn of Lady Mary's genius opened so auspiciously that her father resolved to cultivate the advantages of nature by a sedulous attention to her early education. Under the same preceptor as her brother she acquired the elements of the Greek, Latin, and French languages, with the greatest success." Lady Mary, however, gives an account of her young days which is quite at variance with the above. She tells us,—her mother died in 1694, and though her father remained a widower until all his children were married, it was not thought to be from any anxiety for their welfare. He was a man of pleasure; and though fond of the precocious talent of his little daughter, saw little of her, she and her sister passing their time principally at Thoresby, where he seldom came. In one of her letters Lady Mary tells us: "I find in the picture of Sir Thomas Grandison and his lady, what I have heard of my mother and seen of my father; " and of her education: "My own was one of the worst in the world, being exactly the same as Clarissa Harlowe's; her pious Mrs. Norton so perfectly resembling my governess, who had been nurse to my mother, I could almost fancy the author was acquainted with her, she took so much pains from my infancy to fill my head with superstitious tales and false notions. It is none of her fault that I am not at this day afraid of witches and hobgoblins." It is said that in her learning she might possibly have some assistance from her mother's brother, Mr. William Fielding, who corresponded with her, and encouraged her pursuit of knowledge; but she was endowed with a passion for learning, spending ten years of her youth at Thoresby reading every book on which she could lay her hands, and forgetting nothing.

One pleasurable recollection she had of Lord Kingston's fondness; a small matter which Lady Mary loved to recall, will show how much she was the object of Lord Kingston's pride in her childhood. "As a leader of fashion and a strenuous whig in politics, he, as a matter of course, belonged to the Kit-Cat Club. One day, at a meeting to choose toasts for the year, a whim seized him to nominate her, then not eight years old, a candidate, alleging that she was far prettier than any on their list. The other members demurred, because the rules of the club forbade them to elect a beauty whom they had never seen.

"Then you shall see her,' cried he; and in the gaiety of the moment sent orders home to have her finely dressed, and brought to him at the tavern, where she was received with acclamations ; her claim unanimously allowed, her health drunk by every one present, and her name engraved in due form on a drinking glass. The company consisting of some of the most eminent men in England, she went from the lap of one poet, or patriot, or statesman, to the arms of another, was feasted with sweetmeats, overwhelmed with caresses, and, what perhaps already pleased her better than either, heard her wit and beauty loudly extolled on every side. Pleasure, she said, was too poor a word to express her sensations: they amounted to extasy; never again, throughout her whole future life, did she pass so happy a day."8

1 Life of Colonel Hutchinson.
2 Clarendon's History of the Great Rebellion.
3 Carlyle's Letters of Oliver Cromwell.
4 Dictionary of National Biography. In the Parish Register of Perlethorpe the death is named in 1625, of Marmaduke Machill. He was lessee of Thoresby Hall and the manor of Peverelthorp; "he paying eighty pounds per year for the mansion, and sixty pounds per year for the manor." It is probable the property was leased to Machill by Mr. Lodge, an Alderman of London, who is stated in Dukery Records to have owned the estate in 1589, and is mentioned as having granted a lease to some person not named. Eight years after Machill's death William Pierrepont was the owner.
Thoroton names Sir John Byron as one of the tenants of Perlethorpe, but gives no dates.
5 Among the manuscripts preserved at Welbeck are two short letters from this Henry Cavendish written at Thoresby and sent to Viscount Mansfield. The first is dated April 17, 1656, wherein he says: "Major General Whalley is on this side. Tomorrow he goes to Retford. He is sorry he could not wait on you. My father Pierrepont gave him many thanks for you, and assured him he could not be on a juster business." Nine days afterwards Cavendish writes: "My father Pierrepont and all the rest of your cousins present their service to you. I told him how desirous you were to bowl with him at Lord Clare's (at Haughton)."
6 Dukery Records, edited by Robert White. Charles I. in his prosperity having attempted to revive the hated Forest Laws, in his adversity granted the New Forest and Sherwood as security to his creditors:—See "The humble petition of Richard Spencer, Esq., Sir Gervas Clifton, Knight and Baronet, and others, to enter upon the New Forest and Sherwood Forest," &c., &c. Record Office. Domestic Series, Charles II., July 21, 1660.—J. R. Wise's History of the New Forest. This application would be made twenty-three years before the purchase by the Earl of Kingston.
7 Fielding dedicated his first play to Lady Mary. In one of her letters Lady Mary says of the novelist: "H. Fielding has given a true picture of himself and his first wife in the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Booth, some compliments to his own figure excepted; and I am persuaded, several ot the incidents he mentions are real matters of fact. I wonder he does not perceive Tom Jones and Mr. Booth are sorry scoundrels. . . . Fielding has really a fund of true humour, and was to be pitied at his first entrance into the world, having no choice, as he said himself, but to be a hackney writer or a hackney coachman. His genius deserved a better fate; but I cannot help blaming that continued indiscretion, to give it the softest name, that has run through his life, and I am afraid still remains."—Letters of Lady M. W. Montagu, edited by Lord Wharncliffe.
Thackeray says of Fielding: "The kind and wise old Johnson would not sit down with him." (Yet Johnson, too, as Boswell tells us, read Amelia through without " stopping.") " But a greater scholar than Johnson could afford to admire that astonishing genius of Harry Fielding: and we all know the lofty panegyric which Gibbon wrote of him, and which remains a towering monument to the great novelist's memory. 'Our immortal Fielding," Gibbon writes, 'was of the younger branch of the Earls of Denbigh, who drew their origin from the Counts of Hapsburgh. The successors of Charles V. may disdain their brethren of England; but the romance of Tom Jones, that exquisite picture of humorous manners, will outlive the palace of the Escurial and the imperial Eagle of Austria.'"— Thackeray's English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century.
Fielding's first wife was Miss Craddock, a young lady from Salisbury, with a fortune of £1,500, whom he married in 1736. About the same time he succeeded himself to an estate of £200 per annum, and on the joint amount he lived for some time as a splendid country gentleman in Derbyshire. Three years brought him to the end of his fortune, when he returned to London and became a student of law.
"It is elsewhere told of Fielding, that being in company with the Earl of Denbigh, and the conversation turning upon their relationship, the Earl asked him how it was that he spelled his name 'Fielding' and not 'Feilding,' like the head of the house? 'I cannot tell, my lord,' said he, 'except it be that my branch of the family were the first that knew how to spell.' "—Thackeray's English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century (note).
8 The Kit-Cat Club was instituted about the year 1700, and consisted of some of the principal noblemen and gentlemen in the kingdom.
The particulars as to its origin are involved in some obscurity, although in all probability it took its name from the person at whose house the meetings of the club were first held, who was an obscure pastry cook, named Christopher Cat, residing in Shire Lane, near Temple Bar. The dinners and suppers upon which this person feasted his illustrious guests were composed principally of mutton pies, for his skill in the making of which he had acquired considerable reputation.
Jacob Tonson, the bookseller, who was secretary to the club, was on terms of some intimacy with Cat, and it is probable that knowing Cat's ability as a pastry cook, Tonson procured him the patronage of this renowned club. Soon after the commencement of the club, Cat removed to more commodious premises at the Fountain Tavern in the Strand.
Tonson afterwards acquired a house at Barn Elms in Surrey, where he built a room for the occasional meeting of the Kit-Cat Club. This room was ornamented with the portraits of members of the club, painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, and as the walls of this room were not sufficiently lofty for the ordinary half length portrait, Sir Godfrey made use of a shorter canvas which has since been named "Kit-Cat."
It would probably be at the Fountain Tavern where Lady Mary passed "such a happy day," and had her name, as the toast of the year, engraved upon a drinking glass.
The portraits of the members of the club are now, with the exception of that of the Duke of Marlborough, in the possession of Jacob Tonson's great nephew, Mr. William Baker, of Brayfordbury, in Hertfordshire.
Memoirs of the Members of the Kit-Cat Club.—Dictionary of National Biography.