James Stanhope, 1st Earl Stanhope (c. 1673—1721), English statesman and soldier, was the eldest son of Alexander Stanhope (d. 1707), a son of Philip Stanhope, 1st Earl of Chesterfield. Educated at Eton College and at Trinity College, Oxford, he accompanied his father, then British minister at Madrid, to Spain in 1690, and obtained some knowledge of that country which was very iaseful to him in later life. A little later, however, he went to Italy where, as afterwards in Flanders, he served as a volunteer against France, and in 1695 he secured a commission in the British army. In 1701 Stanhope entered the House of Commons, but he continued his career as a soldier and was in Spain and Portugal during the earlier stages of the War of the Spanish Succession. In 1705 he served in Spain under Charles Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough, and in 1706 he was appointed British minister in Spain, but his duties were still military as well as diplomatic, and in 1708, after some differences with Peterborough, who favoured defensive measures only, he was made commander-in-chief of the British forces in that country. Taking the offensive he captured Port Mahon, Minorca, and after a visit to England, where he took part in the impeachment of Sacheverell, he returned to Spain and in 1710 helped to win the battles of Almenara and of Saragossa, his perseverance enabling the Archduke Charles to enter Madrid in September. However, at Brihuega he was overwhelmed by the French and was forced to capitulate on 9 December 1710. He remained a prisoner in Spain for over a year and returned to England in August 1712. He now definitely abandoned the army for politics, and became one of the leaders of the Whig opposition in the House of Commons. He had his share in establishing the House of Hanover on the throne, and in September 1714 he was appointed Secretary of State for the Southern Department, sharing with Walpole the leadership of the House of Commons. He was mainly responsible for the measures which were instrumental in crushing the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, and he forwarded the passing of the Septennial Act. He acted as George I’s foreign minister, and only just failed to conclude a treaty of alliance with France in 1716. In 1717, consequent on changes in the ministry, Stanhope was made First Lord of the Treasury, but a year later he returned to his former office of secretary for the southern department. In 1717 he was created Viscount Stanhope of Mahon and in 1718 Earl Stanhope. His activity was now shown in the conclusion of the Quadruple Alliance between England, France, Austria and Holland in 1718, and in obtaining peace for Sweden, when threatened by Russia and Denmark, while at home he promoted the bill to limit the membership of the House of Lords. Just after the collapse of the South Sea Bubble, for which he was partly responsible but from which he did not profit, the earl died in London on the 5 February 1721. Stanhope married Lucy, daughter of Thomas Pitt, governor of Madras, and he was succeeded by his eldest son Philip (1717—1786), a distinguished mathematician and a fellow of the Royal Society.
Text originally from 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.