William Legge, 1st Earl of Dartmouth

William Legge, 1st Earl of Dartmouth (14 October 1672 – 15 December 1750), was Lord Privy Seal from 1713 to 1714. He was a Hanoverian Tory, supporting the Hanoverian succession following the death of Queen Anne.

The Earl of Dartmouth

Southern Secretary
In office
Preceded byThe Earl of Sunderland
Succeeded byThe Viscount Bolingbroke
Lord Privy Seal
In office
Preceded byJohn Robinson
Succeeded byThe Marquess of Wharton
Personal details
Born(1672-10-14)14 October 1672
Died15 December 1750(1750-12-15) (aged 78)[1]
Spouse(s)Anne Finch
EducationWestminster School
Alma materKing's College, Cambridge


The only son of George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth, he was educated as a town-boy at Westminster School. He subsequently went to King's College, Cambridge, where he graduated M.A. in 1689.[2] He succeeded to his father's barony in 1691.

In 1702, he was appointed a member of the Board of Trade and Plantations, and eight years later he became Secretary of State for the Southern Department and joint keeper of the signet for Scotland.

In 1711, he was created Viscount Lewisham and Earl of Dartmouth.[3] In 1713, he exchanged his offices for that of Lord Privy Seal, which he held until the end of 1714. After a long period of retirement from public life he died on 15 December 1750. Dartmouth's eldest son, George Legge, Viscount Lewisham (c. 1703 – 1732), had predeceased him, leaving a son, William. Another son of the first earl was Henry Bilson-Legge, who later served as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In politics he was a moderate; though himself a Tory, he was prepared to work with the Whigs. He earned the regard of Robert Harley, another believer in moderation; Dartmouth in return remained a loyal friend after Harley's downfall.[4] He also had the confidence of Queen Anne, who praised him as "an honest man."[5] As a Minister, though far from brilliant, he earned a reputation for competence and hard work. He was also noted for discretion; foreign ambassadors complained that it would be easier to get information from a brick wall than from Dartmouth. In private life his fondness for laughing at his own jokes led to his nickname "the Jester".[6]

Marriage and childrenEdit

Lord Dartmouth married Lady Anne Finch, third daughter of Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Aylesford, in July 1700. They had six children:[2][7]

Dartmouth was succeeded by his grandson, William, son of his eldest son George Legge, Viscount Lewisham, who died young in 1732.

The Dartmouth family lived at Sandwell Hall (since demolished) in Sandwell Valley.


The city of Dartmouth in Nova Scotia, Canada, is named for him.


  1. ^ Biographical notice of the Earl of Dartmouth, Page 104, The New Hampshire Repository, Volumes 1-2, William Cogswell, Publisher:Alfred Prescott, 1846
  2. ^ a b Barker 1892.
  3. ^ "London, Sept. 6". The Newcastle Courant: with News Forreign and Domestick. British Newspaper Archive. 8–10 September 1711. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  4. ^ Hamilton, Elizabeth. The Backstairs Dragon - a life of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford. Hamish Hamilton: London, 1969.
  5. ^ Gregg, Edward. Queen Anne (2nd ed.) Yale University Press, 2001.
  6. ^ Hamilton, The Backstairs Dragon.
  7. ^ The Peerage, entry for the 1st Earl of Dartmouth
  8. ^ The Peerage, entry for Lady Barbara Legge
  9. ^ The Peerage, entry for Lady Anne Legge
  10. ^ The Peerage, entry for Edward Legge

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBarker, George Fisher Russell (1892). "Legge, William (1672-1750)". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 32. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Sunderland
Secretary of State for the Southern Department
Succeeded by
The Viscount Bolingbroke
Preceded by
John Robinson
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Wharton
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Duke of Somerset
Senior Privy Counsellor
Succeeded by
The Viscount Bolingbroke
Peerage of England
Preceded by
George Legge
Baron Dartmouth
Succeeded by
William Legge
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Earl of Dartmouth
Succeeded by
William Legge