Philip Stanhope (diplomat)

Philip Stanhope (diplomat)

Philip Stanhope (2 May 1732 - 16 November 1768) was the illegitimate son of Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield to whom the famous "Letters to His Son" were addressed. Born in England, his mother was a French governess, Madelina Elizabeth du Bouchet.


Despite his father taking great pains to educate him, and also using his influence to obtain various diplomatic appointments for what he hoped would be a high-flying career, Stanhope was treated with disdain by many, because of his illegitimacy. He was a Member of Parliament for St Germans and Liskeard. The government in 1764 wishing to get possession of his seat, asked him to vacate it, and after some negotiation he agreed, on receiving payment of £1,000, which was half the amount he (or his father) had paid for it. He was also successively Resident at Hamburg (1752-1759), Envoy Extraordinary to the Diet of Ratisbon, (1763), and finally on April 3, 1764 was appointed to the Court of Dresden, Germany.


Stanhope had met his wife Eugenia Peters in Rome in the spring of 1750, while on the Grand Tour. He was just 18, and she 20. The illegitimate daughter of an Irish gentleman by the name of Domville, Eugenia was described by one observer as “plain almost to ugliness” although possessing “the most careful education and all the choicest accomplishments of her sex”. Their two sons, Charles and Philip, were born in London in 1761 and 1763 respectively, and it wasn’t until the 25 September 1767 that he and Eugenia were married in Dresden. Stanhope went to great lengths to keep the relationship a secret from his father, to the extent of engaging a separate habitation for his wife and children.

He had never lived up to the expectations of his father, unable (by temperament or choice) to acquire the graces that Lord Chesterfield tried so hard to impart. He did not rise as expected in the Diplomatic services, preferring instead, an unpretentious domestic life. Often in ill health, he died of dropsy in St Gervais France on 16 November 1768, aged just 36, and is buried at Vaucluse. It was generally believed that only after the death of his beloved son did Lord Chesterfield learn of the existence of Philip’s wife and children. He received them kindly and took upon himself the cost of education and maintenance of his grandsons, becoming very attached to them.

When Lord Chesterfield died in 1773, his will caused much gossip: while providing for the two grandsons - ₤100 annuity each, plus ₤10,000 - he left Eugenia Stanhope nothing. Faced with the problem of supporting herself, she sold Chesterfield’s letters to a publisher (J. Dodsley) for fifteen hundred guineas. Chesterfield had never intended them for publication and the result was a storm of controversy due to their perceived “immorality”, which ensured several reprints, and their steady sale for at least the next one hundred years. Eugenia died at her home in Limpsfield, Surrey in 1783, having acquired property and a comfortable fortune. In a codicil to her will she directed her sons “to live in strict unity and friendship with one another, not to dissipate their fortunes and to beware of all human beings.”

Philip and Eugenia's sons were educated in the law, Philip married Elizabeth Daniel and had two daughters, the survivor of whom, Eugenia Keir, nee Stanhope, died at Madeira in 1823, with no surviving issue. The latter Philip died aged 38 in 1801. Charles died in 1845 without issue aged 83, bequeathing most of his estate, which included Lord Chesterfield's bequests to both himself and his late brother, and his mother's properties, to the sons of Elizabeth Daniel's brother Edward Daniel, Barrister at Law.


*Jenny Davidson, "Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness: Manners and Morals from Locke to Austen" (2004): ISBN 0521835232
*Willard Connely, "Adventures in Biography: A Chronicle of Encounters and Findings" (1960)
*John Ward, "Experiences of a Diplomatist" ISBN 140218901X

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