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Henry Bilson-Legge PC (29 May 170823 August 1764) was an Englishmarker statesman. He notably served three times as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1750's and 1760's.

Background and education

Bilson Legge was the fourth son of William Legge, 1st Earl of Dartmouth, by his wife Lady Anne, daughter of Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Aylesford. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxfordmarker.

Political career

and became private secretary to Sir Robert Walpole. In 1739 was appointed secretary of Irelandmarker by the lord-lieutenant, William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire; being chosen Member of Parliament for the borough of East Looe in 1740, and for Orford, Suffolk, at the general election in the succeeding year.

Legge only shared temporarily in the downfall of Walpole, and became in quick succession Surveyor-General of Woods and Forests, a Lord of the Admiralty, and a Lord of the Treasury. In 1748 he was sent as envoy extraordinary to Frederick the Great, and although his conduct in Berlin was sharply censured by George II, he became Treasurer of the Navy soon after his return to England. In April 1754 he joined the ministry of the duke of Newcastle as chancellor of the Exchequer, the king consenting to this appointment although refusing to hold any intercourse with the minister; but Legge shared the elder Pitt's dislike of the policy of paying subsidies to the landgrave of Hesse, and was dismissed from office in November 1755.

Twelve months later he returned to his post at the exchequer in the administration of Pitt and the 4th Duke of Devonshire, retaining office until April 1757 when he shared both the dismissal and the ensuing popularity of Pitt. When, in conjunction with the duke of Newcastle, Pitt returned to power in the following July, Legge became chancellor of the exchequer for the third time. He imposed new taxes upon houses and windows, and he appears to have lost to some extent the friendship of Pitt, while the king refused to make him a peer.

In 1759 he obtained the sinecure position of surveyor of the petty customs and subsidies in the port of Londonmarker, and having in consequence to resign his seat in parliament he was chosen one of the members for Hampshire, a proceeding which greatly incensed the earl of Bute, who desired this seat for one of his friends. Having thus incurred Bute's displeasure Legge was again dismissed from the exchequer in March 1761, but he continued to take part in parliamentary debates until his death at Tunbridge Wellsmarker in 1764.

Legge appears to have been a capable financier, but the position of chancellor of the exchequer was not at that time a cabinet office. He took the additional name of Bilson on succeeding to the estates of a relative, Thomas Bettersworth Bilson, in 1754. Pitt called Legge, the child, and deservedly the favourite child, of the Whigs. Horace Walpole said he was of a creeping, underhand nature, and aspired to the lion's place by the manoeuvre of the mole, but afterwards he spoke in high terms of his talents.


Legge married Mary Stawell, daughter and heiress of the 4th Baron Stawell (d. 1755). This lady, who in 1760 was created Baroness Stawell, bore him an only child, Henry Stawel Bilson-Legge (1757–1820), who became Baron Stawell on his mother's death in 1780. When Lord Stawell died without sons his title became extinct. His only daughter, Mary (d. 1864), married John Dutton, 2nd Baron Sherborne.


  • John Butler, bishop of Hereford, Some Account of the Character of the late Rt. Hon. H. Bilson-Legge (1765)
  • Horace Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George II (London, 1847); and Memoirs of the ReIgn of George III, edited by G. F. R. Barker (London, 1894)
  • W. E. H. Lecky, History of England, vol. ii. (London, 1892);
  • and the memoirs and collections of correspondence of the time.
  • Lundymarker

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