Lot 5
  • 5

Spain--Keene, Sir Benjamin

1,000 - 1,500 GBP
3,750 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Three bundles of contemporary copies of letters and papers relating to Keene's mission as envoy-extraordinary to the Spanish court
  • ink on paper
including correspondence between Keene and the Foreign minister, Thomas, Duke of Newcastle, and between Keene and the Spanish Secretary of State Sebastian de la Cuadra, petitions and memorials by British merchants in the Americas, letters of British prisoners of the Spanish in Havana and elsewhere ("...the place we are in is 130 foot long, and about 30 foot broad and 300 and odd slaves with Iron on and Chaines and as full of vermine as you can think..."), minutes of meetings, details of recompense demanded by the British crown for Spanish depredations of merchant shipping, one bundle comprising earlier papers relating to disputes between British merchants and the Spanish in the West Indies, including instructions to Admiral Charles Stewart, Commander in Chief of the Jamaica station, altogether c.57 items, 1729-39 but mostly 1737-39, dust staining


This is one of 22 lots that have been removed from Holywell House, Hampshire, the home of the Villiers family, Earls of Clarendon. They chiefly relate to the life and careers of two contemporaries: Henry Hyde, Viscount Cornbury (1710-53), and Thomas Villiers (1709-86), created successively Baron Hyde of Hindon (1756) and Earl of Clarendon (1776).

Cornbury was the last heir to the Earldom of Clarendon that had been created for the statesman and historian Edward Hyde (1609-1674). Cornbury had Jacobite sympathies but was MP for the University of Oxford – with which his family had powerful connections – from 1732 until 1751. He became disillusioned with politics in the later 1740s and spent his final years in France. Cornbury counted Pope and Swift amongst his friends, and was himself the author of pamphlets and at least two plays (see lots 6 and 7). He died, unmarried, in Paris in 1753. Most of Cornbury’s property was inherited by his niece, Charlotte (née Capel). Thomas Villiers, second son of the Earl of Jersey, was her husband. Villiers had spent the 1730s and ‘40s as a diplomat mostly in the German-speaking world (none of his diplomatic papers are included in this offering) and, following his retirement from the diplomatic service, he entered government in the 1760s. As Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1771-82 and 1783-86), Clarendon was in Cabinet during the American War of Independence (see lots 14-19).

Catalogue Note

AN INSIGHT INTO TENSIONS BETWEEN BRITAIN AND SPAIN, CHIEFLY OVER THE SLAVE TRADE IN THE CARIBBEAN. Sir Benjamin Keene (1697-1757) was a diplomat with extensive experience in Spain at a time of growing tension over British rights to trade into Spanish America. These copies were presumably produced for Lord Cornbury.