This text was copied from Wikipedia on 14 May 2024 at 5:10AM.

Stephen Fox
Portrait by John James Baker at the Royal Hospital Chelsea
Personal details
Born(1627-03-27)27 March 1627
Farley, Wiltshire
Died28 October 1716(1716-10-28) (aged 89)
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Whittle
Christiana Hope
Children14 children including
Stephen Fox-Strangways, 1st Earl of Ilchester
Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland
Canting arms of Fox: Ermine, on a chevron azure three fox's heads and necks erased or on a canton of the second a fleur-de-lys of the third. The canton is an augmentation of honour to his paternal arms, granted out of the Royal Arms as a mark of esteem to him and his heirs forever, by king Charles II following the Restoration of the Monarchy[1]
"Fox's Hospital", Farley, an almshouse founded by Sir Stephen Fox
Mural monument to Sir Stephen Fox and his second wife in the Ilchester Chapel of All Saints Church, Farley. Unusually the inscription is in French, in which language he was proficient, reflecting the time he spent in France with the exiled King Charles II. He built the church c. 1688–90, to the design of Sir Christopher Wren and effected by master mason Alexander Fort.[2] He is called on it the fondateur de céans "founder of this place"

Sir Stephen Fox (27 March 1627 – 28 October 1716) of Farley in Wiltshire, of Redlynch Park in Somerset, of Chiswick, Middlesex and of Whitehall, was a royal administrator and courtier to King Charles II, and a politician, who rose from humble origins to become the "richest commoner in the three kingdoms".[3] He made the foundation of his wealth from his tenure of the newly created office of Paymaster-General of His Majesty's Forces, which he held twice, in 1661–1676 and 1679–1680. He was the principal force of inspiration behind the founding of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, to which he contributed £13,000.[4]


Stephen Fox was a younger son of William Fox, of Farley, Wiltshire, a yeoman farmer, by his wife Margaret Pavy, a daughter of Thomas Pavy of Plaitford, Hampshire.[5] His eldest surviving brother was John Fox (1611–1691), Clerk of the Acatry to King Charles II. Stephen's sister was Jane Fox (1639–1710),[6] who married Nicholas Johnson (died 1682),[7] who was Paymaster-General of His Majesty's Forces[6] from 1680 to 1682, following Stephen Fox's second shorter term in that office.


Stephen was a Chorister of Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire (c. 1634c. 1640) and was mentioned in John Evelyn's Diary as a poore boy from the quire of Salisbury. His elder brother John Fox had obtained a position in the royal court on the recommendation of the Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, and first introduced his younger brother Stephen to the royal court, specifically to the household of the royal children, as "supernumerary servant and play-fellow".[3] At the age of fifteen Stephen obtained a post in the household of Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland; then he entered the service of Lord Percy, the earl's younger brother, and was present with the royalist army at the Battle of Worcester as Lord Percy's deputy at the ordnance board. Accompanying King Charles II in his flight to the continent, he was appointed manager of the royal household on the recommendation of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon. Clarendon described him as "a young man bred under the severe discipline of Lord Percy ... very well qualified with languages, and all other parts of clerkship, honesty and discretion".

The skill with which Fox managed the finances of the exiled court earned him further confidence and promotion. He was employed on several important missions, and acted eventually as intermediary between the king and General Monck. Honours and emolument were his reward after the Restoration of the monarchy; he was appointed to the lucrative offices of First Clerk of the Green Cloth and Paymaster of the Forces.

Paymaster of the Forces

Immediately on his Restoration, King Charles II struggled to fund the new standing army, a concept invented by Oliver Cromwell during the Civil War and the following Commonwealth. The problem was solved by Fox, who was deemed "one of the financial wizards of his age", and from 1654 to 1660 had managed the finances of the exiled king with great success.[8]

The king established a new office of Paymaster of the Forces, of which Fox was the first occupant, with premises in a wing of Horseguards in Whitehall. His success in restoring the financial position of the army stemmed from his ability to raise credit in the City of London, largely thanks to his reputation for honesty and reliability, which would later be repaid to him by the Treasury, when Parliament so voted. The yield from bills passed to this effect were often below that forecast, which in the absence of loans would leave the troops unpaid. Fox, however, was personally liable for the loans he raised, and to compensate him for the great risks he undertook, he was allowed to retain certain profits on his repayment by the Treasury. He charged the Treasury 6% on the funds he had borrowed, but much of that he repaid to his own creditors.[9]

He was allowed other perquisites, including 2% bonus on capital and interest repaid to him by the Treasury, and "poundage" from 1667 which allowed him to retain 4 pence, and from 1668 one shilling, in every pound of army pay, ostensibly to cover administration costs, but in reality mostly profit. This therefore amounted to one twentieth of all army pay, an annual income for Fox of about £7,000, added to his official salary of £400 per annum, and whatever he could save from borrowing at rates below 6%. In just 20 months from January 1665 to September 1666 he advanced a total of £221,000 for army pay, on repayment of which he received interest from the Treasury of almost £13,000. In addition he received a further 2% bonus, worth another £3,000 and also poundage.[10] This office he held for 15 years between 1661 and 1676, and for another year in 1679–1680.

Political career

In November 1661 he became a Member of Parliament for Salisbury. In 1665 he was knighted; was returned as a Member of Parliament for Westminster on 27 February 1679, and succeeded the Earl of Rochester as a Commissioner of the Treasury, filling that office for twenty-three years and during three reigns. In 1672 he bought the manor of Redlynch in Somerset, where he built a new house in 1708–1709.[11]

In 1680 he resigned the paymastership and was made First Commissioner of Horse. In 1684 he became sole Commissioner of Horse. He was offered a peerage by King James II, on condition of converting to Roman Catholicism, but refused, in spite of which he was allowed to retain his commissionerships. In 1685 he was again an MP for Salisbury, and opposed the bill for a standing army supported by the king. During the Glorious Revolution, he maintained an attitude of decent reserve, but on James's flight, he submitted to the new King William III, who confirmed him in his offices. He was again elected for Westminster in 1691 and 1695, for Cricklade in 1698, and finally in 1713 once more for Salisbury.

It is his distinction to have founded Royal Hospital Chelsea, to which he contributed £13,000. As a statesman he was second-rate, but as a public servant he creditably discharged all the duties with which he was entrusted. Unlike some other statesmen of his day, he grew rich in the service of the nation without being suspected of corruption or forfeiting the esteem of his contemporaries.

Marriages and children

Fox married twice:

Mural monument to Elizabeth Whittle (d.1696), first wife of Sir Stephen Fox, in the Ilchester Chapel of Farley Church
  • Firstly on 8 December 1651, at the age of 24, to Elizabeth Whittle (died 11 August 1696), a daughter of William Whittle of the City of London, whose mural monument with bust survives in the Ilchester Chapel of Farley Church. His niece Margaret Fox (buried on 22 June 1729), a daughter of his elder brother John, also married a member of the Whittle family.[6] By Elizabeth Whittle he had seven sons, all of whom predeceased him, and three daughters, including:
    • William Fox (1660–1680), eldest son, a captain in the army. A mural monument survives in the north cloister of Westminster Abbey inscribed in Latin and translated as follows: "Near this place, among the ashes of their three brothers Edward, John and Stephen, sleep William and James Fox, sons of the Honorable Sir Stephen Fox, Kt. and Elizabeth his wife. Parents and sons worthy each other, whom love made one in life, one distemper in death and one grave in burial. Each of them was embellished with useful learning, which their modesty seemed to conceal, and in their youth the man grew up with them. They were born for their country and to honours, which the eldest, being Captain in the army, acquired by his fatigues over all England. William died April 17, 1680 aged 20. James died November 19, 1677 aged 13".[6]
    • Charles Fox (1660–1713), 2nd son, a Member of Parliament for Salisbury and Paymaster of the Forces to Kings James II, William III and to Queen Anne.[12] His mural monument survives in the Ilchester Chapel of Farley Church.
    • Edward Fox (1663–1669), 4th son, died aged six, buried with his brother John Fox in Westminster Abbey, where survives his gravestone in the cloisters inscribed: Here lie interred two Children of the right Worshipful Sir Stephen Fox of Farley in the County of Wilts Knight, viz. Edward Fox, his fourth Son, aged six years and one month, who died on the nineteenth day of Octob. 1669. and John Fox his sixth son of the age of one year, who deceased upon the seventeenth day of Novemb. in the year of our Lord 1667.[13]
    • James Fox (1665–1677), 5th son, died of smallpox[6] on 19 November 1677 aged 12, buried in the cloister of Westminster Abbey, where survives his mural monument inscribed in Latin as follows: Hic infra situs est, juxta Edwardi, Johannis, & Stephani, trium fratrum cineres, selectissimus Adolescentulus Jacobus Fox, honoratissimi Domini Steph. Fox Equiti Aurati & Elizabethae uxoris, filius natu quintus, parentes filio & filius parentibus quam dignissimus. Summa pietate, vel puer quoad Deum; singulari studio erga parentes, prisca simplicitate inter omnes, percarum Veneri & Apollini caput, indubitatus Adonis & Hyacinthus necnon per dotes animi & corporis, nunc Dei olim hominum amasius. O parentes miseremini parentum. O filii ex illo transcribite filium! O posteri vestrum deflete damnum. Vario literaturae genere excultus admirandi sua floruit Antithesis. Sub puero vir delituit alter in vitae cunabulis & in morte Hercules, dum morbillorum perfidia sublatus, videatur ex igne & tunicâ molestâ evolasse ad coelos. A. D. 13. Cal. Decemb. Anno Dom. 1677. aetatis 12. cum semisse.[14] ("Here below is situated, near the ashes of his three brothers Edward, John and Stephen, the most select youth James Fox, the fifth-born son of the Hon. Sir Stephen Fox, Knight, and of his wife Elizabeth, parents to son and son to parents most worthy.... He was a man even while he was a child and an Hercules both in his cradle and at his death").
    • John Fox (1666–1667), 6th son, died aged one, as recorded on his gravestone in Westminster Abbey.
    • Stephen Fox (died October 1675),[6] died an infant, as recorded om his monument in Westminster Abbey.
    • Elizabeth Fox (c. 1655 – 28 February 1681), born at Tunbridge Wells, who in Westminster Abbey on 27 December 1673 married Charles Cornwallis, 3rd Baron Cornwallis (1655 – 29 April 1698), of Brome Hall in Suffolk. Her great-grandson was General Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis. Her mural monument with relief-sculpted bust survives in St Mary's Church, Brome.[15]
    • Jane Fox (died 10 June 1721), wife of George Compton, 4th Earl of Northampton.
    • 3rd daughter, died young.[16]
  • Secondly on 11 July 1703, aged 76, he married Christiana Hope (died 17 February 1718), a daughter of Rev. Francis Hope, Rector of Aswarby, Lincolnshire,[5] by his wife Christian Palfreyman. On her husband's monument in Farley Church are displayed (impaled by Fox) the arms of the Scottish Clan Hope: Azure, a chevron or between three bezants. By Christiana Hope he had two sons and two daughters, including:

Residences and estates

Fox had the following residences and estates:

Fox's house in Chiswick, depicted in 1807
  • Chiswick, Middlesex, to the west of London, where in 1682–1686, at a cost of £7,117 4s 3d,[19] he built a house described in 1725 by Daniel Defoe as "the flower of all the private gentlemens' palaces in England". Fox had purchased at first, in 1663, only two acres for £1,797 13s., on which stood a house having 18 hearths, which he demolished, next to the large Jacobean Chiswick House, then owned by the Duke of Monmouth, but which was later acquired by the 1st Earl of Burlington in 1682.[20] In 1666 he purchased more adjoining land from the Duke of Monmouth for stables, and in 1685 he purchased the lease of the prebendal manor of Chiswick, comprising a further 140 acres.[20] In 1726–1729 the old Jacobean Chiswick House was demolished and replaced by the famous Palladian villa of Chiswick House, built and designed by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694–1753), where by coincidence died Fox's famous grandson Charles James Fox in 1806. Fox's architect was Hugh May, with a distinguished team of craftsmen including Antonio Verrio and Grinling Gibbons. Fox's house was purchased and demolished in about 1812 by the Duke of Devonshire, then the owner of Chiswick House, but the walled gardens survive as part of Chiswick House grounds.[21] The gardens were much admired by King William III as recorded by Daniel Defoe, who wrote as follows regarding "Sir Stephen Fox's gardens at Istleworth" (i.e. Chiswick):[22]

Of Sir Stephen's garden, this was to be said, that almost all his fine ever-greens were raised in the places where they stood; Sir Stephen taking as much delight to see them rise gradually, and form them into what they were to be, as to buy them of the nursery gardeners, finish' d to his hand; besides that by this method his greens, the finest in England, cost him nothing but the labour of his servants, and about ten years patience; which if they were to have been purchased, would not have cost so little as ten thousand pounds, especially at that time: It was here that King William was so pleased that according to his majesty's usual expression, when he lik'd a place very well, he stood, and looking round him from the head of one of the canals, Well says his majesty, I cou'd dwell here five days; every thing was so exquisitely contrived, finish'd, and well kept, that the king, who was allow'd to be the best judge of such things then living in the world, did not so much as once say, this or that thing cou'd have been better.

After Fox's death in 1716 it was sold to the Countess of Northampton, the mother-in-law of Fox's daughter Jane.[19] It was later re-named Moreton Hall after a later 18th-century owner.[19]
  • Redlynch, Somerset, an estate Fox acquired in 1672 in settlement of a debt due from the Gorges family. In 1688 he commenced repairs to the large 16th-century house then standing. In 1708/9 he commenced building a new house adjacent to the old one, to the designs of the architect Thomas Fort, and also developed the formal gardens.
  • Palace of Whitehall, Westminster, where before 1677 he rebuilt his lodgings at his own expense.[3]

Other building works

Fox constructed further buildings including:

All Saints Church, Farley, built 1688–90 by Sir Stephen Fox to the design of Sir Christopher Wren. It contains the "Ilchester Chapel", burial place of Fox and many of his descendants
  • All Saints Church, Farley, 1688–1690, to the design of Sir Christopher Wren, probably with Alexander Fort, Joiner to His Majesty's Office of Works.[2] He obtained a private Act of Parliament to make it into a parish church, as it replaced a mere chapel of ease to the adjoining parish of Alderbury.[23]
  • Fox's Hospital, Farley, an almshouse with schoolroom, 1688–1690, by Alexander Fort, Joiner to His Majesty's Office of Works. Total cost £1835.8s.8d.[24] Established for six poor women, with a master, and a free-school, the master to be a clergyman, and to officiate in the church.[25] Continues to operate as a charity.[26] A stone tablet below a broken pediment containing a bust of a winged putto, affixed to the external wall above the central doorway, is inscribed in Latin as follows
Deo Opt(imo) Max(imo) bonarum omnium largitori isthoc quantulumcumque grati animi monumentum acceptum refert scholae huius et ptochotrophii fundator humilis gratabundus Anno Salutis reparatae MDCLXXXI quid tibi divitiae prosunt quas congeris hospes solas quas dederis semper habebis opes.
("To God, most good, most great, liberal giver of all (things) good, of a thankful soul the humble and fully-grateful founder gives back what is received this how unimportant monument of this school and place for maintaining the poor restored in the Year of Salvation 1681. For what are riches useful to you, you will bring together a guest/stranger, what thou hast given alone shall be eternal riches unto thee" (last sentence from Epigrams of Martial, XLII (solas quas dederis semper habebis opes))
  • A contribution of £13,000 towards the building of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
  • In 1698, Fox built Manor Farm House in Chiswick,[27] to replace the previous manor house on Chiswick Mall (which is shown on a map in Warwick Draper’s book).[28] It was southeast of Chiswick House, roughly where Edensor Gardens are today. The map names it "Sir Stephen Fox’s 1st house". Fox was the lord of Chiswick’s prebendal manor at the time. The house survived until 1896 when it was demolished to build Wilton Avenue. Some of the wall of the farm exists today as garden walls in Manor Alley. Almost next door to it on the Sulhamstead Estate is a modern block of flats called Stephen Fox House.[29]

Death and burial

Fox died on 28 October 1716, aged 89, at his house in Chiswick. He was buried in the Church he rebuilt at Farley, where survives his mural monument. He left assets with an estimated value of over £174,000.[5] (equivalent to over £32,843,007 in 2023[30]).


  1. ^ Debrett's Genealogical Peerage of Great Britain and Ireland. London. 1847. p. 422 (Earl of Ilchester).
  2. ^ a b Historic England. "Church of All Saints, Pitton and Farley, Wiltshire (1135703)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Ferris
  4. ^ Debrett's Genealogical Peerage of Great Britain and Ireland, 1847, p.422
  5. ^ a b c Hayton
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Fox family of Farley". Westminster Abbey.
  7. ^ buried in the cloister of Westminster Abbey on 21 April 1682
  8. ^ Childs, John (2007) [1976]. Army of Charles II. Abingdon. p. 49. ISBN 9781134528592.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  9. ^ John Childs, Army of Charles II, p.54
  10. ^ John Childs, Army of Charles II, p.52
  11. ^ Historic England. "Redlynch Park (1000420)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  12. ^ As stated on his monument in Farley Church
  13. ^ K., H. Monumenta Westmonasteriensia, or, An historical account of the original, increase, and present state of St. Peter's, or the Abby Church of Westminster with all the epitaphs, inscriptions, coats of arms, and atchievements of honor belonging to the tombs and grave-stones : together with the monuments themselves faithfully described and set forth : with the addition of three whole sheets. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  14. ^ Monumenta Westmonasteriensia
  15. ^ See image File:St Mary's Church, Brome, memorial (3) - - 2024226.jpg
  16. ^ Debrett's Genealogical Peerage of Great Britain and Ireland, 1847, re Earl of Ilchester
  17. ^ Debrett's Genealogical Peerage of Great Britain and Ireland, 1847, re Earl of Ilchester, gives date of birth a 1705 & twin of Henry Fox
  18. ^ "Cuell, Geoff, A Brief History of Plaitford and Melchet Park".
  19. ^ a b c "Grand Houses | Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society".
  20. ^ a b "Moreton Hall: Chiswick's Lost Mansion | Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society".
  21. ^ "History - Chiswick House Kitchen Garden".
  22. ^ Defoe, Daniel (13 March 1962). A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain, 1724–27. Everyman's Library.
  23. ^ Defoe, Daniel (13 March 1778). "A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain".
  24. ^ Historic England. "The Almshouses, also known as Fox's Hospital (1135704)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  25. ^ Defoe, Daniel (1928). "A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain". The Geographical Journal. 1, 1724–27 (3): 287. Bibcode:1928GeogJ..71..287W. doi:10.2307/1782488. JSTOR 1782488.
  26. ^ "Charity overview – Farley Hospital". The Charity Commission. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  27. ^ Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot and M A Hicks. "'Chiswick: Manors', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden, ed". British History Online.
  28. ^ Draper, Warwick (1990). Chiswick. Hounslow Leisure Services. p. 155. ISBN 1899144102.
  29. ^ "Manor Alley". Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  30. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 7 May 2024.


  • Sir Egerton Brydges, Collins's peerage of England; genealogical, biographical, and historical (1812) pp. 529–538

Further reading

External links

1893 text

Stephen Fox, born 1627, and said to have been a choir-boy in Salisbury Cathedral. He was the first person to announce the death of Cromwell to Charles II., and at the Restoration he was made Clerk of the Green Cloth, and afterwards Paymaster of the Forces. He was knighted in 1665. He married Elizabeth, daughter of William Whittle of Lancashire. (See June 25th, 1660.) Fox died in 1716. His sons Stephen and Henry were created respectively Earl of Ilchester and Lord Holland.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

16 Annotations

First Reading

vincent  •  Link

more on stephen fox
"...Sir Stephen Fox (1627

vincent  •  Link

confusion? Ilchester was from Sir Stephen Fox who died 17feb 1718/19 was married 11 jul 1703 Rather late for first effort{maybe a son of the horn player}
Sir Stephen Fox and Christian Hopes had the following children
Stephen fox 1st Earl of Ilchester
Charlotte Fox…
same Sir Stephen Fox or son ???

anonymous  •  Link

Stephen Fox, gentlemen, was a yeoman who rose in status to become a governmental minister and minor nobleman. He was knighted in 1665 by King Charles II. King James II later offered Sir Stephen a peerage(probably a barony)upon the condition that he would convert to Roman Catholicism. Sir Stephen Fox refused to become a Papist and, thus, did not become a peer, which is fortunate, since he did not deserve a peerage, and there were already too many Lords Temporal.

anonymous  •  Link

Gentlemen, I apologise for any redundancy.

anonymous  •  Link

The Right Honourable Charles James Fox, the infamous Whig, was amongst his grandsons, I believe. Of course, gentlemen, I am certainly not attempting to insult a grandfather who has long been in his grave.

Pedro.  •  Link

"He married Elizabeth, daughter of William Whittle of Lancashire."

According to Tomalin, Sam admired Elizabeth Whittle when she lodged in the house of another Montagu connection in Salisbury Court.

anonymous  •  Link


I am uncertain, sir, but a mistake was probably made.

anonymous  •  Link

I stand corrected. For, he was twice married.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

FOX, SIR STEPHEN (1627-1716), statesman; aided Charles II to escape after Worcester, 1651, and managed the prince's household while in Holland; employed on secret missions to England, 1658-60; paymaster-general, 1661; M.P. for Salisbury, 1661; knighted, 1665; opposed his patron Clarendon's impeachment, 1667; M.P., Westminster, and a commissioner of the treasury, 1679; first commissioner of horse, 1680, and sole commissioner, 1684; suggested and himself contributed towards the foundation of Chelsea Hospital, and built churches, schools, and almshouses; refused a peerage from James II and opposed the bill for a standing army; remained at the treasury under William III; led the Commons in procession at the coronation of Queen Anne, 1702, and was for a time commissioner of horse; M.P., Salisbury, 1714.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

Bill  •  Link

Sir Stephen Fox, from a poor soot-boy, and then singing-boy, has got in place by the court, 150000l. clerk of the green cloth.
---A Seasonable Argument ... for a New Parliament. Andrew Marvell, [1677] 1776.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Sasha Clarkson on 25 June 2013 reminded us that Sir Stephen Fox was a founder of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.
He married his second wife in 1703 at the age of 73, and fathered 2 sons with her, including Henry Fox, father of Charles-James.
He died in 1716 at the age of 89.…

To which Mary K on 26 June 2013 replied that The Royal Hospital, Chelsea was partly funded by Sir Stephen Fox, who made possible the establishment of the Hospital by his munificent gift of the £13,000 to acquire the site and finance construction.
But it is Charles II who is the acknowledged founder of the Hospital, which celebrates its Founder's Day each year on the anniversary of Charles' birthday.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Highlights from Sir Stephen Fox' Parliamentary bio:

In his own words ‘a wonderful child of providence’, Fox rose to immense wealth and public prominence from genuinely humble origins.
The family status lay between peasantry and gentry; but he received a sound general education as a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral, and his elder brother John (who held a post at Court on the dean’s recommendation), brought him into the household of the royal children as a supernumerary servant and play-fellow.

After acting as page to Lady Stafford, Countess of Sunderland, and the Earl of Leicester, Fox entered the service of Lord Percy, master of horse to Charles, Prince of Wales, and under his ‘severe discipline’ followed the Cavalier army in 1644-5 and then went into exile in France and Jersey.

When the royal stables were dispersed in 1650, Fox returned to the modest family home and on 8 Dec. 1651, he married Elizabeth (d. 11 Aug. 1696), da. of William Whittle of London. They had 7 sons and 3 daughters.

His Wiltshire origins stood him in good stead; first Hobbes obtained him the post of keeper of the privy purse to the Earl of Devonshire, and then, on the recommendation of Sir Edward Hyde, he was appointed to manage the meagre financial resources of the exiled Court, under the modest title of clerk of the kitchen.

Hyde found him "well qualified with languages and all other parts of clerkship, honesty and discretion that were necessary for the discharge of such a trust. ... His great industry, modesty, and prudence did very much contribute to the bringing the family [i.e. Household], which for so many years had been under no government, into very good order."

He was granted arms in 1658, and at the Restoration he was promoted to the board of green cloth and given some small Hampshire leaseholds forfeited by one of the regicides.

The big step in his career was his appointment as paymaster to the guards in January 1661: his job was to maintain the good morale of these troops by paying them without long delays and heavy arrears.

Fox was first returned for Salisbury on the Hyde interest in a by-election at the end of 1661. Farley is only 5 miles from Salusbury, and he acquired a nominal property interest by leasing a vacant plot in the Close.
His election expenditure totalled £87 10s., most of which went on ‘an entertainment’ for the corporation and a donation to the municipal poor relief fund.

An inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament, Fox was appointed to 32 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in 9 sessions, and he made 3 recorded speeches.

Outside the House his importance was increased by the ‘great undertaking’ of 1662, when he assumed personal responsibility for obtaining credit for the Guards' Pay Office. As he could wait up to 14 months before the Treasury reimbursed him, he was allowed to deduct 8 per cent from the crown and 3-½ per cent from the soldiers.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


Fox's accounts show that before the 3rd Anglo-Dutch war and the 1672 Stop of the Exchequer he ploughed back most of his profits into this undertaking, only diversifying into well-secured loans to fellow courtiers and the purchase of pensions and offices.

Listed as a court dependant in 1664, he was knighted in 1665.

In 1666 Andrew Marvell included Sir Stephen Fox in the government whips: "His birth, his youth, his brokage all dispraise In vain; for always he commands who pays."

Charles II, Fox recorded, expressed satisfaction at the efficiency of the Pay Office during the 2nd Anglo-Dutch war, which contrasted favourably with the chaos of naval finance under Sir George Carteret.

It is also from Fox’s pen that we have an account of his failure to join in the attack on his patron, Edward Hyde, after he was dismissed as Lord Chancellor in 1667: "The King took it ill from me that I went in the Parliament for my lord chancellor against him. I took the liberty to say to his Majesty that I did know my lord chancellor so well that I could not in conscience give my vote against him; at which the King turned from me and left me to myself, saying I was an honest fellow."

He emerged unscathed from the public accounts commission at Brooke House, and was included as a dependant in both lists of government supporters in 1669-71 and the Paston list of 1673/4.

He spoke against the impeachment of the Earl of Danby on 27 Apr. 1675.

His duties now included the disbursement of substantial sums ‘for secret service’, in part at least to avoid the cumbrous, antiquated, and expensive ‘course of the Exchequer’. But Danby regarded his monopoly of public credit with suspicion, and during the long recess Fox was deprived of the paymastership and with it the ‘undertaking’; while the secret service account was transferred to the secretary to the Treasury, Danby’s brother-in-law, Charles Bertie.

Shaftesbury marked Fox ‘thrice vile’ in 1677, and he did not go into open opposition until the last days of the Cavalier Parliament.

As mortgagee of Hungerford House, on which he had advanced £3,000 to the spendthrift Sir Edward Hungerford, Fox enjoyed a substantial interest in Westminster, most particularly as the property was well-situated for high-class commercial redevelopment, and he was named to the committees for bills to establish a ‘court of conscience’ for small claims (2 Apr. 1677) and to build a new church (4 May 1678).

His successors in the ‘undertaking’ [to pay the Guards] had run into difficulties, so on 30 May, Fox was among those ordered to estimate how much pay was owing to the newly-raised forces.

Although he was on both lists of the court party, Fox voted for Danby’s impeachment on 19 Dec., and was immediately removed from the board of green cloth ‘in as severe words as could be expressed’, although the Duke of York intervened to insist he could retain his Whitehall lodgings, which he had rebuilt at his own expense.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


At the first general election of 1679 Fox was returned for Westminster after a contest, and marked ‘vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list.
With the eclipse of Danby he was restored to his place in the Household, and the financial collapse of his successors in the ‘undertaking’ compelled the Government to reappoint him -- and his credit -- as paymaster.

An inactive Member of the first Exclusion Parliament, he was appointed only to 2 committees.

Fox voted against the Exclusion Bill (it is more likely he abstained).

The new Parliament was eager to investigate allegations of wholesale corruption, but Bertie refused to co-operate, and on 23 May, William Sacheverell reminded them that "You have a Member within your walls ... that can discover to whom money and pensions were paid; and if he will not, he is not fit to be here. It is Sir Stephen Fox, who, though he has delivered up the private books, yet has several books that can discover it."

Fox was out of the House at the time, and when he arrived he "seemed resolute, and ... trifled with them; till [Hugh] Boscawen moved that if he would not deal more clearly a bill might be brought in to confiscate his estate and take away his life, language it seems he could not so well relish, and then [he] submitted to answer questions more readily."

Fox pointed out that he had long handed over his official papers, but William Garway and Sir Robert Clayton refused to believe that ‘so great a master of accounts’ had failed to keep duplicates.
He was sent back to Whitehall in the custody of Sir John Hotham, Sir Robert Peyton and Sir John Holman to fetch his ledgers, ‘great, vast books’ as he termed them, in an attempt to curb the Commons’ appetite; but Lord Chamberlain Arlington told them that no books could be removed or inspected without the King’s command.

The House then decided to rely on Fox's memory. A list of the Cavalier Parliament was read to him, and he told the House of payments to 27 Members, from the then-Speaker, Edward Seymour. onwards.

He added that secret service expenditure had greatly increased under Danby’s administration, and that 30 other Members had been granted pensions after he had handed matters over to Bertie.

Fox was blacklisted in the ‘unanimous club’, and he failed to win a seat in the second Exclusion Parliament.

At Court his position never stood higher, as ‘the only instrument that has kept things afloat by his credit and supplies’, and his contribution to staving off revolution cannot be exaggerated.
Any resentment Charles II felt at his disclosures were quickly forgotten, and in November 1679 Fox was given a seat on the Treasury board, which he occupied for longer than any other contemporary except Sidney Godolphin.

He retained control of the Pay Office through his sons and kinsmen.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


By now Fox was reputedly ‘the richest commoner in the three kingdoms’. Although he disparaged the yield on land as compared with other investments, he had acquired a substantial estate in the 1670s in Wiltshire and Somerset at a cost of about £85,000. But he never set up as a country gentleman, his official life making it impracticable for him to reside any further from Whitehall than Chiswick.

Evelyn dined with him in 1680, and wrote: "He is believed to be worth at the least £200,000 honestly gotten, and unenvied, which is next to miracle, and that with all this he still continues as humble and ready to do a courtesy as ever he was; nay, he is very generous, and lives very honourably, of a sweet nature, wellspoken and well-bred, and so very highly in his Majesty’s esteem and useful that being long since made a knight, he is also advanced to be one of the lords commissioners of the Treasury. ... In a word, never was man more fortunate than Sir Stephen; and with all this he is an handsome person, virtuous and very religious, and for whom I have an extraordinary esteem."

By 1682 Fox had been able to install at least 10 of his connections in subordinate posts in the Household, besides those in the Pay Office. His works of charity were particularly notable. He built almshouses and rebuilt the parish church at Farley, and to him should be assigned most of the credit for the founding of Chelsea Hospital, popularly attributed to Nell Gwyn.

On the accession of James II the Treasury was taken out of commission and given to Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester.

Fox had acquired his own interest at Salisbury by purchasing the lease of the nearby manor of Pitton and Farley, including his own birthplace, for £5,200, and he was returned for the city at the general election of 1685.

A moderately active Member of this Parliament, he was named to 7 committees.

In the second session he led the revolt of the royal ‘domestics’ against the employment of Roman Catholic officers, but he was not dismissed, although when the post of cofferer became available at the death of Henry Brouncker, the right of reversion -- which he had acquired from Charles II -- was not honoured.

On the other hand, he returned to the Treasury in January 1687 on the fall of Sunderland, and in June 1688 he was recommended for retention on the Wiltshire bench.

At the Glorious Revolution, Fox lost office for a time, but was restored to the Treasury in 1690 when William III found that he ‘must employ such as would advance money’.

His political conduct in the succeeding reigns has been described as ‘habitually discreet’; he usually supported the government of the day, but abstained from controversial divisions.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


Fox died on 28 Oct. 1716, worth over £174,000, and was buried at Farley. He outlived all of his first family, but by his second wife (on 11 July, 1703, he married Christian {d.1718}, da. of Francis Hopes, rector of Aswarby, Lincs. 1682-1705, and they had 2 sons and 2 daughters) his 2 sons had long and successful careers in both Houses of Parliament.

Fox’s career was in several respects the most remarkable of his age:
In financial terms, he had by 1686, when his income can be assessed at £14,186, far outstripped the East India magnate, Sir John Banks.
A handful of the aristocracy had larger resources, but his had been acquired within a single lifetime.
It is remarkable that he lived almost free from envy and with a reputation for integrity that recent research confirms.
In this respect the simple Anglican piety of his childhood home stood him in good stead.

Parliament was far from being the most important institution in his career, and he had no aspirations towards swaying its debates by his oratory, although he made serviceable contributions from time to time on supply.

As a placeman his record is notable for independence; he defied the Government on 3 notable occasions -- the impeachments of Clarendon and Danby, and the breach of the Test Act.

For the whole thing, see https://www.historyofparliamenton…

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.