SELWYN, John (1688-1751), of Matson, Glos.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1715 - Feb. 1721
1727 - 1734
1734 - 5 Nov. 1751

Family and Education

b. 20 Aug. 1688, 1st s. of Lt.-Gen. William Selwyn, M.P., of Matson, gov. of Jamaica, bro. of Charles Selwyn. m. by 1709, Mary, da. of Gen. Thomas Farrington of Chislehurst, Kent, 2s. 1da. suc. fa. 1702.

Offices Held

Ensign and lt. 3 Ft. Gds. 31 Dec. 1688; capt. and lt.-col. 1 Ft. Gds. 1707; col. of a regt. of Ft. 1709-11; col 3 Ft. 1711-13; commr. of the equivalent 1715-17; clerk of the household to Prince of Wales Jan. 1716-18; groom of the bedchamber to George II as Prince of Wales and King 1718-30; receiver gen. and comptroller of customs 1721-7; mayor, Gloucester 1727, 1734; treasurer of the Queen’s Household 1730-7; paymaster of marines 1747-8; treasurer to Prince of Wales May 1751-d.


Commissioned in the Guards almost at birth, Selwyn served in Flanders as aide-de-camp to Marlborough. Returned for Truro on the Boscawen interest and appointed a commissioner of the equivalent1 in 1715, he obtained a post in the Prince’s household in by the influence of Lord Townshend,2 whom he followed into opposition in 1717, at the cost of losing his commissionership. On the reunion of the Whig party in 1720, he was given a lucrative customs post, which disqualified him from sitting in Parliament. In 1727 he transferred it to a brother to hold for him, returning himself for Whitchurch, where, in 1726, he had bought property giving him control of one seat.3 In 1730 he became treasurer to Queen Caroline, his wife being her favourite bedchamber woman. In 1733 he bought the manor of Ludgershall, carrying the nomination of both Members, thereafter sitting for Gloucester, which he controlled through the city’s reservoirs, situated on his property at Matson.4 He was a member of the gaols committee of the House of Commons in 1729-30; spoke in defence of the new colony of Georgia in a debate on the army estimates, 3 Feb. 1738; and voted regularly with the Government. In the published list of the division on the Spanish convention in 1739, he is shown as lately holding offices worth £4,600 a year.5

When Walpole fell in 1742, Selwyn advised him not to take the pension of £4,000 a year offered him by the King in view of the outcry against it. In November 1744 he was sent by the King with a message to Walpole in Norfolk asking him to advise on the question of Granville’s dismissal.6 In December 1746 he succeeded Sir Charles Hanbury Williams as paymaster of marines, arranging for his son, John, to hold it for him temporarily, presumably to avoid a by-election at Gloucester. He lost the post when the marines were disbanded in 1748, but in 1751, Horace Walpole writes,

old John’ Selwyn (who had succeeded to the confidence of Lord Townshend, Sir Robert Walpole and Mr. Pelham, as they succeeded one another in power, and had already laid a foundation with Mr. Fox) was appointed treasurer to the Prince, as he and his son were already to the Duke and Princesses. He was a shrewd silent man, humane, and reckoned very honest—he might be so—if he was, he did great honour to the cause, for he had made his court and his fortune with as much dexterity as those who reckon virtue the greatest impediment to wordly success.7

He died 5 Nov. 1751.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. See BOTELER, John.
  • 2. Lady Cowper Diary, 52.
  • 3. John Selwyn’s notebook, Hants RO 4175/384.
  • 4. Hervey, Mems. 607; Cal. Treas. Bks. and Pprs. 1731-4, p. 449; Walpole to Rich. Bentley, Sept. 1753.
  • 5. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 45, 55; Gent. Mag. 1739, p. 307.
  • 6. Walpole to Mann, 18 June 1744; Coxe, Pelham, i. 189.
  • 7. Mems. Geo. II, i. 94-95.