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Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751)

Letters on the spirit of patriotism : On the idea of a patriot king : and on the state of parties at the accession of King George the First / Henry St John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke. 1752

RCIN 1057691

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  • This book contains the treatise The Patriot King, a short essay written by the prominent Tory politician and orator Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke in 1738. The essay was formulated for Frederick, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of King George II, while he lived at Leicester House in London. The Prince of Wales had a troubled relationship with his father and had established a rival court at the residence, which consisted of members of the political elite who had fallen out of favour with the king and his prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole.

    Bolingbroke's treatise describes an ideal type of kingship, whereby the king would do away with party-politics, would place himself above politicking and squabbles, and only select those who were the best-suited for the job to govern. The king would, therefore, rule the nation as its father, serving in the best interests of his people.

    It was an idealistic philosophy tempered by Bolingbroke's own turbulent history with successive sovereigns and governments: he had served under Queen Anne, but was forced into exile at the accession of George I following his support for the Jacobite claimant, James Francis Stuart, the Old Pretender. Although Bolingbroke was unhappy with its publication, the essay came to influence the early philosophy of the young George III, under the guidance of his tutor, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, in the early years of his reign. The French philosopher Voltaire also adopted some of the themes into his own works, which, in turn, inspired the Founding Fathers of the United States in their attempts to form a representative government after the American War of Independence.


    From the personal library of George III at Windsor

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