Robert Benson, 1st Baron Bingley (1676-1731)
Baron Bingley (1676-1731) was the son of Yorkshire attorney, Robert Benson (d.1676). Benson the elder served as clerk of the peace for the West Riding of Yorkshire and held other legal appointments. On his father's death in 1676 Robert Benson the younger is thought to have inherited the bulk of his father's wealth, which is believed to have amounted to between £1,500 and £3,000. Although his mother Dorothy remarried Sir Henry Belaysse in 1680 she died in 1696 when her son was only twenty. Having been educated at Christ College, Cambridge he embarked on the Grand Tour of Europe between 1693 and 1694. His political career began in 1702 when he was elected at M.P. for Thetford, Norfolk. The next year Benson married Lady Elizabeth Finch (d.1757), daughter of Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Aylesford (1649-1719). Benson succeeded his brother-in-law as M.P. for York in 1705, a seat he held until his elevation as Baron Bingley in 1713. He served under Lord Harley as a lord of the treasury and as chancellor of the exchequer and a privy councillor. Soon after being made a peer he was appointed as ambassador to the court of the King of Spain but he never left British shores. It was perhaps this fact that led to the return of much the ambassadorial plate to the Royal Jewel House in 1716. Following the death of Queen Anne and the accession of the Hanoverian monarchy he lost his office and held no post until just before his death when he was made treasurer to the household of King George II.
He is not only remembered as a politician but also a businessman and architect. His speculated in the South Sea Company stocks and was a director of the company's first board. As an architect he was held in high regard by his contemporaries. Edward Oakley in his 1730 Magazine of Architecture, Perspective and Sculpture ranked him with both Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington (1694-1753) and Henry Herbert, 9th Earl of Pembroke (c.1689-1750). He is thought to have advised a number of friends such as the Earl of Strafford, the Duke of Chandos and Lady Elizabeth Hastings. He designed his Yorkshire seat Bramham Park and his London house on the west side of Cavendish Square. He died at the age of fifty-five in 1731 and was buried in St Paul's Chapel, Westminster Abbey.
The grant of plate to Lord Bingley is recorded in the Jewel House Warrant Book (LC5/109) where it is noted that he was allowed 5,893ozs of white plate and 1,066ozs of gilt plate for his embassy to Spain. However, Bingley never actually left England for Spain and on 2 November 1716 it is noted that he had returned 4,913 oz. 11 dwt. of white and 704 oz. 3 dwt. of gilt plate, of the original grant, to the Jewel House.
Horatio [Horace] Walpole, 1st Baron Walpole of Wolterton (1678-1757)
Walpole was both a diplomat and politican of note. The Walpole family had been established in Norfolk for over four centuries. Horace and his brother Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1676-1745) were born into a well established political family. Their father, the agricultural improver, Robert Walpole (1650-1700), sat as M.P. for Castle Rising, a seat his son Horace also later represented.
Horace was educated at Eton and King's College Cambridge. He was first elected as M.P. for Castle Rising in 1702. He enjoyed the patronage and support of his elder brother throughout his career. His connection with the diplomatic world commenced with his appointment as secretary to General James Stanhope in 1706. He also served under Lord Carleton and Lord Townshend. His first diplomatic posting was as a secretary to the embassy in the Hague in 1709, where he would return as British minister in 1715. In 1720, after his brother's return to power, he served as secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and then in 1722 he returned to the Hague once more, where his direct style and plain speaking had proved particularly effective. These skills led to him being sent to Paris in 1723 and where he succeeded Sir Luke Shaub as ambassador after the later was recalled in 1724. It was for this embassy that the present lot was issued. He remained in Paris, first as ambassador-extraordinary and then ambassador plenipotentiary until 1730 after which he became cofferer to the Royal household. In the years following he grew close to the King but lost his favour having supported an alliance with Prussia. Hostile factions within parliament pressed for the impeachment of both Horace and Sir Robert after the latter's resignation in 1742. This failed to materialize but Horace burnt many papers as a precaution. In his final years he retired to his Norfolk seat Wolterton Hall. Having petitioned for a title he was created Baron Walpole of Wolterton in 1756, less than a year before his death.
The Form of the the Ice Pail or Wine Cooler
Single or pairs of wine coolers, such as the present examples, developed towards the end of the 17th century. Before then the practise had been to cool wine bottles in large wine-cisterns which weighed 1,000 ounces or more and which rested on the floor. As the fashion to dine in more initmate numbers became fashionable the single bottle wine-cooler or ice-pail emerges, the earliest being a pair of silver gilt examples made by Mettayer's master David Willaume for the Duke of Devonshire in 1698. A pair of wine coolers, identical to the present lot, were also made by Willaume and are dated 1700 but with later arms. They were exhibited London, Christie's, The Glory of the Goldsmith, 1990, no. 44. Other very simialar examples are a pair, also made by Mettayer in 1713, issued to Speaker Hanmer cited above. An identical pair by the same maker were issued to Lord Methuen in 1714 and illustrated in M. Clayton, The Collector's Dictionary of Silver and Gold of Great Britain and North America, 1971, fig. 723. A pair of 1705 by David Willaume, from the Fitzwilliam Collection, were exhibited London, Seaford House, Queen Charlotte's Loan Exhibtion of Old Silver, 1929, no. 455 and a pair by Willaume made for Lord Strafford circa 1710 was sold Christie's, London, 23 May 1990, lot 230.