Godolphin, Francis, second Earl of Godolphin 1678-1766, only child of Sidney Godolphin, first earl of Godolphin [qv.], was born in Whitehall, London, on 3 Sept. 1678, and baptised the same day. His mother, Margaret [qv.], dying on 9 Sept., John Evelyn, who had been her most intimate acquaintance, transferred his friendship to her infant son, took charge of the general superintendence of his education, and continued to take an interest in his welfare after he had grown to man's estate. Francis Godolphin was educated at Eton, and at King's College, Cambridge, where he took his M.A. degree in 1705. His first public appointment was that of joint registrar of the court of chancery on 29 June 1698, which he held to 20 Jan. 1727, holding also the place of one of the tellers of the exchequer from 1699 to 1704. He was chosen representative for East Looe in Cornwall on 1 Dec. 1701, but on 4 Feb. 1701-2 elected to serve for Helston, and sat for that constituency till 21 Sept. 1710. As cofferer of the household he was in office from 1704 to 1711, and acted as lord warden of the stannaries, high steward of the duchy of Cornwall, and rider and master forester of Dartmoor from 1705 to 1708. He was known under the courtesy title of Viscount Rialton from 29 Dec. 1706 till 1712. He sat for the county of Oxford from 1708 to 1710, and for Tregony in Cornwall from the latter date until he was elevated to the upper house as second Earl of Godolphin on the death of his father on 15 Sept. 1712. He was again cofferer of the household 1714-23, lord-lieutenant of the county of Oxford 1715-1735, lord of the bedchamber to George I 1716, high steward of Banbury 1718, and a privy councillor 26 May 1723. To George II he was groom of the stole, and first lord of the bedchamber 1727-35. He was named high steward of Woodstock 18 March 1728, and the same day appointed governor of the Scilly Islands. On 23 Jan. 1735 he was created Baron Godolphin of Helston in Cornwall, with special remainder, in default of his own issue, to the heirs male of his deceased uncle, Dr. Henry Godolphin [qv.], dean of St. Paul's. During the king's absence from Great Britain in 1723, 1725, and 1727 he acted as one of the lords justices of the United Kingdom. Finally, as lord privy seal, he was in office from 14 May 1735 to 25 April 1740. The pocket borough of Helston, not far from his ancestral home, Godolphin House, was under his patronage for many years, and sent his nominees to parliament. In return for this complaisance he rebuilt Helston Church in 1763, at an expense of 6,000l., and it was also his custom to pay the rates and taxes for all the electors in the borough. It is said that he only read two works, Burnet's History of my own Time and Colley Cibber's Apology. When he had perused them throughout he began them again. He died on 17 Jan. 1766, and was buried in Kensington Church on 25 Jan., when the earldom of Godolphin, viscounty of Rialton, and barony of Godolphin of Rialton became extinct; but the barony of Godolphin of Helston devolved upon his cousin Francis Godolphin, who became the second Baron Godolphin of Helston.
Godolphin married, in March 1698, Lady Henrietta, eldest daughter of John Churchill, the first duke of Marlborough. She was born 20 July, and baptised at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London, 29 July 1681. On the death of her father, 16 June 1722, she became Duchess of Marlborough, and dying 24 Oct. 1733 was buried in Westminster Abbey on 9 Nov. She acquired much notoriety by her attachment to William Congreve, the dramatist [qv.].
Evelyn's Diary (1852), ii. 123, 124, 126, 225, 230, 350, 369
Granger's Biog. Hist. (Noble's continuation), iii. 42
Doyle's Baronage (1886), ii. 33-4, with portrait
John Taylor's Records of my Life (1832), i. 75-7
Lyte's Eton College (1875), pp. 325, 356
Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. pp. 177, 1199, 1411.
Contributor: G. C. B. [George Clement Boase]