An Angel Amongst Strange Bears

Sir John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, Blickling Hall, Norfolk

This is the first extensive biography of John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, who is buried in the strange pyramid mausoleum in the grounds of Blickling Hall.

An Angel Amongst Strange Bears
Sir John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, Blickling Hall, Norfolk

£19.95

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John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire is buried in the strange pyramid mausoleum in the grounds of Blickling Hall. This is the first extensive biography of John Hobart, whose curriculum vitae included being Ambassador to Catherine the Great of Russia before becoming Lord Lieutenant and Viceroy of Ireland at the time of the War of American Independence and revolution in France, a post which revealed his insecurity and lack of confidence in his own abilities.

Joy Beresford Frye, who, as a volunteer guide at Blickling, became curious as to why the 2nd Earl and his two wives came to rest in such an unusual place.

Born in Norfolk and motherless at the age of four, John Hobart was brought up in large part at Marble Hill, Twickenham by his beloved aunt, Henrietta Howard, the legendary former mistress of George II.  A convivial young man, he thoroughly enjoyed his Grand Tour in Italy and on return played his part in Georgian society. As Member of Parliament for Norwich he immersed himself in politics where local duties were sometimes onerous, remarking, “I was told it would be extremely proper for me to dance with the Mayor’s daughter in law, a beauteous maiden of fifty, but declined the honor and content’d myself with gazing upon her at a distance”.

He dealt diplomatically with his rich and powerful neighbours at Houghton, Holkham and Gunton. The lower orders learned to respect him firstly as their MP, as a judge and then, when 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, as a fair and just landowner.

Hobart was appointed to Russia at the court of the Empress Catherine, partly owing to ‘his young and strikingly handsome presence’ where he would fit into a court known for ‘its gaiety and dissipation’.  His energy, charm and natural diplomacy made him a popular figure, not least with the future Catherine the Great herself, with whom he shared a passion for horses.

Later, as lord Liuetenant and Viceroy of Irelan, myriad intrigues caysed coonfusion, and deception manifested itself during a turbulent time between Dublin’s parliament and the home government in London.

An admirer and fervent lover of women, he married twice, and on both occasions his wives were considerably younger than himself.  Scnadal befell his family when his eldest daughter was put on trial for adultery and tragedy struck too often with the deaths of four of his eight children.  His customary good humour was understandably extinguished during these events.

This most genial of men had a great love for Norfolk, its people, and most especially for Blickling. It is John Hobart we must thank for, amongst other things, preserving the then unfashionable Jacobean architectural style, for the serpentine lake, the Orangery, and the grand state rooms, particularly the magnificent Peter the Great room. His lasting memorial is the Mausoleum in the Great Wood commissioned, in his honour, by his widow and his second daughter, both named Caroline.  The design of the Mausoleum is believed to have been influenced by Masonic symbolism.

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