Margaret Rolle, 15th Baroness Clinton

Margaret Rolle, 15th Baroness Clinton, Countess of Orford (1709-1781), by John Theodore Heins, matching pair with portrait of her first husband
Margaret Rolle, 15th Baroness Clinton, Countess of Orford (1709-1781) by a follower of Herman van der Mijn. The pose is very similar to the portrait of Lady Frances Finch,[1] wife of William Courtenay, 1st Viscount Courtenay by Thomas Hudson
Arms of Rolle: Or, on a fesse dancetté between three billets azure each charged with a lion rampant of the first three bezants.

Margaret Rolle, 15th Baroness Clinton (1709-1781) was a wealthy Devonshire heiress, suo jure Baroness Clinton, who became the wife of Robert Walpole, 1st Baron Walpole (1701-1751), later 2nd Earl of Orford the eldest son of Sir Robert Walpole (1676–1745), the first Prime Minister. She is remembered for her eccentricity and her extramarital affairs.


She was the only surviving daughter and sole heiress of Samuel Rolle (1646-1719), MP, of Heanton Satchville, Petrockstowe, by his second wife, Margaret, daughter of Roger Tuckfield of Raddon Court, Devon, a junior branch of the Tuckfield family of Little Fulford, near Crediton, Devon. Margaret was the heiress of her brother Roger Tuckfield (c.1685-1739), MP for the family's pocket borough of Ashburton, following their purchase of the manor of Ashburton in 1702. The Rolle family of Heanton Satchville was a junior, but nonetheless wealthy, branch of the Rolle family of Stevenstone in Devon, one of the largest landowners in Devon, descended from George Rolle (d.1552), MP, who acquired lands following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. She was also heiress to her paternal grandmother, Lady Arabella Rolle, née Lady Arabella Clinton, a daughter and co-heiress of her brother Edward Clinton, 5th Earl of Lincoln, 13th Baron Clinton (d. 1692), who had been the wife of Robert Rolle (d. 1660), MP, of Heanton Satchville.


In 1751 she became one of the co-heirs to the ancient Barony of Clinton, which fell into abeyance the latter year. In 1760 the abeyance was terminated in her favour. Apart from the many valuable manors inherited from her father she also inherited the patronage of the Rolle pocket borough of Callington in Cornwall, and nominated in 1761 as its MP her Devon agent Richard Stevens (1702-1776), of Winscott, in the parish of Peters Marland, adjacent to Petrockstowe, who was the brother-in-law of Margaret's distant, but locally resident, cousin Henry Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle (1708-1750) of Stevenstone.


Margaret married twice:

Margaret's first husband, Robert Walpole, 2nd Earl of Orford, 1st Baron Walpole (d.1751) painted by John Theodore Heins, forms a pair with her own portrait by the same artist
Armorial of Walpole: Or, on a fesse between two chevrons sable three crosses crosslet of the field[2]


Whilst married to her first husband she eloped to Florence in Italy with her lover Rev. Samuel Sturgis, a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. In his letters Horace Walpole made several mentions of his sister-in-law Margaret Rolle, mostly disparaging in their nature as was his custom: "If, like other Norfolk husbands, I must entertain the town with a formal parting, at least it shall be in my own way: my wife shall neither 'run to Italy after lovers and books'..."[7]

Another of her lovers in Florence was Emmanuel de Nay, Comte de Richecourt (1697-1768), Regent of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany 1749-1757.[8] He was from Lorraine, and was a favourite minister of the Grand Duke of Lorraine.

Sir Horace Mann, 1st Baronet (c. 1701 - 1786), the British Resident in Florence, wrote to her brother-in-law, the diarist Horace Walpole: "You are infinitely mistaken in thinking that my lady took the reception ill from her Count. There are pieces of sincerity and freedom that spoil nothing. I hear that he has ordered a very fine chariot, which is to cost 600 crowns, and to be presented to her."[9]


She died at Pisa, Italy, in 1781, and was buried at Leghorn, "a woman of very singular character and considered half mad."


Her heir was her son George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford, 16th Baron Clinton (1730–1791), who died without issue. The title Baron Clinton became dormant on his death and was successfully claimed in 1794 by Margaret's cousin Robert George William Trefusis, 17th Baron Clinton (1764–1797), descended from Margaret's aunt Bridget Rolle (1648-1721). The heirs male of the 3rd Earl of Orford tried to claim the Heanton Satchville estates, but after a long and complex court case involving the examination of entails created by Samuel Rolle, the lands were adjudged to the Trefusis family.


  1. File:Frances Courtenay, wife of William Courtenay, 1st Viscount Courtenay by Thomas Hudson.jpg
  2. Debrett's Peerage, 1968, Baron Walpole, p.1128
  3. Letters, Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, 17 June 1746, OS Mann, 203
  4. Eveline Cruickshanks, Stuart Handley The House of Commons: 1690-1715
  5. Editor's note in Letters of Horace Walpole, no 263 to Sir Horace Mann in Florence, 15 June 1755
  6. Letters from Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, British Envoy at Florence, ed. Lord Dover
  7. The Letters of Horace Walpole, Volume 2
  8. it:Emmanuel de Nay, conte di Richecourt
  9. Dr Doran, 'Mann' and manners at the court of Florence, 1740-1786 (founded on the letters of Horace Mann to Horace Walpole), 2 volumes, vol 1, London UK, 1876.
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