In 1711, young Thomas Pelham-Holles, aged eighteen, succeeded his relative the Duke of Newcastle in estates ( although not in title) and became the possessor of thousands of acres in a dozen counties in England, enjoying a rent-roll of more than 30,000 pounds sterling a year. At twenty-one he was made Viscount and Earl and Lord Lieutenant for two counties, a year later Marquess and Duke, two years later Lord Chamberlain and Privy Councilor, and a year after that Knight of the Garter, and so on and so forth.
Pelham-Holles could personally influence the election of a dozen members of Parliament. Nottinghamshire and Sussex knew him as their master. The great houses that he built or adorned-Nottingham Castle, completely remodeled, high on its cliff above the town; Haughton, his hunting lodge in the Dukeries; Claremont, his uncles vast new Vanbrugh palace for which he redesigned the landscape; the old family mansions of his father, Halland and Bishopstone, both gutted an recreated- these were the necessary symbols of his territorial greatness. Like the gold plate that loaded his table and the hordes of servants that attended him on every journey, they were necessities of his social status. Vast palaces, extravagant living, profusion in every act of life were compulsive in a world that equated wealth with power.
Nor was the Duke of Newcastle exceptional. The Dukes of Bedford enjoyed an income equally large from the vast estates their ancestors had acquired from loot of the monasteries Henry VIII had destroyed. In addition, the Bedford’s acquired by judicious marriage great areas of London, principally Covent Garden and Bloomsbury. Docks at Rotherhithe cradled their own fleet of Indiamen. It is not surprising that magnates such as these should require three of four palaces ( among them the huge house at Woburn that now draws throngs of visitors and whose enormous park and chain of lakes comfortably absorb a great zoo and numerous pleasure grounds).
The Devonshires were richr still, and grew richer with each passing generation. Hardwick Hall, Chatsworth, Bolton Abbey, Lismore Castle and Compton Place and Devonshire House- all vast, all costly, all crammed with pictures, statuary, furniture, and teeming with servants- gave them security and comfort in their peregrinations. At one time the Dukes of Buccleuch rejoiced in eight country houses ( five gigantic) and two London houses ( both palaces).