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George Savile Halifax, 1st marquess of

Halifax, George Savile, 1st marquess of, 1633–95, English statesman. A protégé of the 2d duke of Buckingham, he was made Viscount Halifax (1668) and sat (1672–76) in the privy council. An opponent both of the pro-Catholic faction that arranged the alliance (1670) with France and of the ministry of Lord Danby, which reversed that policy, Halifax became known as the Trimmer because of his practice of "trimming," or balancing between factions. He was expelled from the council for opposing Danby, but he regained favor with Charles II and was readmitted (1679) to the council, created an earl (1679) and a marquess (1682), and made lord privy seal (1682). He led the successful opposition to the bill (1680) to exclude the future James II from the throne. On the accession (1685) of James II, Halifax was made lord president of the council, but he resigned almost immediately in opposition to James's pro-Catholic policies. When William of Orange (see William III) landed in England in 1688, Halifax at first sought to mediate between William and James, but then joined William. As leader of the Whig peers, he formally requested (1689) William to accept the crown of England. He was appointed (1689) lord privy seal and chief minister, but lack of a supporting group in Parliament made it impossible for him to form a viable ministry, and he resigned (1690). His most famous political pamphlet, The Character of a Trimmer (written 1684, published 1688), describes the virtues of his middle course in politics.

See his complete works, ed. by W. Raleigh (1912, repr. 1970); his life and letters by H. C. Foxcroft (2 vol., 1898; repr. 1969); biography by H. C. Foxcroft (1946).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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