Stanhope was born in Westminster and educated by tutors before studying at Cambridge. After completing a grand tour of Europe he returned to London and, in 1715, won a seat in the House of Commons. Stanhope’s maiden speech was a fiery attack on the Tories; according to an apocryphal legend they responded by threatening to fine him £500 for speaking in the Commons before his 21st birthday, which was still six weeks away.
Stanhope survived this early hiccup to serve more than 50 years as a parliamentarian. He also spent several years on the continent as a diplomat and ambassador. Stanhope’s best known literacy legacy was a collection of letters he wrote to his son, also named Philip, during the 1740s and 1750s.
Most of Stanhope’s letters are informative, educational and advisory, an attempt to prepare his son for the earldom but he occasionally lapsed into whimsy. In October 1753, Stanhope penned a long missive to Philip Junior that explored Jewish culture, Turkish history and how to conduct oneself around women. Stanhope interrupted this lecture to tell his son he had purchased a new dog:
“I have had a barbet [water dog] brought me from France, so exactly like [your dog] Sultan that he has been mistaken for him several times, only his snout is shorter and his ears longer than Sultan’s. [I] have acquired him the name of Loyola… My Loyola, I pretend, is superior to your Sultan… I must not omit too that when he breaks wind, he smells exactly like Sultan.”