George Savile, 1st marquess of Halifax (1633-1695)
and political writer.
A protégé of the 2d duke of Buckingham, Savile sat in
the Convention Parliament that restored King Charles II to the throne in 1660.
In 1668 he became Viscount Halifax. 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 moderating position in the fierce
party struggles of his day. In fact, he balanced this opposition by fighting the
anti-Catholic Test Act of 1673.
He was expelled from the council for
opposing Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby, the King's chief minister: he regained
favor with Charles II and was readmitted (1679) to the council, created an earl
(1679) and a marquess (1682). Adhering to his principles of moderation, in 1680
he led the fight in the House of Lords against a bill that would have excluded
Charles's Roman Catholic brother James, duke of York, from succession to 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
He spent the next three years writing political
pamphlets. His Character of King Charles the Second was written during
this period, and The Character of a Trimmer, a statement of his political
creed, describing the virtues of his middle course in politics, was published in
When William of Orange 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).