HILL, JOHN, military commander of the British expedition against Quebec in 1711; b. before 1685; d. 19 June 1735.
John, better known as Jack, Hill was the brother of Queen Anne’s favourite, Abigail Hill (Mrs. Masham), and a “poor relation” of the Duchess of Marlborough. Neither a transcription of the epitaph on his tombstone, nor the records of Somerset House disclose the date and place of his birth. We know only that he was born before 1685, the birth year of his younger sister Alice. Sarah Churchill paid for his schooling at St Alban’s, and then had him appointed successively as page of honour to Anne’s consort, the Prince of Denmark, as groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of Gloucester, and finally as aide de camp to her husband. In 1702 he became captain and lieutenant-colonel in the Coldstream Guards, and three years after assuming this customary double rank he succeeded his uncle, Brigadier Stanhope, as colonel of the regiment known as the 11th Foot. In 1707 this regiment was nearly wiped out at Almansa in northern Spain, but Hill was able to reorganize it in time for the Flanders campaign of 1709.
Despite Marlborough’s strong opposition he was appointed brigadier-general in 17 10, and given command of some 5,300 troops participating in the Walker expedition against Quebec. In suggesting Hill to the Queen, Henry St John, later Viscount Bolingbroke, can have had little thought of the man’s capacity (although it was by no means undistinguished), but he did see the wisdom of supporting the brother of Mrs. Masham, whose friendship as the queen’s favourite he anxiously cultivated. Moreover, the appointment was a further blow to Marlborough, whose powers and prestige, along with those of the Whigs, were already undermined.
Following the disaster by shipwreck at the entrance of the St Lawrence River during the night of 22–23 Aug. 1711, Hill had little difficulty in persuading the distracted admiral to abandon further efforts to take Quebec, or even Placentia, and he returned with him to England in early October of the same year. Like Admiral Walker’s, Hill’s career did not immediately suffer as a result of the disaster. The Tories were now in command; scarcely a month after the survivors returned, the Duke of Marlborough was dismissed from all his offices. Consequently, instead of suffering disgrace, Hill was promoted major-general in July 1712, and in the same year commanded the force sent to hold Dunkirk as security during the negotiations preceding the treaty of Utrecht. Not until the return of the Whigs with the accession of George I in 1714 was he deprived of his regiment.
Hill died in London on 19 June 1735, leaving his estate to his nephew, Samuel, second Baron Masham.
Letters and correspondence, public and private, by the Right Honourable Henry St. John, Lord visc. Bolingbroke during the time he was secretary of state, ed. Gilbert Parke (4v., London, 1798), I. Walker expedition (Graham); the editor’s Introduction to this volume contains further bibliographical material. Dalton, English army lists, V. DNB. W. S. Churchill, Marlborough, his life and times (4v., London, 1933–38), I.