John - the lucky 1st Earl
John Hervey was the founder of the family fortunes - created Earl of Bristol in 1714. The 1st Earl made two fortunate marriages, acquiring land and money.
His eldest son, also called John, was heir. He had a sharp intellect and a keen ear for gossip. His memoirs of the Court of George II and Queen Caroline became a classic. However, John died before his father and in 1751, the title passed to his eldest son, George William.
George – the hypochondriac 2nd Earl
The 2nd Earl was a sickly character, forever 'taking to his bed'. Nevertheless, he was a prominent politician and administrator.
He doesn’t appear to have been a pleasant person: arrogant and grasping, he used his position to benefit himself and his family. He appointed younger brother Frederick, Bishop of Cloyne and then Bishop of Derry - one of the richest bishoprics in Ireland.
George died in 1775 and, as a bachelor, was succeeded by his brother Augustus, a naval Vice-Admiral.
Augustus – the unlucky 3rd Earl
The 3rd Earl made a disastrous marriage to society beauty, Elizabeth Chudleigh. As a sailor, he spent long periods at sea. While he was away, his wife conducted a series of affairs.
While drunk, Augustus suggested that he hadn't been properly married. Taking him at his word, in 1769 Elizabeth married the ageing Duke of Kingston. Upon Kingston's death, the story emerged and Augustus was dragged into a society scandal.
It appears that the bigamy scandal broke him or he was worn out with his own philandering. He died in 1779, leaving his estates, including Downhill, to younger brother Frederick.
Frederick became 4th Earl of Bristol and is well-known as the eccentric Earl Bishop, founder of Downhill Demesne.