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Posts Tagged ‘William Wyndham Grenville 1st Baron Grenville’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Erskine 1st Baron Erskine
10 January 1750 – 17 November 1823

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Thomas Erskine

Thomas Erskine 1st Baron Erskine was the third and youngest surviving son of Henry Erskine, 10th Earl of Buchan, and was born in a tenement at the head of South Grays Close on the High Street in Edinburgh. His older brothers were David (Lord Cardross and later the 11th Earl of Buchan) and Henry (later Lord Advocate of Scotland). His mother, Agnes Steuart, was the daughter of a solicitor general for Scotland and undertook much of her children’s education as the family, though noble, were not rich. The family moved to St Andrews, where they could live more cheaply, and Erskine attended the grammar school there. The family’s money having been spent on the education of his older brothers, Erskine, aged fourteen, reluctantly abandoned his formal education for the time being and went to sea as a midshipman. His family meanwhile moved to Bath to become members of the Methodist community headed by Selina, Countess of Huntingdon. One of Erskine’s sisters, Anne Agnes, was to become treasurer of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon’s charities.

Erskine went to sea as a midshipman in the Tartar, under captain Sir David Lindsay, who was a nephew of Lord Mansfield and a friend of the Erskine family. The Tartar set sail for the Caribbean, where Erskine was to spend the next four years, rising to the rank of acting lieutenant. When Erskine was eighteen he resigned from the Navy. His ship had been paid off, there were no commissions available, and he didn’t want to return to sea as a midshipman after having been an acting lieutenant. The 10th Earl of Buchan had recently died, and Erskine now had just enough money to buy a commission in the army, becoming an ensign in the 1st (Royal) Regiment of Foot. He was stationed first at Berwick and then on Jersey. On 29 March 1770 Erskine married Frances Moore at Gretna Green, against the wishes of her father, Daniel Moore who was member of parliament for Great Marlowe. Frances was the granddaughter of John Moore, who had been attorney general of Pennsylvania. Erskine’s regiment was then posted to Minorca, and Frances went with him. Before meeting Frances, Erskine had written about the qualities he was looking for in a bride: “Let then my ornament be far from the tinsel glare, let it be fair yet modest, let it rather delight than dazzle, rather shine like the mild beams of the morning than the blaze of the noon. I seek in my fair one a winning female softness both in person and mind”. Erskine appears to have found these qualities in Frances: she is described on her memorial in Hampstead Church as “the most faithful and affectionate of women”. The couple had four sons and four daughters.

While he was stationed in Jersey and Minorca, Erskine had on occasion preached sermons to his men, prompting one biographer to say that “a taste for oratory that ultimately would lead on to his true career originated in those soldier sermons”.

He also demonstrated his future skills as an advocate in a pamphlet entitled “Observations on the Prevailing Abuses in the British Army Arising from the Corruption of Civil Government with a Proposal toward Obtaining an Addition to Their Pay“.

Whilst on leave in London in 1772, the charming and well-connected young officer was able to mix in literary circles and met Dr Johnson. James Boswell, in his Life of Johnson, recalled meeting “a young officer in the regimentals of the Scots royal, who talked with a vivacity, fluency and precision so uncommon, that he attracted particular attention. He proved to be the Honorable Thomas Erskine, youngest brother to the Earl of Buchan, who has since risen into such brilliant reputation at the Bar in Westminster-hall”. Although Erskine was appointed a lieutenant in April 1773, he decided to leave the army and, with the encouragement of his family and Lord Mansfield, study for the Bar.

Erskine was admitted as a student of Lincoln’s Inn on 26 April 1775. He discovered that the period of study required before being called to the Bar could be reduced from five years to three for holders of a degree from Oxford or Cambridge universities. He therefore on 13 January 1776 entered himself as a gentleman commoner on the books of Trinity College, Cambridge where, as the son of an earl, he was entitled to gain a degree without sitting any examinations. He did however win the English declamation prize for an oration on the “glorious revolution” of 1688. At the same time, he was a pupil in the chambers of first Francis Buller and then George Wood. These were years of poverty for Erskine and his growing family: he installed Frances and the children in cheap lodgings in Kentish Town and survived on a gift of £300 from a relative, and the sale of his army commission. Jeremy Bentham, who knew Erskine at this time, described him as “so shabbily dressed as to be quite remarkable”.

In the summer of 1778 Erskine was awarded a degree and was called to the Bar on 3 July. While many newly qualified barristers, especially those without contacts to put briefs their way, took years to establish themselves, Erskine’s success was immediate and brilliant. His first case, that of Thomas Baillie, came to him by chance. The case involved the Greenwich Hospital for Seamen, of which Captain Baillie was lieutenant-governor. Baillie had uncovered abuses in the management of the hospital and, having failed to interest the directors and governors of the hospital or the lords of the Admiralty, he published a pamphlet and was then sued by the agents of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich who was first lord of the Admiralty and had been placing his agents in positions of authority in the hospital. Hearing of a newly qualified barrister who had himself been a seaman and was sympathetic to his cause, Baillie appointed Erskine to his team although he already had four counsel. Erskine was the most junior, but it was his brilliant speech that won the case and exonerated Baillie. Despite a warning from the judge, Erskine attacked Lord Sandwich calling him “the dark mover behind the scene of iniquity”. After his success in the Baillie case, Erskine had no shortage of work and a few months later was retained by Admiral Augustus Keppel in his court martial at Portsmouth. Keppel was acquitted and gave Erskine £1,000 in gratitude. For the first time in his life Erskine was financially secure.

In 1781 Erskine had his first opportunity to address a jury when he defended Lord George Gordon who had been charged with high treason for instigating the anti-Catholic riots of 1780. Erskine’s defence not only achieved Gordon’s acquittal but also dealt a blow to the English legal doctrine of constructive treason. The case established Erskine as the country’s most successful barrister. By 1783, when he received a patent of precedence, he had earnt enough to pay off all his debts and accumulate £8–9,000. He could afford a country house, Evergreen Villa, in Hampstead as well as a house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

In 1783, when the Fox-North Coalition came into power, Erskine entered parliament as Whig member for Portsmouth. Erskine’s friend Charles James Fox had been eager to have such a brilliant lawyer join the ranks of Whig members, but Erskine’s speeches failed to make the impact in parliament that they did in court. Erskine lost his seat the following year in the general election, becoming one of “Fox’s martyrs” when Pitt’s party made large gains, although he would regain the seat in 1790.

The loss of his parliamentary seat enabled Erskine to concentrate on his legal practice. In 1786, when he was thirty-six years old and had been practising at the Bar for only eight years, he was able to write: “I continue highly successful in my profession, being now, I may say, as high as I can go at the Bar. The rest depends on politics, which at present are adverse.” Amongst his notable cases in 1780s was his successful defence of William Davies Shipley, dean of St Asaph (and son of Jonathan Shipley) who was tried in 1784 at Shrewsbury for seditious libel for publishing Principles of Government, in a Dialogue between a Gentleman and a Farmer, a tract by his brother-in-law Sir William Jones advancing radical views on the relationship between subjects and the state. Erskine’s defence anticipated the Libel Act 1792, which laid down the principle that it is for the jury (who previously had only decided the question of publication) and not the judge to decide whether or not a publication is a libel.

In 1789 he was counsel for John Stockdale, a bookseller, who was charged with seditious libel in publishing John Logan’s pamphlet in support of Warren Hastings, whose impeachment was then proceeding. Erskine’s speech, which resulted in the Stockdale’s acquittal, argued that a defendant should not be convicted if his composition, taken as a whole, did not go beyond a free and fair discussion, even if selected passages might be libellous. Henry Brougham considered this to be one of Erskine’s finest speeches: “It is justly regarded, by all English lawyers, as a consummate specimen of the art of addressing a jury”.

Three years later he would, against the advice of his friends, take on the defence of Thomas Paine who had been charged with seditious libel after the publication of the second part of his Rights of Man. Paine was tried in his absence; he was in France. Erskine argued for the right of a people to criticise, reform and change its government; he made the point that a free press produces security in the government. But in this case his arguments failed to convince the special jury, who returned a verdict of guilty without even retiring.

Erskine’s speech is also remembered for a passage on the duty of barristers to take on even unpopular cases:

“I will for ever, at all hazards, assert the dignity, independence, and integrity of the English Bar, without which impartial justice, the most valuable part of the English constitution, can have no existence. From the moment that any advocate can be permitted to say that he will or will not stand between the Crown and the subject arraigned in the court where he daily sits to practise, from that moment the liberties of England are at an end.”

Erskine’s decision to defend Paine cost him his position as attorney-general (legal advisor) to the Prince of Wales, to which he had been appointed in 1786.

In 1794 William Pitt’s government, fearful of a revolution, decided to take action against people who were campaigning for parliamentary reform. Habeas corpus was suspended and twelve members of radical societies were imprisoned and charged with a variety of offences amounting to high treason. Erskine and Vicary Gibbs were assigned as counsel to seven of them. They were not paid for their services, as it was considered unprofessional to take fees for defending people charged with high treason. The treason trials began on 28 October before Lord Chief Justice Eyre at the Old Bailey with the trial of Thomas Hardy, a shoemaker and secretary of the London Corresponding Society. After eight days of evidence and speeches, including Erskine’s seven-hour speech on the final day, and several hours deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Erskine was hailed as a hero by the crowds outside who unharnessed his horses (which he never saw again ) and pulled his carriage through the streets. Although it was usual in cases where several people were jointly charged with high treason to discharge the rest if the first was acquitted, the government persisted with the trials of John Horne Tooke and John Thelwall. They too, defended by Erskine and Vicary Gibbs, were acquitted and it was only then that the prosecution was halted. A disappointed government had to scrap a further 800 warrants of arrest.

Notable amongst the later cases of Erskine’s career was that of James Hadfield, a former soldier who had fired a shot at the king in Drury Lane Theatre. The shot missed and Hadfield was charged with treason. Erskine called a large number of witnesses who testified to Hadfield’s sometimes bizarre behaviour, a surgeon who testified to the nature of the head injuries that Hadfield had sustained in battle, and a doctor, Alexander Crichton, who gave evidence that Hadfield was insane. Erskine argued that, although Hadfield could appear rational, he was in the grip of a delusion and could not control his actions. He summed up: “I must convince you, not only that the unhappy prisoner was a lunatic, within my own definition of lunacy, but that the act in question was the immediate unqualified offspring of the disease”. The judge, Lord Kenyon, was convinced by Erskine’s evidence and argument and stopped the trial, acquitted Hadfield and ordered him to be detained. The trial led to two acts of parliament: the Criminal Lunatics Act 1800 which provided for the detention of people who were acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity, and the Treason Act 1800.

In 1806 Erskine was offered the Lord Chancellorship in the Ministry of All the Talents formed by Lord Grenville and Charles Fox on the death of William Pitt. Fox’s original plan had been to offer Erskine the chief judgeship of the Common Pleas or the King’s Bench when one of the holders was elevated to Lord Chancellor. But both Lord Ellenborough, chief justice of the King’s Bench and Sir James Mansfield, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, declined the chancellorship. Erskine was therefore appointed although he had no experience in Chancery. He was created a peer to become Lord Chancellor. The Prince of Wales, who had inherited the Duchy of Cornwall, chose Erskine’s title, Baron Erskine of Restormel Castle, while the motto, “trial by jury” was Erskine’s own. Frances Erskine did not live to enjoy the title of Lady Erskine; she died a few weeks before her husband took the seals of office.

Although Erskine lacked experience in equity, only one of the judgements he made during his brief tenure as Lord Chancellor was appealed against and that, concerning Peter Thellusson’s will, was upheld. His handling of the impeachment of Lord Melville was generally admired. Along with Lords Grenville, Spencer and Ellenborough, Erskine was commissioned by the king to enquire into the morals of his daughter-in-law Caroline of Brunswick in what became known as the “delicate investigation”.

Erskine was Lord Chancellor for only fourteen months, having to give up the seals of office when the ministry of all the talents resigned over a disagreement with the king concerning the question of Catholic Emancipation. The king gave Erskine a week to finish pending cases, and Erskine took advantage of this to appoint one of his sons-in-law, Edward Morris, as master of Chancery.

As ex-chancellor, Erskine was not permitted to return to the Bar. He was awarded a pension of £4000 a year and remained a member of the House of Lords. He was only 57 when the ministry of all the talents fell, and hoped that he might return to office when the Prince of Wales became regent. In the event, however, the regent retained the ministry of Spencer Perceval and the Whigs would not be in power again until 1830, seven years after Erskine’s death. Erskine largely retired from public life, rarely speaking in the House of Lords. In 1818 he married for the second time. His bride was a former apprentice bonnet-maker, Sarah Buck, with whom he had already had two children. The couple travelled to Gretna Green for the marriage, with an angry adult son in hot pursuit. It was a tempestuous relationship, and the marriage ended in separation a few years later. In spite of his generous pension and the enormous sums he had earnt at the Bar, Erskine experienced financial difficulties in his later years, having to sell his villa in Hampstead and move to a house in Pimlico. He also bought an estate in Sussex, but his agricultural efforts were not a great success. He wrote a political romance, Armata, which ran to several editions.

Causes which Erskine took up in his retirement were animal rights, Greek independence, and the defence of Queen Caroline. He had always been an animal lover; amongst his favourite animals were a Newfoundland dog called Toss who used to accompany him to chambers, a macaw, a goose and two leeches. He introduced a bill in the House of Lords for the prevention of cruelty to animals, arguing that humanity’s dominion over them was given by God as a moral trust. It was the first time he had proposed a change in the law. The bill was accepted in the Lords but opposed in the Commons; William Windham arguing that a law against cruelty to animals was incompatible with fox-hunting and horse racing. Eventually the bill was introduced in the Commons and passed as statute 3 Geo 4 c71. When Caroline was being prosecuted for divorce Erskine spoke against the Bill of Pains and Penalties and, when the government dropped the bill, expressed his approval: “My Lords, I am an old man, and my life, whether it has been for good or evil, has been passed under the sacred rule of Law. In this moment I feel my strength renovated by that rule being restored”. He was invited to a public dinner in Edinburgh in February 1820, and made his first trip to Scotland since he had left it on the Tartar over fifty years before.

In 1823 Erskine set out by sea on another visit to Scotland with one of his sons, hoping to see his brother the Earl of Buchan. But he became ill with a chest infection on the journey and was put ashore at Scarborough. He managed to travel to the home of his brother Henry’s widow in Almondell in West Lothian, where they were joined by the earl. He died at Almondell on 17 November 1823 and was buried in the family burial-place at Uphall in Linlithgowshire. His widow survived him by over thirty years. She, as reports in the Times revealed, was reduced to poverty and had to rely on a small charitable allowance to survive. Even these meagre payments were withheld by Erskine’s executors when she tried to prevent them sending her son Hampden away to school, and she had to appeal to the lord mayor of London. She died in 1856.

Erskine’s first marriage produced four sons and four daughters:

  • David Montagu Erskine (1776–1855) was a member of parliament and diplomat;
  • Henry David (1786–1859) was Dean of Ripon;
  • Thomas (1788–1864) became a judge of the Court of Common Pleas;
  • Esmé Steuart (1789–1817) fought at the Battle of Waterloo where he lost an arm (his widow Eliza married Admiral James Norton, who also lost an arm in action).
  • Frances (d. 1859) married Samuel Holland, Precentor of Chichester and Rector of Poynings, Sussex (a grandson of Frances and Samuel was Thomas Erskine Holland the jurist);
  • Elizabeth (d, 1800) married her cousin Captain (later Sir) David Erskine, the illegitimate son of the 11th Earl of Buchan;
  • Mary (d. 1804) married lawyer Edward Morris.

With his second wife Erskine had one legitimate son, Hampden (b. 1821) and two children, Agnes and Erskine, born before the marriage.

Erskine’s eldest brother the 11th Earl of Buchan had no legitimate sons and was succeeded by a nephew, the son of Erskine’s brother Henry. When all Henry’s descendants in the direct male line died out in 1960 the seventh Baron Erskine (Donald Cardross Flower Erskine, Erskine’s great-great-greatgrandson) became the sixteenth Earl of Buchan.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Ponsonby 1st Baron Ponsonby
15 September 1744 – 5 November 1806

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William Brabazon Ponsonby

William Ponsonby 1st Baron Ponsonby of Imokilly was the grandson of the 3rd Duke of Devonshire. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. He represented Cork City between 1764 and 1776 and thereafter Bandonbridge between 1776 and 1783. He was the leader of a powerful family grouping of between ten and fourteen MPs, the second largest in the Irish House of Commons. During the regency crisis of 1788–9 he gave his support to the Prince of Wales in opposition to William Pitt the Younger. As a consequence he was dismissed from the Post Office. Thereafter he permanently aligned himself with Charles James Fox and together with his brother George gathered together the various small groups of Irish whigs into a unified opposition. As with their English counterparts, their ultimate objective was to re-establish the influence of the landowning classes at the expense of the crown. Ponsonby became committed to the cause of Catholic Emancipation, as a means of securing a loyal population at a time of radical agitation and potential foreign invasion.

Pitt’s coalition with the Portland whigs in July 1794 and Earl FitzWilliam’s consequent appointment as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland gave Ponsonby and his allies an opportunity to regain office. He was on the brink of becoming Irish secretary of state and had sat on the Treasury bench. In 1795, however, he appears to have persuaded FitzWilliam to dismiss John Beresford from his post as first commissioner of the revenue on the grounds of alleged corruption, apparently in revenge for earlier political dealings. The subsequent political crisis led in 1795 to FitzWilliam’s swift removal from office, Beresford’s re-instatement, and to Ponsonby’s humiliating return to opposition.

Ponsonby was a leading opponent of the union between Ireland and Great Britain. In 1783, he stood for Newtownards and Kilkenny County. He chose the latter constituency and sat for it from 1783 until the Act of Union came into force in 1801. He became then part of the Foxite Whig opposition in the Westminster House of Commons, voting against the Addington and Pitt ministries and in favour of the Prince of Wales and Catholic Emancipation. His influence was declining, however, and by 1803 effective leadership of the Irish whigs had passed to his brother George.

By the time Fox regained office in 1806 as member of Grenville’s Ministry of All the Talents, Ponsonby’s health was poor, with the result that his wife urgently pressed his claims for a peerage, arguing that it was merited by his opposition to the Regency Bill and the Union, and by his staunch support for the Foxite whigs at Westminster. As a consequence he was raised swiftly to the peerage of the United Kingdom on 13 March 1806. He was gazetted as ‘Baron Ponsonby, of Imokilly in the County of Cork’, although other sources generally refer to him as ‘Baron Ponsonby of Imokilly’. He died in Seymour Street, London, on 5 November 1806, and was buried in Ireland.

At a personal level Edmund Burke described Ponsonby in a letter to Lord Charlemont as “a manly, decided character, with … a clear and vigorous understanding.” He was as interested in sport as he was in politics and was said to have kept ‘the best hunting establishment in Ireland’ at Bishopscourt, his seat in County Kildare, where it was also reported that he lived ‘in the most hospitable and princely style’ (GEC, Peerage). In addition, he was easily irritated, especially if his status and pretensions went unacknowledged. Thus, although he took a leading part in creating a whig opposition in Ireland in the 1790s, he overplayed his hand under FitzWilliam, and his effectiveness was thereafter limited.

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Louisa, Baroness Ponsonby of Imokilly

In 1769 Ponsonby married Louisa Molesworth (1749–1824), 4th daughter of the 3rd Viscount Molesworth, and his second wife, Mary Usher. They had five sons, three of whom were men of note: the eldest John Ponsonby, 1st Viscount Ponsonby of Imokilly was a diplomat; the second, Hon. Sir William Ponsonby, a major-general in the army, was killed at The Battle of Waterloo; the third, Richard Ponsonby, became bishop of Killaloe and Kilfenora in 1828, Derry in 1831 and Derry and Raphoe in 1834. Their only daughter Mary was married to the Prime Minister, Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. Ponsonby’s descendants include Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Prince William of Wales.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos
20 March 1776 – 17 January 1839

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Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville

Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos was born Richard Temple-Nugent-Grenville, he was the eldest son of George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham, son of George Grenville, Prime Minister of Great Britain. His mother was Lady Mary Nugent, daughter of Robert Nugent, 1st Earl Nugent. Thomas Grenville and Lord Grenville were his uncles.

Buckingham was elected Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire in 1797. In 1806 he was made a Privy Counsellor and appointed Vice-President of the Board of Trade and Joint Paymaster of the Forces in the Ministry of All the Talents headed by his uncle, Lord Grenville. He retained these posts until the fall of the Grenville administration in 1807. He left the House of Commons in 1813 when he succeeded his father in the marquessate. In 1820 he was appointed a Knight of the Garter. In 1822 he was further honoured when he was made Earl Temple of Stowe, with remainder to his granddaughter Anne Eliza Mary, and Marquess of Chandos and Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, with normal remainder to heirs male. He returned to ministerial office in July 1830 when he was made Lord Steward of the Household, but only held the post for a short while. Apart from his political career he was also Lord-Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire from 1813 to 1839.

Buckingham also owned a plantation in Jamaica and 10,482 acres in Britain, including thirty-eight properties in the Old Nichol. Nicknames such as “Lord Grenville’s fat nephew”, Ph D (Phat Duke), and the “gros Marquis”, attested to his size and unpopularity.

In April 1796, aged 20, Buckingham married the Lady Anne Brydges, daughter, only adult child and sole heir of the late James Brydges, 3rd Duke of Chandos. Accordingly, Nugent-Temple-Grenville added Brydges and Chandos to their family names (and those of their children) by royal licence of 15 November 1799; and their full family name became the remarkable quintuple-barreled Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville. He died in January 1839, aged 62, and was succeeded by his son, Richard.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Henry Lyttelton 3rd Baron Lyttelton
3 April 1782 – 30 April 1837

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William Henry Lyttelton

William Henry Lyttelton 3rd Baron Lyttelton was the son of William Henry Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton, by his second marriage to Caroline, daughter of John Bristow of Quiddenham, Norfolk. He was educated at Rugby School, then matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on 24 October 1798 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) on 17 June 1802 and a Master of Arts (M.A.) on 13 December 1805. A student from December 1800 until 1812 a brilliant scholar of Greek, on 5 July 1810 he was created a Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.) on the occasion of Lord Grenville’s installation as Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

Lyttelton unsuccessfully contested Worcestershire in March 1806, but was returned in the following year, and represented the county until 1820 for the Whig party. His maiden speech was made on 27 February 1807 in favour of the rejection of the Westminster petition; and on 16 March he brought forward a motion (rejected by 46 votes) expressing regret at the substitution of the Duke of Portland’s administration for Lord Grenville’s. He attacked the new ministers, especially Spencer Perceval, for bigotry. He supported the naval expedition to Copenhagen in opposition to the bulk of his party, but voted with them on the motion of Samuel Whitbread for the production of papers relative to it.

Lyttelton felt the Whig jealousy of the influence of the court. In supporting John Christian Curwen’s bill for the prevention of the sale of seats, he suggested that the Duke of York and Albany, the late Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, had to some extent corrupted members of parliament; and in speaking on the budget resolutions of 1808 he declared his belief that the influence of the prerogative had increased. Again, on 4 May 1812, in a debate on the Royal Sinecure Offices Bill, he said that the Prince Regentwas surrounded by favourites. Nevertheless, Lyttelton in 1819 thought that the “revolutionary faction of the radicals” ought to be opposed. In the same session he thought an inquiry was needed into the Peterloo massacre.

Lyttelton advocated abolishing the system of having climbing boys sweep chimneys, and was a strong opponent of the property tax. He supported Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s motion of 6 February 1810 against the standing order for the exclusion of strangers from the house. In the same session, on 16 February, he opposed the voting of an annuity to the Duke of Wellington. He spoke strongly against the Alien Bill in 1816 and 1818.

On the death of his half-brother George Lyttelton, 2nd Baron Lyttelton, on 12 November 1828, Lyttelton succeeded to the title. He did not take much part in the debates of the House of Lords, but on 6 December 1831 he made an speech in favour of the Reform Bill in the debate on the address. He was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Worcestershire on 29 May 1833.

Lyttelton died at the house of John Spencer, 3rd Earl Spencer, his brother-in-law, in Green Park, London, on 30 April 1837, aged 55.

Sydney Smith’s Letters of Peter Plymley were for a time ascribed to Lyttelton before their authorship was known. In August 1815, through his friendship with the captain, he obtained a passage on board the HMS Northumberland (1798) from Portsmouth to Plymouth to witness Napoleon’s departure into exile, and privately printed 52 copies of An Account of Napoleon Buonaparte’s Coming on Board H.M.S. Northumberland, 7 Aug. 1815; with Notes of Two Conversations Held with Him. He also printed a Catalogue of Pictures at Hagley (date of publication unknown), and published Private Devotions for School Boys.

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Lady Sarah Spencer

Lyttelton married Lady Sarah Spencer, daughter of George John, 2nd Earl Spencer, on 4 March 1813; she was for a time governess to the children of Queen Victoria and a Lady of the Bedchamber, and died 13 April 1870. They had three sons:

  • George William, who succeeded to the title;
  • Spencer (1818–1882), who became marshal of the ceremonies to the royal household; and
  • William Henry Lyttelton, canon of Gloucester;

They also had two daughters, Caroline (1816–1902), who died unmarried; and Lavinia (1821–1850), wife of Henry Glynne, rector of Hawarden.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Henry Richard Vassall-Fox 3rd Baron Holland
21 November 1773 – 22 October 1840

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Henry Vassall-Fox

Henry Vassall-Fox 3rd Baron Holland was born at Winterslow House, Wiltshire, the son of Stephen Fox, 2nd Baron Holland and Lady Mary, daughter of John FitzPatrick, 1st Earl of Upper Ossory and Lady Evelyn, daughter of John Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Gower. His paternal grandparents were Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland, and Lady Caroline Lennox, the eldest of the famous Lennox Sisters and a great-granddaughter (through an illegitimate line) of King Charles II.

He succeeded in the barony in December 1774, aged one, on the early death of his father, while his mother died shortly before his fifth birthday. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, where he became the friend of George Canning and John Hookham Frere. Lord Holland’s uncle was the great Whig orator Charles James Fox, and he remained steadily loyal to the Whig party.

On a visit to Paris in 1791 Holland became acquainted with Lafayette and Talleyrand. He took his seat in the House of Lords on 5 October 1796. According to the 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica he for a while “almost … constituted the Whig party in the upper house.” He was appointed to negotiate a treaty with American envoys James Monroe and William Pinkney, was admitted to the Privy Council on 27 August 1806, and on the 15th of October entered the Ministry of All the Talents led by Lord Grenville as Lord Privy Seal, retiring with the rest of his colleagues in March 1807.

Holland led the opposition to the Regency bill in 1811, and he attacked the orders in council and other strong measures of the government taken to counteract Napoleon’s Berlin decrees. He denounced the treaty of 1813 with Sweden which bound Britain to consent to the forcible union of Norway, and he resisted the bill of 1816 for confining Napoleon in Saint Helena. He was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster between 1830 and 1834 and 1835 and 1840 in the cabinets of Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne, and he was still in office when he died in October 1840.

Holland’s protests against the measures of the Tory ministers were collected and published, as the Opinions of Lord Holland (1841), by Dr Moylan of Lincoln’s Inn. Lord Holland’s Foreign Reminiscences (1850) contain much amusing gossip from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic era. His Memoirs of the Whig Party (1852) is an important contemporary authority. He also published a small work on Lope de Vega (1806).

After visiting Paris in 1791 Holland again went abroad to travel in France and Italy in 1793. At Florence he met Elizabeth Vassall, at that time Lady Webster, wife of Sir Godfrey Webster, 4th Baronet. She and her husband obtained a divorce, and she married Holland on 6 July 1797, becoming Elizabeth Fox, Baroness Holland. An illegitimate son, Charles Richard Fox, was born to them. He later rose to become a General in the British Army.

They had three more children: the Hon. Stephen Fox (d. 1800), Henry Edward Fox, 4th Baron Holland, and Hon. Mary Elizabeth Fox, married to Thomas Powys, 3rd Baron Lilford. In 1800 he was authorized to take the name of Vassall, and after 1807 he signed himself Vassall Holland, though the name was no part of his title. Lord Holland died in October 1840, aged 66, and was succeeded in his titles by his eldest and only surviving legitimate son, Henry. Lady Holland died in November 1845.

Vassall ward in the London Borough of Lambeth is named after Henry Richard Vassall-Fox who was responsible for the first building development in the area in the 1820s. Roads in the area such as Lord Holland Lane or Foxley Square commemorate this connection.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

John Pitt 2nd Earl of Chatham
10 September 1756 – 24 September 1835

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John Pitt

Born 10th September in Chatham Kent to William Pitt, Ist Earl of Chatham and one time Prime Minister, and Hester Grenville daughter of Richard Grenville and Countess Hester Temple.

General Pitt was a British Peer, and soldier. The oldest son of William and older brother to William Pitt the Younger, who when Prime Minister appointed John to the posts of First Lord of the Admiralty which many did not think him qualified for. He also served as Lord Privy Seal and Lord President of the Council.

In 1809 he led the Walcheren Campaign, failing and losing thousands of soldiers under his command. He later became Governor of Gibraltar from 1820 to 1835. Years of relative peace.

He died at his house in Charles Street, London, on 24 September 1835, aged 78.

Chatham married The Hon. Mary Elizabeth Townshend, daughter of the 1st Baron Sydney, on 10 July 1783. The couple had no children. Lady Chatham died on 21 May 1821. Following his death, the Earldom of Chatham became extinct.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

King Ernest Augustus 1 of Hanover Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale
5 June 1771 – 18 November 1851

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Ernest Augustus

King Ernest Augustus 1 of Hanover Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale was King of Hanover from 20 June 1837 until his death. He was the fifth son and eighth child of George III, who reigned in both the United Kingdom and Hanover. As a fifth son, initially Ernest seemed unlikely to become a monarch, but Salic Law, which barred women from the succession, applied in Hanover and none of his older brothers had legitimate male issue. Therefore, he became King of Hanover when his niece, Victoria, became Queen of the United Kingdom, ending the personal union between Britain and Hanover that had existed since 1714.

Ernest was born in England, but was sent to Hanover in his adolescence for his education and military training. While serving with Hanoverian forces in Wallonia against Revolutionary France, he received a disfiguring facial wound. In 1799, he was created Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale. Although his 1815 marriage to the twice-widowed Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz met with the disapproval of his mother, Queen Charlotte, it proved a happy relationship. By 1817, King George III had only one legitimate grandchild, Princess Charlotte of Wales, and when she died in childbirth, Ernest was the senior son to be both married and not estranged from his wife. This gave him some prospect of succeeding to the British throne. However, both of his unmarried older brothers quickly married, and King George’s fourth son, Edward, Duke of Kent, fathered the eventual British heir, Princess Victoria of Kent (later Queen Victoria).

Ernest was active in the House of Lords, where he maintained an extremely conservative record. There were persistent allegations (reportedly spread by his political foes) that he had murdered his valet and had fathered a son by his sister, Princess Sophia of the United Kingdom. Before Victoria succeeded to the British Throne, it was rumoured that Ernest intended to murder her and take the Throne himself. When King William IV died on 20 June 1837, Ernest ascended the Hanoverian Throne. Hanover’s first ruler to reside in the kingdom since George I, he had a generally successful fourteen-year reign, but excited controversy when he dismissed the Göttingen Seven (including the two Brothers Grimm) from their professorial positions for agitating against his policies.

Ernest Augustus, the fifth son of George III and Queen Charlotte, was born at Buckingham House, now part of Buckingham Palace, on 5 June 1771. After leaving the nursery, he lived with his two younger brothers, Prince Adolphus (later Duke of Cambridge) and Prince Augustus (later Duke of Sussex), and a tutor in a house on Kew Green, near his parents’ residence at Kew Palace. At the age of fifteen, he and his two younger brothers were sent to the University of Göttingen, located in his father’s domain of Hanover. Though the King never left the United Kingdom in his life, he sent his younger sons to Germany in their adolescence. This was done to limit the influence Ernest’s eldest brother George, Prince of Wales, who was leading an extravagant lifestyle, would have over his younger brothers. Prince Ernest proved an apt student, and after being tutored privately for a year, while learning German, attended lectures at the University. Though King George ordered that the princes’ household be run along military lines, and that they follow university rules, the town merchants proved willing to extend credit to the princes, and all three fell into debt.

In 1790, Ernest asked his father for permission to train with Prussian forces. Instead, in January 1791, he and Prince Adolphus were sent to Hanover to receive military training under the supervision of Field Marshal Wilhelm von Freytag. Before leaving Göttingen, Ernest penned a formal letter of thanks to the university, and wrote to his father, “I should be one of the most ungrateful of men if ever I was forgetful of all I owe to Göttingen & its professors.”

Ernest learned cavalry drill and tactics under Captain von Linsingen of the Queen’s Light Dragoons, and proved to be an excellent horseman as well as a good shot. After only two months of training, von Freytag was so impressed by the Prince’s progress that he gave him a place in the cavalry as captain. Ernest was supposed to receive infantry training, but the King, also impressed by his son’s prowess, allowed him to remain with the cavalry.

In March 1792, the King commissioned Prince Ernest Augustus as a colonel in the 9th Hanoverian Light Dragoons. The Prince served in the Low Countries in the War of the First Coalition, under his elder brother Frederick, Duke of York, then commander of the combined British, Hanoverian and Austrian forces. Seeing action near the Walloon town of Tournai in August 1793, he sustained a sabre wound to the head, which resulted in a disfiguring scar. During the Battle of Tourcoing in northern France on 18 May 1794 his left arm was injured by a cannonball which passed close by him. In the days after the battle, the sight in his left eye faded. In June, he was sent to Britain to convalesce, his first stay there since 1786.

Ernest resumed his duties in early November, by now promoted to major-general. He hoped his new rank would bring him a corps or brigade command, but none was forthcoming as Allied armies retreated slowly through the Netherlands towards Germany. By February 1795, they had reached Hanover. Ernest remained in Hanover over the next year, at several unimportant postings. He had requested a return home to seek treatment for his eye, but it was not until early 1796 that the King agreed and allowed Ernest to return to Britain. In Britain, Prince Ernest consulted the noted eye doctor, Wathen Waller, but Waller apparently found the condition inoperable, as no operation took place. Once in Britain, Ernest repeatedly sought to be allowed to join British forces on the Continent, even threatening to join the Yeomanry as a private, but both the King and the Duke of York refused. Ernest did not want to rejoin Hanoverian forces, as the Hanoverians were not then involved in the fighting. In addition, von Freytag was seriously ill, and Ernest was unwilling to serve under his likely successor, General von Wallmoden.

On 23 April 1799, George III created Prince Ernest Augustus Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale and Earl of Armagh. Though he was made a lieutenant-general, both of British and Hanoverian forces, he remained in England, and, with a seat in the House of Lords, entered politics. Ernest had extreme Tory views, and soon became a leader of the right of the party. King George had feared that Ernest, like some of his older brothers, would display Whig tendencies. Reassured on that point, in 1801, the King had Ernest conduct the negotiations which led to the formation of the Addington Government. In February 1802, King George granted his son the colonelcy of the 27th Light Dragoons, a post which offered the option of transfer to the colonelcy of the 15th Light Dragoons when a vacancy developed. A vacancy promptly occurred and the Duke became the colonel of the 15th Light Dragoons in March 1802. Although the post could have been a sinecure, Ernest involved himself in the affairs of the regiment and led it on manoeuvres.

In early 1803, the Duke of York appointed Ernest as commander of the Severn District, in charge of the forces in and around the Severn Estuary. When war with France broke out again after the Peace of Amiens, the elder Duke appointed Ernest to the more important Southwest District, comprising Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire. Though Ernest would have preferred command of the King’s German Legion, composed mostly of expatriates from French-occupied Hanover, he accepted the post. The Duke of Cumberland increased the defences on the South Coast, especially around the town of Weymouth, where his father often spent time in the summer.

The 1800 Acts of Union had given Ireland representation in Parliament, but existing law prevented the Irish Catholics from serving there because of their religion. “Catholic emancipation” was a major political issue of the first years of the 19th century. The Duke of Cumberland was a strong opponent of giving political rights to Catholics, believing that emancipation would be a violation of the King’s Coronation Oath to uphold Anglicanism, and spoke out in the House of Lords against emancipation. Protestant Irish organisations supported the Duke; he was elected Chancellor of the University of Dublin in 1805 and Grand Master of the Orange Lodges two years later.

The Duke repeatedly sought a post with Allied forces fighting against France, but was sent to the Continent only as an observer. In 1807, he advocated sending British troops to join with the Prussians and Swedes and attack the French at Stralsund (today, in northeastern Germany). The Grenville government refused to send forces. Shortly afterwards, the government fell, and the new Prime Minister, the Duke of Portland, agreed to send Ernest with 20,000 troops. However, they were sent too late: the French defeated Prussia and Sweden at the Battle of Stralsund before Ernest and his forces could reach the town.

In the early hours of 31 May 1810, Ernest, by his written account, was struck in the head several times while asleep in bed, awakening him. He ran for the door, where he was wounded in the leg by a sabre. He called for help, and one of his valets, Cornelius Neale, responded and aided him. Neale raised the alarm, and the household soon realised that Ernest’s other valet, Joseph Sellis, was not among them, and that the door to Sellis’s room was locked. The lock was forced, and Sellis was discovered with his throat freshly cut, a wound apparently self-inflicted. Ernest received several serious wounds during the apparent attack, and required over a month to recover from his injuries. The social reformer and anti-monarchist Francis Place managed to get on the inquest jury and became its foreman. Place went to the office of a barrister friend to study inquest law, and aggressively questioned witnesses. Place also insisted the inquest be opened to the public and press, and so cowed the coroner that he basically ran the inquest himself. Nevertheless, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of suicide against Sellis.

Much of the public blamed Ernest for Sellis’s death. The more extreme Whig papers, anti-royal pamphleteers, and caricaturists all offered nefarious explanations for Sellis’s death, in which the Duke was to blame. Some stories had the Duke cuckolding Sellis, with the attack as retaliation, or Sellis killed for finding Ernest and Mrs. Sellis in bed together. Others suggested that the Duke was the lover of either Sellis or Neale, and that blackmail had played a part in the death. There was animus and fear towards the Duke to the fact that he did not conduct love affairs in public, as did his older brothers. According to them, the public feared what vices might be going on behind the locked doors of the Duke’s house, and assumed the worst.

In early 1813, Ernest was involved in political scandal during an election contest in Weymouth following the general election the previous year. The Duke was shown to be one of three trustees who were able to dictate who would represent Weymouth in Parliament. It being considered improper for a peer to interfere in a Commons election, there was considerable controversy, and the Government sent Ernest to Europe as an observer to accompany Hanoverian troops, which were again engaged in war against France. Though he saw no action, Ernest was present at the Battle of Leipzig, a major victory for the Allies.

Ernest met and fell in love in mid-1813 with his first cousin, Duchess Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of Prince Frederick William of Solms-Braunfels and widow of Prince Louis of Prussia. The two agreed to wed if Frederica became free to marry. Her marriage to Frederick William had not been a success; her husband, seeing the marriage was beyond hope, agreed to a divorce, but his sudden death in 1814 removed the necessity. Some considered the death too convenient, and suspected the princess of poisoning her husband. Queen Charlotte opposed the marriage: before the princess had married Frederick William, she had jilted Ernest’s brother, the Duke of Cambridge, after the engagement was announced.

Following the marriage in Germany on 29 May 1815, Queen Charlotte refused to receive her new daughter-in-law, nor would the Queen attend the resolemnisation of the Cumberlands’ marriage at Kew, which Ernest’s four older brothers attended. The Prince of Wales (now Prince Regent) found the Cumberlands’ presence in Britain embarrassing, and offered him money and the Governorship of Hanover if they would leave for the Continent. Ernest refused, and the Cumberlands divided their time between Kew and St. James’s Palace for the next three years. The Queen remained obstinate in her refusal to receive Frederica. Despite these family troubles, the Cumberlands had a happy marriage. The Government of Lord Liverpool asked Parliament to increase the Duke’s allowance by ₤6,000 per year in 1815 (equal to about ₤388,000 today), so he could meet increased expenses due to his marriage. The Duke’s involvement in the Weymouth election became an issue, and the bill failed by one vote. Liverpool tried again in 1817; this time the bill failed by seven votes.

At the time of the Duke’s marriage in 1815, it seemed to have little dynastic significance to Britain. Princess Charlotte of Wales, only child of the Prince Regent, was the King’s only legitimate grandchild. The young Princess was expected to have children who would secure the British succession, especially after she married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in 1816. Both the Prince Regent and the Duke of York were married but estranged from their wives, while the next two brothers, the Dukes of Clarence and Kent, were unmarried. On 6 November 1817, Princess Charlotte died after delivering a stillborn son. King George was left with twelve surviving children, and no surviving legitimate grandchildren. Most of the unmarried royal dukes hurriedly sought out suitable brides and hastened to the altar, hoping to father the heir to the throne.

Seeing little prospect of the Queen giving in and receiving her daughter-in-law, the Cumberlands moved to Germany in 1818. They had difficulty living within their means in Britain, and the cost of living was much lower in Germany. Queen Charlotte died on 17 November 1818, but the Cumberlands remained in Germany, living principally in Berlin, where the Duchess had relatives. In 1817, the Duchess had a stillborn daughter; in 1819 she gave birth to a boy, Prince George of Cumberland. The Duke occasionally visited England, where he stayed with his eldest brother, who in 1820 succeeded to the British and Hanoverian Thrones as George IV. George III’s fourth son, Edward, Duke of Kent, died six days before his father, but left a daughter, Princess Victoria of Kent. With the death of George III, Ernest became fourth in line to the British Throne, following the Duke of York (who would die without legitimate issue in 1827), the Duke of Clarence, and Princess Victoria.

In 1826, Parliament finally voted to increase Ernest’s allowance. The Liverpool Government argued that the Duke needed an increased allowance to pay for Prince George’s education; even so, it was opposed by many Whigs. The bill, which passed the House of Commons 120–97, required Prince George to live in England if the Duke was to receive the money.

In 1828, Ernest was staying with the King at Windsor Castle when severe disturbances broke out in Ireland among Catholics. The Duke was an ardent supporter of the Protestant cause in Ireland, and returned to Berlin in August, believing that the Government, led by the Duke of Wellington, would deal firmly with the Irish. In January 1829, the Wellington Government announced that it would introduce a Catholic emancipation bill to conciliate the Irish. Disregarding a request from Wellington that he remain abroad, Ernest returned to London, and was one of the leaders against the Catholic Relief Act 1829, influencing King George against the bill. Within days of his arrival, the King instructed the officers of his Household to vote against the Bill. Hearing of this, Wellington told the King that he must resign as Prime Minister unless the King could assure him of complete support. The King initially accepted Wellington’s resignation, and Ernest attempted to put together a government united against Catholic emancipation. Though such a government would have considerable support in the House of Lords, it would have little support in the Commons, and Ernest abandoned his attempt. The King recalled Wellington. The bill passed the Lords and became law.

The Wellington Government hoped that Ernest would return to Germany, but he moved his wife and son to Britain in 1829. The Times reported that they would live at Windsor in the “Devil’s Tower”; instead, the Duke reopened his house at Kew. They settled there as rumours flew that Thomas Garth, thought to be the illegitimate son of Ernest’s sister Princess Sophia, had been fathered by Ernest. It was also said that Ernest had blackmailed the King by threatening to expose this secret, though Van der Kiste points out that Ernest would have been ill-advised to blackmail with a secret which, if exposed, would destroy him. These rumours were spread as Ernest journeyed to London to fight against Catholic emancipation. Whig politician and diarist Thomas Creevey wrote about the Garth rumour in mid-February, and there is some indication the rumours began with Princess Lieven, wife of the Russian ambassador.

Newspapers also reported, in July 1829, that the Duke had been thrown out of Lord Lyndhurst’s house for assaulting his wife Sarah, Lady Lyndhurst. In early 1830, a number of newspapers printed articles hinting that Ernest was having an affair with Lady Graves, a mother of fifteen now past fifty. In February 1830, Lord Graves wrote a note to his wife expressing his confidence in her innocence, then cut his own throat. Two days after Lord Graves’s death (and the day after the inquest), The Times printed an article connecting Lord Graves’s death with Sellis’s. After being shown the suicide note, The Times withdrew its implication there might be a connection between the two deaths. Nonetheless, many believed the Duke responsible for the suicide—or guilty of a second murder. The Duke later stated that he had been “accused of every crime in the decalogue”. Ernest’s biographer, Anthony Bird, states that while there is no proof, he has no doubt that the rumours against the Duke were spread by the Whigs for political ends. Another biographer, Geoffrey Willis, pointed out that no scandal had attached itself to the Duke during the period of over a decade when he resided in Germany; it was only when he announced his intent to return to Britain that “a campaign of unparalleled viciousness” began against him. According to Bird, Ernest was the most unpopular man in England.

The Duke’s influence at Court was ended by the death of George IV in June 1830 and the succession of the Duke of Clarence as William IV. Wellington wrote that “The effect of the King’s death will … be to put an end to the Duke of Cumberland’s political character and power in this country entirely”. King William lacked legitimate children (two girls having died in infancy) and Ernest was now heir-presumptive in Hanover, since the British heir-presumptive, Victoria, as a female could not inherit there. William realized that so long as the Duke maintained a power base at Windsor, he could wield unwanted influence. The Duke was Gold Stick as head of the Household Cavalry; William made the Duke’s post responsible to the Commander in Chief rather than to the King, and an insulted Ernest, outraged at the thought of having to report to an officer less senior than himself, resigned. King William again emerged triumphant when the new queen, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, wished to quarter her horses in the stables customarily used by the consort, but which were then occupied by Ernest’s horses. Ernest initially refused the King’s order to remove the horses, but gave in when told that William’s grooms would remove them if Ernest did not move them voluntarily. However, Ernest and William remained friendly throughout the latter’s seven-year reign. Ernest’s house at Kew was too small for his family; the King gave the Duke and Duchess lifetime residence in a nearby, larger house by the entrance to Kew Gardens. Ernest opposed the Reform Act 1832, and was one of the “diehard” peers who voted against the bill on its final reading when most Tories abstained under threat of seeing the House of Lords flooded with Whig peers.

Ernest was the subject of more allegations in 1832, when two young women accused him of trying to ride them down as they walked near Hammersmith. The Duke had not left his grounds at Kew on the day in question, and was able to ascertain that the rider was one of his equerries, who professed not to have seen the women. Nevertheless, newspapers continued to print references to the incident, suggesting that Ernest had done what the women stated, and was cravenly trying to push blame on another. The same year, the Duke sued for libel after a book appeared accusing him of having his valet Neale kill Sellis, and the jury found against the author. Also in 1832, the Cumberlands suffered tragedy, as young Prince George went blind. The Prince had been blind in one eye from infancy; an accident at age thirteen took the sight of the other. Ernest had hoped his son might marry Princess Victoria and keep the British and Hanoverian Thrones united, but the handicap made it unlikely George could win Princess Victoria’s hand, and raised questions about whether he should succeed in Hanover.

The Duke spent William’s reign in the House of Lords, where he was assiduous in his attendance. Wrote newspaper editor James Grant, “He is literally—the door-keeper of course excepted—the first man in the House, and the last out of it. And this not merely generally, but every night.” Grant, in his observations of the leading members of the House of Lords, indicated that the Duke was not noted for his oratory (he delivered no speech longer than five minutes) and had a voice that was difficult to understand, though, “his manner is most mild and conciliatory.” Grant denigrated the Duke’s intellect and influence, but stated that the Duke had indirect influence over several members, and that, “he is by no means so bad a tactician as his opponents suppose.”

Controversy arose in 1836 over the Orange Lodges. The lodges (which took anti-Catholic views) were said to be ready to rise and try to put the Duke of Cumberland on the Throne on the death of King William. According to Joseph Hume, speaking in the House of Commons, Princess Victoria was to be passed over on the grounds of her age, sex, and incapacity. The Commons passed a resolution calling for the dissolution of the lodges. When the matter reached the Lords, the Duke defended himself, saying of Princess Victoria, “I would shed the last drop of my blood for my niece.” The Duke indicated that the Orange Lodge members were loyal and were willing to dissolve the lodges in Great Britain. According to Bird, this incident was the source of the widespread rumours that the Duke intended to murder Princess Victoria and take the British Throne for himself.

On 20 June 1837, King William died, and Princess Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom. Ernest became the King of Hanover.

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