BEAUCLERK, Hon. Aubrey (1740-1802), of Hanwell, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 3 June 1740, o. surv. s. of Lord Vere Beauclerk, M.P. (cr. 1750 Baron Vere of Hanworth), by Mary, da. and coh. of Thomas Chambers of Hanworth, Mdx. gd.-s. of Charles, 1st Duke of Saint Albans. educ. Westminster 1746; Queen’s, Oxf. 1758. m. 4 May 1763 Lady Catherine Ponsonby, da. of William, 2nd Earl of Bessborough [I], 4s. 3da. suc. fa. as 2nd Baron Vere 2 Oct. 1781; and his cos. as 5th Duke of Saint Albans 16 Feb. 1787.
The circumstances in which Beauclerk was returned for Thetford are described by Horace Walpole in a letter to Lady Suffolk:1
We are more successful, Madam, than I could flatter myself we should be. Mr. Conway ... has negotiated so well, that the Duke of Grafton is disposed to bring Mr. Beauclerk in for Thetford. It will be expected, I believe, that Lord Vere should resign Windsor in a handsome manner to the Duke of Cumberland.
The Beauclerk family and the Duke of Cumberland both had influence at Windsor, and it seems clear that Grafton (who was closely connected with Cumberland) provided Beauclerk with a seat at Thetford in order to avoid a contest at Windsor.
Beauclerk’s conduct in Parliament shows that he felt under no obligation to Grafton. In Bute’s list of December 1761 he is marked ‘pro’, with the note ‘Dorset’—there was an old connexion between his father and the Duke of Dorset;2 and he is also included in Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries. His marriage to a daughter of Lord Bessborough, brother-in-law of the 4th Duke of Devonshire, brought him into contact with the Opposition and seems to have changed his political allegiance. He voted against Grenville on general warrants, 6, 15, and 18 Feb. 1764, but in Newcastle’s list of 10 May 1764 is classed as only a doubtful friend, nor did he belong to Wildman’s Club. By the winter of 1766-7, however, both Rockingham and Newcastle counted him as of their party.
On 22 June 1767 Sir William Meredith suggested Beauclerk to Portland as ‘an excellent man’ to contest Leicester at the forthcoming general election. Beauclerk acknowledged, wrote Lord George Cavendish to Portland on 16 August, ‘that he should like of all things to come into Parliament under your Grace’s auspices, though perhaps he should not like to be beholden to any other person for a seat’; yet ‘he was cautious of venturing where he could not see his way tolerably clearly’, and ‘could not be sure that he might not be drawn into an expense that would by no means agree with his circumstances’.3 On 3 Nov. 1767 Newcastle wrote to Rockingham:4
The Duke of Grafton, as Lord Bessborough tells me, does not choose Mr. Beauclerk at Thetford because he votes constantly with us, and Lord Bessborough thinks with reason that we ought to take care of him.
Nothing had been done about finding a seat for Beauclerk when, at the beginning of February, Newcastle had from a friend the disposal of a safe seat for £2,000.5 Rockingham consulted the Cavendishes, who told him ‘that Lord Bessborough says he shall give Mr. Beauclerk £1,000 but will not allow that the Cavendishes should add anything by way of getting him a seat’.6In the end Newcastle agreed to choose Beauclerk at Aldborough, ‘as a pure mark of attention to him and friendship and love to his father-in-law’.7
Beauclerk henceforth voted consistently with the Rockinghams, and attended the Opposition dinners at the Thatched House in May 1769 and January 1770. But he never belonged to the party’s inner circle, and seems to have taken little interest in politics. There is no record of his having spoken in the House, and he did not stand in 1774.
Sir Henry Etherington, whose ward subsequently married Beauclerk’s eldest son, wrote about Beauclerk on 29 Apr. 1788, after he had succeeded to the dukedom:8
I believe he can give his son nothing, his finances being in a ruined state that he was obliged to live abroad before he came to the title. He has been known at Newmarket. The Duke of Saint Albans is always hereditary Grand Falconer of England with a grant of £25,000 [sic] a year with it. This is all I believe that belongs to the title, and the Duke has nine children to provide for without any money to do it.
And from other correspondence it is clear that the lady’s fortune was one of her chief recommendations in the Duke’s eyes.
Saint Albans died 9 Feb. 1802.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: John Brooke
- 1. Letters, ed. Toynbee, v. 34-5.