FITZMAURICE, Hon. Thomas (1742-93), of Llewenny Hall, Denb.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. July 1742, 2nd s. of John Fitzmaurice (afterwards Petty), 1st Earl of Shelburne [I], and bro. of William, Visct. Fitzmaurice. educ. Eton 1755-8; Glasgow 1759; St. Mary Hall, Oxf. 1761; M. Temple 1762, called 1768. m. 21 Dec. 1777, Lady Mary O’Brien, da. of Murrough, 5th Earl of Inchiquin [I], by Mary, s.j. Countess of Orkney [S] (from whom she inh. the title in 1790), 1s.
Sheriff, Denb. 1781-2.
In August 1762, shortly after Fitzmaurice came of age, his brother, Lord Shelburne, arranged his return for Calne in place of Daniel Bull who was bought off with an office. In Parliament Fitzmaurice naturally followed Shelburne’s lead; in February 1764 he was included by Harris among ‘deserters this session’: he voted against Grenville’s Administration. He is only twice reported to have spoken during this Parliament: on 23 Jan. 1765 he defended the conduct of Shelburne ‘who ... did not retire to faction but adhered to his principles’;1 and, 29 Jan. 1765, on general warrants. About this William Baker jun. commented: ‘Mr. Fitzmaurice ... gave us a speech on I know not what which he had studied all the summer at his looking glass.’2 He supported the Chatham Administration of which his brother was a leading member. In 1768 Fitzmaurice canvassed Oxford University, but withdrew some time before the poll, and was again returned unopposed for Calne. During this Parliament he voted regularly with Opposition. In a series of speeches he opposed attempts to obtain relief from subscription to the 39 Articles, maintaining that ‘established religion must be dependent in a very high degree upon it’. On 24 Mar. 1772 Fitzmaurice condemned the royal marriage bill as ‘totally unnecessary’; nobody understood it, and he found it ‘disgustful, unconstitutional, in all its parts repugnant to the spirit of our constitution’.3
In 1774 Fitzmaurice was returned unopposed on his brother’s interest at Wycombe. His attendance at the House now became infrequent and by 1779 had ceased altogether. Instead, faced with unproductive Irish estates and financial difficulties, he set up as a linen merchant, and established a bleaching factory at Llewenny, the Welsh estate which he purchased in 1776. He wrote to Shelburne, 26 Nov. 1779, to explain that his prolonged absence from Wycombe, which had annoyed his constituents, was caused by ‘the complicated distressed situation of Irish affairs ... and my own very particular concerns in the linen trade’. In January 1780 Shelburne told Fitzmaurice that he could only continue at Wycombe if he could give the place more attention, but added: ‘I wish it were in my power to bring you in where attention might not be requisite, which your distance and possible avocations render inconvenient to you.’ But this could only be arranged at considerable expense. On 1 Feb. 1780 Fitzmaurice wrote that he was aware of ‘the impropriety and unfairness of my continuing longer than for the present Parliament an indolent dog upon your parliamentary interest’. He regretted that it was necessary to give up his seat but ‘anything like regular attendance’ at the House would almost certainly be impossible for some time to come.
Upon these accounts, as well as upon a much more material one, namely my very great distress for money, I cannot help being of opinion that purchase of a seat for the ensuing Parliament would be except as to worldly appearance as useless as the advancement of a sum sufficient would ... be embarrassing.4
He hoped that in a few years his circumstances would have improved enough to enable him to re-enter Parliament; but he does not seem ever to have stood again. On 20 July 1785 Richard Twining wrote to his brother about Fitzmaurice:5
He has plunged himself into a business which might make even a tradesman tremble. He is a bleacher of linen. The buildings which he has erected, and the machines and apparatus which he has placed in them are really astonishing. He has a shop at Chester at which he sells his linen when it is bleached.
In 1790 his wife succeeded to her mother’s estate of Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, and Fitzmaurice seems to have made his home there. A picture of him in the last year of his life, broken in health and in reduced circumstances, is given by his nephew Lord Wycombe, who wrote to his father on 10 Apr. 1792:6
I think him on the whole dejected and disgusted, not so much with the fatiguing business to which he is so unaccountably attached as with the world at large. His London and his foreign business he intends to sacrifice, but will not I believe be willingly prevailed on to give up the rest. In the meantime he says his plans are those of strict economy, and that he now designs to let his house at Cliveden; and to retrench to such a pitch as to pay off £5,000 a year. He told me that he rather wished for death, and that he thought his life was not to be of long duration. He also talked to me about a future state and of the education of his son; I was not fortunate to comprehend his reasoning on either of these subjects.
After his death on 28 Oct. 1793 the Gentleman’s Magazine wrote (1793, p. 1053): ‘He formerly lived on the most intimate terms with Johnson, Hawkesworth, and Garrick ... He was the gentleman who from his extensive concerns in the linen manufactory, was called the Royal Merchant.’