SEYMOUR, Henry (1729-1807), of Sherborne, Dorset
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Family and Education
b. 21 Oct. 1729, 1st s. of Francis Seymour, M.P., of Sherborne by Elizabeth, da. of Alexander Popham, M.P., of Littlecote, Wilts., wid. of Edward Richard Montagu, Visct. Hinchingbrooke; half-bro. of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, and cos. of Edward Seymour, 9th Duke of Somerset. educ. Westminster 1739-47; New Coll. Oxf. 1747; Grand Tour.1 m. (1) 24 July 1753, Lady Caroline Cowper (d. 2 June 1773), da. of William, 2nd Earl Cowper, 2da.; (2) 5 Oct.1775, Louise Thérèse, da. of La Martilière de Chançay, wid. of Comte Guillaume de Panthou, 2s. 1da. suc. fa. 1761.
Groom of the bedchamber 1763-5.
Seymour was returned unopposed for Totnes in 1763 and, through his half-brother Lord Sandwich, attached himself to Grenville’s Administration and was appointed to the bedchamber. On Grenville’s dismissal he resigned his place and went into opposition. A frequent speaker in the House, he spoke, 14 Jan. 1766, on Grenville’s motion for enforcing the Stamp Act and took a leading part in the opposition to its repeal. On 13 July 1767, when Rockingham was trying to form an Administration from all the Opposition parties, Seymour wrote to Grenville:2
I have just been informed of the state ... of public affairs, and as I have never had but one view or object, which is that of accompanying you through every scene of fortune as far as I can carry myself, I own I wish much to know from yourself if this arrangement now forming is agreeable to your sentiments ... Should your wishes to serve the public engage you again into the field of business and employment, I own I should prefer the setting at any Board at which you shall preside beyond any other inducement, provided this shall be your inclination as it is mine.
Soon after his election he had set about consolidating his interest at Totnes, and had applied to Grenville for the disposal of Government patronage in the borough. ‘I hope I need not add’, wrote Sandwich to Grenville on 4 Oct. 1763,3 ‘that the interest of Totnes ... cannot be in safer hands than his, and that you have no more determined friend with regard to the present system than himself.’ And on 6 Oct.:4 ‘He thinks he has secured himself in that borough for hereafter; and I suppose it is of much consequence to him to shew that he has the favour of the Government at his first setting out.’ But in the autumn of 1766 the Duke of Bolton set about re-establishing his interest at Totnes, and won over many of Seymour’s supporters. In January 1767 Seymour was ‘desired by some of his friends’ to stand for Somerset at a by-election, but did not do so.5 In July 1767 Sandwich agreed to bring him in for Huntingdon at the forthcoming general election: Seymour was to pay £800 for his seat, and in addition to lend Sandwich £1,000.6 This agreement was carried out, though by the time of the general election Sandwich and Seymour were politically opposed.
From 1768 to 1770 Seymour was one of the most active of the few followers who remained to Grenville. For the Parliament of 1768, 138 speeches by him are reported in Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, and Sandwich described him in 1770 as ‘one of the most violent politicians in England’. He remained in opposition after February 1771 when the majority of Grenville’s friends went over to the court, and said in a speech in the House on 27 Mar.:7 ‘I knew what Grenville thought of the present Administration ... I never could have joined them without being able to convince myself that was he alive he would do so too.’
He was elected for Evesham in 1774 after a contest, and continued in opposition after the American war broke out. But his attendance in the House seems to have been less frequent, and between 1774 and 1776 only two speeches are recorded. In 1777 he settled at Prunay in France, and in 1778 applied for legal domicile. He became the lover of Madame du Barry, separated from his wife, and did not return to England until driven out by the Revolution in 1792.
He died 14 Apr. 1807.