WYNDHAM O'BRIEN, Percy (?1723-74), of Shortgrove, Essex
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Family and Education
b. ?1723, 2nd s. of Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Bt. M.P., of Orchard Wyndham, Som. by Lady Katherine Seymour, da. of Charles, 6th Duke of Somerset; bro. of Charles, 2nd Earl of Egremont. educ. Winchester 1737-40; St. Mary’s Hall, Oxf. 17 Nov. 1740, aged 17; Grand Tour. unm. suc. to estates of Henry, 7th Earl of Thomond [I], husband of his mother’s sis., 20 Sept. 1741, and assumed add. name of O’Brien; cr. Earl of Thomond [I] 11 Dec. 1756.
Ld. of Treasury Dec. 1755-Nov. 1756; P.C. 8 July 1757; treasurer of Household July 1757-Nov. 1761, cofferer Nov. 1761-5; ld. lt. Som. 1764-73; recorder, Taunton May 1765.
In all the four boroughs for which Wyndham O’Brien sat, he was returned on the Egremont interest, in 1754 and 1761 with Government support. In the House he followed his brother who under George III adhered to their brother-in-law, George Grenville. In 1754 Wyndham O’Brien was classed as a Government supporter and remained so after Pitt and the Grenvilles had gone into opposition in the autumn of 1755. On 13 Nov. he seconded the Address1 (though not first choice for it); and in December 1755 was made a lord of the Treasury. On the change of Government in November 1756 Devonshire offered him an Irish peerage—this ‘was not what I should have solicited’, wrote O’Brien to Newcastle, 21 Nov.,2 but he accepted. In the Newcastle-Pitt Government Thomond was made treasurer of the Household. ‘O’Brien likes his stick’, wrote Newcastle, 21 June;3 and James Lowther, into whose control Cockermouth had passed completely in September 1756, ‘acted handsomely and made no difficulties’ about his re-election.4 But at the general election of 1761 Thomond had to be found another seat, and with Newcastle’s support5 was returned for both Minehead and Winchelsea.
When on Pitt’s resignation in October 1761 George Grenville was pressed to assume the leadership in the Commons, ‘to give him some éclat at first’ he wished Thomond ‘might be made cofferer’6—which was done. When Egremont died, 21 Aug. 1763, Thomond looked after his son and heir, a boy of eleven, and the Egremont interest at Winchelsea and Taunton; and on the death of Lord Poulett, November 1764, was appointed lord lieutenant of Somerset—in October 1763, at Thomond’s request, Grenville had spoken about it to the King who ‘consented to it very graciously, and said he supposed he meant to hold it for the young Lord Egremont’.7
On Grenville’s dismissal Thomond immediately resigned;8 went into opposition with him; voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act; against the Chatham Administration over the land tax; and at the general election of 1768 was opposed by Government candidates at Winchelsea, and threatened with a very unpleasant petition; which was, however, withdrawn on 2 Mar. 1769. Whether his voting with the Government over Wilkes’s expulsion, 3 Feb., when the Grenvilles voted with the Opposition, had any connexion with that withdrawal is uncertain. On 5 Mar. the Duke of Grafton mentioned him to the King as having voted ‘in the minority the other day’9—most probably in the division over the civil list debts on 1 Mar. Between April 1769 and January 1770 Thomond’s name appears in every division list on the Opposition side. After Grenville’s death, 13 Nov. 1770, when his following was disintegrating, in ‘minutes of arrangements’ drawn up by North and communicated to them, Thomond was bracketed with Lords Lyttelton and Hyde ‘to be first considered whenever vacancies arise of places suitable for them, as Lord North doth not exclude Cabinet places but doth not bind himself to them’.10 Thomond did not enter Government, and no further vote by him is recorded except on 25 Feb. 1774, in favour of making the Grenville Election Act permanent; over the royal marriage bill, March 1772, he was listed by Robinson first as ‘doubtful, present’, and on the 8th as ‘contra, present’. During his 29 years in Parliament only two speeches by him are recorded, both of a formal character.
He died on 21 July 1774, according to Horace Walpole ‘possessed of near £10,000 a year, and £50,000 in money’.11 George Selwyn wrote to Lord Carlisle, 23 July: ‘I had an acquaintance with him of above thirty years ... He was a sensible honest man, and when in spirits, and with his intimate friends, I think a very agreeable companion, but had too much reserve to make a friendship with.’12
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Add. 32860, ff. 302-3, 414-15, 434, 471.
- 2. Add. 32869, f. 110.
- 3. Add. 32871, f. 397.
- 4. Devonshire to Newcastle, 28 June, ibid. f. 421.
- 5. Add. 32920, f. 220.
- 6. Newcastle to Bedford, 30 Oct. 1761, Bedford Corresp. iii. 66-68.
- 7. Grenville Diary, 11 Oct. 1763, Grenville Pprs. ii. 212-13.
- 8. Ibid. 216-17.
- 9. Fortescue, ii. 86.
- 10. Abergavenny mss; Jas. Harris’s memorandum, 27 Jan. 1771, Malmesbury mss.
- 11. To Mann, 3 Aug. 1774.
- 12. HMC Carlisle , 268.