FITZROY, George Henry, Earl of Euston (1760-1844).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

6 Apr. 1782 - 1784
1784 - 14 Mar. 1811

Family and Education

b. 14 Jan. 1760, 1st s. of Augustus Henry Fitzroy, 3rd Duke of Grafton, by 1st w.; bro. of Lord Charles Fitzroy I*, half-bro. of Lords John Edward Fitzroy* and William Fitzroy*. educ. Harrow 1770-6; Trinity Coll. Cambridge 1776-9. m. 16 Nov. 1784, Lady Charlotte Maria Waldegrave, da. and h. of James, 2nd Earl Waldegrave, 7s. 4da. suc. fa. as 4th Duke of Grafton 14 Mar. 1811; KG 20 Dec. 1834.

Offices Held

Col. W. Suff. militia 1780, 1802-8, in army during service 1794.

Ranger, St. James’s and Hyde parks 1794-1807; receiver-gen. of seals, KB and c.p. 1811-d.

Ld. lt. Suff. 1790-1844; hered. ranger, Whittlebury forest; King’s gamekeeper at Newmarket; recorder, Thetford 1811-35.

Biography

Euston’s father, as chancellor of the university, had assisted in his and William Pitt’s joint triumph at Cambridge in 1784. Thereafter Euston retained the seat as Pitt’s adherent, though alleged to be ‘in danger’ in the contest of 1790.1 His father was anxious, so Pitt was informed by Lord Buckingham on 13 Feb. 1789, for a place for his son, and Buckingham thought Euston ‘might be tempted to take the Mint’. Later that year Buckingham suggested him as a suitable successor to himself as lord lieutenant of Ireland. In 1790 Euston wished to be governor of Windsor Castle.2 On 19 Feb. 1791 Lord Camden informed Pitt of the duke’s lingering ambition for a ‘high situation in government’, which he thought might be met by a promise and a place for Euston. Pitt tried but failed to accommodate the father.3 Early in 1794 the duke wrote to Pitt threatening opposition; he received a soft answer and Euston a place, ‘by way of recompense for his steadiness’.4 He at once devised a plan to correct abuses in the administration of the royal parks. He became involved in militia duties. He threatened to resign when he disagreed with his father’s hostile views on the bills against sedition, but his father urged him for the family’s sake to remain in Parliament, 29 Nov. 1795.5

Euston had made no mark in Parliament. On 18 Apr. 1791 he voted for the abolition of the slave trade, to which he was a ‘staunch friend’ in 1806. He was at the head of the delegation of Members who congratulated the Duke of York on his marriage, 1 Feb. 1792. He voted with ministers on the loyalty loan, 1 June 1797, and for the assessed taxes, 4 Jan. 1798. He was consulted on militia policy and in 1798 went to Ireland with his regiment: while he was there Buckingham again suggested his fitness to be viceroy, but dismissed his military pretensions. The King, on the other hand, thought highly of his militia exertions.6

Euston followed Pitt’s line in supporting the Addington ministry. He was a steward at Pitt’s birthday dinner, 28 May 1802. On 22 Feb. 1803 he moved an address of congratulation to the King on his escape from the alleged plot against his life. The business of the Queensferry election committee, the usefulness of shorthand writers in committees and the residence of the clergy were his only other subjects that session. On 1 Mar. 1804 he informed his father that he proposed joining Pitt in his and Fox’s opposition to the ministry and would, as soon as the King had recovered from his illness, resign his place.7 After voting against government on Pitt’s defence motion of 15 Mar., he was reported to have done so, but his father dissuaded him.8 He was in the minority in the defence divisions that brought down Addington, speaking against the Irish militia offer bill on 13 Apr.

On Pitt’s return to power, Euston might have had the pay office or the mint, but elected to retain the rangership. There were rumours of a peerage. He assured Pitt, 12 May,

that the vote in Parliament of any man who shows himself not greedy of the emoluments of office is more worth having at all times and may be of more use at critical periods than double the number given by persons who have not had an opportunity of making this point perfectly clear.

He had warned Pitt the week before of the danger of returning to office ‘feebly instead of powerfully’, as a result of Eldon or Addington poisoning the King’s mind against ‘the extended scheme of government’ which, like Pitt, he had thought preferable, and of stirring up ‘an opposition of talents’. Euston’s father also favoured a broad-bottomed administration.9

Subsequent events confirmed Euston’s initial disappointment with Pitt’s second ministry. Pitt turned his brother-in-law John Smyth* out of office (with an apology to Euston); was reconciled with Addington, which he could not stomach; and produced a militia enlistment bill about which he had private misgivings, though he defended it in the House, 26 Mar. 1805.10 He stood by Pitt on the censure against Melville, 8 Apr., but a week later sent Lord Camden, for Pitt’s guidance, his reflections on the need for ‘an accession of strength’. An overture to the opposition now would obviate their intended attack on Pitt himself, but he would not be surprised if Pitt insisted on meeting it and soldiering on without recruits. He lamented ‘almost every arrangement he [Pitt] has either advised on or submitted to since Addington’s administration ceased’.11

On Pitt’s death, Euston urged his friends to apply for parliamentary payment of his debts. He was one of the six assistant mourners at the funeral. Meanwhile, despite initial misgivings, he had at his father’s instigation come to terms with the Grenville ministry. Writing to Lord Grenville on 18 Feb. 1806, he surmised that his being retained in his place was on the supposition of his support. This was ‘perfectly well founded’, but he reserved the right to endorse the measures promoted by Pitt. He received a reassuring answer, hoping for his ‘good opinion and friendship’. The test came on 30 Apr., when the House divided on the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act. He voted for repeal and evidently sought to justify his vote, though the reporter claimed that he spoke too low to be heard and understood him to speak in the opposite sense. His memorandum ‘Reasons for the political conduct of an individual’, dated 5 June 1806, justified his conduct by reference to Pitt’s wishes for a junction with Grenville and Fox the year before, and to the political reconciliation with his father that it entailed. By October he was regarded as a turncoat by the Pittites in opposition. That month Lord Albemarle failed to persuade him to exchange places, when he no longer wished to be master of buckhounds.12

On 23 Mar. 1807 Euston presented a university petition against the Catholic bill; but he remained loyal to the outgoing Whig ministry, resigning office with them and voting for Brand’s motion on 9 Apr. He went on to vote with them against the address, 26 June, and for Whitbread’s censure motion, 6 July 1807. This put paid to any notion that he would support the Portland ministry, which rashly claimed credit for his heading the poll in the contest for the university.13 On 27 July he criticized the militia transfer bill, but offered his acquiescence if transfer were limited to seven years, without the option of life service. He was absent in the session of 1808, but on 21 Feb. 1809 voted with opposition against the convention of Cintra. He was disappointed at the failure of negotiations between Perceval and the Whig leaders later that year, being ‘desirous of promoting a union of parties’.14 From Jan. to Mar. 1810 he voted or paired against ministers on the Scheldt expedition and was listed as one of their ‘thick and thin’ friends by the Whigs. He voted against Burdett’s committal to the Tower, 5 Apr., and surprised some by his vote for parliamentary reform on 21 May; four days before he had also voted for sinecure reform. He was absent, for health reasons, from the Regency debates, though anxious to know opposition tactics and circularized by them.15 His father died before he resumed attendance. In the Lords he remained a Whig: ‘the sacrifice of his borough patronage was cheerfully made at the shrine of the constitution’.16 He died 28 Sept. 1844.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne

Notes

  • 1. Cornwallis Corresp. ii. 42.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/325, f. 175; HMC Fortescue, i. 525, 527; Geo. III Corresp. i. 602.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/119, f. 163; Geo. III Corresp. i. 651.
  • 4. PRO 30/8/102, f. 152; 139, f. 195; Add. 51731, Caroline Fox to Holland [Mar. 1794].
  • 5. PRO 30/8/133, f. 164; W. Suff. RO, Grafton mss 423/361.
  • 6. HMC Fortescue, iv. 469, 503; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 2748.
  • 7. Grafton mss 423/906.
  • 8. NLS mss 11056, f. 56; Grafton mss 423/364, 365.
  • 9. Kent AO, Stanhope mss 731/5; PRO 30/8/133, ff. 184-9; Geo. III C