FREEMAN HEATHCOTE, Thomas (1769-1825), of Embley, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 3 Sept. 1769, 1st s. of Sir William Heathcote, 3rd Bt.*, of Hursley by Frances, da. and coh. of John Thorpe of Embley. m. 27 June 1799, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Edwards Freeman† of Batsford, Glos. and took name of Freeman before Heathcote, s.p. suc. fa. as 5th Bt. 26 June 1819.
Heathcote entered Parliament on the Kenrick interest, at the same time seeking a peerage through Lord Malmesbury, who advised him to abandon the idea, as the King had already rejected 53 such applications. Heathcote’s father, who wished for a peerage, had abandoned the Hampshire Pittites to their fate in the election of 1806, after 16 years as Member, and neither father nor son had been active in the ensuing contest. Nor could they take any credit for the restoration of Pittite Members in 1807. But when one of them, St. John Mildmay, died in November 1808, Malmesbury wrote to the premier:
My idea would be to bring forward Mr Heathcote, eldest son of Sir William; he is in every [way] a fit person, near forty, very steady and sensible with a considerable property of his own and heir to a very large one (in Hampshire). He is well disposed towards government and I have reason to believe ready to offer himself if encouraged.
Portland concurred and, although a token opposition was offered by the Hon. William Herbert*, who maintained that Heathcote’s manner of taking the Chiltern Hundreds during the recess disqualified him, he secured his return, Herbert foregoing a petition against it. In appreciation of Malmesbury’s encouragement, he readily abdicated any claim to Isle of Wight patronage.1
No speech of Heathcote’s in the House is known. He voted with Perceval’s ministry on the address, 23 Jan. 1810, and after being absent on the 26th, on the Scheldt questions of 23 Feb. and 30 Mar. He also opposed the discharge of the radical Gale Jones, 16 Apr. The Whigs had listed him ‘doubtful’ from their standpoint. On 8 July 1811 George Rose assured Perceval, ‘Mr Heathcote has promised to be in the House on this day se’ennight, notwithstanding its being the first day of the races’.2 But his only other known vote before the dissolution was against Catholic relief, 22 June 1812. He was taken ill the day before the ensuing election but, to his relief, nothing came of William Cobbett’s threat to disturb the peace of the county.3 He was then listed a Treasury supporter. He opposed Catholic relief throughout in 1813 (by pair on 24 May) and again on 9 May 1817. On 31 May 1815 he opposed ministers on the Regent’s expenditure. This rebellion had no sequel, for on 20 Feb. following he took six weeks’ leave for illness, but in December 1816 a Whig agent reported ‘Heathcote if he lives will vote with us’, with reference to the swing in public opinion in the county.4 A member of the Pitt Club, he did not change sides. He was in the majority against reducing the Admiralty board, 25 Feb. 1817, and for the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June. No vote of his is known in 1818, though the prime minister invited him to Fife House, 13 Apr., to hear the ministerial proposals for the ducal marriage grants.5
His only known votes in the Parliament of 1818 were against public lotteries, 4 May 1819, and against the opposition censure motion, 18 May. Later that year, in one of several letters to Lord Liverpool for patronage in Hampshire, he hinted at difficulties in keeping up his interest there.6 Both he and his colleague retired in the face of a contest in 1820. He died 21 Feb. 1825.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: Brian Murphy
- 1. Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 389; Malmesbury mss, Palmerston to Malmesbury, 12 Nov. 1806, Malmesbury to Portland, 12, 16 Nov., 20 Dec. 1808, Palmerston to Malmesbury, 21 Jan. ; Heathcote to FitzHarris, n.d.
- 2. NLS mss 2796, f. 3.
- 3. Malmesbury mss, Heathcote to FitzHarris, n.d. .
- 4. Grey mss, Goodwin to Grey, 16 Dec. 1816; Add. 51644, Lady Holland to Horner, 30 Dec. 1816.
- 5. Add. 38366, f. 133.
- 6. Add. 38269, f. 168; 38270, f. 293; 38271, f. 40; 38280, ff. 103, 179.