HERBERT, Hon. William (1778-1847), of Park Place, Mitcham, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 12 Jan. 1778, 3rd s. of Henry Herbert†, 1st Earl of Carnarvon, and bro. of Hon. Charles Herbert* and Henry George Herbert, Lord Porchester*. educ. Eton 1790-5; Christ Church, Oxf. 1795, BA Exeter 1798, MA Merton 1802, BCL 1808, DCL 1808, BD 1840; Inner Temple 1800. m. 17 May 1806, Letitia Emily Dorothea, da. of Joshua, 5th Visct. Allen [I], 2s. 2da.
Commr. inquiry [I] Sept.-Dec. 1806.
Adv. Doctors’ Commons 24 Oct. 1808, res. 24 May 1814.
Took holy orders 1814; rector of Spofforth, Yorks. 1814-40; dean of Manchester 1840-d.
Capt. Highclere vols. 1803.
Herbert proved to be a man of many talents, but politics were not his forte. Before entering the House, he published his own verse in English, Greek and Latin, and pioneer translations from Icelandic literature.1 When his father took ornamental office in the Grenville ministry, he was disappointed that no preferment was offered to William. Windham at the War Office admitted that he might have thought of him as an under-secretary, 16 Feb. 1806; but a month later his name was not mentioned when a like vacancy occurred at Dublin Castle. The best that could be found for him was a place on the Irish commission of inquiry.2
Before Herbert took up these duties, he was disqualified by election to Parliament. His father, encouraged by the premier’s nephew Lord Temple, put him up for the county. George Rose*, who led the campaign against the ministerial candidates, was reluctant as far as Herbert was concerned. ‘Herbert is my intimate friend’, he assured Lord Lowther, ‘and has frequently been a guest here’; to the bishop of Lincoln he wrote: ‘He is not only very highly respected in point of talents but is as honourable and amicable a young man as I have ever met with. Mr Pitt was much struck with him when he met him here.’3 He was returned after an expensive contest and, according to Rose, could not have risked vacating his seat if invited to take office.4 On 13 Feb. 1807 he opposed the petition against his return; but his maiden speech was in justification of the re-expulsion by the House of John Fenton Cawthorne, 23 Jan., and a few days later he was a critic of the oak bark bill. He was appointed to the finance committee on 10 Feb. On 18 Feb. he opposed the solicitor-general’s freehold estates bill. He was listed a staunch friend to the abolition of the slave trade. He voted for Brand’s motion following the dismissal of the ministry, 9 Apr. 1807, and was defeated at the ensuing election. He made an unsuccessful bid for the same seat on a vacancy in December 1808.
Herbert’s father had to retrench after spending over £15,000 on Hampshire elections, so he aimed to support himself by becoming a civilian. In November 1810, anticipating Lord Grenville’s return to power, he applied to him to become King’s advocate. He found that ‘a very few hundreds a year’ was the most he could expect to make otherwise. Grenville, even if he had taken office, would have disappointed him, for there were superior claimants.5 In June 1811 when his elder brother Lord Porchester succeeded to the title, he replaced him as Member for Cricklade, where the new Earl was about to sell his interest. He was reluctant to do so and would readily have made way for Lord Andover*.
Herbert, who joined Brooks’s Club on 9 July 1811 and voted against the bank-note bill on 19 July, acted steadily with opposition in the one parliamentary session that remained to him, except that on 23 Jan. 1812 he was an advocate for the inferior ecclesiastical courts, then under attack, and on 28 Jan. acted as spokesman for the head of his profession, Sir William Scott*, on the Insolvent Debtors Act. He gave moral support to Brougham in his motion on the droits of Admiralty, 21 Jan. On 14 Feb. he opposed legislation against the Luddite machine breakers, but failed to secure an inquiry into their distress, by 40 votes to 15. On 17 Feb. he was teller against the framework bill. He criticized the licence trade under the orders in council, 3 Mar., as it led to perjury, but failed in a bid to launch an inquiry into it, 16 Apr. (On 14 July he called for the abandonment of the application of the orders in council to the USA.) He voted for Catholic relief, 24 Apr.; for sinecure reform; for Irish tithe reform, 23 June; and his last vote was against the leather tax, 26 June 1812.
In 1814 Herbert took holy orders and was presented with a valuable living by his uncle the 3rd Earl of Egremont. The rest of his life was devoted to literary and botanical pursuits. ‘One of the most learned and accomplished persons of his age,’6 he died 28 May 1847.