LEICESTER, Sir John Fleming, 5th Bt. (1762-1827), of Tabley House, nr. Knutsford, Cheshire.
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Family and Education
b. 4 Apr. 1762, 1st surv. s. of Sir Peter Leicester†, 4th Bt., by Catherine, da. and coh. of Sir William Fleming†, 3rd Bt., of Rydal, Westmld. educ. by Mr Lambert; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1781; Grand Tour 1785 (with Francis, 5th Duke of Bedford). m. 10 Nov. 1810, Georgina Maria, da. of Lt.-Col. Josiah Cottin, 2s. suc. fa. as 5th Bt. 12 Feb. 1770; cr. Baron de Tabley 10 July 1826.
Lt.-col. Cheshire militia 1784-96; col. Cheshire vol. cav. 1797, yeomanry 1803-20.
Sheriff, Cheshire 1804-5.
Leicester succeeded to an estate said to be worth £12,000 a year. ‘Almost from his infancy’, according to the Gentleman’s Magazine obituary, ‘he was devoted by personal attachment and congeniality of mind and pursuits to his present Majesty [George IV], by whom he was honoured with close and familiar intercourse.’1 On 9 Mar. 1790 he joined Brooks’s Club and on 12 Apr. the Whig Club. He seems to have been prepared to lay a deposit on a seat if the Whigs could supply one in 1790, and his return on the Holmes interest for Yarmouth in 1791 was at the recommendation of the Duke of Portland. He voted with opposition on Oczakov and the Russian armament, 12 Apr. 1791, 1 Mar. 1792, and was listed a supporter of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. No speech of his in the House is known. He may have been the ‘Lister’ entered among the Portland Whigs, but deleted, in December 1792. He was a seceder from the Whig Club and in February 1794 Portland assured the lord chancellor on behalf of Leicester’s patron that his Members gave ‘a decided and unequivocal support to the measures of administration’.2 Nevertheless, he was in the minority against the imperial loan, 5 Feb. 1795, and listed ‘con’ by the Treasury that year.
In 1796 Leicester was the guest of Sir William Pierce Ashe A’Court* for Heytesbury, in a seat at Portland’s disposal. His conduct, however, was independent. He joined the meeting of the ‘armed neutrality’ at Sir John Sinclair’s, 9 Mar. 1797. He joined opposition on the state of Ireland, 23 Mar., and on the naval mutiny, 10 May. He opposed the Irish union, 31 Jan., 7, 11 Feb. 1799, also voting for Grey’s motion critical of its effects at Westminster, 21 Apr. 1800. He was in the minorities that voted against the refusal to negotiate with France and against the restoration of the Bourbons as a war aim, 3, 28 Feb. 1800. He voted for the amendment to the address, 2 Feb., in the minority critical of the Ferrol expedition, 19 Feb., and for Grey’s censure motion, 25 Mar. 1801.
Leicester was out of Parliament from 1802 until January 1807 when he came in for the session on the interest of Joseph Foster Barham* for Stockbridge. This was arranged by the Prince of Wales’s friend Thomas Tyrwhitt*. In March there was speculation as to whether he might not have to resign the seat a week before Easter according to Foster Barham’s previous stipulation, because of a dispute over the terms (£4,000. in view of a debt of obligation of Tyrwhitt’s) submitted to William Adam’s arbitration.3 There is no trace of his activity in the House and it was his last session in it.
Leicester’s aim was a peerage, said to have been promised to him by the Prince Regent in 1811. He wrote to the Regent’s secretary, 19 Mar. 1813:
No one knows better than you the sacrifices I have made in three Parliaments or the circumstances attendant upon the last, with the view solely of lending every feeble assistance in my power to the Prince Regent.
Renewing his application to the Regent, 19 Apr. 1817, he mentioned the dormant Irish title of Slane to which he had a claim. The prime minister informed him that the Regent was ‘fully sensible’ of his ‘public spirit and loyalty’, but could not engage anything. When his wish was not gratified on the Regent’s succession to the throne, he complained to Lord Sidmouth (21 July 1820) that he felt ‘entirely neglected’, having been ‘in three successive Parliaments ... at the King’s particular wish, expressed to me by Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt who is well acquainted with the extent of these transactions’. He threatened to give up the Cheshire yeomanry, on which he had spent large sums, and hinted that what riled him most was that Thomas Cholmondeley* ‘to whom in family, fortune, or zeal I cannot yield’ was given a peerage and he not. When his wish was at length gratified in 1826, it was glossed over as being ‘wholly from the voluntary impulses of his gracious Sovereign’s goodwill, entirely unconnected with all political considerations or any other interest whatsoever’.4
Leicester had two other claims to fame: he was the best pistol shot in England and he was ‘the greatest patron of the native school of painting that our island ever possessed’, helping to found, in 1805, the institution for the encouragement of British art.5 He died 18 June 1827.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Gent. Mag. (1827), ii. 273.
- 2. Ginter, Whig Organization, 215; Portland mss, PwF9253.
- 3. Bodl. Clarendon dep. c. 431, bdle. 5, Foster-Barham’s drafts, n.d. ; Blair Adam mss, Tyrwhitt to Adam, 13 Mar. 1807.
- 4. Colchester, iii. 436; Geo. IV Letters, i. 235; iii. 1237; Add. 38266, ff. 23, 59; 38286, f. 220; Gent. Mag. (1827), ii. 273.
- 5. Oracle, 15 Oct. 1795; DNB.