NUGENT, George (1757-1849), of Westhorpe House, Little Marlow, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. 10 June 1757, illegit. s. of Edmund Nugent† of Gosfield, Essex. educ. Charterhouse; R.M.A. Woolwich. m. 15 Nov. 1797, Maria, da. of Cortlandt Skinner, attorney-gen. of New Jersey, 2s. 2da. cr. Bt. 28 Nov. 1806; KB 1 Feb. 1813; GCB 2 Jan. 1815.
MP [I] 1800.
Ensign, 39 Ft. 1773; lt. 7 Ft. 1775; capt. 57 Ft. 1778, maj. 1782; lt.-col. 97 Ft. 1783, half-pay 1783-7; lt.-col. 13 Ft. 1787; a.d.c. to ld. lt. [I] 1787-9; lt.-col. 4 Drag. Gds. 1789; capt. and lt.-col. 2 Ft. Gds. 1790; col. 85 Ft. 1794; maj.-gen. 1796; command at Belfast 1798; adj.-gen. [I] 1799-1801; lt.-gov. and c.-in-c. Jamaica 1801-6; lt.-gen. 1803; col. 62 Ft. 1805, 6 Ft. 1806; c.-in-c. India 1811-13; gen. 1813; command Bengal 1813-14; f.m. 1846.
Capt. and keeper, St. Mawes Castle 1796-d.
Nugent, a nephew of the 1st Marquess of Buckingham, saw action in America before becoming aide-de-camp to his uncle during his second period as lord lieutenant of Ireland, when he became involved in a running battle between Buckingham and George III over military promotions. The marquess failed in his repeated efforts to secure for Nugent a colonelcy of cavalry and was forced to settle for a lieutenant-colonelcy of dragoon guards, obtained by the intercession of Pitt and Lord Grenville. Nugent figured in his uncle’s electoral schemes when a dissolution was expected late in 1788, and at the general election of 1790 he replaced his brother at Buckingham.1
For three years Nugent, according to his patron, gave ‘constant support in Parliament’ to the ministry. In 1791 he was listed among opponents of the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. On the outbreak of war with France he served on the Continent and returned in the autumn of 1793 to become embroiled in a further wrangle between Buckingham and the King over the advancement of his career. Nugent sought to achieve his object of a full colonelcy either through an appointment as aide-de-camp to the King, or by raising a corps of volunteers. Following protracted negotiations, in which the former plan was scotched, Lord Grenville, observing that Pitt was ‘personally well disposed towards Nugent’, advised him to press on with the alternative and he was gazetted colonel of his Buckinghamshire corps, later the 85th Foot, in 1794. After a brief resumption of active service in Europe, he was appointed to the Irish staff in April 1795. His demands for a major-generalship were conceded the following year, when, after being returned by his uncle for both Buckingham and St. Mawes, he opted to sit for the former.2 For the whole of this Parliament he was absent, first in Ireland with commands in the south and, during the rebellion, at Belfast; as adjutant-general from 1799 to 1801, and in Jamaica, as lieutenant-governor and commander-in-chief from April 1801. He relinquished his seat in 1802, as Buckingham observed, ‘that his military objects might not be blended with the political line of his friends’. On his return in February 1806, the King refused him, on the grounds of his illegitimacy, the red ribbon which he coveted, but he was compensated with a baronetcy later in the year.3
He returned to Parliament in 1806 on Buckingham’s interest at Aylesbury, supported the ‘Talents’ though he voted against the slave trade abolition bill, 23 Feb., voted for Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge, 9 Apr. 1807, and was head of the poll after a contest at Aylesbury at the ensuing general election. With the rest of the Grenville connexion Nugent, who held military commands first at Exeter, then at Dover, between 1806 and 1809, opposed the Portland and Perceval administrations, but his military duties made him only an occasional attender. He was present to vote against the address, 26 June 1807 and again 23 Jan. 1810; for the Scheldt inquiry in 1810 and against the Regency proposals, 1 Jan. 1811. Nugent did not follow the Grenvilles’ political line undeviatingly. He approved the convention of Cintra, arguing, 21 Feb. 1809, in his only recorded speech before 1820, that it was ‘founded upon the insufficient equipments of the army’, and was listed in the minority who divided against the committal of Burdett, 5 Apr. 1810. Absent through illness when the issue of the Duke of York’s alleged abuse of army patronage was originally raised in 1809, he intended to vote against Milton’s motion protesting against his reappointment as commander-in-chief, 6 June 1811, but at Lord Buckingham’s ‘pressing’ request he stayed away.4 He supported Grattan’s motion for consideration of the Roman Catholic petitions, 31 May 1811.
Nugent went as commander-in-chief to India in 1811 and gave up his seat at the dissolution the following year. On the appointment of Moira as governor-general and commander-in-chief in November 1812, he was compensated with the red ribbon denied to him by George III, and on Moira’s arrival in October 1813 he was induced to remain and to take the provincial command. Harmony was short-lived, however, for Nugent returned in December 1814, ‘skin-full of venom against Lord Moira’, who complained bitterly to the Regent of Nugent’s ‘hostile practices’.5
He reappeared in Parliament in 1818, once again as Member for Buckingham, and joined the rest of the Grenville group in their movement towards administration. After voting with several of his associates for inquiry into the continuance of Bank restriction, 2 Feb. 1819, he cast no further recorded opposition votes during the 1818 Parliament and is known to have voted with government on the Windsor establishment, 22 Feb. 1819. His application to Lord Liverpool in July 1819 for the command in Ireland was unsuccessful and, nettled, he stated at length his claim to ‘some mark of approbation from his Majesty’s government, to save my character from undeserved obloquy’.6 He died 11 Mar. 1849.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. HMC Fortescue, i. 337-45, 363, 437-57; Geo. III Corresp. i. 502, 507; PRO 30/8/325, ff. 130-85.
- 2. HMC Fortescue, ii. 441-90, 647-50; iii. 134-6; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, ii. 245-7; PRO 30/8/140, ff. 63-71.
- 3. Geo. III Corresp. iv. 2865, 3088, 3093; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iii. 363-6; HMC Fortescue, viii. 362-3, 426; Camden mss 027/4, 8, 9.