SEYMOUR CONWAY (afterwards SEYMOUR), Hon. Hugh (1759-1801), of Hambledon, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 29 Apr. 1759, 5th s. of Francis, 1st Earl of Hertford, and bro. of Lord George Seymour*, Lord Robert Seymour*, Francis Seymour Conway, Visct. Beauchamp*, and Hon. William Seymour Conway*. m. 3 Apr. 1786, Lady Anne Horatia Waldegrave, da. and coh. of James, 2nd Earl Waldegrave, 5s. 2da. Styled Lord Hugh Seymour Conway 1793-4 and dropped name of Conway on d. of fa. 14 June 1794.
Entered RN 1770, lt. 1776, cdr. 1778, capt. 1779; col. marines 1794-5; r.-adm. 1795, v.-adm. 1799; c.-in-c. Jamaica station 1799-d.
Master of robes and keeper of privy purse to the Prince of Wales May 1787-Mar. 1795; ld. of bed-chamber to the Prince of Wales Mar.-June 1795; ld. of Admiralty Mar. 1795-Sept. 1798.
Maj. Warws. militia 1793.
Seymour and his wife, step-daughter of the King’s brother, the Duke of Gloucester, were close friends of the Prince of Wales and Mrs Fitzherbert. It was to the Prince’s intervention that he owed his return for Wendover, which was controlled by the Foxite John Barker Church*, at the general election of 1790. Shortly afterwards he was accidentally struck on the head by the sounding lead during training of his ship’s crew at Spithead. He was incapacitated for at least a year and there is no record of his having voted with the Whig opposition in 1791 and 1792. The Morning Chronicle of 13 Apr. 1791 listed him among opposition Members who had been absent from the previous day’s division on the Oczakov crisis; soon afterwards Sir Gilbert Elliot listed him ‘unable to attend’, though favourable to the repeal of the Test Act, and in December 1792 he was numbered among those who were ‘supposed attached’ to the Duke of Portland, with an additional note of his connexion with the Prince. Although he was included in Windham’s list of potential recruits for a ‘third party’ early in 1793, he does not appear to have taken any active part in the venture.
Before he sailed with the Mediterranean fleet on the outbreak of war, Seymour sought an explanation from the Prince of the recent ‘diminution’ in the warmth of his friendship. Harmony appears to have been restored by the time he returned to England with despatches from Toulon in September 1793. He took part in discussions with Windham and Thomas Pelham on a scheme to invade France in February 1794, went back to sea and served with distinction under Howe in the actions of 28, 29 May and 1 June.1
In December 1794, when he was about to return to active service, Seymour complained to John Payne, the Prince’s private secretary, of ‘the false and base part the Prince has acted towards me’. The cause of the outburst is not entirely clear, but it seems likely that the Prince, under the influence of Lady Jersey, whom Seymour denigrated as ‘that bitch’, had plans to turn him out of his post in the Household. Using the pretext of his impending appointment to a seat at the Admiralty board, where he was to act as technical adviser to Lord Spencer, he tried to force the issue by formally requesting the Prince’s permission to accept the post and at the same time retain his Household office, although, as he told Payne, ‘my going to the Admiralty will (between ourselves) I believe depend upon myself’. His eldest brother, the 2nd Marquess of Hertford, intervened on his behalf, pointing out that ‘exclusive of the professional credit which this appointment would do him, the salary would be a very great object to him’. Before he sailed he was assured by the Prince that there was no objection to his holding both posts, but shortly afterwards Hertford was angered to learn that the Prince had decided to remove his brother from his position as master of the robes to a lordship of the bedchamber. His protests against what he described to his brother as ‘this vile trick to injure you’ failed to move the Prince, who insisted that he was advancing Seymour and not, as Hertford would have it, superseding him. In his absence Seymour was dismissed altogether from the Prince’s household when it was reorganized after his marriage to Caroline of Brunswick. In 1796 the Prince held Seymour, as ‘one of the primitive agents of Mrs Fitzherbert’, primarily responsible for a public demonstration of support for the Princess of Wales after his separation from her:
I need not ... state afresh the invidious light Lord Hertford and the relations of Lord Hugh wished to throw upon my raising Lord Hugh in my family and which they ought all to have taken as a compliment; Lord Hugh’s humble behaviour upon it when he returned, and the insolent tone he then adopted towards me when he had got a place at the ... Admiralty, and which he has continued ever since.’2
Seymour took part in the action off Lorient on 23 June 1795, and his only known speech in the House was his reply to a vote of thanks, 2 Nov. 1795. Returned unopposed for Portsmouth in 1796, nominally as the Admiralty candidate, but with the approval of the local patron, he invested £2,000 in the 1797 loyalty loan and voted for the triple assessment, 4 Jan. 1798. When he went to the Caribbean as commander on the Jamaica station in 1799, Mrs Fitzherbert took charge of his youngest child, Mary, born the previous year. The Prince of Wales’s generosity to her, and his energetic support of the successful legal battle to allow Mrs Fitzherbert to retain custody of her after her parents’ death, gave rise to rumours that he had cuckolded his former friend. In April 1800 Seymour wrote to Pitt of his desire to come home and his disappointment at his spoils in prize money, which ‘very little exceeds £7,000 while half the world believe it to amount to ten times that sum’. He was not relieved and took part in the capture of Surinam in August 1800. When his wife, with only a few weeks to live, returned to England in June 1800, she told the King that Seymour would be ‘truly gratified’ by a peerage, but he died on board ship off Jamaica, 11 Sept. 1801.3