WROTTESLEY, Henry (1772-1825), of Lincoln's Inn, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 26 Oct. 1772, 2nd s. of Maj.-Gen. Sir John Wrottesley, 8th Bt.†, of Wrottesley, Staffs. by Hon. Frances Courtenay, da. of William Courtenay† 1st Visct. Courtenay; bro. of Sir John Wrottesley, 9th Bt.* educ. Westminster 1786; Christ Church, Oxf. 1791; L. Inn 1793, called 1798. unm.
Cursitor in Chancery 1795-d.; commr. of bankrupts 1799-d.; solicitor to Board of Control Feb. 1806-Aug. 1811.
Capt. St. James’s vols. 1798, Staffs. militia 1803, maj. 1809.
Wrottesley, a barrister on the Chester circuit, was the younger brother of the Member for Lichfield, who through his parliamentary patron the Marquess of Stafford, applied to Lord Grenville to make him solicitor to the Board of Control in February 1806. The request was granted. Grenville, who referred to the office as ‘counsel to the India Board’, noted that it would give him ‘£300 p.a. and leaves him in his profession’. Wrottesley was to have stood for Honiton on his cousin the 3rd Viscount Courtenay’s interest in April 1806, but declined. To his gratification the Portland administration did not deprive him of his place, as he had expected. In 1809 he was of service to Grenville in his canvass of Oxford University. In December 1810 he was Stafford’s nominee for a vacancy at Brackley, where he replaced a ministerialist fellow lawyer.1
Wrottesley soon made his commitment to the Whig opposition apparent, voting with them on the Regency, 1, 21 Jan. 1811. On 14 Feb. he joined Brooks’s Club and on 22 Feb. he voted against the Irish secretary’s treatment of the Catholics. His sympathy with them further appeared in his votes of 11 Mar., 16, 31 May and 11 June 1811, and on 19 July he voted against the bank-note bill. This conduct soon left him poorer by ‘£300 p.a.’ He was reported by Lady Williams Wynn to be
sadly in the dumps ... at having lost his appointment of solicitor to the Board of Control which he had expected would have been taken from him at first, but having then escaped, he thought himself safe. It is taken away on the plea of reform, and of course they are too glad to take a friend of ours to make the example of.
Grenville also decried it as a convenient form of political revenge.2 In his second session he first spoke against the framework bill, deploring the extension of capital punishment, 17 Feb. 1812. He voted for inquiry into the droits of Admiralty, 21 Jan.; for the regulation of offices held in reversion, 7 Feb.; for the abolition of McMahon’s sinecure, 24 Feb., and for the sinecure offices bill, 4 May. He opposed the orders in council, 3 Mar. He objected to the proposed grant to the royal princesses, 23 Mar., but the same day informed the House that he ‘thought that it would be a hard case, in times like the present, for any man, who, by accident, might become a bankrupt, to be compelled to vacate his seat’. He played some part in framing the charitable donations registry bill, which he defended, 29 Apr. On 1 May he opposed the barracks estimates. He voted for a stronger administration, 21 May. Next day he took three weeks’ leave of absence for local militia duties. On 15 June he suggested that if London were to be exempt from the sinecure offices bill, all other corporations should be likewise; and tried to secure exemption for cursitors in Chancery (of whom he was one).
Wrottesley remained in opposition during the first session of the Parliament of 1812. He voted for the sinecure regulation bill, 29 Mar. 1813, and for Catholic relief throughout, acting as chairman in committee, 9 Mar. He became a more frequent speaker in debate, but mostly on points of law and procedure. He voted for a committee on the civil list, 27 May 1813—his last obvious vote with the Whig opposition. He was in the minority against Christian missions to India, 12 July 1813. Next session he spoke on indifferent questions, but did not appear in the minority lists. Although on failing to secure an adjournment of the debate on Lord Cochrane’s conduct, 5 July, he allegedly voted against the expulsion, this vote was contradicted.3 He was convinced of Cochrane’s guilt and opposed interference by the House to mitigate his sentence, 19 July. There were indications that he shared his patron Lord Stafford’s drift towards support of administration: although he again voted for Catholic relief, 30 May 1815, he was in no other minority. He also spoke in favour of the local militia bill, 9 May. In the session of 1816 he voted with ministers on the army estimates and the property tax, 6 and 18 Mar.; also on the civil list, 6 and 24 May, and on the public revenue bill, 17 June. Some former associations faded, though he supported Brougham’s motion for a committee on the education of the London poor, 21 May 1816, and announced that he would sponsor a bill to regulate charitable institutions. (On 27 Apr. 1818 he implied that it was thwarted for lack of comprehensive information.)
Wrottesley’s conversion into a government supporter reached its climax on 26 Feb. 1817 when he derided radical orators as ‘meddling persons’ who deserved to be ‘hooted out of town’, as they had been in Staffordshire. Ponsonby, the Whig leader, remarked in retaliation that he was now ‘closely pinned to the back of the right honourable gentlemen of the Treasury bench’; and the House was further amused by Brougham’s ingenious allusion to Wrottesley as a rat (the Whig wits had already dubbed him ‘Ratsley’). He went on to support the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817, and proceedings arising from it, 10, 11 Feb. 1818, by vote. Henceforward, despite his vote for Catholic relief, 9 May 1817, and for the opposition candidate for the Speaker’s chair, 2 June, if he tried to speak on critical issues the opposition gave him no peace. On 16 Apr. 1818 they shouted him down when, against the Speaker’s advice, he attempted to read an extract from a former speech of Ridley’s to make out a case for the Duke of Cumberland’s marriage grant. On 27 May 1818 and 4 Mar. 1819 they carped at his suggestion that the bankrupty commissioners, short of space at the Guildhall, should be accommodated at Furnival’s Inn. He nevertheless obtained a select committee on the problem. He paired against reform of the criminal law, 2 Mar. 1819. He voted with ministers on the case of Wyndham Quin*, 29 Mar., against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June 1819, and remained in town as late as 23 Dec. in support of restrictive legislation against radicalism. He died 17 Feb. 1825.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Fortescue mss, Stafford to Grenville, 4 Feb.; Wrottesley to same, 13 Feb.; Add. 41852, f. 232; 51844, Cavendish Bradshaw to Holland [8 Apr. 1806]; HMC Fortescue, x. 428.
- 2. NLW mss 2791, Lady to H. Williams Wynn, 18 Sept. 1811; Coedymaen mss 5, f. 287.
- 3. Geo. IV Letters, i. 461; Morning Chron. 7, 8 July 1814.