ANSON, Hon. George (1797-1857), of St. James's Square, Mdx.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Education
b. 13 Oct. 1797, 2nd s. of Thomas Anson†, 1st Visct. Anson (d. 1818), and Anne Margaret, da. of Thomas William Coke I.* educ. Eton. 1811. m. 30 Nov. 1830, Isabella Elizabeth Annabella Forester, da. of Cecil Weld Forester†, 1st Bar. Forester, 3 da. d. 27 May 1857.
Ensign and 2nd lt. 3 Ft. Gds. 1814, lt. and capt. 1820; maj. 7 Drag. Gds. 1824; lt.-col. (half-pay) 1825; col. 1838; maj.-gen. 1851; c.-in-c. Madras 1854, Bengal 1856-d.
Principal storekeeper of ordnance Apr. 1835-Aug. 1841, clerk of ordnance June 1846-Feb. 1852.
Anson, a Whig by birth, who had served under Wellington at Waterloo, was brought in for Great Yarmouth in 1819 in place of his elder brother Thomas, heir to their late father’s viscountcy and Staffordshire estates.1 He and his Whig colleague Charles Edmund Rumbold narrowly defeated two Tory ministerialists sponsored by the corporation to retain their seats at the general election of 1820. On the hustings, Anson was accused of ‘wantonly’ opposing Lord Liverpool’s administration by voting against the award to the duke of York and the repressive legislation introduced after Peterloo, and criticized over his connection with the Tory Thomas Gooch*, which he stoutly defended.2 He divided with opposition against the Liverpool ministry on most major issues in the 1820 Parliament, including parliamentary reform, 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 27 Apr. 1826. He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 25 Apr., 10 May 1825 (when he paired). That year, a radical publication noted that he ‘attended occasionally, voted with the opposition’ and was no orator.3 He presented a petition from the ship owners of Great Yarmouth against any alteration in the navigation laws, 30 May 1820,4 but tended to leave constituency business to Rumbold. He was occasionally confused with his uncle and namesake, the Member for Lichfield, as undoubtedly occurred when he was reported to have been granted leave to bring in a bill to amend legislation on county rates, 4 July 1820.5
Anson, who gave fairly steady support to the ‘Mountain’ and Hume’s campaigns for economy and retrenchment until 1823, was a steward at the Norfolk Foxite dinner addressed by his grandfather Thomas Coke, 19 Jan. 1821, and supported the 1820-1 parliamentary campaign on behalf of Queen Caroline.6 He was named as a defaulter, 19 Feb. 1821, following the death from scarlet fever on the 10th of his sister Georgina.7 He officiated at the Norfolk Foxite dinner, 24 Jan. 1822, but delayed his return to Westminster on account of his army duties and his love of the chase.8 He was tentatively identified by The Times as a speaker in favour of a reduction in the grant to the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, 17 Mar.9 Speaking against the navigation bill, which his constituents opposed, 4 June, he said:
He hoped his sentiments were sufficiently liberal, but he did not understand the spirit of liberality which would allow every other country to receive benefit and emolument at the expense of England.10
He had a reputation as a fine shot and a ‘perfect beau’, and Mrs. Arbuthnot noted that the duchess of Rutland ‘seemed to give’ him preference at a dinner at Wellington’s, 25 June, while at Greenwich on the 28th it was the duchesse de Guiche who flirted with him. ‘Large sums of money were laid’ on the outcome of his shooting match with Henry Bingham Baring* at Wellington’s fête at Woolwich, 3 Aug. 1822, which ended in a draw.11 He ‘said a few words’ on the merchant vessels apprentices bill, 18 Apr. 1823.12 He and Rumbold opposed the reciprocities duties bill at its third reading at their constituents’ behest, 4 July 1823. On 19 May 1825 he was placed on half-pay with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. His name was now linked with that of Lady Macfarlane, whom, according to John Townshend, he pursued with little success.13 He had supported the successful Great Yarmouth campaign against the Norwich Port bill and was accordingly made an honorary freeman, 15 May 1826.14 He was returned with Rumbold at the general election in June after a vexatious contest, during which he defended his pro-Catholic votes.15
Anson’s vote for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, was the only one recorded for him that session. According to John Evelyn Denison*, on 7 May, the ‘great night of the shipping’, when Gascoyne’s motion for inquiry was debated and withdrawn without a division
George Anson, who came down to speak and vote against Huskisson, went to the mayor of Yarmouth who was under the gallery, and said he had been convinced by Huskisson’s speech, but he would act according to the wishes of his constituents. This man, who is a great ship owner, said he was convinced too and begged Anson to do as he liked.16
He presented Great Yarmouth petitions, 19 Feb., and voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. He brought up a favourable petition from Lichfield, 30 Mar., and voted for Catholic relief, 12 May. He praised the Wellington ministry’s decision to concede Catholic emancipation in 1829, 4 Mar., and divided for the measure, 6, 30 Mar., having endorsed his constituents’ favourable petition, 4 Mar., which he also forwarded to Wellington for presentation to the Lords.17 He voted to permit Daniel O’Connell to take his seat without swearing the oaths, 13 May 1829. In June he went to Epsom races with his friend the diarist Charles Greville, and they were also at Chatsworth in November.18 Anson, whose attendance remained poor, paired for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and Lord John Russell’s reform motion, 28 May 1830.19 He held aloof from the revived Whig opposition, but voted for information on privy councillors’ emoluments, 14 May, Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and the abolition of capital punishment for forgery, 24 May, 7 June 1830. He and Rumbold defeated two government candidates at Great Yarmouth at the general election, when he was castigated for non-attendance, but declared his determination to promote economy, retrenchment and the abolition of all monopolies and restrictions on trade, to oppose renewal of the East India Company’s charter, to promote civil and religious liberty and to support parliamentary reform, including triennial parliaments and an extension of the franchise. He expressed ‘great confidence’ in Wellington as prime minister and hoped the acrimony excited by the election would soon subside.20 Planta, the ministry’s patronage secretary, on whom Anson called, 12 Aug. 1830, informed the duke that he ‘was good natured about the Yarmouth election’ and supported his government, but ‘will not state this’.21
Anson’s engagement in October to Lady Isabella Forester, a renowned beauty and sister of his hunting companions John and George, the Members for Wenlock, brought rumours that he, like her previous suitors, would be jilted.22 It was also put about that he was taking holy orders, to which the duke of Bedford, who heard the news from Lady Holland replied, 20 Oct.:
I do not understand you about G. Anson taking orders. Is this a persiflage, or do you really mean to say that George Anson, the ‘gallant gay Lothario’, is about to take holy orders and enter the church? If so, the age of miracles has not ceased.23
He was listed among the Wellington ministry’s ‘foes’, but contrived to be ‘shut out’ from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830.24 He received three weeks’ leave of absence on urgent private business, 2 Dec., following his marriage, 30 Nov. 1830. He voted for the Grey ministry’s reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar. 1831, presented a favourable petition from the merchants, bankers and ship owners of Great Yarmouth, 28 Mar., and divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He and Rumbold topped the poll at the ensuing general election, and afterwards lobbied for the transfer of government patronage from Harwich to Yarmouth’s port.25 Greville, who took a house with the Ansons and their relations for Epsom and Ascot races, found the company ‘not remarkably amusing as they are all more or less limited in point of intellect’.26
Anson voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and against adjourning its consideration, 12 July 1831. His support for it in committee was minimal. Alluding to their debt to the Great Yarmouth out-voters, he supported Rumbold’s amendment to give non-resident freemen continued voting rights in their boroughs of residence, but he nevertheless recommended its withdrawal, 30 Aug. He voted for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He voted for the revised reform bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, to consider it in committee, 20 Jan., and for its provisions for Appleby, 21 Feb., Helston, 23 Feb., Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and Gateshead, 5 Mar., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. The dowager Lady Clare had dispelled the Staffordshire Member Littleton’s unease at including the Ansons and the Monks (the former Lady Macfarlane) as his dinner guests on the 17th, stating ‘Oh take no notice. If a woman will marry a man who has had everybody, she must make up her mind to a little inconvenience of that sort’.27 He voted for the address requesting the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the reform bill unimpaired, 10 May, and presented a petition from Great Yarmouth praising the Grey ministry and reform, 21 May. The Dissenters there welcomed his minority vote for the immediate appointment of a select committee on colonial slavery, 24 May.28 He divided against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish reform bill, 1 June. He cast a wayward vote for printing the Woollen Grange petition for the abolition of tithes in Ireland, 16 Feb., but divided with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 16, 20 July 1832.
Anson came in for Great Yarmouth at the general election of 1832, but was defeated in 1835 and did not stand there again.29 Lord Melbourne as prime minister appointed him principal storekeeper of the ordnance in April 1835 and, following his defeat at the Staffordshire South by-election the following month, he was brought in for Stoke in January 1836. He transferred to Staffordshire South at the 1837 general election.30 He became an army colonel in June 1838 and a major-general in November 1851, when he was clerk to the ordnance in the Russell administration. Better known for his social skills and as a steward of the Jockey Club and chairman of the London and North Western Railway Company, he retired from Parliament in August 1853 to become commander-in-chief at Madras. Despite criticism of his inexperience, he was transferred to the higher command of Bengal during the mutiny in 1856, for which, following his death of cholera at Kurnaul in May 1857, he became a convenient scapegoat.31 Probate of his will, dated 10 Sept. 1853, was granted to his wife as the sole legatee. It remained unadministered when she died accidentally of laudanum poisoning, 29 Dec. 1858. On 31 May 1860 probate was granted to the eldest of their three daughters, Isabella Katherine, the wife of Richard William Penn Curzon.32
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 73-74.
- 2. Norf. Chron. 4, 11, 18 Mar.; Bury and Norwich Post, 8, 15 Mar.; The Times, 13 Mar. 1820; Norf. RO, Gurney mss RQG 572/3.
- 3. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 448.
- 4. The Times, 31 May 1820.
- 5. Ibid. 5 July 1820.
- 6. Norf. Chron. 13, 20 Jan. 1821.
- 7. Stirling, Coke of Norf. 433.
- 8. Norf. Chron. 12, 26 Jan. 1822.
- 9. The Times, 18 Mar. 1822.
- 10. Ibid. 5 June 1822.
- 11. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 167, 170, 175.
- 12. The Times, 19 Apr. 1823.
- 13. Add. 52017, Townshend to H.E. Fox, 1 Aug. 1825.
- 14. Norf. RO, Rumbold mss L14/10-12; Norf. RO MC221/1; Norwich Mercury, 13, 20 May 1826.
- 15. Norf. Chron. 10, 17, 24 June, 1 July; The Times, 14 June 1826.
- 16. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Denison diary, 7 May .
- 17. Wellington mss WP1/1001/5.
- 18. Greville Mems. i. 294, 323.
- 19. The Times, 1 Mar. 1830.
- 20. Ibid. 13, 21 July; Norwich Mercury, 7 Aug. 1830; Surr. Hist. Cent. Howard of Ashtead mss 203/31/56.
- 21. Wellington mss WP1/1134/6.
- 22. Greville Mems. ii. 50; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 392, 396.
- 23. Add. 51670, Bedford to Lady Holland, 20, 26 Oct.; 51680, Lord J. Russell to same, 13 Oct. 1830.
- 24. The Times, 17 Nov. 1830.
- 25. East Anglian, 26 Apr.; Bury and Norwich Post, 4 May; Norwich Mercury, 7 May; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 30 Apr.; Norf. RO Y/C 38/4; Grey mss, Duncannon to Grey, 26 May .
- 26. Greville Mems. ii. 145, 149.
- 27. Hatherton diary, 14 Mar. 1832.
- 28. Norf. Chron. 19, 26 May, 2 June 1832.
- 29. Ibid. 7, 14 July, 15 Sept., 1, 15 Dec. 1832; C.J. Palmer, Hist. Great Yarmouth, 236-8; F.D. Palmer, Yarmouth Notes, 23-25, 36-41.
- 30. Add. 40420, f. 147; Gent. Mag. (1857), ii. 216; N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 149-50, 250-1.
- 31. Greville Mems. vii. 285, 291-2; The Times, 24 Feb. 1853, 14 Feb. 1855, 13, 14 July 1857; M. Huggins, Flat Racing and British Society, 1790-1914, pp. 161, 187; Gent. Mag. (1857), ii. 216.
- 32. PROB 8/250; 11/2254/514; The Times, 3 Jan. 1859.