CHILD VILLIERS, George Augustus Frederick, Visct. Villiers (1808-1859).
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Family and Educationb. 4 Apr. 1808, 1st s. of George Villiers, 5th earl of Jersey, and Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, da. of John, 10th earl of Westmorland. educ. Mitcham; Eton 1820; Christ Church, Oxf. 1826; grand tour 1829. m. 2 July 1841, Julia, da. of Sir Robert Peel*, 2nd bt., 3s. 2da. suc. fa. as 6th earl of Jersey 3 Oct. 1859. d. 24 Oct. 1859.
Lt. 1 Oxon. yeoman cav. 1829, capt. 1831, maj. 1855, lt.-col. 1857.
Villiers’s father, whose main estate was at Middleton Park, Oxfordshire, was a patron of hunting and racing, and his mother, who inherited Osterley Park, Middlesex, was one of the leading society hostesses of the day; vain, flamboyant and voluble, she was the Lady St. Julians of Disraeli’s Coningsby and the Zenobia of his Endymion. She was also heir to her maternal grandfather, Robert Child, banker, and as a result her husband changed his name to Child Villiers in 1819.1 The headmaster of Villiers’s preparatory school at Mitcham found him ‘a boy of the strictest honour and veracity, of excellent conduct and of amiable disposition’, and Hawtrey of Eton, where he was placed as high as his age and the rules of admission would allow, praised his ‘peculiarly amiable manner’.2 In his first year at Christ Church, Lady Holland reported that he was ‘praised, not only for his acquirements, but for steadiness and changing the effeminate system, as he gives the ton to that society and is followed by all the young ones’, while on 12 July 1827 Sir James Mackintosh* recorded that Villiers, a gifted linguist, ‘is a very pleasing young man, seemingly very fond of study’.3 There were high expectations of his future role in public life, in the advancement of which he was assisted by a reading list of ancient and modern history from Sir James Graham* of Netherby, and letters of introduction from the duke of Wellington, the prime minister, for his tour of European capitals in 1829.4 His daughter-in-law later recorded that he was a ‘shy, delicate man, somewhat overshadowed by his energetic mother and handsome younger brothers, but very much liked by those who knew him’.5
Villiers was elected to Brooks’s, 29 May 1830, but like his mother, who had withdrawn her affections from the Whigs during the previous decade, and his father, who was appointed lord chamberlain of the household in July, he soon afterwards became a Tory. Wellington directed that the admiralty and ordnance influence should be employed in his favour at Rochester, where he stood at the general election that summer.6 In his address, he emphasized his family’s local connections and his support for the government’s beneficial policies. Despite the appearance of several other candidates, Villiers received good support and was expected to beat his eventual opponents, Ralph Bernal* and John Mills*. At a London dinner, 13 July, he argued for only those economies which were compatible with the existing constitution and the dignity of the crown, while on the hustings, 2 Aug., he denied that his father had improperly intervened on his behalf.7 Villiers, who had had been forced into a severe contest by Mills, was elected narrowly behind Bernal, but, to the fury of his parents, he incurred costs variously estimated at £2,500 or nearly £10,000.8 He promised to be active in defence of Rochester’s interests, and the corporation made him an honorary freeman, 23 Aug.9 He was listed by ministers among their ‘friends’, and duly divided with them on the civil list, 15 Nov. He was given a month’s leave of absence on account of the disturbed state of his neighbourhood around Bicester, 30 Nov. 1830. He spoke of the respectability of the signatories to a Kent reform petition, 17 Mar. 1831, and on the presentation of a hostile one from the corporation of Rochester, 19 Mar., he stated that its members were against the Grey ministry’s reform bill as it stood, but would back moderate changes. He brought up an anti-reform petition from the resident freemen of Rochester, 22 Mar., and voted against the second reading of the bill that day and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He issued an address at the ensuing general election, but popular feeling was so decidedly against him that he declined a poll, and Thomas Creevey* wrote that he had been ‘beat out of Rochester by our John Mills’, a reformer.10 Although it was rumoured that he would be brought forward for a Welsh county, he was instead returned for Minehead by its patron, John Fownes Luttrell*.11
Villiers voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, for using the 1831 census to determine the boroughs in schedules A and B, 19 July, and to postpone consideration of the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July 1831. It was probably he, who, under the name of his predecessor William Edward Tomline (who was no longer a Member), opposed the abolition of both seats at Minehead, 22 July. He spoke twice in seconding Mills’s motion against uniting Rochester with Chatham and Strood, 9 Aug., and he was thanked by the corporation for his continued defence of its interests, 10 Oct.12 He was one of the 15 Members who had hitherto ‘voted generally against the bill’, who sided with ministers for the proposed division of counties, 11 Aug. On 25 Aug. he spoke, and signalled that he would vote, for the amendment to withhold the £10 householder franchise from weekly tenants and lodgers because
by the bill as it stood before this alteration was proposed in it, we had a chance of getting an orderly and intelligent set of voters, taking them on the whole, but if the clause ... be adopted, that chance will be destroyed - we shall have, particularly in large manufacturing towns, a class of voters who will be neither intelligent nor independent.
He divided against the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. He voted against the second, 17 Dec. 1831, and third reading of the revised bill, 22 Mar., the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May 1832. He presumably kept an agreement to pair, except on foreign affairs, with Robert George Throckmorton from about 2 Feb. to the start of schedule A.13 His only other known votes in this Parliament were for inquiry into renewal of the Sugar Refinery Act and against the committal of the truck bill, 12 Sept. 1831, and with opposition against the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July 1832.
After the disfranchisement of Minehead, Villiers, who was also mentioned in connection with Breconshire, Glamorgan, Oxford and Weymouth, was found a seat as a Conservative at Honiton at the general election of 1832.14 He sat intermittently thereafter, and was, for instance, unseated on petition at Weymouth after the general election of 1841 by his former colleague, Bernal. He continued to support Peel, whose eldest daughter he married, and went with him on the repeal of the corn laws. His younger brothers Frederick William (1815-71) and Francis John Robert (1819-62) sat for Weymouth, 1847-52, and for Rochester, 1852-6, respectively. He died of consumption, three weeks after succeeding his father, in October 1859, and was succeeded as 7th earl of Jersey by his eldest son, Victor Albert George (1845-1915).15
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
- 1. Oxford DNB sub Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, countess of Jersey.
- 2. LMA, Jersey mss 510/284, 286, 288, 289.
- 3. Lady Holland to Son, 61; Add. 52447, f. 97.
- 4. Jersey mss 510/404; 1128/207; Wellington mss WP1/1022/7; 1057/5.
- 5. Countess of Jersey, Recs. of Fam. of Villiers, 59.
- 6. Wellington mss WP1/1130/10, 11.
- 7. Kentish Gazette, 6, 16 July; Maidstone Gazette, 6 July; Rochester Gazette, 6, 13, 20 July, 3, 10 Aug.; The Times, 3 Aug. 1830.
- 8. Grey mss, Howick jnl. 15 July; Ellice to Grey [Aug.] 1830; Kentish Gazette, 21 Jan. 1831.
- 9. Rochester Gazette, 26 Oct. 1830; Medway Archives and Local Stud. Cent. Rochester city recs. RCA/A1/6, 621.
- 10. Maidstone Journal, 10 May; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 30 Apr. 1831.
- 11. Cardiff Pub. Lib. Bute estate letterbks. ii. 276.
- 12. Rochester city recs. A1/6, 676.
- 13. Warws. RO, Throckmorton mss CR 1998/Tribune/folder 16/52, 57.
- 14. Brougham mss, Buxton to Brougham, 2 Aug. 1832; NLW, Bute mss L75/133, 146, 155; Bute estate letterbks. iii. 9; Berks. RO, Pusey mss D/EBp C1/31; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC17/70, 75.
- 15. The Times, 4, 25 Oct. 1859.