COOKE, Sir Henry Frederick (1783-1837), of 50 Charles Street, Berkeley Square and Harefield Park, Mdx.
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Family and Educationbap. 13 Apr. 1783, 3rd s. of Colonel George John Cooke (d. 1785) of Harefield Park and Penelope, da. of Sir William Bowyer, 3rd bt., of Denham Place, Bucks. educ. ?Harrow; Caen mil. acad. m. 26 July 1834,1 Katharine, da. of Adm. William Windham alias Lukin of Felbrigg, Norf., s.p. KCH 1821; kntd. 27 Apr. 1825.2 suc. bro. Col. Sir George Cooke to Harefield Park 3 Feb. 1837. d. 10 Mar. 1837.
Lt. 2 Ft. Gds. 1801, lt. and capt. 1803, asst. adj.-gen. 1809-10, capt. and lt.-col. 1811; lt.-col. 12 Ft. 1813; a.d.c. to duke of York 1814-27; lt.-col. 6 W.I. Regt. 1815, half-pay 1817.
‘Kang’ or ‘Kangaroo’ Cooke, as he was known, was a grandson of George Cooke of Harefield, a prothonotary of the court of common pleas and Member for Middlesex, 1750-68. A career soldier like his brother George, step-father General Edward Smith and the father he scarcely knew, he served with distinction at Gibraltar, Minden and Nova Scotia (where he was the inspecting field officer of militia, 1813-14) before joining the household of the duke of York as an aide-de-camp and private secretary.3 Thomas Slingsby Duncombe* gave the following account of him:
‘Kangaroo Cooke’ was an officer with the rank of colonel. Whether his marsupial prefix originated in his pouching propensities, or from a particularly jumping way of getting on in the world, has not been decided. As the brother of General Sir George Cooke and of the countess of Cardigan, he had ready access to the best society and the better to show his pretensions for such association, dressed in the extreme of the mode. Kangaroo Cooke was to be found everywhere between the Horse Guards and the house of Weston the tailor, of Bond Street. He ... is reported to have made visits on his own account to the house in the King’s Road, Chelsea, long inhabited by Mrs. [Mary Anne] Clarke. His resemblance to the Australian quadruped was never challenged, and he continued his career as Kangaroo Cooke as long as he lived.4
According to the duke of Wellington’s confidante Mrs. Arbuthnot, ‘Cooke who wears mustachios, looks exactly like Blucher’.5
He first stood for Parliament when his friend Lord Yarmouth’s succession as 3rd marquess of Hertford in 1822 created a vacancy for the burgage borough of Camelford, where he was defeated by Colonel Sheldon Cradock, the 3rd earl of Darlington’s nominee, and refused to disclose his politics.6 He remained Hertford’s choice for Camelford and canvassed strenuously there on behalf of himself and Wyndham Lewis* at the general election of 1826, when the result, a quadruple return, was settled by a scrutiny in favour of Darlington’s candidates.7 This did not leave Cooke, whose subsequent petition was a ploy for brokering a new electoral pact for Camelford, without a seat, as he had already been returned for Hertford’s borough of Orford, which he represented until its disfranchisement in 1832.8
As a go-between for Hertford and the dukes of Devonshire, Wellington and York, Cooke decided against joining Wellington’s military staff or becoming an aide-de-camp to George IV following the death of the duke of York in January 1827. He provided his patron with silent voting strength and updated him on patronage matters and political developments.9 He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, liaised with the anti-Catholic duke of Cumberland on Hertford’s behalf during his mission to Russia that summer and applied for ‘diplomatic employment or a seat at one of the public boards of customs or excise or groom of the bed chamber’, directly Wellington succeeded Lord Goderich as premier in January 1828.10 He had recently fallen victim at Sudbourne to his colleague Quintin Dick’s faulty gun and been wounded in the leg.11 He voted against investigating chancery delays, 24 Apr., and Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. When Hertford acquiesced in Wellington’s change of policy, Cooke voted for Catholic emancipation 6, 30 Mar. 1829, of which he wrote:
Though I may be sorry the d[uke] of W[ellington] and P[eel] have come to this determination, I have no desire to oppose it for two very good reasons; first because when I place the sort of confidence I feel both in H[is] Grace and in P[eel] I have not the arrogance to pretend to set up my opinion against theirs; and next, because, supposing such effectual opposition could be offered as should defeat the measure and destroy the ministers, I well know the succeeding ministry would be unconditional emancipators, if not parliamentary reformers.12
Hertford, who engineered the retirement of his Members who failed to support emancipation, commented to John Croker*:
As to Kang he is very kind and sometimes writes me a little St. James’s Street news and by your letter I see he has voted with Peel for which I ought to be very grateful, for it is much against his feelings.13
Commenting on his renewed application for a diplomatic appointment or military agency that summer, the patronage secretary Planta informed Charles Arbuthnot*:
I have often explained to him how difficult of attainment such wishes are: but he is not an easy man to put off, and I have now reason to believe that he is endeavouring again to interest the duke in his favour. As far as the House of Commons goes, I am bound in justice to say that he was a good attendant and always in his place when wanted. Indeed, he was the only one of Lord Hertford’s Members who, last session, was so.14
His protests at being the only unplaced member of the duke of York’s staff failed to secure him the governorship of St. Vincent or the diplomatic employment he coveted in March and April 1830, but the foreign secretary Lord Aberdeen sounded Wellington regarding his suitability as an emissary to Egypt, where a ‘military man of character and ability’ was needed.15 He voted against making forgery a non-capital offence, 7 June 1830. Later that month he shared gossip about London society and confidential reports of the demise of George IV with Wellington and others.16
Ministers naturally counted Cooke among their ‘friends’, but he was absent when they were defeated on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He paired against the Grey ministry’s reform bill, by which Orford was disfranchised, at its second reading, 22 Mar., and voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. In May, he briefed Wellington on the government’s proposals for amalgamating army regiments and commented on the lower classes’ strong commitment to the reform bill, which he maintained had unnerved the tradesmen and alarmed the educated.17 He voted against the reintroduced bill at its second reading, 6 July, to make the 1831 census the criterion for English borough disfranchisements, 19 July, against taking a seat from Chippenham, 27 July, the third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept. 1831; and against the revised bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, and committal, 20 Jan., on the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He divided against government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. 1831, and the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July 1832 (as a pair). That summer and autumn he monitored military movements in France and the Netherlands, of which he sent reports to Wellington, the foreign secretary Lord Palmerston* and the king, but formal employment in Europe remained ‘closed’ to him.18
Cooke remained a burgess of Aldeburgh and Orford after 1832, but his association with politics was primarily social and he did not stand for Parliament again.19 His late marriage to William Howe Windham’s youngest sister Katharine, some 30 years his junior, was childless. He died unexpectedly at Harefield Park in March 1837 ‘after a few days’ illness’, a month after the death there of his brother George, whose will, devising the estate to him, was then unproved. He was recalled as a ‘shrewd observer and a lively satirist’.20 Administration of his will, sworn under £8,000, 3 May 1837, was granted to his widow Lady Katharine Cooke (d. 1892). She remarried in June 1840, but rarely assumed the name of her second husband, Robert Hook, and remained a trustee, with Cooke’s nephews, of Harefield Park, until one of them, William Frederick Vernon (1807-89), purchased it outright in 1862. She also inherited absolutely Cooke’s two valuable houses in Pall Mall East.21