COVENTRY, George William, Visct. Deerhurst (1784-1843).
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Educationb. 16 Oct. 1784, 1st s. of George William, 7th earl of Coventry, and 2nd w. Peggy, da. and coh. of Sir Abraham Pitches of Streatham, Surr. educ. Westminster 1801; Christ Church, Oxf. 1802. m. (1) 16 Jan. 1808, Hon. Emma Susanna Lygon (d. 8 Aug. 1810), da. of William Lygon†, 1st Bar. Beauchamp, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) in Scotland, 22 June, and in England, 6 Nov. 1811, Lady Mary Beauclerk, da. of Aubrey Beauclerk†, 6th duke of St. Albans, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. styled Visct. Deerhurst 1809-31. suc. fa. as 8th earl of Coventry 26 Mar. 1831. d. 15 May 1843.
Lt.-col. commdt. Worcester vol. inf. 1803; lt.-col. Worcs. militia 1806, col. 1838; recorder, Worcester 1831-5.
Deerhurst, ‘distinguished for his good looks and manly bearing’, and remembered by Lord William Pitt Lennox* for ‘conversational powers, sparkling wit, and exuberance of spirits’ that ‘few could surpass’, had sat for Worcester since 1816 on the interest of his father, the corporation’s patron.1 Expectation of another contest at the 1820 general election came to nothing and he was returned unopposed. A poor attender, his previous known votes had been with opposition, but on the hustings he urged ‘every man to rally around the government’ against the ‘seditious and inflammatory harangues’ of ‘Cobbett, Hunt, and others’, and when present he pursued an idiosyncratic line. (A statement of 1825 that he had voted ‘with ministers’ was misleading.)2 He divided with the Liverpool ministry in defence of their conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar. 1825. Confusion surrounds his vote on repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821: one list places him in the government majority, another in the minority; but his vote for a reduction of the salt duties, 28 Feb. 1822, is undisputed.3 He paired against ordnance reductions, 19 Feb. 1823.4 He voted for criminal law reform, 23 May, 4 June 1821, 4 June 1822. He was appointed to the select committee on the game laws, 13 Mar., and on 2 June 1823 seconded a killing amendment to Lord Cranborne’s bill to legalize the sale of game, arguing that it would increase rather than reduce poaching and thereby discourage country gentlemen, deprived of the ‘amusements to which they were accustomed’, from living on their estates. He nevertheless indicated his willingness to support ‘salutary’ alterations. He had declared his support for parliamentary reform in 1817, but his only known vote on the issue in this period was against reform of the Scottish representative system, 2 June 1823. He voted with ministers against condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He was granted ten days’ leave on urgent private business, 15 Apr. 1825. He was in the minority for an inquiry into petitions against the importation of foreign silks, 24 Feb., and presented and endorsed one in similar terms from Worcester’s glove makers, who had been ‘reduced to despair’, 24 Mar. 1826. That day he and his colleague Thomas Davies led a delegation to lobby the chancellor of the exchequer on the issue.5
At the 1826 general election Deerhurst offered again, but after completing his canvass withdrew, citing his appointment as vice-lieutenant of the county and, in a possible reference to costs, ‘the situation in which I am in other respects placed’.6 His dubious reputation may also have been a factor. Writing to Francis Horner† in 1816, Lady Holland had noted that in Worcester he was ‘very odious and disliked ... from his low profligacy and debauchery’, while Harriette Wilson’s memoirs portrayed him as an unwashed, stingy libertine. His second marriage, to an heiress worth £100,000, had ended in separation, and in 1830 Henry Edward Fox* reported Lady Deerhurst’s concern that her husband might be awarded custody of their daughter (Fox’s future wife), ‘which considering his character I should deem unlikely’.7 Captain Gronow also recalled him as a womanizer, who was often seen ‘hastening down Piccadilly after some pretty girl’, but praised his wit and attentiveness to his blind father and noted that the failure of his marriage had caused him great misery.8 His ‘desertion’ from Worcester left his supporters furious, and at the 1830 dissolution Lady Gresley observed that he could never be returned there again.9
Deerhurst was back at Westminster the following year, after succeeding to the peerage. He vacillated over reform, but ultimately supported it, having discovered the advantages of being a ‘Waverer’, as he informed Denis Le Marchant:
I never before was fully aware of the usefulness of indecision. It has raised me to real importance. I have received more invitations to dinner this week than I had for years, and my hand is sore from being pressed by persons who hardly condescended to notice me on other occasions.10
After 1832 he sided with the Conservatives. He died in May 1843, having latterly suffered from insanity, leaving his Worcestershire properties at Littleton and Sandford and ‘£30,000 in money’ to one Elizabeth Williams, with remainder to their three children, George, James and Elizabeth. He was succeeded in the earldom by his grandson George William (1838-1930).11
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Authors: Philip Salmon / Howard Spencer
- 1. Gronow Reminiscences, ii. 301; W.P. Lennox, Celebrities I have Known, i. 76.
- 2. Berrow’s Worcester Jnl. 9, 16 Mar. 1820; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 460.
- 3. The Times, 7 Apr. 1821; Parl. Deb. (n.s.), v. 37.
- 4. The Times, 21 Feb. 1823.
- 5. Ibid. 25 Mar. 1826.
- 6. Ibid. 19 Apr., 3, 5 June 1826.
- 7. Add. 51644; Harriette Wilson Mems. 455; Fox Jnl. 370.
- 8. Gronow Reminiscences, ii. 301-2.
- 9. Worcester Herald, 3 June 1826; Worcs. RO, Lechmere mss, Lady Gresley to A. Lechmere, 11 July 1830.
- 10. Three Diaries, 224.
- 11. Gronow Reminiscences, ii. 302; Gent. Mag. (1843), ii. 89-90; PROB 11/1983/541;1996/285.