CRADOCK, Hon. John Hobart (1799-1873).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1830 - 1831

Family and Education

bap. 16 Oct. 1799, o.s. of Maj.-Gen. John Francis Cradock, MP [I], 1st Bar. Howden [I], and Lady Theodosia Sarah Frances Meade, da. of John, 1st earl of Clanwilliam [I]. educ. Eton 1814. m. 11 Jan. 1830 at Paris, Catherine, da. of Paul, Count Skavronsky of Russia, wid. of Gen. Prince Bagration, s.p. KH 1830; suc. fa. as 2nd Bar. Howden [UK] 26 July 1839; KCB 23 Feb. 1852; GCB 5 Mar. 1858. d. 9 Oct. 1873.

Offices Held

Ensign and lt. 1 Ft. Gds. 1815; a.d.c. to duke of Wellington in France 1815-18; capt. 2 W.I. Regt. 1818; a.d.c. to Lord Beresford at Lisbon 1818; capt. (half-pay) 3 W.I. Regt. 1819; a.d.c. to Sir Thomas Maitland at Malta 1820; capt. 29 Ft. 1824; maj. army (half-pay) 1825; lt.-col. (local rank) July 1827 and army Dec. 1827; col. 1841; maj.-gen. 1854; lt.-gen. 1859; ret. 1861.

Spec. missions to Egypt and Greece 1827, Belgium 1832, Spain 1834; equerry to duchess of Kent 1841-61; envoy extraordinary to Brazil 1847-8, with spec. mission to Argentina and Uruguay 1847; envoy extraordinary to Spain 1850-8.


Cradock’s father was the only son of Dr. John Cradock (1708-78), a Staffordshire man who went to Ireland as chaplain to the 4th duke of Bedford during his viceroyalty. He was made bishop of Kilmore in 1757 and promoted to the archbishopric of Dublin in 1772. John Francis Cradock entered the army in 1777, attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel in 1789 and served at Martinique in 1793. He was one of the Prince of Wales’s social set, but it was as a steady supporter of government that he sat in the Irish Parliament, 1785-97 and 1799-1800.1 He was active against the Irish rebels in 1798 and fought in the Egyptian campaign of 1801. He was knighted in 1803 and bought a Yorkshire estate at Grimston, near Tadcaster. He was commander-in-chief in Madras from 1803 until his recall in 1807 after a dispute with the governor. In December 1808 he arrived in Portugal to assume command of the troops left behind by Moore, but only three months later, to his everlasting chagrin, he was superseded by Sir Arthur Wellesley† (later 1st duke of Wellington). He refused to be fobbed off with the governorship of Gibraltar, but in 1811 accepted that of the Cape, where he stayed for three years. He was gratified by his appointment as a groom of the bedchamber in the regent’s household in 1812, but professionally he remained a disappointed man, the more so as Wellington turned down his application for an active command in April 1815.2 He received a long-coveted Irish peerage, with the title of Lord Howden, on 19 Oct. 1819.3 At the general election the following year he contested York by invitation as a supporter of the Liverpool ministry, but was beaten by a combination of two Whigs. His plea to be restored to the household of George IV ‘as supernumerary’, 28 July 1820, was unsuccessful.4

His only child John Hobart Cradock showed great linguistic ability at Eton. He obtained a commission in the Guards in 1815 and Wellington, as an act of atonement towards his father, made him one of his aides on the staff of the army of occupation. He served on the staff at Lisbon in 1818 and at Malta in 1820. His military career stagnated and he travelled in the Levant. In 1824 he entered the diplomatic service as an attaché at the Berlin embassy, and the following year he transferred to Paris.5 It was there that ‘le beau Cradock’, whose good looks were legendary, made his reputation as an irresistible lady-killer, for whom, as Charles Percy* put it, ‘Italians drown themselves, Greeks stab, and Asiatics burn’.6 Henry Fox* warned his mother Lady Holland against Cradock, whom he then knew only by repute, in case he paid suit to her daughter:

He is one of the vainest, falsest, cleverest deceivers about the beau monde and delights in playing with the feelings of every woman he can make to like him and as he is wonderfully well informed, naturally clever and extremely agreeable, besides being very handsome, his task is not difficult.

Fox was subsequently disarmed by Cradock, who was ‘so civil and so obliging that he wins even his foes’.7 His real preference was for titled foreign ladies of a certain age. One such intrigue with the duchesse de Firmaçon led to his fighting a duel in November 1825 with her lover Count Schoenfeld, an attaché at the Austrian embassy: ‘they fought’, it was reported, ‘in Cradock’s room with broad swords for 20 minutes: he was wounded in the arm twice, the latter wound cut the sinews’. Canning, the foreign secretary, was annoyed, and the embassy authorities tried to keep the episode quiet; but Cradock went about with the sleeve of his coat cut open and tied with ribbons, so inspiring a fashion among his legion of female admirers for the manche à la Cradock.8 Lord Holland decided soon afterwards that Cradock was ‘well bred, handsome, accomplished and quick’, but that he was prone to ‘the sort of conceit which success in fashion is likely to produce’ and unlikely to excel in ‘sound sense or solid understanding’.9 Sydney Smith observed that ‘there is something in him, but he does not know how little it is’, and Lady Holland that ‘he dazzles, but does not enlighten’.10 Cradock went to England in August 1826. ‘I am seeking preferment’, he told Lord Holland, ‘but alas! I hardly know Mr. Canning, and I do not expect it’.11 Nor did he get it. He was soon back in Paris, but in July 1827 he was sent by Canning on a special mission to try to prevent Egypt from intervening in the conflict between Greece and Turkey; he was given the local rank of lieutenant-colonel. Failing in this endeavour, he was ordered to join Codrington’s fleet in the Mediterranean as a military commissioner, with instructions to force Mehemet Ali to withdraw from the Morea. It was Canning’s intention, so Cradock later claimed, to make him British resident at Athens after the war, but Canning’s death dashed this prospect. He was slightly wounded at Navarino and later negotiated the withdrawal of the Egyptian forces.12 His father enlisted the aid of Wellington, the commander-in-chief, to ensure that his army rank became permanent, deeming this preferable to nomination as a companion of the order of the Bath, which the king was willing to grant.13

He was, however, subsequently without employment and in May 1829 he asked to be reattached to the Paris embassy. The new ambassador, Lord Stuart de Rothesay, though claiming to be ‘perfectly well disposed’ towards him, could not accommodate him on the official strength. The foreign secretary, Lord Aberdeen, admitting ‘the hardship of your case and the justice of your claim’, offered him the post of paid attaché at Berlin and promised, if this was unacceptable (which it was) to try to ‘make such an arrangement as may attach you to the Paris embassy, without increasing the current number’. Cradock’s mother subsequently put in a word for him with Wellington, claiming that he had been ‘ill used by the foreign office’; and at the end of the year he was attached to the embassy as a military commissioner.14 Soon afterwards he married the Russian widow Princess Bagration, ‘that tale of other days’, ‘that poor lemon, that old rag, that most faded and death-like bride’, as Lady Granville described her.15 In July 1830 he applied unsuccessfully to Wellington for the order of the Bath.16 He was sent by Stuart on an unofficial mission to Charles X at Rambouillet in an attempt to persuade him to leave the duc de Bordeaux in Paris under the guardianship of Louis Philippe.17

At the general election that summer he was returned in absentia for Dundalk by the 3rd earl of Roden. Ministers listed him among their ‘friends’, but he was absent from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented but dissented from a petition for the abolition of slavery, 19 Dec., and pledged his support for Robert Grant’s proposed Jewish emancipation bill, 15 Dec. He sat on the Rye election committee, which on 18 Dec. reversed a decision of the previous Parliament in favour of an extended ratepayers’ franchise. Cradock disagreed with this determination, and on 21 Dec. 1830 he presented and supported the inhabitants’ petition calling for the patron of Rye to be punished for alleged breach of privilege in disregarding the earlier ruling at the general election. The Speaker’s technical objections forced him to withdraw it. In the recess Cradock returned to Paris, where he was kept on at the embassy under the new ambassador Lord Granville. When he went to London to attend Parliament in February 1831 Granville told Holland that he ‘will be a loss to me, he is very ready, quick and willing’.18 He attended the House to support the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., ‘although labouring under severe illness’, but ‘suffered himself to be carried home at one o’clock, under an impression that the division would not take place that night’.19 He divided with ministers against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. Parliament was not to his taste and he retired at the ensuing dissolution.

Cradock’s ‘one great object’ in the summer of 1831, when he took the waters at Barèges, was the secretaryship of the Paris embassy, but he was disappointed in this.20 His father, who received a United Kingdom peerage in the coronation honours, changed the family name, ludicrously, to Caradoc in January 1832, having persuaded himself that he was descended from Caractacus. The story went that soon afterwards some wag ‘asked him at dinner for a slice of haradock’.21 In November 1832 Cradock was sent as a military commissioner to the French armies in Belgium, and he was wounded at the siege of Antwerp. In 1834 he was attached to the Spanish army in Portugal and then to the Christianist forces in the north of Spain. He left the Paris embassy when Granville was recalled by the Conservative government at the end of the year.22

In August 1837 Lady Granville described his arrival in Paris, ‘looking wretchedly and old but very domestic as he drives in the Champs Elysées with the Princess Bagration and his daughter, a fine well-grown girl of sixteen, mother unknown’.23 By then he had begun a fruitless 12-year pursuit of further diplomatic employment, which was denied to him on the ground that his marriage rendered him ‘too much exposed to the operation of Russian influence’. He bemoaned his ‘destined insignificance’, reflecting that his hopes of advancement lay buried with Canning. Indeed his marriage profited him little, for the Tsar, unable to forgive the Princess’s union with a foreigner, exiled her from Russia and placed her large estates in the hands of trustees. Cradock, who succeeded to the peerage in 1839, subsequently persuaded her to surrender the property to the Russian government in return for a life annuity of 200,000 francs. Eventually they separated and Cradock formed other attachments, though he claimed to be ‘broken’ by her death in Venice in 1857, and thereafter spent much time and trouble in sorting out her chaotic financial affairs. He renounced their marriage contract and took nothing from her estate, so that ‘nobody in the utmost refinement of malice may be able to say that there has ever been a single atom or shade of calculation or interest in my relations with the princess’.24 He declined Russell’s offer of a household post in October 1846, but the following January went as minister to Brazil, charged with special missions to Uruguay and Argentina, where he controversially lifted the blockade of Buenos Ayres in July 1847.25 He returned home in 1848 to ‘try to save something out of the total wreck of my fortune’, caused by the failure of his partners in a mining venture on his estates. He explained to Lord Brougham:

My partners in the colliery, merchants, had contracted debts on its account to a Newcastle bank for £98,000. The bank required the money to save itself from breaking and, as I was the only solvent person in the firm, the whole weight of this immense sum, in bills at three months date, fell on me. To satisfy the claims my banker ... had to sell out every farthing I had in the funds, and to mortgage all my landed property for six years. You see that now an appointment of minister is not a matter of fancy but one of downright necessity to enable me to exist. I trust to Palmerston’s charity to do this, and, certainly, of all in his gift the one for which I am most fitted is the mission at Madrid.26

He was appointed to that embassy in 1850, having sold Grimston and his Irish property to meet his liabilities. He served ably there until he was recalled and retired with ‘brutality’, as he put it, by the Derby ministry in 1858.27

Three years later he took up permanent residence in France at Casa Caradoc, the château which he had purchased at Bayonne, Basses-Pyrenées. He died there, after a long and painful illness, in October 1873.28 His English property, which was sworn under £180,000, was disposed of by a will dated 8 June 1860 and proved on 22 May 1874. His estate in France and Spain was dealt with in a will made in Paris on 17 Nov. 1858. He left Casa Caradoc to Madame Mathilde Obier, as ‘a proof of my long and respectful friendship’, with remainder to her nephew Emanuel Bocher of the French army staff. To his ‘beloved’ Doña Joaquina Plana of Madrid he left all his French money and securities. In an action arising out of the administration of his English estate the court of chancery ruled in 1875 that his domicile was French: this was the first occasion in law on which it had been held that a peer could tacitly lose his English domicile.29 Lady Granville summed up Cradock as a man who would do ‘anything or everything for effect’ and who, ‘when he fails to astonish and dazzle in one line’, felt driven ‘to try it in another’.30

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. R.E.C. Waters, Gen. Mems. Fam. of Chester, ii. 674-5; Oxford DNB; Hist. Irish Parl. iii. 528-9.
  • 2. Prince of Wales Corresp. vi. 2393; viii. 3166; Geo. III Corresp. v. 3844; Wellington Despatches, viii. 24; HMC Fortescue, ix. 289; Geo. IV letters, i. 143.
  • 3. Add. 38280, f. 200; 40246, f. 195.
  • 4. The Times, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 Mar. 1820; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 835.
  • 5. Oxford DNB; Waters, ii. 684-5.
  • 6. Blakiston, Lord William Russell, 150; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC12/64, 66; Countess Granville Letters, i. 348.
  • 7. Add. 51765, Fox to Lady Holland, 27 Oct., 18 Dec. 1825; Fox Jnl. 80, 227-8.
  • 8. Add. 52017, Townshend to Fox, 20 Nov., 15 Dec. 1825, 6 Jan. 1826; Sneyd mss SC12/69; K. Bourne, Palmerston, 199.
  • 9. Add. 51749, Holland to Fox, 30 Dec. 1825.
  • 10. Smith Letters, i. 436; Lady Holland to Son, 48.
  • 11. Add. 51614, Cradock to Holland, 28 July 1826.
  • 12. Waters, 685; Add. 30111, ff. 181, 299; 43193, f. 152; 51614, Cradock to Holland, 29 [July 1827]; Countess Granville Letters, i. 435-6.
  • 13. Wellington mss WP1/901/9, 15, 17; 903/23.
  • 14. Ibid. WP1/1005/8; 1007/41; 1012/20; 1017/7; Add. 43057, ff. 250, 252; 43233, f. 113; 43234, ff. 31, 47.
  • 15. Countess Granville Letters, i. 352.
  • 16. Wellington mss WP1/1125/7.
  • 17. Add. 43085, ff. 97, 101; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 378-9; Greville Mems. ii. 38.
  • 18. Add. 51604, Granville to Holland, 11 Feb. 1831; Countess Granville Letters, ii. 74, 76, 90; Von Neumann Diary, i. 242.
  • 19. The Times, 24, 25 Mar. 1831.
  • 20. Add. 51614, Cradock to Holland, 25 July, 18 Aug. 1831.
  • 21. Countess Granville Letters, ii. 129.
  • 22. Add. 30112, ff. 201, 208; Raikes Jnl. i. 106; Wellington Pol. Corresp. ii. 480.
  • 23. Countess Granville Letters, ii. 240.
  • 24. Add. 40530, f. 63; 40587, ff. 306, 308; 43124, ff. 214, 216, 220; 43193, f. 153; 51614, Cradock to Holland, 20, 25 Dec. 1835, 1 Jan. 1836, 30 June 1838, 6 Mar., 15 Apr., 18 Oct., 1 Nov. 1839, 20 Sept. 1840.
  • 25. Add. 43124, f. 255.
  • 26. Add. 43124, f. 301; Brougham mss, Howden to Brougham, 19 July 1848.
  • 27. Brougham mss, Howden to Brougham, 10 June 1858.
  • 28. Maxwell, Clarendon, ii. 262-3, 341-2.
  • 29. The Times, 26 July, 10 Nov. 1875.
  • 30. Countess Granville Letters, ii. 245.