FITZROY, Henry, earl of Euston (1790-1863).
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Family and Educationb. 10 Feb. 1790, 1st. s. of George Henry Fitzroy†, 4th duke of Grafton, and Lady Charlotte Maria Waldegrave, da. and coh. of James, 2nd Earl Waldegrave; bro. of Lord Charles Fitzroy* and Lord James Henry Fitzroy*. educ. Harrow 1802; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1808. m. 20 June 1812 at Lisbon, Mary Caroline, da. of Hon. Adm. Sir George Cranfield Berkeley† of Wood End, Suss., 3s. 2da. suc. fa. as 5th duke of Grafton 28 Sept. 1844. d. 26 Mar. 1863.
Cornet 7 Drag. 1809, lt. 1810, ret. 1819; cornet Northants. yeoman cav. 1813; col. E. Suff. militia 1823, W. Suff. militia 1830.
Ranger, Salcey forest 1811-44; hered. ranger, Whittlebury forest 1844-d.; recvr.-gen. profits of seals in q.b. and c.p. 1844-5.
Euston, a devout Anglican who did not share his brothers’ love of gaming and the chase, had toyed with a military career and been suggested as a candidate for Suffolk and Northamptonshire, where he resided at Wakefield Lodge, before his father the 4th duke of Grafton returned him for Bury St. Edmunds in 1818.1 He initially toed the political line drawn by Grafton and he was praised by the Bury and Norwich Post for opposing the malt tax, which affected local brewers and barley growers.2 Alarmed by the Peterloo massacre, he wrote to his wife in September 1819:
Parliament, it is clear, now is quite set aside by both parties. No one wishes for it, no one calls for it, and why? ... What an honest upright Parliament would do in a legal form, the reformers will do with or without your leave.3
He divided with his brother against the Liverpool ministry’s repressive legislation that autumn, but caused a stir by criticizing Bury St. Edmunds as a corporation borough and stood down at the dissolution of 1820, when Lord Darlington’s erstwhile Member for Ilchester, John Drage William Merest, threatened opposition.4 Before canvassing the borough with his uncle Lord John Fitzroy, who took his place, he wrote to his wife:
I ... hope he will be as well pleased as I am with the change, which indeed I am heartily, and not from any idle motive, whatever my friends may think ... We are all here deciders of our own actions, and if we think or consider at all, we must follow the dictates of our consideration, which is more likely to lead us right than the great wisdom of they that have not the same ... I may be blamed for changing my mind ... Humans are sometimes harder dealt with than animals: a fox who yields to circumstances and is obliged to deviate from his course is a good fox if he returns to it, but a poor human being who yields to circumstances is roughly dealt with and is given nothing but discredit.5
Out of Parliament he retained a high public profile. He joined his father in urging the adoption of a reform petition at the Suffolk county meeting, 10 Mar. 1821, but by 1823, when William Cobbett† was promoting radical reform in East Anglia, he privately doubted the ‘utility or efficacy of petitioning on this score’.6 He sponsored a subscription for the victims of arson attacks in Suffolk during the 1821-3 agricultural depression and attended throughout to Grafton’s interests at Bury St. Edmunds and Thetford.7 His support at the November 1822 Cambridge University by-election for the ministerial candidate Lord Hervey*, whose father was co-patron of Bury St. Edmunds, alienated the Whigs and was the subject of a hard-hitting editorial in The Times, which held him responsible for the defeat of the Whig lawyer James Scarlett*.8 Declaring that he would ‘make another trial’ and ‘secede as before’ should he fail, Euston came in for Bury St. Edmunds with Hervey (Earl Jermyn) at the general election of 1826.9 Speaking at the corporation feast in October, he urged the eastern division of Suffolk to subscribe adequately towards the county hospital in Bury St. Edmunds.10
Few records of Euston’s attendance in 1826-7 survive, but he voted in the Whig minorities for inquiry into the Irish estimates, 5 Apr., and chancery delays, 5 Apr., and to disfranchise Penryn, 28 May 1827. After the duke of Wellington became premier, he intervened on the address to pay tribute to Admiral Codrington’s victory at Navarino and criticized the government’s failure to mark it with a vote of thanks, 31 Jan. 1828. He presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 19 Feb., and voted thus, 26 Feb. Aligning as previously, he voted to limit the crown’s right to goods recovered under the customs and excise laws, 29 Apr., and against abolishing the circulation of small bank notes, 5 June. He voted for Catholic relief, 12 May, and presented an anti-slavery petition from Bury St. Edmunds, 13 May 1828. As the patronage secretary Planta had predicted, he voted for Catholic emancipation, 6 Mar. 1829. He did not apparently vote on the 1830 address, from which mention of distress was omitted, and held aloof from the Suffolk meeting of 6 Feb. dominated by the Ultras, which petitioned for remedial measures.11 However, he spoke and voted with Hume against the estimates ‘in view of the distressed state of the country’, 26 Feb. He voted to enfranchise Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., for O’Connell’s radical and Russell’s general reform proposals, 28 May, and steadily with the revived Whig opposition between 12 Mar. and 7 July, including for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. Alleged charity abuse and the cost of poor relief were becoming major issues in Bury St. Edmunds, and Euston, who had been added to Slaney’s 1828 committee, presented a petition favourable to the poor law amendment bill from the guardians of Bury’s incorporation of the poor, 4 May. He presented constituents’ petitions for criminal law reform, 19 Feb., and equivalent duties on rum and corn spirits, 21 May. His return at the general election was unopposed, but his vote in O’Connell’s minority of 13 on reform was criticized in the press and on the hustings, where he refused to give pledges and called for stringent economies ‘on higher as well as lower salaries’.12 He had declined an invitation to stand for Suffolk, where the Whig Sir William Rowley retired, and instead proposed his long-term rival for the seat, Sir Henry Edward Bunbury*, at the nomination meeting at Stowmarket, 6 Aug. 1830.13
Euston was listed among the Wellington ministry’s ‘foes’ and divided against them when they were defeated on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He afterwards relinquished his £400 army pension ‘on moral grounds’,14 and endorsed the estimates proposed by the Grey ministry’s secretary at war Williams Wynn, 14 Mar. 1831. He did not attend the Suffolk reform meeting, where Grafton declared unequivocally for the ministerial bill, 17 Mar.,15 and he voted against its second reading, 22 Mar. Addressing his constituents, 28 Mar., after the pro-reform barrister Samuel Boileau had commenced canvassing against him, he declared that he
opposed this bill, because I have thought it and still think it founded in injustice ... Parliament has no more just right to deprive the smallest borough of its rights, than the common law has to deprive the smallest individual of his life or rights unless he is found guilty of violating the laws of the country. At the same time, I consider Parliament has a right, and it is its duty, to correct the abuses of its representation in any just and legal manner it can; but not ... to cut the knot at once, and break through every barrier of law and justice to effect its object. I have another objection to the bill, which if not a legal infringement, I consider a violation of liberty, namely the diminishing the number of Members ... If you think them insufficient reasons for my having opposed the bill, you will do right to reject me as your representative. At all events, my only wish is to be chosen by the free will of the electors, whether they be the members of the corporation, or the inhabitants of the town.16
On 2 Apr. he announced that he would neither compromise his conscience nor seek re-election. He confirmed that he had ‘never been for wholesale disfranchisement as a means of achieving reform or disfranchising a borough without a conviction of corruption’, and expressed support for an extended franchise ‘in every borough ... where that right is not already existing’ and ‘giving representatives to large and populous towns’.17 He voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831, and retired at the ensuing dissolution.18
Euston was mooted for West Suffolk and Northamptonshire at the first post-reform election in December 1832, but remained out of Parliament until the death in 1834 of his brother Lord James Henry Fitzroy produced a vacancy at Thetford, which he was obliged to represent personally to sustain the Grafton interest there. He was unseated on petition in 1842, two years before succeeding to his father’s titles and estates.19 Ill and increasingly eccentric in later life, he died in March 1863 in the only room he occupied at Wakefield Lodge and was buried locally at Potterspury. His son, William Henry Fitzroy (1819-82), Liberal Member for Thetford, 1847-53, succeeded as 5th duke.20
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820