LEGGE, Hon. Heneage (1788-1844), of Putney House, Richmond, Surr.

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

Constituency

Dates

22 Nov. 1819 - Feb. 1826

Family and Education

b. 29 Feb. 1788, 2nd s. of George Legge†, 3rd earl of Dartmouth (d. 1810), and Lady Frances Finch, da. of Heneage Finch†, 3rd earl of Aylesford; bro. of Hon. Arthur Charles Legge*. educ. Eton 1799; Christ Church, Oxf. 1805; fellow, All Souls 1812-28, BCL 1812, DCL 1818; L. Inn 1809, called 1815. m. 19 July 1827, Mary Gregory, 1da.1 d. 12 Dec. 1844.

Offices Held

Gent. usher to the king 1822-37, sen. gent. usher to Queen Victoria 1837-d.

Commr.of customs Feb. 1826-d.

Capt. R. Staffs. militia 1820.

Biography

Legge was again returned unopposed for the corporation borough of Banbury on the interest of his kinsman the 5th earl of Guildford at the general election of 1820, when a murderous stone-throwing mob besieged the town hall, and he ‘escaped with his life’ only by ‘being dragged over the top of some of the houses and let down into the inn yard, from whence he made his escape in the disguise of a post boy’.2 He gave general support to the Liverpool ministry, but was not a particularly assiduous attender. He voted against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820. He was one of the ‘most remarkable’ of the deserters who joined the opposition minority deploring the omission of Queen Caroline’s name from the liturgy, 26 Jan. 1821;3 but he returned to the government fold to vote in defence of their general conduct towards her, 6 Feb. 1821. His only reported speech was against the restoration of her name to the liturgy, 13 Feb., when he explained his apparent volte face on the grounds that her ‘pertinacious attempts of late to set the people in hostile array against both Houses of Parliament’ justified the exclusion, which he had originally considered ‘ill advised’ and provocative. He also changed his mind over Catholic relief, voting for it, 28 Feb. 1821, but subsequently opposing it, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr, 10 May 1825. He divided against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. He voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821, and tax reductions, 21 Feb. 1822, 3, 18 Mar. 1823. He opposed parliamentary reform, 20 Feb. 1823. He presented a petition for the abolition of slavery, 5 May 1823,4 but paired against Brougham’s motion condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith for inciting insurrection among slaves in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He voted for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity, 30 May, 6, 10 June 1825. Legge’s brother Lord Dartmouth had been pestering Lord Liverpool to accommodate him as a commissioner of customs or excise since 1822, when he had been given a minor household post; and in March 1824, following false reports of the resignation of Lord Francis Conyngham* as under-secretary at the foreign office, Robert Wilmot* told Lord Granville that ‘Heneage Legge is very anxious to get something, I don’t mean that he would look to that post, but to some advantage arising out of the move’.5 In February 1826 he was appointed a commissioner of customs, at £1,200 a year, and necessarily vacated his seat.

The following year he made what was evidently an unsuitable marriage, at least in the eyes of his mother. In January 1829 George Fortescue* told a mutual friend:

I had a letter ... from Heneage Legge telling me that his mother had at last allowed him to ‘declare his marriage, explaining his history to his friends and nearest relations, with an understanding that the subject should not be talked about or the marriage supposed to be acknowledged’ ... He has too at last been made acquainted with his wife’s name and genealogy, and though he cannot divulge it, seems to derive comfort from finding it respectable and ancient beyond what from former conversations with me, he appeared to expect.

Soon afterwards Fortescue reported that at a dinner at their club Legge ‘did not quite look as he used to in a merry party of friends and was more silent than ever’.