LEIGH, Thomas Charles (1801-1863), of 35 Dover Street, Piccadilly, Mdx.

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

Constituency

Dates

21 Sept. 1831 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 5 Feb. 1801, 1st s. of Charles Hanbury Tracy*. educ. privately; European tour 1818; Christ Church, Oxf. 1819. m. 25 Aug. 1831, Emma Elizabeth Alicia, da. and coh. of George Hay Dawkins Pennant*, 6s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da. (1 d.v.p.). Took name of Leigh by royal lic. 11 Apr. 1806; resumed patronymic of Hanbury Tracy by royal lic. 30 Mar. 1839; suc. fa. as 2nd Bar. Sudeley 10 Feb. 1858. d. 19 Feb. 1863.

Offices Held

Ld. lt. Mont. 1858 - d.

Biography

Leigh was so named at the age of five in deference to the memory of his maternal grandfather, to whose estates in Gloucestershire, Montgomeryshire and Shropshire he was his father’s heir.1 The year before he went to Oxford he undertook a four month tour of Switzerland and Italy.2 He shared his father’s advanced Whig politics and was elected to Brooks’s on 12 Feb. 1826, sponsored by his father’s friends and associates Sir Francis Burdett* and William Lewis Hughes, Member for Wallingford. In August 1831 he married an heiress worth £70,000. When Hughes was raised to the peerage as Lord Dinorben by the Grey ministry the following month he recommended Leigh to his supporters at Wallingford. (The story was that Dinorben had offered his support in the first instance to Hanbury Tracy, but he had irons in the fire at Tewkesbury, where he came in on a vacancy the following January.) Leigh, who was chaperoned by his father, was opposed by a local Tory put up by the corporation-backed Blue party dedicated to ending the systematic bribery by which Hughes’s interest had largely been sustained. According to a hostile newspaper report, he was given a hard time on the hustings, where his opponents denounced him as Dinorben’s nominee and ‘a mere tool of ministers’. The extreme brevity of his speech, in which he promised to ‘adhere to the liberal principles in which I have been brought up, and lend my aid in reforming every species of abuse in church and state’, was seized on as evidence of a lack of talent, and his silence when asked to renounce electoral corruption was construed as a refusal. It was asserted that his ‘assumed nonchalance of a modern exquisite’ was ‘shattered’ by his critics, whose attacks reduced him to ‘a perfect specimen of suffering meekness’. For all this, he was easily returned on the poll. Emboldened, perhaps, by his success, he denounced as ‘useless and absurd’ the question thrown at him by one of his tormentors as to whether he would support the ministerial bill to outlaw bribery: ‘How is it possible for a man who has promised to vote for every species of reform to do otherwise? The question answers itself’. The petition alleging bribery which was lodged against his return was not pursued.3

Leigh revealed no hidden talents in the House, where he is not known to have opened his mouth in debate and provided reliable lobby fodder for the ministry. He voted for the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831. He divided for the second reading of the revised English reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, was a steadfast supporter of its details, and voted for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He rallied to ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only a government which would carry the reform bill unimpaired, 10 May, and for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish measure, 1 June. He voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832. He retired from the Commons at the dissolution of 1832.

Leigh, who resumed the names of Hanbury Tracy after his father’s ennoblement as Lord Sudeley in 1838, enjoyed the dignity himself for only five years before dying at Pau, in the South of France in February 1863. By his will, dated 17 June 1862, he left his wife £2,000, an annuity of £3,000, and his house at Eastern Terrace, Brighton. Having settled £25,000 on each of his three married daughters, he devised the same sum to their two spinster sisters, and left £20,000 each to his four surviving younger sons. He was succeeded in the peerage by his eldest son,