NOEL, Sir Gerard Noel, 2nd bt. (1759-1838), of Exton Park, Rutland
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Family and Educationb. 17 July 1759, o.s. of Gerard Anne Edwards of Welham Grove, Leics. and Lady Jane Noel, da. of Baptist, 4th earl of Gainsborough. educ. Eton 1770-4; St. John’s, Camb. 1776. m. (1) 21 Dec. 1780, Diana (d. 12 Apr. 1823), da. and h. of Sir Charles Middleton, 1st bt. (afterwards 1st Bar. Barham), whom she suc. as 2nd Baroness 17 June 1813, 12s. (4 d.v.p.) 6da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) 4 May 1823, Harriet (d. 11 Aug. 1826), da. of Rev. Joseph Gill of Scraptoft, Leics., s.p.; (3) 11 Aug. 1831, Isabella, wid. of Evans Raymond of Milton, Kent, s.p. suc. fa. to Welham 1773; uncle Henry, 6th earl of Gainsborough, to his estates 8 Apr. 1798 and took name of Noel by royal lic. 5 May 1798; fa.-in-law as 2nd bt. by spec. rem. 17 June 1813. d. 25 Feb. 1838.
Capt. Rutland militia 1779-94; col. Rutland fencibles 1794-9; lt.-col. commdt. Rutland vols. 1800, maj.-commdt. 1803.
High steward, Camden 1798; sheriff, Rutland 1812-13.
Justifiably confident of his return for Rutland on the Gainsborough interest at the 1820 general election, the quixotic and unpredictable Noel wrote to assure the premier Lord Liverpool, 28 Feb., of his readiness to support the ‘strongest measures’ in the ‘present crisis of affairs’, even to the extent of ‘proclaiming martial law’:
It may not be irksome ... to receive assurances of determined support during this anxious period ... and I trust that the motive of public safety will be so apparent to all better minded persons, that popularity will result from the boldest measures of precaution.
Failure to act decisively, he warned, would induce him to ‘pass a heavy censure upon government’. He wrote again to Liverpool in early March to seek naval patronage for his third son.1 On the hustings, Noel, whose Foxite past was far behind him, declared his ‘determination of supporting ministers’. He was returned unopposed, as he was throughout this period. He immediately issued an address in which he wrote that ‘we must laugh at men calling themselves Whigs ... who would seat Papists in Parliament, put them at the head of the army and navy, and at the council board of our monarch’.2 Yet he voted in the opposition minority against the appointment of a green bag committee to investigate Queen Caroline’s conduct, 26 June 1820. In August he published a letter of ‘remonstrance’, addressed to Liverpool, in which he observed that as a long-serving and independent Member, who had generally supported ministers, he could not contemplate the ‘monstrous’ bill of pains and penalties without feelings of ‘disgust’ and ‘astonishment’. He condemned the ‘enormous growing expenses of the trial’ and declared it his ‘paramount duty’ to ‘interrupt and thwart the enactment of this bill in every stage’.3 He tried to do so in the Commons, 18 Sept., when he declared that ministers had as much regard for the House as a huntsman for his hounds and voted in the minority of 12 for the prorogation of Parliament. On 17 Oct. he objected to the proposed adjournment at this ‘critical period’ and now condemned the House as a ‘pack of hounds’ at the beck and call of ministers, but at length withdrew his amendment to extend the sitting to the following day. His conspicuous support for the queen, to whom he presented a Stamford loyal address, enraged some of his leading county supporters, but he set them at defiance.4 In late December 1820 Lord Lonsdale reported that Noel had made a ‘short’ visit to two prisoners held for blasphemy and sedition in Oakham gaol:
He has given out that he entered Oakham incognito, lest his appearance should call forth the acclamation of the people, and he should be embarrassed by the attention they would show him. He has had addresses presented to him by the villages of Exton and Whitwell, both of them his own property.5
He paired for the opposition censure motion, 6 Feb., and for the proposal to restore the queen’s name to the liturgy, 13 Feb. 1821. He voted to deplore the Allies’ revocation of the liberal constitution in Naples, 21 Feb., and for inquiry into the conduct of the sheriff of Dublin, 22 Feb. He paired against Catholic relief, 28 Feb., but was apparently reckoned a likely supporter of the relief bill at its report stage, 26 Mar.6 He voted to make Leeds, proposed for enfranchisement in place of Grampound, a scot and lot borough, 2 Mar. He was given a week’s leave to attend to urgent private business, 13 Mar. He voted for economy in the army medical service, 16 Apr. He was granted a fortnight’s leave on account of ill health, 18 May, but was present to vote for reduction of the duke of Clarence’s annuity, 18 June 1821. His attendance seems to have lapsed thereafter.
On 8 Apr. 1823 Noel wrote to advise the home secretary Peel of his intention of supporting the petition of Mrs. Olivia Serres, who claimed to be the daughter of the duke of Cumberland. Peel replied, with the king’s approval, that he must exercise his ‘own discretion’ as to the ‘propriety’ of drawing her claim to the attention of the House.7 (Noel’s wife of 42 years and at least 18 pregnancies died four days later, but he remarried within four weeks.) In the House, 18 June, he moved for a select committee to consider Mrs. Serres’s petition and vowed to ‘pursue this lady’s claim to the death’:
To give judgement against any person without knowing why, would be still further to prove the necessity of the parliamentary reform sought for by the people ... The constitution, had been his watchword ... and if it had been corrupted through neglect the blame lay somewhere. Where there was a grievance it ought to be remedied.
Undaunted by Peel’s exposure of Mrs. Serrers’s imposture, Noel initially persisted in his demand for inquiry, but at length decided not to divide the House. He voted in the minorities for inquiry into naval patronage and the coronation expenses, 19 June 1823. His only other known votes in this Parliament were for repeal of the usury laws, 27 June 1823, for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 10 May, and for the grant to the duke of Cumberland, 2 June 1825.
Returning thanks for his re-election in 1826 (when he was absent from the hustings because his second wife was dying) Noel, who had not yet ‘recruited his purse sufficiently’, following the serious derangement of his financial affairs in 1816, to ‘resume any parade’ of the county, deplored the clamour against Lord Exeter’s influence at Stamford and denied that the aristocracy enjoyed undue influence in elections.8 When the lord lieutenancy of Rutland fell vacant soon afterwards Liverpool told Peel that Noel, who had applied for it, was ‘entirely out of the question’, and he nominated Exeter.9 Noel paired against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He presented constituency petitions against the Malt Act, 24 Mar., and the revised corn duties, 25 Apr. 1828. He again paired against Catholic relief, 12 May. Curiously, he was a guest at the annual Westminster purity of election dinner, 26 May.10 On 23 June he voted in the opposition minority for inquiry into the alleged misapplication of funds in the refurbishment of Buckingham House, but he voted with the Wellington ministry against reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July 1828. The following day he presented a Rutland petition for additional protection for sheep farmers and breeders. Planta, the patronage secretary, thought he would side ‘with government’ for their concession of Catholic emancipation, but he presented hostile petitions, 16 Mar., voted against the measure, 18, 27 Mar., and paired likewise, 30 Mar. 1829. At the Rutland county meeting called to petition for relief from distress, 27 Feb. 1830, he endorsed its petition, despite the inclusion of an amendment in favour of parliamentary reform. Declaring his willingness to take charge of the petition he spoke of his determination ‘to submit to any inconvenience [rather] than lose the principle of supporting the yeomanry’ of Rutland;11 but it was his colleague Sir Gilbert Heathcote who presented the petition, and Noel is not known to have spoken or voted during that session. He was granted three weeks’ leave to deal with urgent private business, 8 Mar. 1830. Two months later he privately urged the prime minister to reconsider the delay in the payment of money due to Baron de Bode.12
At the general election of 1830, he claimed that he had voted against Catholic relief in accordance with his constituents’ wishes, though ‘his own feelings were enlisted in favour of the measure’. He said that he was ‘decidedly against’ parliamentary reform, which ‘might merge into revolution’, but conceded that if his constituents thought the current system an evil of ‘such a monstrous magnitude, he believed he should help to relieve them from it’. He acknowledged that there had been ‘something wrong’ in the recent election at Stamford, where Exeter had repelled a reformer’s challenge by dubious means, but insisted that ‘every lord near a town ought to do his duty by that town’.13 Ministers listed him as one of their ‘foes’, but he was absent from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented a petition for the abolition of slavery, 19 Nov. 1830. He voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he deplored the ‘extraordinary manner’ in which the measure had been opposed, condemned the ‘unconstitutional resistance’ with which the anti-reformers had ‘deprecated the dissolution’ and declared himself a ‘staunch friend’ to the bill, ‘fully approving the honest declarations of the men now in power’. At a celebratory dinner he reiterated his enthusiasm for reform and promised to call ministers to account should they show ‘a disposition to escape from their pledges’.14
Noel voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and steadily for its details, though he was in the minority for the disfranchisement of Saltash, 26 July 1831. He interrupted his attendance to marry for the third time, at the age of 72, in the