ROBARTS, George James (?1782-1829), of Grosvenor Street, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. ?1782, 2nd s. of Abraham Robarts (d. 1816) of North End, Hampstead, Mdx. and Sabine, da. of Thomas Tierney of Limerick; bro. of Abraham Wildey Robarts* and William Tierney Robarts*. unm. 2s. 1da. illegit. CB 1815. d. 16 Oct. 1829.
Cornet 23 Drag. 1803; lt. 10 (Prince’s Own) Drag. 1804, capt. 1806, maj. 1811, brevet lt.-col. 1813; maj. 24 Drag. Nov. 1814, 9 Drag. Dec. 1814 (half-pay).
Robarts served in the Peninsula, distinguished himself in command of the prince of Wales’s Hussars at Morales, 2 June 1813, and fought at Vitoria later in the month. On his return home he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. He was the senior of the 24 officers of the regiment who in August 1814 signed a letter requesting a court martial on the allegedly reprehensible conduct of their colonel, George Quentin, in France the previous spring. Quentin was largely exonerated and, to mark the prince regent’s displeasure, his officers were disbanded as a corps. Robarts was transferred to the 24th Hussars on 12 Nov. 1814. In the Commons, 23 Nov., his uncle George Tierney refuted an official statement, placed in the Courier, that in an earlier debate he had made light of Robarts’s personal indebtedness to the regent for his promotion. Like the chief scapegoat in the affair, Colonel Charles Palmer, Robarts was placed on half-pay shortly afterwards.1
He received £6,107 from his wealthy father in his lifetime and on his death in 1816 inherited a further £33,893 plus £10,000 in trust.2 He joined Brooks’s in 1817 and bought five houses in the venal borough of Wallingford, which he unsuccessfully contested in 1818. He tried again at the general election of 1820, when some of the respectable electors formed an association to promote independence and root out corruption. He professed sympathy with their aims, came second in the poll and so joined two of his brothers in the House.3 (The other son of Abraham Robarts, James Thomas, was a supercargo with the East India Company in Canton.) Robarts followed the family line and was a steady, though apparently silent adherent of the Whig opposition to the Liverpool ministry. He was a regular voter for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation, favoured making Leeds, proposed for enfranchisement in place of Grampound, a scot and lot borough, 2 Mar. 1821, and divided for parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 26 Feb. 1824. He led the Wallingford deputation which presented a supportive address to Queen Caroline, 22 Jan. 1821.4 He was apparently a lukewarm supporter of Catholic relief: his only certain vote for it was on 1 Mar. 1825. His last recorded votes were against the president of the board of trade’s ministerial salary, 7, 10 Apr., and for reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr., and relaxation of the corn laws, 18 Apr. 1826. That day, as Tierney told Lady Holland, 28 Apr., his family came ‘very near losing’ him:
He was suddenly attacked in the House of Commons ... by loss of speech and for the four following days the physicians gave hardly a hope of his being likely to live. A favourable change has however taken place and he is now out of danger, though still attended by the doctors four times a day. The case is not paralytic but is connected with some pressure of the brain.
On 16 May Tierney wrote:
My poor nephew is still in a very precarious state, but the physicians encourage us to hope that he will ultimately recover. I should have more confidence in them if they were able to say distinctly what was his complaint.5
He had come in for criticism in Wallingford for failing to pay the expected rewards to his supporters; and two months before the general election of 1826 (a few days before his seizure in the House) he was persuaded that his only chance of re-election lay in coalescing with the other veteran Whig sitting Member William Hughes, an enthusiastic briber. He was too ill to take any part in the campaign, and his brother-in-law John Maddox stood in for him. He was returned in second place, but he vacated his seat soon after the new Parliament met.6 He survived in a state of vegetation for a further three years, but on 27 Aug. 1829 Tierney told Lord Holland that he
cannot possibly last long. He is in as wretched a condition as can well be imagined, his bones through his skin and his faculties entirely gone. The physician who lives with him says that he cannot answer for him from day to day, at the same time that he may linger on for some weeks.7
He died in October 1829, ‘aged 47’. On the 19th his brother Abraham, the only survivor of the four (William had died in 1820 and James in 1825, at Macao), told Lord Salisbury, to whom Robarts left his shooting equipment:
The illness which led to this fatal event has been of such long duration, and was attended with so many distressing and melancholy circumstances, the termination of it can scarcely be considered otherwise than [as] a providential release from a miserable existence.8
By his will, dated 24 Nov. 1823, and proved under £70,000, he bequeathed £10,000 to Mary Ann Harben, who lived in a house he owned at 57 Welbeck Street; £10,000 each to their bastards Georgiana Charlotte and James George, and the same sum to another illegitimate child, George Francis Stuart Andrews. He commended the first two to the ‘favourable notice’ of his mother and sisters, trusting that they would ‘have some feeling in consideration for the circumstances of their birth and do all in their power to make them respectable and happy in life’. His daughter received his Vitoria medal and a set of dental instruments looted from Joseph Buonaparte’s carriage at that engagement.9
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 714; Gent. Mag. (1814), ii. 494, 577; HMC Fortescue, x. 393-4.
- 2. PROB 11/1587/636; Oxford DNB.
- 3. Reading Mercury, 6, 13, 20 Mar. 1820.
- 4. Ibid. 5 Feb. 1821.
- 5. Add. 51584.
- 6. Berks. Chron. 22 Apr., 3, 10, 17 June, 2, 9 Dec. 1826. See WALLINGFORD.
- 7. Add. 51586.
- 8. Hatfield House mss 2M/Gen.
- 9. PROB 11/1762/607; IR26/1206/635.