SEYMOUR CONWAY, Richard, Visct. Beauchamp (1800-1870).

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

Constituency

Dates

12 Jan. 1822 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 22 Feb. 1800, 1st s. of Francis Charles Seymour Conway*, earl of Yarmouth (later 3rd mq. of Hertford), and Maria Emily, legal da. of John Baptist, Mq. Fagnani. educ. private tutors; Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1818. unm. 1s. illegit. styled Visct. Beauchamp 1800-22, earl of Yarmouth 1822-42; suc. fa. as 4th mq. of Hertford 1 Mar. 1842; KG 19 Jan. 1846. d. 25 Aug. 1870.

Offices Held

Ensign 1 W.I. Regt. 1820; cornet 10 Drag. 1820, lt. 1821; capt. Cape corps cav. 1823; capt. 22 Drag. (half-pay) 1823-d.

Biography

Beauchamp, the elder son of Lord Yarmouth, the noted society playboy and friend of the prince regent, was probably, in fact, his only child, as a younger brother and a sister were apparently fathered by someone else. Brought up in Paris by his Italian mother, ‘Mie-Mie’, who had separated from Yarmouth, he was a bright but wayward boy, who received little formal education. Yarmouth’s intention had been to take him to England to attend public school, but his wife’s doubts about his health persuaded him to place Beauchamp with a tutor. He did not flourish, however, being incorrigibly idle and irked by English society; he wrote to his mother in 1816, asking her to pity him, ‘for I do bore myself cruelly’.1 That year he was duped by two army officers into losing an enormous sum of money at cards, a scandal which dogged him and his father for several years.2 Early in 1817 Beauchamp reported to his mother the publication of Eaton Stannard Barrett’s Six Weeks at Long’s which

gives an account of my business, and says I affect to speak bad English, that I wore false favoris and moustaches in Paris, etc., etc., etc. My name in the book is Don Exoticus Wistcoranzov. Exoticus on account of my having lived abroad all my life, and the other name on account of my favoris (my beard).3

For part of that year, and again during the Oxford vacation in 1819, he was apparently an attaché at the British embassy in Paris. He began a liaison with a woman 11 years his senior, Agnes Jackson, whose origins are obscure, although she was ostensibly the daughter of the self-styled baronet, Sir Thomas Wallace of Craigie Castle, Ayrshire, and the temporarily estranged wife of a City financier, Samuel Bickley. On 21 June 1818 she gave birth to Beauchamp’s son, who was christened Richard Jackson. He was taken to France at the age of six and subsequently brought up by Lady Yarmouth, who was popularly supposed to be his mother.4

At Dover in October 1818, Lord Glenbervie† recorded meeting Beauchamp, ‘just landed, looking so pale, so yellow and so jaded!’, who ‘unasked, told me he had just lost all his money at Paris’.5 He purchased an ensigncy in the 1st West India regiment in February 1820 and the following month transferred to the Prince of Wales’s Own light dragoons.6 After the Liverpool government’s decision to withdraw the bill of pains and penalties against Queen Caroline, which Beauchamp described as ‘much the best thing that can happen, so there is an end of this disagreeable business’, he took part in military action to defend the premises of the ministerialist Courier newspaper against the mob on the night of 11 Nov. 1820.7 His father thought that his service did him good, as ‘when he is steadily in town for a fortnight he grows languid but the morning air of his quarters soon restores him’.8 Late the following year he bought a lieutenancy and joined the half-pay list, hoping, despite George IV’s wish to have him reinstated, to be able to visit his ever indulgent mother in France.9 However, to his inexpressible disgust, his father commanded him to offer himself on the current vacancy for county Antrim, in order to preserve the family interest, and engineered his return to a full-pay posting. ‘So’, as he complained to his mother, ‘I shall not have a moment to myself in the whole year. But I told Lord Yarmouth that if he forced me to be in Parliament against my inclination I would give up the army’. Much against his wishes he set out for Ireland, and from Dublin reported that ‘dirt, etc., is all that is to be found ... How I hate being here nobody knows and shall be delighted to find myself once more in Paris’.10 A threatened opposition came to nothing, and in January 1822 he was duly returned for Antrim, where his grandfather, the 2nd marquess of Hertford, had his principal Irish estates.11

Beauchamp informed his mother of his success, adding that he was

with great truth very sorry for it. I will show you how near I have been to quarrelling with Lord Yarmouth about it by his letters to me, etc. But I can assure you nothing will prevent me living a great deal more than I have abroad with you ... But you have too much good sense to perceive that I must live a great deal in this country especially while Lord Hertford lives, as much depends upon him with regard to me.

He chose to stay in the army that session, when parliamentary attendance would excuse him from his regiment, and to look for a way of leaving it in the autumn.12 He paired against the Catholic peers bill, 30 Apr., apparently on an arrangement made by Yarmouth, who commented that ‘I daresay Beauchamp will prefer Princess Esterhazy’s ball’.13 No other evidence of activity has been traced, though in May he reported to his mother that ‘I have been attending to my parliamentary duties, answering the constituental [sic] letters and all that sort of thing, and hardly going out into the world at all’. But he also wrote: ‘What a dreadful thing it is being quite blasé at my age, which I am very sorry to say is the case. Nothing amuses me, I don’t know what is the matter with me and only hope it will not last’.14 After Hertford died in June 1822, Lord Yarmouth (as he was now styled) complained of being left nothing directly, and commented of the extended entail that ‘all I know is that I lose 1,000 a year by Lord Hertford’s death, but now that everything is settled upon me without the possibility of selling it, I can do whatever I please with perfect impunity’.15 John Croker*, his father’s man of business, expressed the hope that the 3rd marquess, ‘who felt the inconvenience of a narrow and jealous system himself, will act handsomely’ by Yarmouth.16

In early 1823, Hertford noted of his son, who left the army at this time, that he seemed in better health in England: ‘I believe this dull country exhausts him much less than Paris for he soon picks up here’.17 Yarmouth was credited with dividing in the majority for inquiry into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823, his only known vote in Parliament. He made no reported speeches and was said to have attended seldom and to have sided with ministers when he did so.18 By the autumn of 1825 he had informed his father that he had no intention of continuing in the Commons, and he retired at the dissolution the following year.19 Although he was again briefly an attaché in 1829, at Constantinople, he took no further part in politics, and his father wrote to him at the time of the dissolution in December 1834 that ‘if you don’t like Parliament, I don’t wonder; I know [Lord Lonsdale’s son, Lord] Lowther* and others would not sit but to please their papas’.20 His was a life of unfilled potential. Countess Granville described him in 1832 as

the greatest pity that ever was. Such powers of being delightful and captivating, grandes manières, talents of all kinds, finesse d’esprit, all spent in small base coin. He walks amongst us like a fallen angel, higher and lower than all of us put together.21

From the mid-1830s he resided in Paris, living reclusively at the Bagatelle villa in the Bois de Boulogne, and purchasing a vast collection of especially eighteenth-century art. In March 1842 he succeeded to the titles and estates of his father, by then a decrepit old roué.22 According to Captain Gronow, the duke of Wellington remembered him as ‘a man of extraordinary talents. He deserves to be classed among those men who possess transcendent abilities’, and his father’s old friend Sir Robert Peel* thought him

a man of great comprehension; not only versed in the sciences, but able to animate his mass of knowledge by a bright and active imagination. In a word, if he had lived in London, instead of frittering away his time in Paris, he would no doubt have been prime minister of England.23

An epicurean figure at the decadent court of Napoleon III and one of the last of the absentee English ‘milords’, Hertford died in Paris in August 1870, shortly before the fall of the Second Empire at the battle of Sedan, and was buried in Père Lachaise cemetery.24 He was succeeded as 5th marquess of Hertford by his second cousin, Francis George Hugh (1812-84), a household official, who inherited the entailed estates. But by his will, dated 1838 with several codicils dating from 1850 (which was proved in London with personalty under £500,000, 26 June, and in Dublin valued at £85,000 in Ireland, 12 Aug. 1871), he left his Irish and other estates to his illegitimate son, Richard (1818-90). He, who had changed his name from Jackson to Wallace in 1842, was given a baronetcy in 1871 and was Conservative Member for Lisburn, 1873-85. After the death of his widow in 1897 his father’s superb artistic possessions passed to the nation and were subsequently opened to the public at the family’s former residence in Manchester Square as the Wallace Collection.