SIDNEY, Philip Charles (1800-1851), of Penshurst Place, nr. Tonbridge, Kent and 25 Bolton Street, Piccadilly, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 11 Mar. 1800, o.s. of Sir John Shelley Sidney (formerly Shelley), 1st bt., of Penshurst Place and Henrietta, da. of Sir Henry Hunloke, 4th bt., of Wingerworth Hall, Derbys. educ. Eton 1817; Christ Church, Oxf. 1820. m. 13 Aug. 1825, Sophia FitzClarence, illegit. da. of William, duke of Clarence, and Dorothy, illegit. da. of Francis Bland (‘Mrs. Jordan’), 2s. (1d.v.p.) 4da. (1d.v.p.). KCH 1830; GCH 4 Mar. 1831; cr. Bar. de L’Isle and Dudley 13 Jan. 1835; suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 14 Mar. 1849. d. 4 Mar. 1851.
Cornet and sub.-lt.1 Life Gds. 1821, lt. 1823, capt. (half-pay) 1826.
Equerry to William IV 1830-5; surveyor-gen. of duchy of Cornw. 1833-49; ld. of bedchamber Jan.-Apr. 1835.
Sidney was heir to Penshurst Place, which had been in the family since the reign of Edward IV. Through his father, the second son of Sir Bysshe Shelley of Castle Goring, Sussex (his first with his second wife Elizabeth Perry), he had a claim to the ancient barony of Lisle, formerly vested in the Sidneys and Dudleys, and he was coheir to the baronetcies of Berkeley and Tyes.1 He was tutored privately in Kent and Brighton, and in 1818-19 toured the continent, where he acquired a reputation as ‘a fine young man’, who was ‘very handsome, his manners very pleasing’.2 Family letters record that early in 1821 he narrowly escaped involvement in a duel in Kent, where his father as sheriff had offended many by refusing to call a county meeting requisitioned to protest at the treatment of Queen Caroline.3 He joined the Life Guards that year with a career as a soldier and courtier in mind and promoted the petition claiming the de L’Isle barony lodged by his father, who in 1824 employed the services of the genealogist Sir Harris Nicolas; but after several adjournments, the committee of privileges of the House of Lords ruled against advising the king to allow the claim, 25 May 1826.4 The previous August, with her father the duke of Clarence’s ‘full consent’, Sidney had married the king’s illegitimate niece Sophia, under a settlement designed to ensure that she did not forfeit her £500 a year from the crown.5 Continued offers of assistance and support from the Clarences failed to secure Sidney the salaried post he coveted;6 but, as courtiers and go-betweens, he and his wife, ‘a very clever, agreeable woman’ (Mrs. Arbuthnot), universally acknowledged as her father’s favourite, socialized regularly with the duke of Wellington and other leading politicians to whom they addressed their claims.7 Sidney is not known to have sought election to Parliament before 1829, when, shortly after the birth of his second son, his fellow soldier and courtier Sir Edward Kerrison* returned him for his borough of Eye, where the death of Sir Miles Nightingall had created a vacancy coveted by members of the Henniker family. No evidence has been found that he bought his seat, but Kerrison’s name appeared on military promotion lists soon afterwards.8
Sidney, who is not known to have spoken in debate, voted against the Jewish emancipation bill, 17 May 1830. Clarence, on becoming William IV, appointed him one of his equerries with his other sons-in-law, and he retained his seat for Eye at the ensuing general election.9 Wellington, replying to a letter of 12 Aug. 1830 from Sophia, pressing Sidney’s case for elevation to the Lords as ‘the sole representative of eighteen peerages’ (a favour which she maintained George IV had personally asked her father to confer when he became king) reminded the couple, of whose negotiations with Lord Chandos* he was aware, that ‘every addition that he [William IV] makes to the House of Lords will increase the difficulties of this government’, and urged them ‘to be patient and to use your influence with others to be likewise’.10 The Wellington ministry counted Sidney among their ‘friends’ and he divided with them on the civil list when they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830. Sir John Shelley in Kent and Kerrison at Eye, which it threatened with disfranchisement, strenuously opposed the Grey ministry’s reform bill, so drawing attention to Sidney’s conduct in the House and the embarrassing prospect of the king’s son-in-law voting against his ministers. On 4 Mar. the cabinet resolved to use the forthcoming debates on the civil list and the report of the committee on salaries as a means of persuading the king to exert pressure on his retainers in Parliament to vote for the bill or lose their posts. General Wheatley, keeper of the privy purse, explained the situation to Sidney, who on the 5th wrote to inform William IV that he was resigning his seat. His private secretary Sir Herbert Taylor* replied, 6 Mar., that the king
expressed himself most pleased with the handsome manner in which you met and acted upon the communication ... and approves of your accepting the Chiltern Hundreds. He gives you credit for the sacrifices you are making and full credit also for the correct and honourable principles which has produced that sacrifice as he is the last man who would wish or expect anyone to give a vote he could not reconcile to his conscience.11
By 8 Mar. Sidney was out of the House. It was common knowledge that ‘his sentiments were not in favour of the reform bill’, but ‘he found it impossible to vote against the measure’.12 Granville Dudley Ryder* thought the king had acted ‘very improperly’.13 A correspondent to the pro-reform Suffolk Chronicle, 12 Mar., and The Times, 16 Mar. 1831, however, maintained that Sidney had wished to vote for reform to please the king, but had been made to vacate by Kerrison.
Sidney, who with Kerrison was awarded the Grand Cross of the Guelphic Order of Hanover, 24 Mar., did not stand for Parliament again, but he appears to have assisted William Robert Keith Douglas* and other anti-reformers at the 1831 general election.14 His wife hoped that the coronation in September 1831 ‘would have afforded the king an opportunity of complying with our wishes, without any reference whatever to political sentiments or opinions’, and wrote requesting Taylor and Lord Brougham to raise the question of a peerage with him and Lord Grey, 25 July. The king, however, knew of the pressure on Brougham and current rumours that the Sidneys and Sophia’s brother the earl of Munster were passing confidential information to the Tory opposition.15 On 27 July he directed Taylor to inform Sophia, to whom with her sisters he now accorded the rank of marquess’s daughter, that he was prepared to raise the question of Sidney’s peerage with Grey but ‘could not do so, unless he could add that Sir Philip Sidney would in the event of obtaining a peerage, support his government on all questions’.16 The Sidneys replied that the ‘sacrifice of principle and opinion ... [was] too high a price to pay’, 31 July.17 Sidney wrote to Thomas Lowndes, 13 Sept.:
If ever I have the good fortune to go into the House of Lords, I must enter it with the same feelings that actuate me here ... It is indeed a time when we must be true to ourselves and repel firmly the base and scandalous attacks that are daily levelled by the public prints at the aristocracy ... who have, I think, therefore proved themselves worthy of the land they live in.18
As the constitutional crisis over the reform bill deepened early in 1832, he argued against packing the Lords; and, in a bid to prevent it, he tried, with Sophia and Lord Strangford, to persuade Wellington to issue ‘a declaration or resolution for moderate reform’, and reassured him that the ‘king was wavering and anxious to embrace a modified measure’.19 Denis Le Marchant† recorded that he acted similarly in the Court and Conservative interests when the Grey ministry was almost brought down on the slavery question in June 1833.20 Three months previously he had been appointed to the sinecure office of surveyor-general of the duchy of Cornwall, worth £1,500-2,000 a year.21 When, in January 1835, he was created Lord de L’Isle and Dudley, Thomas Raikes made much of the peerage having been awarded under the auspices of a Whig ministry, and The Times printed a jibe at the numerous titles considered for Sidney; but the Conservative Sir Henry Hardinge* commented that ‘friends and foes all admit that you have shown great judgement and the most scrupulous delicacy throughout this proceeding and we your personal political friends are quite proud of the result’.22 He resigned from the royal household when Sir Robert Peel left office in April 1835, and complained bitterly against the Whigs in later life for refusing to pay his children £500 a year each, as promised in their grandfather’s reign.23 Sophia died in April 1837, a month after the birth of their youngest daughter, and the Conservatives subsequently rejected his patronage requests.24 When asked by Lord Carlisle, as chief commissioner of woods and forests in 1849, to relinquish his surveyorship of the duchy, his complaint to Queen Victoria that his patrimony would be ‘a very small one for a peer of the realm ... connected too with his late Majesty’ was heeded, and he received an annual compensatory pension of £1,000.25 He disentailed the 3,913-acre Kent estate to provide for his family after succeeding his father that year and died at Penshurst in March 1851, mourned by ‘several of the family of his late Majesty’. He was succeeded as 2nd baron and third baronet by his only surviving son Philip (1828-98), who had married the daughter and heiress of Sir William Foulis of Ingoldsby Manor, Yorkshire.26 By his will, dated 7 Dec. 1850, his effects at Penshurst and Warwickshire properties passed to Philip as life-tenant; and his personalty, town house and Kentish revenues provided legacies for his daughters, niece, grandson and servants. In 1853 his solicitor and trustee John Gregson* alleged irregularities in the administration of the will and estate by Adelaide Augusta Wilhelmina Sidney (1827-1904), his eldest daughter and sole executrix.27
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. Burke PB (1969-70), 756-8; LMA, Du Cane mss E/DCA/242-4; H.N. Nicolas, Report on Claim to Barony of de L’Isle in House of Lords (1829); Ann. Reg. (1849), Chron. p. 227.
- 2. Cent. Kent. Stud. de L’Isle mss U1500/C269/5, 6; C270/5, 6, 12-14; C271/1, 2; C284/2.
- 3. Ibid. C270/16-18; The Times, 19 Jan. 1821.
- 4. De L’Isle mss C212/1-5; L6/4, 27; V213/4; Minutes of Evidence ... and Case of Sir John Shelley Sidney.
- 5. De L’Isle mss C212/1-3; C213/4; C284/2.
- 6. Ibid. C212/1-4; C213/1.
- 7. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 313-15; Von Neumann Diary, i. 186.
- 8. De L’Isle mss C212/5; Suff. RO (Ipswich), Henniker mss S1/2/8/1.1; Gloucester Jnl. 19 Sept.; Suff. Chron. 15, 24 Oct. 1829; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 318.
- 9. De L’Isle mss C257/1; Wellington mss WP1/1125/40 Suff. Chron. 31 July; Ipswich Jnl. 7 Aug. 1830.
- 10. Wellington mss WP1/1134/8; 1137/42; de L’Isle mss C257/1.
- 11. William IV-Grey Corresp. i. 89, 136-50, 195; de L’Isle mss C240/1.
- 12. Bury and Norwich Post, 9 Mar.; Ipswich Jnl. 19 Mar. 1831.
- 13. Harrowby mss, Ryder to Harrowby, 8 Mar. 1831.
- 14. NAS GD224/507/3/19, 20.
- 15. M. Hopkirk, Queen Adelaide, 120; Holland House Diaries, 15; de L’Isle mss C235/3-5.
- 16. De L’Isle mss C240/2; L6/5; O15/2.
- 17. Ibid. C255/2; Taylor Pprs. i. 334-5.
- 18. Add. 37069, f. 296.
- 19. Three Diaries, 174-5; Wellington mss WP1/1213/14; NLW, Ormathwaite mss FG1/6, p. 30.
- 20. Three Diaries, 333-4.
- 21. De L’Isle mss O15/4.
- 22. Raikes Jnl. iii. 159; The Times, 6 Jan. 1835; de L’Isle mss C238/1.
- 23. Add. 40487, ff. 217-21; de L’Isle mss C236/10-12; C246/6, 7.
- 24. Add. 40426, f. 235; 40485, f. 344; 40486, f. 123.