SOMERSET, Henry, mq. of Worcester (1792-1853).

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

Constituency

Dates

30 Dec. 1813 - 1831
18 July 1831 - 1832
1835 - 23 Nov. 1835

Family and Education

b. 5 Feb. 1792, 1st s. of Henry Charles Somerset†, 6th duke of Beaufort, and Lady Charlotte Sophia Leveson Gower, da. of Granville Leveson Gower†, 1st mq. of Stafford; bro. of Lord Granville Charles Henry Somerset*. educ. by Rev. Walter Fletcher at Dalston, Cumb.; Westminster until 1805; by Edward Vernon, abp. of York; Christ Church, Oxf. 1809. m. (1) 25 July 1814, Georgiana Frederica (d. 11 May 1821), da. of Hon. Henry Fitzroy, 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 29 June 1822, at St. George, Hanover Square, and 21 Oct. 1823, at the Reform Church, Constance, Baden-Württemberg,1 Emily Frances, half-sister of his 1st w., da. of Charles Culling Smith, 1s. 6da. suc. fa. as 7th duke of Beaufort 23 Nov. 1835; KG 11 Apr. 1842. d. 17 Nov. 1853.

Offices Held

Cornet 10 Drag. 1811, lt. 1811; a.d.c. to duke of Wellington 1812-14; lt. 7 Drag. 1815, 93 Ft. 1819; capt. 37 Ft. 1819, maj. 1819, half-pay 1821, ret. 1832.

Ld. of admiralty May 1815-Mar. 1819.

Lt.-col. commdt. Glos. Hussars 1834

High Steward, Bristol 1836-d.

Biography

The 6th duke of Beaufort’s heir Lord Worcester, noted for his dandified dress and accomplishments and escapades as a soldier, sportsman and courtier, successfully saw off a challenge from the Gloucestershire Whig John Hodder Moggridge in 1820, to secure his fourth return for Beaufort’s borough of Monmouth and its contributories, Newport and Usk.2 He had recently served without distinction on the admiralty board and attended little to the business of the House, voting only when obliged to as a placeman, to preserve Newport’s exemption from the coal duties, and against Catholic relief, which, like all his family, he opposed.3 He attributed his recent problems in reviving his military career to a lack of understanding and co-operation between his uncle by marriage, the duke of Wellington, and General Sir Henry Torrens.4 As befitted ‘one of the fancy’ and a founder of the ‘Four in Hand Club’, Worcester devoted much time after the election to driving the ‘Reading coach down to that town and back every day’.5 A fall from his horse, 23 Aug. 1820, which it was initially feared might prove fatal, left him ‘stunned and severely bruised, but not dangerously hurt’.6 He divided with the Liverpool administration on the Queen Caroline case, 6 Feb., and the additional malt duty, 21 Mar., and paired, 28 Feb., and presented a petition from Clifton against Catholic relief, 2 Apr. 1821. Following their eviction for debt in March from their Upper Brook Street house, his wife had sought refuge at Apsley House, where she died, 11 May 1821, ‘after a week’s illness, of inflammation brought on by going into a cold bath after dancing at the ball at Carlton House’.7 According to Mrs. Arbuthnot, her only regret was ‘at leaving her children (two daughters) to the care of a father so inconsiderate and light minded’.8 To Charles Greville it was ‘the severest blow I ever had in my life’ for ‘I loved her like a sister’; and Henry Edward Fox* commented:

Such beauty, such youth and such a situation, poor woman! She never had a happy life. For him it is the worst thing that could happen. He will marry again, and some horrid thing or other like Miss Calcraft.9

Worcester had proved attentive during her illness, and, according to Wellington, who accompanied him to the funeral, he ‘suffered severely’, even if, as was widely predicted, he did ‘not feel it long’.10 Almost immediately he became engaged to the marquess of Anglesey’s daughter, Lady Jane Paget, and in the spring of 1822 he was portrayed in satirical prints with her and a pregnant Miss Calcraft, daughter of the Member for Wareham. He was also lampooned with the duke of Cumberland, as rival suitors of the banker Thomas Coutts’s widow, who had the means to pay off their debts.11 To his parents’ dismay, Worcester broke off his engagement, and caused a sensation in June by marrying his late wife’s pretty twenty-one-year-old half-sister, over whom he had almost fought a duel with the duke of Gloucester. The couple left immediately for Paris.12 Writing to her compatriot Metternich, Princess Lieven observed: ‘the young woman’s beauty consists in large black eyebrows and a great deal of hair on her face and arms - Englishmen cannot resist hairy arms. Isn’t that an odd taste?’13 Over the next two years Worcester and his father-in-law Culling Smith repeatedly sought counsel’s opinion on the marriage, which, though not illegal, was voidable under the consanguinity laws, placing the legitimacy of any issue at risk. Culling Smith, whom Wellington rightly blamed for not having tried harder to prevent it, lobbied hard to have such marriages referred to a Lords select committee, and a validating clause appended to the 1823 Marriage Act. When this approach failed, he, Worcester, and the latter’s friend Lord Avonmore explored the possibility of validating it under the Act as a foreign marriage. They found similar consanguinity prohibitions in force throughout Europe, but a dispensation was secured in Stuttgart, and the Worcesters were remarried in the reformed church at Constance, 21 Oct. 1823. To Worcester’s dismay, for Emily was now pregnant, this marriage, though fully documented, was not admitted under the Act, because the couple had neither been resident in Württemberg nor married according to rites recognized by the Church of England. The 1822 wedding was confirmed retrospectively in February 1836, under the terms of the 1835 Act.14

Worcester had taken legal advice on his first marriage settlement (worth £2,000 a year, of which at least half was allocated to repaying debts) soon after his arrival in France, and he drafted a settlement and will in favour of Emily, whom he appointed guardian of his children, 15 Aug. 1822. Early fears that his mother would prevent his daughters joining him in Paris and keep them exposed to ‘the pernicious influence’ and ‘unfortunate increase of Methodism’ at Badminton proved unfounded.15 He was concerned that when his uncle Lord Granville arrived in Paris as the new British ambassador, Lady Granville should ‘receive’ Emily, and threatened to bring libel actions against caricaturists who portrayed her as a pregnant bride watched over by her late sister. Wellington called on the Worcesters in Paris in October 1822, but the couple, who relied increasingly on loans procured through Culling Smith and his provision for Emily, were not reconciled with Beaufort until after the birth in February 1824 of an heir, to whom he agreed to be godfather. They returned to England after negotiations between Lord Fitzroy Somerset†, acting for Beaufort, and Culling Smith had secured a £10,000 marriage settlement for Emily in August 1824.16 That Michaelmas Worcester went to Swansea with his father to promote their interest in the Cardiff Boroughs constituency.17 Publication of his erstwhile mistress Harriette Wilson’s Memoirs early in 1825 put Worcester in the popular prints, which, as in 1817, depicted him as a dandy walking a clipped poodle.18 He voted, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., and paired against Catholic relief, 10 May, and divided against disfranchising Irish 40s. freeholders under the attendant franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. He voted for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity, 6, 10 June 1825. Opposition to the Beaufort interest in Monmouth and Usk persisted, but Worcester narrowly avoided a contest there in 1826 after a difficult canvass. 19

He divided against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828, and presented a petition for repeal of the 1827 Malt Act from the maltsters of Monmouth, 29 Feb. 1828. Not surprisingly, he was one of the Members criticized by the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary Planta in March for failing to give them regular support despite the sums of public money awarded to their families.20 In April Peel and Wellington turned down his requests for a civil knighthood for his friend Colonel Vaillant and church preferment for his former university tutor, Kenneth Mackenzie Reid Tarpley.21 He divided with government against ordnance reductions, 4 July 1828. He and his wife were guests at Stoke in August, when the Catholic question and Peel and Wellington’s treatment of Lord Anglesey as Irish lord lieutenant were much discussed.22 As Planta had predicted in February, Worcester voted ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, 6 Mar. 1829. He did not divide again on the issue and was refused government patronage that year for ‘Beau’ Brummell, Herbert Cornewall and Tarpley.23 A vote against the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Mar. 1830, is the only one recorded for him that session. At the proclamation of William IV in July and the general election in August, his constituents expressed satisfaction with him as a Member and returned him unopposed.24 According to Greville, he was now the go-between in a liaison between Lady Fitzroy Somerset and the chancellor of the exchequer Goulburn.25

The ministry naturally counted Worcester among their ‘friends’ and he left Apsley House, where he was dining with Wellington, to vote with them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, when they were brought down. Greville recalled that on returning he

only said that they had had a bad division, 29. Everybody thought he meant a majority for government, and the duke, who already knew what had happened, made a sign to him to say nothing. He knew nothing himself, had arrived after the division; they told him the numbers, and he came away fancying they were for government.26

Worcester attended a grand dinner at the Prussian Embassy, 21 Nov., presented Monmouth’s petition for repeal of the taxes on houses and windows, 23 Nov., and by 1 Dec. 1830 had joined his father and brother Granville at Heythorp, Oxfordshire, where they helped to eject and disperse a riotous mob.27 Amid further outbreaks of ‘jacquerie’ in the winter of 1830-31, he refused to support his constituents’ reform petitions, and a public meeting at Newport, 3 Feb. 1831, passed a resolution calling for representation by a reformer.28 Undeterred, Worcester divided against the Grey ministry’s reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. His declared opponent, the pro-reform squire and industrialist Benjamin Hall, had commenced canvassing, and Worcester was lucky to escape with his life after being cornered by the Newport mob, 28 Apr. On the hustings, he defended his decision to withhold his support from the Newport reform petitions, criticized the ministry’s record on retrenchment and reform, and tried to capitalize on their decision to equalize the coal duties (so depriving Newport of its advantage over Cardiff). He also charged his 1830 supporters with inconstancy, and Hall with authorship of a handbill (later acknowledged to be the work of the Newport printer John Partridge), claiming (falsely) that Beaufort and his family received £48,000 annually from public funds.29 Though now outpolled, Worcester was seated on petition, 18 July 1831, and new local committees were established to promote the Beaufort interest throughout Monmouthshire.30

He divided against the reintroduced reform bill at its third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept. 1831. The following day, briefing his father, who was about to set out to vote against it in the Lords, he claimed that Scarlett’s failure to speak as intended had made little difference to the outcome of the division on the 19th and expressed great admiration for Peel and Wetherell’s speeches on 21st. On the 27th, after visiting Stoke, he informed Beaufort that Lords Wharncliffe and Harrowby would continue to oppose the bill and praised his brother Granville’s speech on the lunacy bill, 26 Sept., on which the government had suffered a setback.31 He voted against the revised reform bill at its second and third readings 17 Dec. 1831, 22 Mar. 1832. He became a founder member of the Carlton Club with his father, and paired against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July 1832. He was then at Brighton with his family, seeking a cure for a rheumatic complaint, which left him almost unable to walk: ‘being half an hour on my feet immediately brings on a return of the pain’.32 It was to prompt his retirement from the army and prevented him canvassing early at the 1832 general election, when he was defeated by Hall.33

Worcester remained out of Parliament until 1835, when he was returned for Gloucestershire West.34 His financial difficulties persisted after he succeeded as 7th duke in November that year, but reports of his ruin proved premature. He requested a diplomatic post in Vienna in September 1841, turned down that offered to him at St. Petersburg, and was delighted to be made a knight of the garter the following year. He further drained his resources by spending an estimated £20,000 trying to prevent Granville’s election for Monmouthshire in 1847, when their differences over free trade were irreconcilable.35 He died at Badminton in November 1853, recalled as one of the ‘most popular sportsmen in England’, and his figure dominates portraits of the Badminton and Windsor Hunts.36 He left everything except jewellery and certain personal effects to his only son Henry Charles Fitzroy (1824-99), who from February 1846 until his succession as 8th duke was Conservative Member for Gloucestershire East.37

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott

Notes

Draws on the Badminton Muniments, seen by permission of His Grace the duke of Beaufort.

  • 1. Badminton mun. (Fm O 1/9/2).
  • 2. Cambrian, 10, 17 Mar.; Bristol Mercury, 13 Mar. 1820; K. Kissack, Monmouth, 73-76.
  • 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 224-5.
  • 4. Wellington mss WP1/629/22; 632/9; 633/5; 762/14; 763/10.
  • 5. Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC8/44.
  • 6. Countess Granville Letters, i. 162-4.
  • 7. Wellington mss WP1/644/10; 670/3; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland mss PwH 84; Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 6-11 May; Add. 51679, Lord J. Russell to Lady Holland [Mar.]; 51831, Lord Granville Somerset to Holland, 25 May 1821; Von Neumann Diary, i. 61.
  • 8. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 93-94.
  • 9. Greville Mems. i. 119; Castle Howard mss, Fox to G. Howard, 21 May 1821.
  • 10. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 95-96; Add. 51667, Bedford to Lady Holland, 13 May; 51579, Morpeth to same, 15 May 1821; H. Durant, The Somerset Sequence, 182-3.
  • 11. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 123; M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 14424-6.
  • 12. Agar Ellis diary, 18 Mar., 4, 8, 9 July, 27 Sept. 1822; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 141-2, 153, 171-2; Von Neumann Diary, i. 95; George, x. 14427.
  • 13. Lieven Letters, 184-5.
  • 14. Badminton mun. Fm O 1/9/2, bdles. marked ‘Secret’; Wellington mss WP1/762/14; 763/10.
  • 15. Badminton mun. Fm O 1/9/2.
  • 16. Ibid.; George, x. 14427; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 193; Add. 51668, Bedford to Lady Holland, 7 Mar.; Agar Ellis diary, 29 May 1824.
  • 17. Cambrian, 2 Oct. 1824.
  • 18. Harriette Wilson’s Mems. ed. J Laver (1929), 127-8, 130, 142, 152, 163, 190, 195, 203-5, 234, 247; George, x. 14828, 14831, 14844, 14848-9, 14932, 15085.
  • 19. Kissack, 56-101; NLW, Tredegar mss 57/45; Bristol Mercury, 8 May; Morning Chron. 10 June; The Times, 10, 15 June; Courier, 15 June 1826.
  • 20. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 176.
  • 21. Add. 40396, f. 189; Wellington mss WP1/968/27; 1023/19.
  • 22. Greville Mems. i. 217.
  • 23. Wellington mss WP1/1059/3; 1065/11; 1091/21; Greville Mems. i. 341.
  • 24. Mon. Merlin, 7 Aug. 1830; D. Williams, John Frost (1939), 58.
  • 25. Greville Mems. ii. 10.
  • 26. Ibid. ii. 60.
  • 27. Ibid. ii. 74.