TAYLOUR, Thomas, earl of Bective (1787-1870).
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Family and Educationb. 4 May 1787, 1st. s. of Thomas Taylour, 1st mq. of Headfort [I], and Mary, da. and h. of George Quin of Quinsborough, co. Clare. educ. Harrow 1798-c.1803; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1811. m. (1) 29 Jan. 1822, Olivia (d. 21 July 1834), da. of Sir John Stevenson, D. Mus., of Dublin, wid. of Edward Tuite Dalton of Fennar, co. Meath, 3s. 3da.; (2) 5 Apr. 1853, Frances, da. of John Livingstone Martyn of co. Tyrone, wid. of Sir William Hay MacNaghten, 1st bt., and of Col. James C. McClintoch of the Bengal army, s.p. styled Visct. Headfort 1795-1800, earl of Bective 1800-29; suc. fa. as 2nd mq. of Headfort [I] 24 Oct. 1829; cr. Bar. Kenlis [UK] 10 Sept. 1831; KP 15 Apr. 1839. d. 6 Dec. 1870.
Ld. of bedchamber June 1835-June 1837; ld. in waiting June 1837-Sept. 1841; PC [I] 30 May 1835.
Ld. lt. co. Cavan 1831-d.
Col. R. Meath militia 1823.
Bective had joined Brooks’s, 19 Dec. 1810, sponsored by Lord Bessborough, but once seated for Meath on his family interest voted with government and in favour of Catholic claims.1 On 29 June 1816 costs of £10,000 were awarded against him for the ‘seduction’ of the wife of Lord George Thomas Beresford*. It was probably in settlement of this that a note of sequestration was later served on his London house in Stanhope Street, Mayfair, while he was abroad.2 At the 1820 general election he was returned unopposed for Meath and proposed Nathanial Sneyd* for county Cavan, where his family also had a ‘leading’ influence.3 Listed by the Liverpool ministry as ‘strongly recommending’ silk for Sir Henry Meredyth, he voted in defence of their conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821, and against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. He argued against inquiry into the conduct of the sheriff of Dublin, who he contended had ‘conducted himself with great judgement and propriety’, 23 Feb. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He voted against more extensive tax reductions, 21 Feb. 1822. On 19 June 1822 Goulburn, the Irish secretary, wrote ‘again’ to Lord Wellesley, the Irish viceroy, concerning Bective’s ‘anxiety’ for a church living for one Mr. Pepper.4
Following the birth of his first son, 1 Nov. 1822, Lady Spencer, whose daughter Georgiana had married Bective’s younger brother George, informed her husband:
It is your regret at Lord Bective’s having a son. I have ever considered poor Gin’s children as so absolutely barred from any future accession of fortune or rank, that it actually made no impression on me to hear of that profligate race being perpetuated through that infamous channel ... It is surely better that the disappointment should take place early than late and at Lord Bective’s age it even might be looked to as probable ... As for poor Gin she must submit to it [and] exert herself to make the best of it ... These are the considerations which really make me read of the notice of Lord Bective’s having an heir with the same indifference that I should any other blackguard having one.5
On 21 Feb. 1823 Goulburn cautioned Wellesley against the ‘dangerous precedent’ of allowing Bective to succeed his father as colonel of the Meath militia, as it might be viewed as creating ‘a monopoly ... in favour of one family’, and urged that he be offered the custos rotulorum instead; but Bective was appointed colonel later that year.6 He divided against inquiry into the currency, 12 June 1823. No trace of parliamentary activity has been found for 1824. Apparently without warning, he voted against suppression of the Catholic Association, 15 Feb., whereupon Goulburn informed Wellesley that he was ‘most surprised at Lord Bective’s opposition’, and again, 25 Feb. 1825.7 He presented a Newcastle petition against the measure, 21 Feb., and one from county Cavan for Catholic claims, 19 Apr., which he claimed had been ‘signed by 12,500 persons who possessed property to the amount of £60,000 per year’, 26 Apr.8 He endorsed a county meeting against alteration of the corn laws, 24 Apr., and attended one to promote Catholic claims, 30 Aug. 1825.9 The following month, when there were rumours of a dissolution, Goulburn complained to the home secretary Peel that Bective had put his father’s interest in county Cavan at the disposal of Robert Henry Southwell, ‘a radical’, apparently ‘with a view to secure Roman Catholic support for himself’ in Meath, and urged the adoption of ‘any means to produce a change in Lord Headfort’s decision’. This was apparently unsuccessful, for on 24 Sept. 1825 Lord Farnham reported to Peel that ‘there would not have been any opposition’ in Cavan ‘had not Lord Bective given his support to Southwell, who stands on the Roman Catholic interest’.10 Bective attended the Catholic Association dinner for the ‘friends of civil and religious liberty’, 2 Feb. 1826.11
At the 1826 general election he stood again for Meath, citing his ‘decided conviction that the concession of Catholic claims was essential’. Rumours of an opposition came to nothing and he was returned unopposed.12 In county Cavan he proposed Southwell.13 He brought up Meath petitions for Catholic claims, 2, 5 Mar., and divided accordingly, 6 Mar. 1827, a visitor to Headfort House noting that Bective ‘was obliged to leave us at night, on his way to attend Parliament, on the Roman Catholic question, of which he is a warm supporter’.14 He brought up a constituency petition against alteration of the corn laws, 8 Mar. 1827.15 He was granted leave for a month to attend the assizes, 14 Mar., and for a fortnight on account of family illness, 1 May 1827. He presented multiple petitions for Catholic relief, 29 Apr. 1828, when he warned that ‘postponement’ of the question would be ‘received in Ireland with dismay’, 1 May, and voted thus, 12 May. He attended county meetings to promote the cause and draw up favourable petitions, 30 Sept. 1828, 26 Jan. 1829, and helped chair one in the Rotunda, Dublin, 20 Jan. 1829, when he urged ‘all the friends of civil and religious liberty in Ireland to unite in one determined body’ and condemned the recall of Lord Anglesey, the Irish viceroy.16 He presented 40 petitions for emancipation (13 from Meath) and argued that ‘if the Catholic Association be dangerous, the Brunswick and Orange Clubs are doubly so’ and ‘also ought to be suppressed’, 12 Feb. He presented dozens more petitions for emancipation and repeal of the Subletting and Vestry Acts throughout February and March, insisted that emancipation would ‘extinguish all those religious and political differences which have long stood in the way of the improvement and prosperity of Ireland’, 19 Feb., and voted accordingly, 6, 30 Mar. He had been listed by Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, as ‘opposed to securities’, but on 19 Feb. he conceded that ‘the one bill cannot be carried unless the other bill is carried also’ and suggested that the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders would ‘prove to be but as a light cloud, which for a while may diminish the brightness of the sun’s rays’. On 26 Mar. he welcomed the raising of the minimum freehold qualification to £10 as ‘the best remedy we can apply to the present abuses’, but warned that increasing it to £20 ‘would deprive a large portion of the really respectable freeholders of their franchises’. He presented a petition from the Meath militia for compensation under the Militia Suspension Act, 19 Mar., and one in similar terms from the Westmeath militia, 24 Mar. He voted for Daniel O’Connell to be allowed to take his seat unhindered, 18 May. On 3 July 1829 Leveson Gower, the Irish secretary, informed him of the success of his request for the living of Newtown and assured him of his ‘due appreciation of the support received by government in Parliament from your lordship’.17
On the death of his father in October 1829 Bective succeeded to the Irish marquessate of Headfort. Reviewing the claims of the leading families in Meath to the vacant governorship, Wellington advised the Irish viceroy that ‘Headfort is the most important, but by English rules cannot be appointed to succeed his father’.18 In September 1831 the Grey ministry gave him a United Kingdom peerage as Baron Kenlis, George Agar Ellis* noting that ‘like a true Irishman’ he went to the Lords ‘without his patent, so his introduction was obliged to be deferred till tomorrow’.19 He was appointed the first lord lieutenant of county Cavan under the Irish Lord Lieutenants Act later that year. He held household posts under the second Melbourne administration. Greville observed that he became ‘quite frightened’ when Guizot committed a ‘great gaucherie’ and upset the queen’s table sittings, 22 Sept. 1840.20
Bective died at Headfort House in December 1870 and was succeeded in the peerage by his eldest son Thomas (1822-94), Conservative Member for Westmorland since 1854.