VILLIERS, Frederick (1801-1872), of 11 Paper Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 24 Mar. 1801,1 ?4th (?2nd illegit.) s. of Charles Meynell (d. 1815) of The Grove, Ashbourne, Derbys. educ. Eton 1814; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1823; L. Inn 1825, called 1831. m. Anna. d. 27 May 1872.
Villiers was born in Derbyshire and descended from the Meynell family, who had been established in that county since the twelfth century. His father was the youngest son of Hugo Meynell of Bradley, Member for Lichfield and other boroughs, 1762-80. According to Charles Meynell’s will, he left at his death in 1815 two sons, Charles and Francis Meynell, and two other ‘natural sons’, Charles and Frederick Villiers, who were ‘now receiving their education at ... Eton’. Frederick inherited £1,500 and a half-share of certain ‘trust money’, payable on the death of his father’s second wife.2 He qualified as a barrister in January 1831 and at the general election that spring was returned unopposed for Saltash as a supporter of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, on the interest of his friend William Russell*.3
He informed The Times that he had not been absent from the division on the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, but had voted for it.4 He voted steadily for the bill’s details, although he supported the transfer of Saltash from schedule A to B, 26 July, on the ground that the borough and the parish of St. Stephen’s were ‘completely identified’; he praised the government’s fairness in allowing the House to decide the matter. He divided for the third reading, 19 Sept., but stated next day that while his objections to certain clauses had been removed, others still remained. He particularly regretted the inclusion in the preamble of ‘highly derogatory’ expressions regarding ‘the composition of this and preceding Parliaments’, which, by implying that they had been ‘illegally constituted’, seemed ‘calculated to diminish the respect due to its authority’ and were likely to encourage some to ‘call in question the legality of many contracts founded on the decision of this House’. These ‘inflammatory discourses’ had ‘furnished the enemies of existing institutions and vested rights with a fresh weapon’ and exacerbated the violence of popular feeling. He would have preferred to see the case for reform explained in terms of the need to ‘keep pace with the improved intellect of the people’. He also feared that the proposed division of counties was ‘pregnant with mischief’ for the aristocratic interest, as many of the constituencies thus created would be dominated by the manufacturing towns within them, and the representatives of divided counties would carry less weight in the House. He maintained that ‘no representative legislature can ever be permanent and secure, unless it contains ... a large portion of those who form the natural aristocracy of the country’. He ended by expressing his ‘total disapprobation’ of the clamour raised in the country against the Lords, in an attempt to inhibit ‘the exercise of its proper jurisdiction’. Benjamin Disraeli† later recalled how his ‘old acquaintance’ had ‘distinguished himself by voting for the bill in all its stages and then delivering a violent philippic against it’, as a result of which ‘a certain coolness ... ensued between himself and his old ally, Edward Lytton [Bulwer*]’.5 He voted for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He divided for the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, its details, including the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb.,6 the third reading, 22 Mar., and Ebrington’s motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers committed to carrying an unimpaired measure, 10 May 1832. His only other known votes were with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July. He was named to the select committee on the renewal of the East India Company’s charter, 27 Jan. 1832.
Villiers wrote to lord chancellor Brougham in January 1832 requesting that if he should ‘ever wish for any man willing to work and anxious to earn his hire, to fill any place which may be at your disposal’, he might ‘take my case into consideration’. He explained that
owing to my constant attendance in the House last year, for the purpose of giving my support to the reform bill, I was prevented applying to my profession so closely as I was wont to do. I was compelled to absent myself both from the sessions and from the circuit. It even happened that the week the circuit was at Exeter ... was the exact week in which the debate upon Saltash ... came on. As my colleague does not support ministers thoroughly, I was entreated to remain in town. Your Lordship is aware how prejudicial it is to a man working his way at the bar to absent himself from his sessions or circuit. I fear that I may be called upon again this year to make the same sacrifice, for my constituents are very much discontented at finding Saltash in schedule A.7
No offer was apparently forthcoming, but Villiers was relieved of his constituency obligations by the Reform Act. His subsequent choice of seats to contest was singularly unfortunate. He was returned for Canterbury in 1835 as ‘a decided advocate of triennial parliaments and vote by ballot, a staunch friend to civil and religious liberty, a resolute economist, and a determined abolisher of unearned pensions’, only to be unseated on petition. In 1841 he was elected at Sudbury, but this was later declared void and the constituency disfranchised for gross venality.8 He evidently did not persevere at the bar, and was reportedly living at Genoa in the 1860s. By the time of his death in 1872 he had become Frederick Villiers Meynell; his widow Anna resided in London and Nice.