WELD FORESTER, Hon. George Cecil Weld (1807-1886), of Willey Park, Salop and 14 Stanhope Street, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 10 May 1807, 2nd s. of Cecil Forester (afterwards Weld Forester†) (d. 1828) of Ross Hall, nr. Shrewsbury and Lady Katherine Mary Manners, da. of Charles, 4th duke of Rutland; bro. of Hon. John George Weld Weld Forester*. educ. Westminster 1818-22. m. 8 Nov. 1862, Hon. Mary Anne Jervis, da. of Edward, 2nd Visct. St. Vincent, wid. of David Ochterlony Dyce Sombré†, h. to the Begum Sumroo, s.p. suc. bro. as 3rd Bar. Forester 10 Oct. 1874. d. 14 Feb. 1886.
Cornet R. Horse. Gds. 1824, lt. 1826, capt. 1832, brevet maj. 1846, maj. and lt.-col. 1848, half-pay 1859; maj.-gen. 1863; lt.-gen. 1871; gen. 1877.
Groom of bedchamber Feb. 1830-Feb. 1831; comptroller of household Feb. 1852-Jan. 1853, Mar. 1858-June 1859; PC 27 Feb. 1852.
Cecil, or ‘Cis’ Forester as he was generally known, was, like his elder brother George, a godson of George IV. He was intended for the army, and in May 1822 his father Lord Forester, a coronation peer, asked the duke of Wellington to recommend him ‘for a cornetcy in the Blues’. This the duke agreed to do, and to ‘give him leave of absence afterwards for as long a period as you please to enable him to finish his education’.1 The Shropshire Member Rowland Hill’s cornetcy in the Blues was purchased for him, 27 May 1824.2 When on leave, Forester was a popular guest at balls and house parties and a hunting and gambling companion of Robert Myddelton Biddulph*, to whom his sister Isabella, who afterwards married George Anson*, was briefly engaged.3 His coming of age in May 1828 was clouded by the death of his gout-ridden father, who ‘fell off a pony’; and on 24 June he took his seat as Member for Wenlock in place of George, who had succeeded to the peerage.4
Weld Forester, who soon complained that attending the Commons curtailed his hunting,5 divided with the Wellington administration against ordnance reductions, 4 July, and on the silk duties, 14 July 1828. His uncle, the Rev. Townshend Forester, a stalwart of the Shropshire Brunswick Club, encouraged anti-Catholic petitioning,6 and the patronage secretary Planta’s February 1829 prediction that Weld Forester would vote ‘with government’ for emancipation proved incorrect, for he divided resolutely against the measure, 6, 18, 30 Mar. 1829, although his brother gave Wellington his proxy.7 He voted against transferring East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb. 1830. His re-election following his appointment as groom of the bedchamber that month passed without incident and it soon became his duty to issue bulletins on the king’s deteriorating health.8 The only votes recorded for him before the dissolution precipitated by George IV’s death were against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He presented his constituents’ petition for lower duties on bricks, tiles and slates, 9 July 1830. Nothing came of a proposed challenge at Wenlock, which returned him unopposed at the general election.9
Weld Forester retained his place at court under William IV, and was naturally counted among the ministry’s ‘friends’; but he was absent from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented an anti-slavery petition from the Baptists of Broseley, 10 Nov. 1830. The king was said to have considered his resignation, 23 Feb., before the details of the Grey ministry’s reform bill were announced, precipitate;10 but it left him free to vote against the bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. His brother also opposed it, and his return for Wenlock at the ensuing general election was never in doubt.11 During the contest for the county, he created a stir by rowing daily up the River Severn to Shrewsbury to campaign for Hill and the anti-reformers.12 The defeated reformer William Lloyd, a family friend, now dubbed him ‘the most noisy fool I ever met with’.13 In June a report circulated that ‘Cecil Forester was obliged to abscond his country for misdemeanour in gambling’.14 He divided against the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July, and for adjournment, 12 July, to use the 1831 census to determine English borough disfranchisements, 19 July, and against taking a Member from Chippenham, 27 July 1831. He voted against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept. He divided against the revised reform bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, and committal, 20 Jan., against enfranchising Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted against the second reading of the Irish measure, 25 May, and for the Liverpool disfranchisement bill, 23 May. He divided with opposition on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July 1832. In October the Spectator described him as ‘a Tory after the duke of Wellington’s own heart. He votes regularly, speaks not at all, and manifests a strong repugnance to be of the slightest public service to his fellow man’.15
Despite a sharp contest, during which he was pelted with mud and stones, Weld Forester’s return for Wenlock as a Conservative in December 1832 was assured and he remained one of its Members until he succeeded to the peerage in 1874, when he was ‘Father of the House’.16 Peel passed him over for preferment in 1835, 1839 and 1841, but in 1837 Lord Granville Somerset* considered him a possible ‘whipper-in’.17 A confirmed protectionist, he opposed repeal of the corn laws in 1846, and was appointed a privy councillor and comptroller of the household by Lord Derby as premier in 1852.18 He remained an army officer, and both before and after his late marriage to the wealthy widow Mary Anne Dyce Sombré, whose dowry and eccentric late husband (Member for Sudbury, 1841-2) were the subject of much gossip, he spent part of each year in Hamburg, visiting Shropshire for occasional shooting parties. He died a general in the army in February 1886, a month after injuring himself on a hurdle, and was buried at Willey. Obituarists recalled his ‘winning charm’, which made him ‘for many years one of the best known figures in London society’.19 His will confirmed previous settlements and ensured that all his papers passed to his widow (d. 1895), whom he directed to ‘look them over and destroy such as she considers necessary or desirable’. Being childless, he was succeeded in his titles and estates by his brother, the Rev. Orlando Watkin Weld Forester (1813-94), rector of Gedling, Nottinghamshire, and chancellor of York.20
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. Salop Archives, Weld-Forester mss 1224/332/105.
- 2. Wellington mss WP1/793/30.
- 3. NLW, Aston Hall mss C.323-4; Weld-Forester mss 37/215-236; 332/194.
- 4. Weld-Forester mss 332/159; Salopian Jnl. 28 May, 11, 18, 25 June; Gent. Mag. (1828), ii. 82.
- 5. Aston Hall mss C.327.
- 6. Weld-Forester mss 332/180; Salopian Jnl. 7 Jan., 11 Feb. 1829.
- 7. See WELD FORESTER, John George.
- 8. Wellington mss WP1/1094/11; 1098/33; Wolverhampton Chron. 17 Feb., 3 Mar. 1830; Salop Archives 1634/21; Von Neumann Diary i. 209.
- 9. Salopian Jnl. 14, 21, 28 July, 4 Aug.; Wolverhampton Chron. 21 July, 4 Aug. 1830.
- 10. Greville Mems. ii. 120.
- 11. Salopian Jnl. 27 Apr.; Wolverhampton Chron. 4 May 1831.
- 12. Salopian Jnl. 6, 13, 20 May; Wolverhampton Chron. 18 May 1831.
- 13. Aston Hall mss C.5329.
- 14. Salop Archives 1649, Alderman Jones’s diary, 12 June 1831.
- 15. Spectator, 27 Oct.; Shrewsbury Chron. 2 Nov. 1831.
- 16. Alderman Jones’s diary, 2 Nov.-26 Dec.; Shrewsbury Chron. 14 Dec. 1832.