WIGRAM, Sir Robert (1773-1843), of Belmont Lodge, Malvern Wells, Worcs. and 10 Connaught Terrace, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 25 Sept. 1773, 1st s. of Robert Wigram† of Walthamstow House, Essex and 1st w. Catherine, da. of John Brodhurst of Mansfield, Notts.; bro. of William Wigram*. educ. privately. m. 3 Aug. 1812, Selina, da. of Sir John Macnamara Hayes, 1st bt., of co. Clare, 6s. 5da. kntd. 7 May 1818; suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 6 Nov. 1830; took name of Fitzwygram instead of Wigram by royal lic. 22 Oct. 1832. d. 17 Dec. 1843.
Maj. 6 Loyal London vols. 1803.
Dir. Bank of England 1807-21.
Wigram, a silent supporter of the Liverpool ministry, continued to sit for Lostwithiel, where he was returned unopposed on the Mount Edgcumbe interest at the 1820 general election.1 A very lax attender, he was granted a fortnight’s leave on account of family illness, 3 July 1820.2 He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., and against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821. He was absent from the division on Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, but divided against it, 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He voted against condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith for inciting slave riots in Demerara, 11 June 1824. At the 1826 dissolution he retired. In May 1829 he came forward for a vacancy at Wexford on the interest of his kinsman the 2nd marquess of Ely, who was challenging his former allies for control of the representation. After a ‘furious family contest’ Wigram was returned in absentia at the head of the poll, amidst allegations of ‘corrupt practices’ by his agents.3 He cast no known votes before being unseated on petition, 15 Mar. 1830. In November that year he succeeded to the family estates and the ‘enormous fortune’ and baronetcy of his father, an East India merchant and ship’s husband, whose will, dated 14 Sept. 1825, was proved under £400,000, ‘besides freehold estates’, 1 Dec. 1830.4
On 9 May 1839 Wigram, whose ‘fanciful alteration’ of his surname to Fitzwygram was widely regarded as ‘not in good taste’, wrote to Sir Robert Peel* about a position as ‘maid of honour’ for one of his daughters, explaining that ‘with the great wealth in my family, rank is all we have to seek’, and recalling that ‘our revered parents were friends and since 1795 my family have uniformly supported Pitt principles, in and out of Parliament’.5 He repeated his request, 11 Sept. 1841, adding that his brother James had recently been elected Conservative Member for Leominster and that he had been ‘promised’ an Irish peerage by the late duke of York, about which he had sent a ‘memorial’ to the duke of Wellington in 1830. Peel, now premier, replied that the queen’s appointments were ‘entirely’ her ‘personal act’ and that he was ‘unable to give any assurances’ on the ‘other points’. Undeterred, Wigram assured Peel that he had ‘the power to make up the entailure’ to ‘half a million’ and that his ‘fortune should be dedicated to Conservative principles’, 19 Jan., and on 23 Apr. 1842 requested promotion to ‘the rank of a privy councillor’, citing the ‘recent elevation’ of James to the vice-chancellorship, which had ‘again reminded me of my long deferred hopes’.6 Peel’s unfavourable reply of 25 Apr. ‘so disappointed’ Wigram’s ‘expectations’ of ‘friendship after 40 years attachment’ that on 13 June 1842 he wrote to complain that
I am about to enter my 70th year without receiving a single favour from any minister and I am naturally anxious that my wealthy son and heir should follow my Conservative principles and should you promote me ... to the rank of a privy councillor, you will find us most grateful. If not, I must submit to leave my son free. When I read over the list and see how many are made by favour of the late ministry, I consider you must have the power to oblige a large wealthy family.
Peel responded the same day, explaining that he could not comply and that
however great your wealth and estimable your private character, I do not consider that your nomination to be a privy councillor would be warranted ... With regard to your son’s future course in political life, I will do him the justice of confidently believing that it will be ... influenced by higher considerations than my compliance or non-compliance with your request.7
A publication on ‘eminent Conservatives’ which appeared shortly afterwards remarked that Wigram was ‘among commoners, wealthy without ostentation, and among senators, consistent without reward’.8
He died in Brighton in December 1843.9 By his will, dated 21 Nov. 1843 and proved under £50,000, he made ample provision for his wife and divided the surplus between his younger children. The entailed estates passed to his eldest son and successor Robert (1813-73), who retained his original surname.10
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Philip Salmon
- 1. R. Cornw. Gazette, 16 Mar.; West Briton, 17 Mar. 1820.
- 2. Black Bk. (1823), 202; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 490.
- 3. Wexford Evening Post, 2, 5 June; Wexford Herald, 6 June 1829.
- 4. Wexford Independent, 11 Feb. 1831; PROB 11/1779/734; IR26/1246/561.
- 5. Gent. Mag. (1844), i. 317; Add. 40426, f. 289.
- 6. Add. 40488, ff. 219-22; 40507, ff. 66-68.
- 7. Add. 40510, ff. 143-5.
- 8. H.T. Ryall, Portraits of Eminent Conservatives (1841), ii. ch. 12.
- 9. Gent. Mag. (1844), i. 317.
- 10. PROB 11/1991/19; IR26/1672/5.