VERNON, George II (1661-1735), of Farnham, Surr. and Pulham St. Mary, Norf.
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Family and Education
bap. 10 Feb. 1661, 2nd s. of Sir George Vernon† of Farnham by Elizabeth, da. and h. of Roger Kirkham of Cheshunt, Herts.; nephew of Sir Thomas Vernon*. educ. Merchant Taylors’ 1679–80; St. John’s, Oxf. matric. 1680; I. Temple 1680. m. lic. 3 Mar. 1685, Elizabeth (d. 1725), da. of Ralph Claxton of Pulham St. Mary, 4da. suc. fa. 1692.1
?Gent. of privy chamber 1712–?d.
Vernon’s grandfather, Henry, of Haunton, Staffordshire, had been the first of his forebears to settle in Surrey, and by December 1648 had sufficiently established the family’s local reputation to act as a temporary host to Charles I when the King passed through Farnham en route to his fate in London. Largely through maintaining such loyalty to the court, Vernon’s father, Sir George, had secured a seat at Haslemere in 1685. Although Sir George had wavered in his allegiance in the face of James II’s religious policies, Vernon himself proved a steady adherent of the Tory party after the Revolution. In partnership with his close friend George Woodroffe* and other like-minded local gentlemen, he was a key figure in assuring that at least one of the Haslemere seats remained a Tory preserve.
Vernon first came to the notice of the House on 20 Jan. 1692 with the introduction of a bill to settle a small parcel of the family’s Surrey estate, a measure which received swift parliamentary approval. His actual entrance into Parliament came in the wake of a notable Tory victory at Haslemere in July 1698, the outcome of which saw Vernon a clear winner ahead of his running-mate Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe* and the losing Whig candidate George Rodney Brydges*. At the outset of the new Parliament he was cited as a likely opponent of the standing army, and soon afterwards was confirmed by another list as a Country supporter. His parliamentary activity is less easy to ascertain due to the presence in the House of two namesakes, George I* of Derby and Secretary James I*, although he was unlikely to have proved a conspicuous figure in his first Parliament. Endorsing this impression of inactivity is the fact that at the general election of January 1701 Vernon appeared content to step aside in deference to his ally Woodroffe as the Haslemere Tories again captured both seats.
The second election of 1701 saw Vernon regain his seat without a contest, for the first time alongside Woodroffe. In December 1701 he was classified with the Tories in Robert Harley’s* list, an assessment underlined on 26 Feb. 1702 by his support for the motion to vindicate the Commons’ proceedings the previous year concerning the impeachment of the Junto lords. His contribution to the business of the House is once again obscured by the predominant figure of James Vernon I, but this confusion was removed in the next Parliament when he was the only Vernon elected. A double return from the bailiff of Haslemere caused him anxious moments before the House upheld his right to sit, but in the first session Vernon actually sponsored a measure to benefit the candidate whose return had been quashed, James Tichborne of Frimley. He also acted as teller on 19 Dec. 1702 in a failed attempt to block an additional clause for a land tax bill.
On 20 Jan. 1704 Vernon acted as teller in favour of a clause for addition to a bill to establish a land registry in Yorkshire. His politics remained unchanged, being forecast as a likely supporter by Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), possibly in connexion with the Scotch Plot. Nottingham in fact received notice in September 1703 that the bishop of Winchester was ready to attest to Vernon’s ‘very good character’. In the course of the last session of the 1702 Parliament Vernon proved his party loyalties on several occasions, most notably in his presentation of an address at court on 12 Nov. 1704 which praised the victories of Sir George Rooke* as well as those gained by the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†). On a similarly partisan note, he acted as a teller on 27 Nov. to block a motion to permit the Whig Sir Joseph Jekyll* to attend the Upper House. The next day he predictably voted for the Tack, having been previously identified as one of its probable supporters. Vernon’s decision not to contest the Haslemere election of 1705 may well have been influenced by ill-health, the House having granted him on 20 Jan. a fortnight’s leave to recuperate. He almost certainly did not attempt to contest the seats against two fellow Tories, as Dyer suggested, for he duly voted for the Tory candidate at the ensuing county election. Vernon’s apparent reluctance to stand at either of the elections of 1708 and 1710 was probably as much a result of the growing strength of the Whig challenge at Haslemere as it was a consequence of the local Tory practice of rotating parliamentary candidates. He no doubt took great heart at his party’s notable victory at Haslemere in 1710, and at the ensuing county contest voted for the Tory interest when an even more significant triumph was secured over the Surrey Whigs. Even though he was no longer in the House, his party loyalty may have earned him recognition at court, for in March 1712 a ‘George Vernon’ was appointed a gentleman of the privy chamber. Vernon stood successfully for Haslemere in August 1713, although his victory was tempered by the fact that the other seat was gained by a Whig. With no fewer than three namesakes now in the House, the task of distinguishing his activity becomes once more extremely difficult; but he was naturally classed as a Tory in the Worsley list of the 1713 Parliament.2
At the general election of 1715 Vernon made his last attempt to secure a seat at Haslemere, but was unable to overcome the Whiggish influence of ‘our long knight’, Sir Richard Onslow, 3rd Bt.* Although pessimistic of his chances of reversing the result in a Whig-dominated Commons, he felt ‘bound in conscience’ to appeal against the result, but his petition failed, and he did not stand again. However, according to Chamberlayne, ‘George Vernon’ kept his office in the privy chamber in the reign of George I, and another source suggests that his tenure may have continued until the 1730s. Whether he managed to retain royal favour or not, by the time of his death Vernon had clearly become very disillusioned with the court, blaming the crown for his family’s acute financial difficulties. In his will of March 1733 he alluded to the sleeping-cap which Charles I had given to his grandfather as ‘the only bounty my family ever received for all the losses and expenses they sustained for the royal cause which amounted to many thousands of pounds’. He died without a male heir, but his cousin Sir Charles Vernon†, who had married one of Vernon’s daughters, maintained the family’s parliamentary involvement into the reign of George III.3
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Perry Gauci
- 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 358; IGI, Surr.; Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 159–60; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. lx), 115; PCC 196 Ducie, 255 Leeds.
- 2. Add. 29588, f. 237; London Gazette, 9–13 Nov. 1704; Colls. from Dyer’s Letters , 4; Surr. Polls of 1705 and 1710; info. from Prof. R. O. Bucholz.
- 3. Add. 19243, f. 4; Chamberlayne, Anglia Notitia (1716), 561; info. from Prof. Bucholz; J. M. Beattie, Eng. Court in Reign of Geo. I, 34–35; PCC 196 Ducie.