LYTTELTON, Sir George, 5th Bt. (1709-73), of Hagley Hall, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. 17 Jan. 1709, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, 4th Bt., M.P., of Hagley Hall by Christian, da. of Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Bt., M.P., of Stowe, Bucks.; bro. of Sir Richard and William Henry Lyttelton. educ. Eton 1725; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1726; Grand Tour (Germany, France, Italy) 1728-30. m. (1) June 1742, Lucy (d. 19 Jan. 1747), da. of Hugh Fortescue of Filleigh, Devon, 1s. 2da.; (2) 10 Aug. 1749, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Robert Rich, 4th Bt., of Roos Hall, Suff., s.p. suc. fa. 14 Sept. 1751; cr. Baron Lyttelton 18 Nov. 1756.
Sec. to Frederick, Prince of Wales 1737-44; ld. of Treasury 1744-54; cofferer of the Household Mar. 1754-Nov. 1755; P.C. 21 June 1754; chancellor of the Exchequer Nov. 1755-Nov. 1756.
Lyttelton, a cousin of Lord Temple and the Grenvilles, and brother-in-law of Thomas Pitt senior, on whose interest he was first returned at Okehampton, entered politics as a member of the family group led by his uncle Lord Cobham, and took office with them in 1744.
On Henry Pelham’s death, 6 Mar. 1754, Lyttelton, approached by Newcastle, ‘undertook to be a factor for his friends’.1 He obtained the office of cofferer for himself; and, unauthorized, pledged his friends’ support for Newcastle’s Administration. This brought about a coolness in his relations with Temple and William Pitt, who since Cobham’s death had regarded themselves as the leaders of their little group. Temple, in a letter to George Grenville of 8 May 1755, sarcastically referred to Lyttelton as ‘that wise, virtuous, and able statesman’.2
In November 1755 Lyttelton refused to follow Pitt into an opposition which, in his own words, ‘had not even the pretence of any public cause but was purely personal against the Duke of Newcastle’.3 Their political connexion being now broken, Pitt bantered him mercilessly in the House of Commons. Lyttelton had ‘great abilities for set debates and solemn questions’,4 but was by no means Pitt’s equal in impromptu exchanges: he was ‘absent in business’, wrote Lord Waldegrave,5 and ‘not ready in a debate’. Horace Walpole wrote of his budget speech of 23 Jan. 1756:6
Sir George Lyttelton [was] ... well enough in general, but was strangely bewildered in the figures; he stumbled over millions, and dwelt pompously upon farthings.
And 4 Mar. 1756:7
I think I never heard so complete a scene of ignorance as yesterday on the new duties ... poor Sir George never knew prices from duties, nor drawbacks from premiums.
Lyttelton was not included in the Pitt-Newcastle Administration, and was consoled with a peerage—his ‘warmest prayer was to go to heaven in a coronet’, wrote Walpole.8
Lyttelton spoke frequently in the House of Lords, but remained a second rank politician. He became reconciled to Temple in 1764, voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, and in 1769 was included in the Chatham-Temple reconciliation.
Shelburne described him as ‘a good scholar, a dull historian, an amiable man, but a miserable politician’.9 ‘His ignorance of mankind is beyond all conception’, wrote his son;10and Waldegrave considered him as ‘a man of parts’ but ‘totally ignorant of the world’.11 He died 22 Aug. 1773.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: John Brooke
- 1. Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, i. 387.
- 2. Grenville Pprs, i. 134.
- 3. Phillimore, Mems. Corresp. Lyttelton, 480.
- 4. Pitt to Hardwicke, 6 Apr. 1754, Chatham Corresp. i. 106.
- 5. Mems. 25-26.
- 6. To Conway, 24 Jan. 1756.
- 7. To Conway.
- 8. Mems. Geo. II, i. 387.
- 9. Fitzmaurice, Shelburne, i. 58.
- 10. R. Blunt, Thomas, Lord Lyttelton, 81.
- 11. Mems. 25-26.