STOPFORD, James, 2nd Earl of Courtown [I] (1731-1810).
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Family and Education
b. 28 May 1731, 1st s. of James, 1st Earl of Courtown [I], by Elizabeth, da. of Rt. Rev. Edward Smith, bp. of Down. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1749. m. 19 Apr. 1762, Mary, da. and coh. of Richard Powys of Hintlesham Hall, Suff. by Lady Mary Brudenell, da. of George, 3rd Earl of Cardigan, 4s. 1da. suc. fa. 12 Jan. 1770; K.P. 5 Feb. 1783; cr. Baron Saltersford [GB] 7 June 1796.
M.P. [I] 1761-8.
P.C. [I] 28 Dec. 1775, ld. of the bedchamber to Prince of Wales 1780-4; P.C. [GB] 20 Aug. 1784; treasurer of Household 1784-93.
Courtown’s property and interests were in Ireland, and like his father and grandfather he was a Member of the Irish House of Commons. In England he acquired influential connexions by his marriage to a niece of Lords Cardigan and Bruce. Bruce appears to have considered returning him for Marlborough at the general election of 1768; and next, Lady Courtown asked Bruce to return her husband at the Great Bedwyn by-election of 1771:1
I know it would make my Lord exceedingly happy [she wrote to Bruce, 11 Jan.], yet he would not offer himself to you because he thinks if you are under no other engagements you will be so kind as to think of him ... and that it would be only distressing you, but I thought you might imagine he would not choose to be at the expense, and I really believe he would very willingly.
But even when in 1774 Courtown was returned at Great Bedwyn it seems to have been merely as a stop-gap till Bruce could find a suitable candidate; and Courtown resigned soon after the general election. When in 1775 he was made a Privy Councillor in Ireland, Sir John Blaquiere, secretary to the lord lieutenant, wrote in his survey of the Irish Parliament:2 ‘Seldom attends—has no earthly influence in Parliament—and indecently enough, through some connections he has in England, got himself named of the Council here without making application to Lord Harcourt.’
In 1780 Courtown, who had now acquired an English estate, was appointed a lord of the bedchamber to the Prince of Wales: ‘Lord Courtown must have been every way displeasing to him, being a stupid, stiff Irishman’,3 wrote Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, commenting on the King’s appointments to the Prince’s household. At the general election Ailesbury (as Bruce had become) had difficulty in finding a candidate for Marlborough, and offered the seat to Courtown, who after some hesitation accepted, and agreed to pay expenses amounting to £400. In Parliament he voted with Administration till the fall of North, and for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, but did not vote on Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. He supported Pitt’s Administration, thereby making himself still more displeasing to the Prince of Wales. On 5 Apr. 1784 Lord Sydney wrote to the lord lieutenant of Ireland, the Duke of Rutland, asking him to think of Lord Courtown in his new arrangements: the King was ‘much disposed to him’, and his situation in the Prince’s household was very awkward, and in June Courtown was dismissed by the Prince.
His Royal Highness has made no scruple to assign [Courtown’s] parliamentary conduct as the reason of his dismission [Sydney wrote to Rutland, 11 June]. The King feels this outrage most sensibly, and is determined to distinguish Lord Courtown in some manner or other. A place in Ireland ... has long been his object, as he does not mean to be an absentee from his house and property ... I am sensible of the difficulty under which you lie, but Lord Courtown is a man not without weight in Ireland, and I am persuaded that his well-known connexion with court, as well as the striking necessity of his being immediately distinguished, must appear as strong reasons for a preference at present.
Rutland gave an evasive reply, and on 25 June Sydney wrote again: ‘It is certainly of moment to the King’s service that he should be held up in a distinguished light after what he has suffered for his attachment to his Majesty.’4 No office appears to have been found for him in Ireland, but he was made treasurer of the Household, and like the Brudenells devoted himself to his court duties. He seems to have spoken in the House of Commons only when delivering formal messages from the royal family. He consistently supported Pitt’s Administration, but, influenced by the King’s opinions, seemed likely to vote against Pitt’s parliamentary reform proposals. In the end he did not do so, Pitt himself having ‘exerted his influence so as to prevent Lord Courtown, Sir George Howard, and Col. Manners from voting in it ... as being known immediately to belong to the King, and by withdrawing them he might well imagine people might doubt of the King’s having decided against the measure’.5
Courtown died 30 Mar. 1810.