VYNER, Robert (1717-99), of Gautby, Lincs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1754 - 1761
1774 - 1784
11 Jan. 1785 - 1796

Family and Education

b. 27 June 1717, o.s. of Robert Vyner.  educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1738; I. Temple 1741.  m. 5 May 1768, Eleanor, da. of Thomas Carter of Redbourne, Lincs., wid. of Francis Anderson, and mother of Charles Anderson Pelham and Francis Evelyn Anderson, 1s.

Offices Held


On 14 Mar. 1754 Vyner wrote to Robert Butcher, agent to the Duke of Bedford:1

I having accidentally heard that his Grace the Duke of Bedford has offered to choose a gentleman for Okehampton who not choosing to be in Parliament had therefore excused himself from accepting the Duke’s proposal, I should be very glad to confer with you upon that subject, having now a little money in my power which I had not when I was with you with Lord Fane in the summer, that if the report is true, the terms within my circumstances, and his Grace has not already engaged himself, I should deem it a great obligation to be honoured with his Grace’s acceptance of me.

He was returned unopposed as the Duke’s candidate, but in Parliament followed his father, and continued to oppose the Administration even after Bedford had in December 1756 taken office. Rigby reported to Bedford, 18 June 1757: ‘I hear young Mr. Vyner in the House of Commons chose to abuse the Hanoverians for cowardice, with some insinuations not very favourable to his royal Highness [the Duke of Cumberland]. What he says does not signify much.’2 And again on 31 May 1759, about an address moved the previous day by Pitt on the militia:3

Nobody said a word but young Vyner, who did not object to the address, but said the reason why there was not a militia in every county in England was only [sic] to the negligence of the lords lieutenants, and that he thought another address to the King would be proper to exhort the lords lieutenants to do their duty, but he did not think himself of consequence enough to move it.

It was moved by George Cooke, and was passed. But when the next day Vyner ‘moved for leave to bring in a bill to alter the present Act’, he did not find anyone to second him.

Vyner did not stand in 1761; was defeated at Lincoln in 1768; and returned after a contest in 1774. He was a diehard over America: he wanted to see Great Britain’s supremacy maintained over her colonies, and to achieve it ‘was willing to pay not only 4s. but 14s. in the pound’ (3 May 1775). Speaking as a country gentleman, ‘he, for one ... expected America would be taxed for the purpose of raising a revenue, both to defray the expenses of a war this country was wantonly forced into in the assertion of her own rights, and towards relieving us of the burdens incurred by protecting the colonies during the late war’ (12 Mar. 1776). ‘He was not for offering any conditions for peace while an American had a musket on his shoulder’ (10 May 1776). Sincerely concerned with every aspect of constitutional and parliamentary rights, he spoke and voted on 22 Feb. 1775 for Wilkes’s resolution on the Middlesex election; on 15 Mar. supported Grenville’s motion for a bill to enable Members to vacate their seats; condemned ‘the introducing foreigners [German troops in America] into any part of the dominions of Great Britain, without previous consent of Parliament’, and insisted that a bill of indemnity was required (8 Nov. 1775); and on 17 Feb. 1777, notwithstanding his feelings about ‘the present unnatural rebellion raging in America’, supported Dunning’s amendment to the bill suspending the Habeas Corpus Act.4

When in May 1776 Lord Howe and his brother, General Howe, were appointed commissioners to treat with America for peace, Vyner was indignant. Landed gentlemen, he declared on 22 May, had agreed with Government measures ‘in support of the sovereignty of the realm, and in expectation of a revenue from America ... But he now found that they had been amused; that they had been led into a fine scrape; for all these were now to be given up without consulting, without even communication with, Parliament’. Although on 20 Feb. 1776 he spoke against Fox’s motion for a committee ‘to inquire into the causes of the ill success of his Majesty’s arms in North America’, on 26 May 1778 he himself moved for one to inquire into the failure of Burgoyne’s expedition, and was seconded by Wilkes. In short, he was thoroughly independent, and on 12 Feb. 1779 was one of the country gentlemen friendly to the Government who voted against them over the contractors bill; was absent from the division on the motion to censure the Admiralty, 3 Mar.; spoke, and presumably voted, against Fox’s motion concerning Lord Howe, 22 Mar. 1779;5 was again absent from a number of important divisions February-March 1780; but voted with the Government on Dunning’s motion, 6 Apr. 1780, and on the motion against prorogation, 24 Apr. 1780. ‘Mr. Vyner is almost always with the Government’, wrote Robinson in his electoral survey of July 1780. After a contest he retained his seat at Lincoln at the general election, and voted with the North Administration to the end. He went with North into opposition; voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; for Fox’s India bill; and against the Pitt Government. He did not seek re-election at Lincoln in 1784. The English Chronicle, an Opposition paper, wrote about him in 1781;

He enjoys an estate of eight or ten thousand a year in Lincolnshire, is generally esteemed proud and imperious to inferiors, notwithstanding the apparent softness of his interior contexture in the House, and is not at all popular even in the place he represents.

Returned for Thirsk on the Frankland interest in 1785 he again adhered to the Opposition, and spoke and voted on their side on the main problems—the Westminster election, the Irish propositions, Richmond’s fortifications plan, and the Regency.

He died 19 July 1799.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Bedford mss, unbound.
  • 2. Bedford Corresp. ii. 255.
  • 3. Bedford mss 39, f. 186.
  • 4. Almon, i. 230, 451; iii. 156, 409, 414-15; iv. 107; vi. 259; Fortescue, iii. 186-7.
  • 5. Almon, iv. 126; Fortescue, iii. 339; iv. 154, 309.