BLOOMFIELD, Benjamin (1768-1846).
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Family and Education
b. 13 Apr. 1768, o.s. of John Bloomfield of Newport, co. Tipperary by Charlotte, da. of Samuel Waller of Newport.1 educ. R.M.A. Woolwich 1779. m. 7 Sept. 1797, Harriott, da. of John Douglas of Grantham, Lincs., 1s. 3da. KCH 1815; kntd. 11 Dec. 1815; GCH 1819; GCB 1 Apr. 1822; cr. Baron Bloomfield [I] 14 May 1825.
2nd lt. RA 1781, 1st lt. 1787, capt.-lt. and capt. 1794, capt. 1799, brevet maj. 1805; maj. RA 1806, lt.-col. 1806-14; a.d.c. to the Prince Regent Feb. 1811-14; brevet col. 1812, maj.-gen. 1814; col. commdt. RA 1823-d., lt.-gen. 1830.
Gent. attendant to the Prince of Wales 1808-12; clerk marshal and chief equerry 1812-17; auditor and sec., duchy of Cornwall 1816-17; keeper of the privy purse and private sec. to the Prince Regent 1817-22; PC 15 July 1817; ranger, Hampton Court Park 1820-22; gov. Fort Charles, Jamaica 1822; envoy to Sweden 1823-33.
Bloomfield served in Newfoundland, Gibraltar and at Vinegar Hill in 1798. Brought to the notice of the Prince of Wales as an accomplished musician while quartered at Brighton, he seized his chance, was soon much in the Prince’s confidence and was appointed to his household in 1808.2 Two years later, when he was acting as spymaster for the Prince on the activities of the Princess of Wales, he was described by an enemy as ‘a canting methodistical hypocrite, always talking religion and morality, but living, though a married man, in barefaced adultery with Lady Downshire’.3
Early in 1811 it was arranged that, at the next general election, Bloomfield should come in for Plymouth in place of another Carlton House man, Thomas Tyrwhitt, who had established an interest there in the Prince’s name. Both he and the Prince evidently remained ignorant of difficulties subsequently raised, for reasons which remain obscure, by Tyrwhitt, who seriously considered holding on to the seat, though he admitted to the Prince’s secretary that the only way of ‘softening’ Bloomfield’s ‘enthusiasm to represent this borough’ would be to tell him that the Prince had changed his mind. Reports from Carlton House on the current temper of both Bloomfield and his master seem to have convinced Tyrwhitt that there would be a terrible row if this was attempted and he decided to leave well alone.4 Bloomfield, having been appointed chief equerry in March 1812, was accordingly returned unopposed for Plymouth on Tyrwhitt’s appointment as Black Rod in July. He retained the seat without opposition at the ensuing general election.
In the House Bloomfield was a totally reliable, though apparently silent supporter of government, as well as a steady opponent of Catholic relief. (He supported emancipation as a peer in 1829 because the measure came forward ‘under the sanction of such protestant authorities’ as the King, Wellington and Peel.)5 He was promoted in the Regent’s service in 1816 and again in 1817, when he became private secretary, and vacated his seat early in 1818, presumably on his master’s command, to accommodate another of his acolytes.
As private secretary Bloomfield, who in December 1817 received substantial financial compensation from the Regent for surrendering his duchy of Cornwall post to Sir William Knighton, exercised considerable (some ministers thought unconstitutional) influence and power for over four years.6 His final fall from favour in 1822 was attributed largely to the machinations of Knighton and the King’s current mistress, Lady Conyngham, though there was also talk of peculation in his management of the privy purse. It is clear that the King had in any case grown tired of his ‘unhappy, uncertain and oppressive temper’. His demands for a United Kingdom peerage were refused but he was handsomely compensated with a red ribbon, a promise of an Irish peerage, a pension, two sinecures and a diplomatic posting. Cynical observers said he knew too much to be discarded lightly.7
He was converted to Wesleyan Methodism while in Sweden and died 15 Aug. 1846.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: P. A. Symonds / David R. Fisher
- 1. CP gives date of birth as 13 Apr. 1762 and mother’s name as Anne Waller. But see Mem. of Lord Bloomfield ed. Lady Bloomfield, i. 1, 17, Gent. Mag. (1846), ii. 422 and Burke PB (1930) (Waller of Newport).
- 2. Bloomfield Mem. i. 1-5; Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1796, 1799; v. 2062; vi. 2300, 2304, 2423, 2430, 2442, 2444.
- 3. Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 114.
- 4. Prince of Wales Corresp. viii. 3188, 3210, 3215, 3219, 3257.
- 5. Taylor Pprs. 247.
- 6. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 717; iii. 1068; Jnl. of Mrs. Arbuthnot, i. 186, 245, 270.
- 7. Geo. IV Letters, ii. passim; Jnl. of Mrs Arbuthnot, i. 136-8, 149-53; Hobhouse Diary, 83-86; Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, ii. 43, 105.