EDWARDES, William, 2nd Baron Kensington [I] (1777-1852), of Johnston Hall, Pemb.
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Family and Education
b. 24 Apr. 1777, o.s. of William Edwardes, 1st Baron Kensington*, by 2nd w. educ. privately by Rev. John Tasker Nash, Haverfordwest; by Mr Bristow, nr. Watford. m. 2 Dec. 1797, and again at St. James’s, Westminster 27 Apr. 1802, Dorothy Patricia, da. of Richard Thomas 6s. 3da. suc. fa. as 2nd Baron 13 Dec. 1801.
Ld. of Admiralty Feb. 1806-Apr. 1807.
Capt. commdt. Pemb. vol. cav. 1797; col. Cambrian rangers 1799-1802, Pemb. vols. 1803, S. regt. R. Pemb. militia 1809.
The only child of his father’s old age, Kensington was an unruly youth, who after his runaway marriage resided in Portugal. In 1801, while serving at Gibraltar, he succeeded his father to the Irish peerage and also to his seat for Haverfordwest, where ‘the memory of the old peer and the tears of his widow’ ensured him the continued goodwill of the corporation, if not of Lord Milford, who was under pressure from Joseph Foster Barham* to promote his claims to the seat, and who professed his willingness to vacate the county for Kensington, in exchange for a British peerage. Kensington faced only one actual contest (1812) which was just as well, since he could ill afford the expense.1
Kensington, whose father had supported Pitt, at once indicated his independence by making one of the minority of 20 who voted against the peace of Amiens, 14 May 1802.2 His allegiance was to Lord Grenville, to whom he wrote, 28 June 1802, promising his readiness ‘at all times’ to support him.3 In his maiden speech, 16 Mar. 1803, he endorsed Pitt’s hints about the inferiority of the militia, alleging that Pitt’s remarks had been ‘traduced’ in debate. On 4 Mar. he had voted with the minority on Calcraft’s motion for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s finances. On 20 May Canning described him as one of the Grenvillites who were ‘ready to act almost against Pitt for Pitt’s and the country’s sake’, and on 26 May reported that Kensington was host that day to a Grenvillite dinner, which he did not wish to attend, ‘but he is a new person, and one must go’.4 He spoke and voted in favour of Patten’s censure motion of 3 June, being named by Canning as one of 11 Grenvillites who did so.5 On 2 Aug. he voted for Fox’s amendment on the subject of the council of general officers. He was frequently in the minority in the last phase of Addington’s ministry, supporting the censure on the Irish government, 7 Mar. 1804, and Pitt on naval strength, 15 Mar.; opposing the volunteer bill, 19 Mar., and the Irish militia offer, 10, 11, 16 Apr.; and voting for Fox’s and Pitt’s motions on defence, 23, 25 Apr. On Pitt’s return to power he was listed a Grenvillite, and after voting against Pitt’s additional force bill in June, ‘Fox and Grenville’ in the autumn. On 8 Apr. 1805 he voted for the censure and on 12 June for the criminal prosecution of Melville: in July he was accordingly listed ‘Opposition’.
‘Little Kensington’, as his friend Creevey called him (later it was ‘Og, King of Bashan’),6 obtained office under Lord Grenville in February 1806. On 28 Jan. Windham had recommended him to Grenville, reminding him that Kensington was one of their division of 20 in 1802 and that his circumstances rendered some situation desirable, though he thought that he ‘may be put by, perhaps, for the present, under an assurance of being considered on the first opportunity’. The fact was that Lord Folkestone had to be considered first and Grenville was prepared to offer Kensington the first refusal after him. Charles Grey pointed out that it might be ‘inconvenient’ to him to vacate his seat, but in the event Kensington was named for the Admiralty commission on Folkestone’s refusal and re-elected without difficulty.7
He voted against the pledge given by the new ministry, 9 Apr., and on 26 June 1807 against the address. He was also in the opposition lobby on Calcraft’s motion, 14 Mar., on Duigenan’s appointment, 11 May 1808, on the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb., and three times on the Duke of York’s alleged misconduct of army patronage, 15, 17 Mar. 1809. On 7 Nov. 1809, Creevey reported that Kensington and John William Ward had dined with him ‘both full of their jokes at the expense of our political leaders’.8 He spoke, for the first time for seven years, on the address, 23 Jan. 1810, refusing to take sides on the blame for the failure of the Scheldt expedition and proposing that no names should be mentioned in this connexion: he deplored the omission of Ireland from the address and emphasized the need to conciliate the Irish. On 26 Jan. he voted against government on the Scheldt expedition and would, if present, have done so again on 30 Mar. On 21 May he voted for parliamentary reform, on Brand’s motion. The Whigs listed him ‘hopeful’ from their point of view at that time. He went on to join opposition to the Regency proposals, November 1810-January 1811, describing them (31 Dec.) as ‘the most monstrous that had ever been submitted to a British House of Commons’ and denying that the Prince of Wales could be suspected of any prospective abuse which would warrant restriction of the ‘kingly power’ which was his due. Despite this, he admired Perceval’s performance and was privately very critical of the Whig leadership, who were ‘at sixes and sevens’ and over reluctant to come to terms with Canning. His lawsuit with Lord Holland over Holland House did not help matters.9 On 22 Feb. 1811, however, he voted with the minority on the subject of the Irish chief secretary’s circular letter, on 14 Apr. 1812 against McMahon’s appointment as secretary to the Regent and on 24 Apr. in favour of Catholic relief.
Kensington continued to support Catholic relief in the Parliament of 1812, voting for it on 2 Mar. 1813 and 9 May 1817: ‘a violent attack of the gout’ had prevented his voting on 24 May 1813.10 Apart from his vote against the vice-chancellor bill on 11 Feb. and a speech on the Pembrokeshire election petition, 26 Feb. 1813, he ceased to vote or speak with opposition, having been converted to Canning, with whom he voted for the amended sinecure bill, 29 Mar. Rosslyn informed Grey on 22 July 1813 that Canning’s dissolution of his band of followers caused ‘terrible dismay’ to his ‘late converts’, particularly Kensington and Ward.11 Canning, in his negotiations with government for return to office in July 1814, named Kensington among his friends, hoping to secure for him ‘if possible an offer of a seat at a board—if not possible now—an early turn’. Canning thought of the Admiralty board for him, but nothing came of it.12 On 17 June 1816 he appeared in the government minority on the public revenue bill.
In 1818 Kensington lost his seat as the result of a realignment in Pembrokeshire by which he forfeited the backing of Lord Milford and his supposed ambition to come in for the county: he had made frantic efforts in 1816 to prevent the compromise with (Sir) John Owen* of Orielton which undermined his position, and found it necessary to assure his friends that he was under no necessity to go abroad.13 Late in 1817, however, he did so and, still fulminating about the state of Pembrokeshire politics, lived in Italy and France for several years. In 1820 he seems to have been negotiating for a seat from Matthew Russell, one of his creditors, but to have wished to substitute his second son for himself if a vacancy arose.14 He remained a friend of Canning, refusing the offer of a seat for his son from the latter in 1823, because his son was not sufficiently loyal to Canning. Creevey reported Kensington’s return from France in May 1823 and his ‘first great state dinner, and new French cook, just imported’. By 1829 he was in a sad state, ‘having lost an eye’ among ‘different calamities affecting his life, property and character’, which he related to Creevey before passing on to the latest political gossip, all prefaced with his favourite expostulation of ‘Damme’.15
Kensington was a popular and personable man of imposing presence—he weighed over 17 stone. He showed a keen interest in local affairs, canvassing Pembrokeshire successfully on behalf of the indisposed Lord Milford in 1807 and supporting Cawdor’s son in the county election of 1812. He could never afford to cut the figure he wished to and, having been obliged to let Johnston Hall on a long lease and failed in a bid to buy Joseph Foster Barham’s estate, resided at Westmead in Carmarthenshire,16 where he intervened on behalf of Cawdor’s brother in the borough election of 1812 and was accused by the defeated candidate, John Jones, of ‘unconstitutional interference’. For all his charm, Kensington lacked the weight to prevent the realignment of the leading factions in Pembrokeshire in 1816 and he never recovered his position there, although he was active as a reformer in the election of 1831. He died 10 Aug. 1852.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. R. D. Rees ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), ii. 354.
- 2. HMC Fortescue, vii. 346.
- 3. Fortescue mss.
- 4. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 20, 26 May 1803.
- 5. Add. 38833, f. 149.
- 6. Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 78; ii. 61.
- 7. HMC Fortescue, vii. 346; viii. 18, 19; Add. 37847, f. 13.
- 8. Creevey Pprs. i. 111.
- 9. Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 330-1; Leveson Gower, ii. 287.
- 10. Ward, Letters to ‘Ivy’, 203.
- 11. Grey mss.
- 12. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 14, 19 July 1814; NLS mss 3796 f. 94.
- 13. Carm. RO, 1 Cawdor 225, Kensington to Campbell, 28 July 1816.
- 14. Lincs. AO, Tennyson D’Eyncourt mss, 2 Td’E H/1/16, Shaftesbury to Tennyson, Sunday [May 1821].
- 15. Creevey Pprs. ii. 61, 71, 197; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 12 May 1823.
- 16. Bodl. Clarendon dep. c. 431, bdle. 5, Kensington to Foster Barham, 18 Nov. 1807; Bristol Jnl. 23 Jan. 1808; R. Fenton, Tour, 55.