HILL, Hon. William (1773-1842), of Attingham, Salop and Redrice, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 21 Oct. 1773, 2nd s. of Noel Hill†, 1st Baron Berwick, by Anna, da. of Henry Vernon† of Hilton, Staffs. educ. Rugby 1783; Jesus, Camb. 1791-3. unm. Took name of Noel before Hill 19 Mar. 1824; suc. bro. Thomas Noel as 3rd Baron Berwick 3 Nov. 1832.
Envoy to Ratisbon Mar. 1805, to Sardinia Dec. 1807-24, to Sicily 1825-32; PC 7 Apr. 1824.
Major commdt. Salop yeoman cav. (2nd corps) 1798; lt.-col. Salop militia 1801-14.
Hill’s candidature for Shrewsbury, announced in December 1795 at the instigation of his brother Lord Berwick, caused considerable dismay to his kinsmen of the senior branch of the family, the Hills of Hawkstone: but he maintained that it was understood that John Hill* was to vacate in his favour, should he offer himself for a seat that his father and grandfather had occupied. A family quarrel and an expensive contest ensued in which ‘Will Hill, the Lad, alias Tu Brute, as Sir Richard denominates him ... quite an Adonis and the favourite of the Salopian females, young and old’, defeated his kinsman, who subsequently agreed to let him have quiet possession of the seat.1 In Parliament he generally supported Pitt’s administration, silently; though he voted with the minority, 18 May 1798, both for the deferment of the land tax redemption bill and for Buxton’s clause in amendment of it. In November 1801 he was attaché to Francis James Jackson, chargé d’affaires at Paris. He was one of Buonaparte’s détenus on the resumption of war, but escaped.2
In April 1804 Hill joined opposition in the three defence motions that led to the fall of Addington’s government. He was listed a friend of Pitt’s second administration in September 1804 and July 1805, being drawn closer to the minister by his curious courtship of Lady Hester Stanhope, which was not, however, very successful: Lady Bessborough, who styled Hill ‘La Montana’, quoted him as saying, ‘It is my luck to play second fiddle everywhere’. In March 1805 he was named envoy to Ratisbon, but war prevented his proceeding there. (In the election of 1806, he had to defend himself at Shrewsbury because of this place: he claimed that he had supported Pitt in and out of office, but that Pitt’s offering him the place did not diminish his independence. He had ceased to derive any emolument from it when it became inoperative.)3 He opposed the Grenville administration, voting against them on the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, and on the Hampshire election petition, 13 Feb. 1807. A supporter of the ensuing administration, he was sent as envoy to the Sardinian court, in exile at Cagliari for the duration of the war, in December 1807. Lady Harriet Cavendish reported, 17 Dec., that Hill
was walking up St. James’s Street with another man, when Lord Ossulston met him and asked him how soon he was to set out, upon which he allongated [sic] his throat and made such an extraordinary tragi-comic face, that both his companion and Lord O, who were strangers to each other, burst into the most violent laugh, in which he very soon joined heartily. This looks Ratisbonish.
Lady Bessborough, describing him as an ‘embassadeur sans traitement’, thought this appointment was ‘a little bit of a job’ and ascribed it to Lady Hester, to whom rumour had married Hill the previous year. Lady Hester later recommended Hill for his dry wit, and Countess Granville thought him ‘a source of perpetual amusement’.4 The Whigs were ‘doubtful’ of him in 1810.
Hill retained his seat for Shrewsbury until 1812 when he addressed his constituents from Cagliari, retiring because of his absence abroad. After Buonaparte’s first defeat, he was returned for Marlborough on the interest of his brother-in-law Lord Ailesbury, but he proceeded to Turin in the autumn of 1814 and there is no evidence of further parliamentary activity, except in 1816 when, on leave, he voted with ministers on the army estimates, 6 and 8 Mar., on the civil list, 24 May, and paired with them on 20 June. He retained his post until 1824, though Canning in 1822 was prepared to have Hill (who refused) as his under-secretary at the Foreign Office.5 He died 4 Aug. 1842. Henry Fox, who met him in 1823, described him as ‘a great rattle, but rather amusing, and it diverts one to watch him involving one parenthesis in another and yet always returning from whence he started’.6
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Sir R. Hill, Hard Measure (1795), A Christmas Box for the Freemen and Burgesses of Shrewsbury (1796); Heber Letters, 94.
- 2. J. G. Alger, Napoleon’s British Visitors and Captives 1801-15, pp. 21, 210; Heber Letters, 140; Leveson Gower, i. 386.
- 3. Salop RO, Rev J. C. Hill mss 549/33, address, 3 Nov. 1806; Leveson Gower, i. 474, 480.
- 4. Leveson Gower, i. 494; ii. 39, 94, 108, 221, 276-7, 312; Letters of Lady Harriet Cavendish, 165, 271; Letters of Countess Granville, 149.
- 5. Colchester, iii. 262.
- 6. Jnl. of Hon. H. E. Fox, 160.