LEVESON GOWER, George Granville I, Earl Gower (1758-1833), of Trentham, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 9 Jan. 1758, 1st surv. s. of Granville Leveson Gower†, 1st Mq. of Stafford, by 2nd w. Lady Louisa Egerton, da. of Scroop, 1st Duke of Bridgwater; half-bro. of Lord Granville Leveson Gower*. educ. Westminster 1767-74; Christ Church, Oxf. 1775; Grand Tour 1780-1. m. 4 Sept. 1785, Elizabeth, s.j. Countess of Sutherland [S], da. and h. of William, 18th Earl of Sutherland [S], 5s. 2da. summ. to the Lords in his fa.’s barony as Baron Gower 25 Feb. 1799; suc. uncle Francis, 3rd Duke of Bridgwater 8 Mar. 1803; fa. as 2nd Mq. of Stafford 26 Oct. 1803; KG 22 Mar. 1806; cr. Duke of Sutherland 28 Jan. 1833.
PC 28 May 1790; ambassador to France May 1790-Aug. 1792; jt. postmaster-gen. 1799-1801.
Ld. lt. Sutherland 1794-1831, Staffs. 1799-1801; custos rot. Staffs. 1799-1827.
Col. Staffs. vol. cav. 1794-1800.
Earl Gower, who first entered Parliament on his family’s borough interest, held his county seat unopposed from 1787. He was a supporter, evidently a silent one, of Pitt’s administration, in which his father held cabinet office until 1794. In May 1790 he became Britain’s last ambassador at Paris under the ancien régime, being summoned home after the critical events of August 1792.1 In his absence he was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. He had no political ambition. Canning, meeting him in 1794, described him as ‘a very sensible, good natured, well-informed man, and having seen a great deal of the world both here and abroad, capable of affording one very considerable instruction and entertainment. He is not, however, a popular man, I find.’ Canning found it typical of him that, although in private he probably favoured the abolition of the slave trade, Gower absented himself from debate on the subject, out of deference to his father’s hostile views.2 In deference, too, to his constituents, he was prepared to oppose the canal tax in 1797. In that year, he claimed, after consultation with Pitt and Dundas, to have had some hand in the peace feelers to France, thinking peace ‘the only remedy for all our evils’. He voted for Pitt’s assessed taxes, 4 Jan. 1798.3
In February 1799, rather than become lord steward of the Household or even lord lieutenant of Ireland, Gower chose to become joint postmaster-general, and as this was ‘not tenable with the House of Commons’, he was summoned to the Lords in his father’s barony. The latter was not particularly pleased, relations between them being indifferent, not least because of his parents’ resentment of his wife Lady Sutherland, who wished ‘to impress her husband and everybody else with the idea that she, through Dundas, is the only person to whom he is indebted for the favours he may receive from government’.4 Gower’s half-brother Granville succeeded him in the county seat and later that year he reluctantly succeeded his father as lord lieutenant, but, disgruntled at the King’s disbanding of the Staffordshire volunteer battalion, he threatened resignation and Dundas was reported to have taken an hour and a half to induce him not to resign.5 In February 1801, however, he followed Pitt out of office on principle and also resigned the lieutenancy: George Rose* thought his real motive was ‘resentment to the King for what passed respecting the Staffordshire militia’.6 Yet he remained custos rotulorum of the county until 1827: a most unusual arrangement.
In 1803 Gower succeeded to his father’s marquessate and became ‘a leviathan of wealth’ with ‘110 thousand a year’ by succeeding to the Bridgwater estates.7 Hostile to Addington, he was willing to encourage meetings of the combined opposition with Pitt at his house in May 1804, to secure a comprehensive administration. Nothing came of this and he declined office and fell out with Pitt in January 1805, after the minister’s reconciliation with Addington. He was thought to be disgruntled at not being offered a blue ribbon.8 The garter was enough to secure his support for the Grenville ministry, including Addington, in 1806,9 though they also continued his half-brother Granville in the diplomatic line. The latter was considerably embarrassed by the marquess’s motion against the incoming Portland ministry in the House of Lords, 13 Apr. 1807, as he was about to accept office from them.
Although the marquess was considered ‘unwhiggified’ by 1814, he remained in favour of Catholic relief and parliamentary reform. He showed less tenacity than his father in maintaining the family’s electoral interest in Staffordshire, having improved his estates there to pay off parental election expenses. After 1812 he became associated with the Highland clearances on the Sutherland estate. A connoisseur who lived in ‘incomparable style’ he died 19 July 1833, soon after becoming a duke.10
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. O. Browning, Dispatches of Earl Gower, 209.
- 2. Harewood mss, Canning jnl. 21 Apr. 1794, 26 Feb. 1795.
- 3. PRO 30/29/5/4, f. 873; Leveson Gower, i. 151.
- 4. Geo. III Corresp. iii. 1926; Leveson Gower i. 228, 239-41.
- 5. PRO 30/29/5/4, f. 841; Colchester, i. 244; Geo III Corresp. iii. 2084-5.
- 6. PRO 30/29/5/4, ff. 857, 860, 863; Rose Diaries, i. 295, 296.
- 7. Greville Mems. ed. Strachey and Fulford, ii. 404; Add. 51724, Ponsonby to Lady Holland, 10 Nov. 1803; E. Richards, The Leviathan of Wealth.
- 8. HMC Bathrust, 39; Rose Diaries, ii. 132; PRO 30/29/6/5, f. 913; Leveson Gower, i. 502, ii. 11-12, 15, 27-31, 34, 61.
- 9. Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2125.
- 10. Leveson Gower, ii. 501; Farington, ii. 72; iii. 189; Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 27; Huskisson Pprs. 253; Pprs. on Sutherland Estate Management (Scottish Hist. Soc. ser. 4), i, ii.