LEVESON GOWER, George Granville II, Earl Gower (1786-1861), of Trentham, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 8 Aug. 1786, 1st s. of George Granville Leveson Gower I*, Earl Gower. educ. Harrow 1798-1803; Christ Church, Oxf. 1803. m. 28 May 1823, Lady Harriet Elizabeth Georgiana Howard, da. of George Howard*, 6th Earl of Carlisle, 4s. 7da. Summ. to the Lords in his fa.’s barony as Baron Gower 22 Nov. 1826; suc. fa. as and Duke of Sutherland 19 July 1833; mother as 20th Earl of Sutherland [S] 29 Jan. 1839; KG 11 Mar. 1841; took name of Sutherland bef. Leveson Gower 12 May 1841.
Ld. lt. Sutherland 1831-d., Salop 1839-45.
Col. Sutherland inf. 1805.
In the autumn of 1806, ‘Govero’, as he was known to his family, accompanied Lord Morpeth on his ill-fated special mission to Prussia and was obliged to retreat before the French to Königsberg and Memel, becoming a devoted admirer of Queen Luise of Prussia. After a further journey to St. Petersburg, he returned to England in January 1808. Meanwhile, his father’s friends were thinking of a seat in Parliament for him. Had he been of age, he might have come in for Lichfield in 1806 on the family interest. Thomas Grenville* knew of a seat for sale in November 1807 and suggested that Gower’s father should buy it for the Member for Brackley, opening Brackley for Gower until such time as he might take his inevitable seat for Staffordshire. But on 1 Dec. 1807 Grenville wrote ‘Lord Stafford does not buy for Lord Gower’. In April 1808, however, he came in for the Grenville borough of St. Mawes by special arrangement with the Marquess of Buckingham. Lady Harriet Cavendish wrote of him, 5 Feb. 1809:
It is impossible to be more pleasing and gentlemanlike or more totally free from any sort of affectation and pretension. He has a great deal of conversation, and more tact and observation than almost anybody I know. I should think the fault of his character is being too worldly minded, and the only one in his manner ... always looking as if he thought Lady Stafford was hid in the room ... ready to dart upon him at the first offence in word or deed.
A few weeks later she commented that Gower had
grown thin and shy and if he was thick enough to have a shadow, I am sure he would be afraid of it. He is very pleasing, but Trentham and Castle Howard are not good schools for ease of manner and conversation.1
In the House Gower acted with his father’s friends in opposition. He had joined Brooks’s Club on 6 Feb. 1808. He voted with the minority on Irish Catholic questions, 29 Apr., 5 and 11 May, and for Catholic relief, 25 May 1808. On 21 Feb. 1809 he voted against the Cintra convention and twice against the Duke of York’s conduct on army patronage, 17 Mar., as well as for Madocks’s motion on a charge of ministerial corruption, 11 May. On 18 Jan. he had been present at the meeting to endorse Ponsonby’s leadership of the opposition.2 He was induced, as one of their ‘thick and thin’ supporters, to move the amendment to the address on 23 Jan. 1810, concentrating his criticism on the Scheldt expedition: it was defeated by 263 to 167. The minister, Perceval, informed the King that Gower’s intemperate tone and insistence on an inquiry into the failure of the expedition and prosecution of those to blame had cost opposition votes, including those of the Sidmouth party.3 He voted in censure of the expedition, 26 Jan., 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, and on 5 Apr. against the committal of Burdett to the Tower. He also voted for the release of the radical Gale Jones on 16 Apr. He supported sinecure reform, 17 May, and voted for Brand’s motion for parliamentary reform, 21 May, to the surprise of the Grenvilles.4 On 29 Nov. 1810 he voted against the adjournment, and on 1 Jan. 1811 his amendment to the last of the five Regency resolutions, by which he aimed to confine the Queen’s control over the royal household to the King’s personal attendants, was carried by 226 to 216;5 nor did Perceval succeed in reversing the decision next day, when the voting was 217 to 214. This success did not spur Gower on to further political activity, though he again voted with opposition on the Regency on 21 Jan. 1811 and on the Household bill, 27 Jan. 1812. He gave silent votes in favour of Morpeth’s motion on Ireland, 4 Feb. 1812, against sinecures, 7 and 24 Feb., and in favour of Turton’s motion for a committee on the state of the nation, 27 Feb. He was shut out when seeking to vote against the orders in council, 3 Mar., but succeeded in supporting Catholic relief, 24 Apr., and Parnell’s motion on Irish tithes, 23 June. He was in the majority in favour of the sinecures bill, 4 May, and of Stuart Wortley’s motion for a stronger administration, 21 May, and opposed the leather tax in the following month.
Gower’s family were economizing in 1812, he himself acting as their steward. He came in for the family borough of Newcastle. In 1813 he joined Grillion’s Club, which was non-partisan. After voting against the vice-chancellor bill, 11 Feb. 1813, and for Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May, he embarked on a continental tour with his cousin George Granville Venables Vernon*. He was recalled from Italy in the winter of 1814 to stand for the county, when it was clear that his uncle Granville would vacate with a peerage.6 He was returned unopposed, 31 July 1815, though in consequence of his having sat and voted without taking the oaths, he had to be granted indemnity, 15 Feb., and re-elected, 29 Feb. 1816. On 3 July 1815 he had voted for the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment, a symptom of the growing conservatism of his family.7 Further, he voted for the army estimates, 6 and 8 Mar., and on 18 Mar. 1816 was in the government minority in favour of the continuation of the property tax; though on 3 Apr. he brought in and supported a Staffordshire petition in favour of economy and retrenchment, without having attended the county meeting to promote it. He voted with ministers again on the civil list, 24 May 1816. Subsequently he went abroad, where he was observed to be ‘dying for the Princess Pauline’.8 On his return he spoke and voted in favour of the grants to the royal dukes, 15 Apr. 1818, expressing satisfaction two days later with the benefits derived by the Duchess of Cumberland from the grant.
John William Ward* believed that Gower was ‘disgusted with politics—and hates business, and his disgust has been increased by the ridicule the opposition has succeeded in throwing on his family for having lately deserted them’. He expected that as soon as Gower’s brother Francis came of age, he would replace Gower as county Member. After being abused at his nomination for the election of 1818, Gower, accompanied by Ward, embarked on an Irish tour. Ward found him ‘very uncommunicative and reserved even in his own family’, but paid tribute to his ‘good sense and excellent manners’. He then went to Rome, which he described in February 1819 as ‘a good point of distance to view the House of Commons from’, with its ‘agreeable English society’. In January 1820 he was ‘bored to death’ at Vienna and proceeding to Russia.9 At the ensuing election, rather than face a contest likely to cost over £100,000, he resigned the county seat, 13 Mar. He did not wish to be in Parliament or in England next winter and refused a seat from the Wellesleys. His uncle Lord Granville thought Gower’s ‘moderate and inoffensive parliamentary conduct’ might have spared him a contest, but Charles Long* noted his neglect of the county and the unpopularity of his family there, following the growth of radicalism in the Potteries. His brother Francis not being of age, the family interest in the county temporarily lapsed, which caused a sensation. Long’s comment was: ‘But we are arrived at times when if the rich will not fight the battles we shall be overwhelmed by the rabble’.10 In the Lords from 1826, Gower supported parliamentary reform. He died 28 Feb. 1861.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Lord R. Leveson Gower, Stafford House Letters, passim; Harcourt Pprs. xiii. 11; HMC Fortescue, ix. 150, 154; Letters of Lady Harriet Cavendish 296, 305.
- 2. Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 19 Jan. 1809.
- 3. HMC Fortescue, ix. 401; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4074.
- 4. Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 445.
- 5. Lady Bessborough and her Family Circle, 202.
- 6. Letters of Countess Granville, i. 38; Moore, Byron Letters (1875), 355; Ward, Letters to ‘Ivy’, 262; cf. Colchester, ii. 551.
- 7. Grey mss, Horner to Grey, 27 Oct. 1815.
- 8. Letters of Countess Granville, i. 109.
- 9. Staffs. RO, Hatherton diary, 30 Jan., 30 July 1818; Add. 51729, Gower to Lady Holland, 25 Feb. 1819; Letters of Countess Granville, i. 149.
- 10. Hatherton diary, 31 Mar.; Add. 48223, f. 140; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 23 Mar. 1820.