PAGET, Hon. Arthur (1771-1840), of Plas Newydd, Anglesey and Hamble Cliff, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 15 Jan. 1771, 3rd s. of Henry, 1st Earl of Uxbridge, by Jane, da. of Very Rev. Arthur Champagné, dean of Clonmacnoise, King’s Co.; bro. of Hons. Berkeley Thomas Paget*, Charles Paget*, Edward Paget*, Henry William, Lord Paget*, and William Paget*. educ. Westminster 1780-7; Christ Church, Oxf. 1787; Dresden and Leipzig 1790. m. 16 Feb. 1809, Lady Augusta Jane Fane, da. of John, 10th Earl of Westmorland, div. w. of John Parker, 2nd Baron Boringdon, 4s. 3da. KB 21 May 1804, GCB 2 Jan. 1815.
Sec. of legation, St. Petersburg 1791-4, Berlin 1794; chargé d’affaires, Berlin 1794-5; envoy extraordinary Munich and Ratisbon 1798-1800, Palermo 1800-1 Vienna 1801-6, Constantinople June-Oct. 1807; PC 4 Jan. 1804.
Maj.-commdt. R. Anglesey militia 1795, lt.-col. 1798.
Arthur Paget was the most brilliant of the six brothers who fascinated or scandalized their contemporaries: his disturbing charm could enthral either sex. He ‘liked to show his shapes to advantage’ and ‘to be captain general wherever he was’.1 Bound for diplomacy, he was given employment in Joseph Ewart’s mission at Berlin in 1791 and, proving to be ‘a fine young man’, served as secretary of legation to Lord Whitworth at St. Petersburg, though the latter stated, 7 Nov. 1791, that there was no call for a ‘young man of fashion and fortune such as Mr Paget’ to be ‘put upon the footing of secretary of legation, which at this court is a post very little regarded’, as it would be better for him to be ‘upon a proper footing in society, from which as secretary he is in a great measure excluded’. Lord Grenville at the Foreign Office disagreed. In 1794 Paget was transferred back to Berlin; he was not expected to be there long and his father, a courtier unambitious for himself but eager for his sons’ advancement, thinking that a public career at home might suit Paget better, got Lord Grenville to consult Pitt about him and received the reply:
We cannot think that the prospect of his being brought forward into active employment at home is such as would authorize us in friendship to your lordship to advise his quitting his present line. Under these circumstances ... his coming into Parliament would not be likely to be any material advantage to him.
Owing to the death of his elder brother William, however, there was a vacancy in the family seat for Anglesey and no other member of the family available to occupy it, so Paget was returned for it in absentia, and as his father had hoped, ‘without any appearance of opposition’. Meanwhile he was obliged to act as chargé d’affaires at Berlin in the absence of his chief Lord Malmesbury, who advised him to stick to diplomacy, as ‘good and able men are much wanted, and without a compliment you are one and the other’. Even when Paget failed in his task of weaning back the King of Prussia to the defence of the Netherlands and returned home discouraged, Malmesbury assured him that Grenville would employ him again, as ‘without a compliment I believe your despatches to be much the best he receives from the Continent’.2
While at home, 1795-8, Paget joined Brooks’s Club, the Whig haunt, but made no mark in Parliament. He assumed a militia command, which he resigned when his men refused to serve in Ireland in 1798, but resumed on the advice of the Duke of York. He declined Grenville’s offer of a posting to Madrid in July 1796 and enjoyed the admiration of the Duchess of Rutland, the Prince of Wales and their set.3 When he accepted a posting to Munich in 1798, in a vain endeavour to induce the Bavarians to join the allies, he was pursued by effusive letters from the Prince lamenting the absence of his ‘ever dearest Arthur’ and begging him to seek ‘an honourable situation’ on one of the boards at home, rather than act as ‘one of the sanctioned spies and hidden lamps of Lord Grenville’. Paget was appointed, as his father had wished for him, minister to Berlin in succession to Thomas Grenville* in 1799, but events prevented him from going either there or to Copenhagen, which Lord Grenville suggested instead. He was posted to Palermo to replace Sir William Hamilton who, regarding his arrival as a ‘cabinet job’, snubbed him. Paget, who regarded the posting as a ‘plan to give me the entire management of everything in the Mediterranean, Adriatic Archipelago etc., etc.’, was enthusiastic about it and dismayed to discover that he had been represented to the royal family of Naples as ‘a Jacobin and a coxcomb, a person sent to bully and to carry them bongré malgré back to Naples’, but soon gained their confidence, without finding that he could be ‘of the smallest use’. He returned home frustrated and ‘looking very ill and very thin’ in May 1801 and was not given a posting to St. Petersburg, ‘notwithstanding all the hints’ which the Prince of Wales informed him he had given ‘in various quarters’ (23 Apr. 1801).4
Being ‘decidedly a well wisher’ to Catholic relief, Paget regretted the change of ministry in 1801 and feared that his father would approach Lord Hawkesbury for a post for him, which might ‘be construed into either an open or tacit concurrence of their measures’. He did not want another diplomatic assignment, bearing in mind ‘the insufficiency of the pay and the consequent burden I must be to my father and family’, but ‘the horror I have of what is called a place’ made him prefer to be appointed ‘by an act of government rather than by dint of family interest’ and he would rather lead ‘a quiet and retired life’ than sue for office. In June 1801 he was posted, with Addington’s goodwill, to Vienna, in succession to Lord Minto. For his strenuous though unavailing services to the allied cause while there he was made a privy councillor and knight in 1804. His mother wrote, 30 May 1805:
I feel uncomfortable at the arrangement about [your seat in Parliament], as it looks as if we were never to see you here, though of course if you can come you can resume your situation either in Wales or somewhere else. Your vote would have been of use several times this session.
His father contemplated giving his seat to his younger brother Berkeley and Paget wrote to his mother, 18 Aug. 1805: ‘Your having given Anglesey to Berkeley looks as if you did not mean to see any more of me’ and added, ‘You may depend upon it that during Bonaparte’s life, no family in England at least will be able to boast of the enjoyment of true domestic happiness’.5
He did not give up his seat in January 1806 as intended. In March Fox recalled him, explaining that much as he was inclined to continue him at Vienna, the publication by Lord Mulgrave of Paget’s outspoken diplomatic correspondence with him rendered it impolitic to retain his services.6 Paget, who had been thrown into despair by Buonaparte’s military triumph in November 1805, at a time when he was recovering from a dangerous illness, was content to come home. The expense of his magnificent establishment at Vienna, where he was nicknamed ‘the Emperor’, had ruined his prospects of marriage to Lord Malmesbury’s daughter Catherine. (Lady Bessborough wrote, 22 Oct. 1804, ‘His marriage is quite off. It seems he owes 10,000 at Vienna, which the Doctor [Addington] agreed to pay, but the [Pitt] government will not).’ Irritated by the failure of his suit to Princess Leopoldine Esterhazy, on his return home he turned seducer and made off with first the Duke of Bedford’s cook and then Lady Boringdon. His amorous escapades at Vienna, where he was ‘quite the coq de village’, had led some to suppose that ‘the business of our government is carried on in the most scandalous manner ... When an Englishman complained to his private secretary that Sir Arthur Paget had not answered a note he sent him, the secretary thought it a good joke and said "How could you expect he should answer you when he does not answer Lord Mulgrave?".'7
His elder brother Lord Paget was dismayed by Paget's familiarity with members of the Grenville administration and, hearing that he had dined with Lord Howick 'upon the occasion of reading the King's speech', informed him, 'this was a ruse, which you should have been up to, and when I read in The Times the way he spoke of your recall, I think his conduct to you personally as treacherous as that of Lord Grenville and Lord Henry Petty has been to my father.8 When Paget, who had appreciated Howick's efforts to secure him adequate compensation for his loses at Vienna, received a pension of £1,700 p.a. from the ministry in March 1807, just before their resignation, he was placed in a qunadary: his brother advised him on 2 Apr. not to go into opposition with them, even if he had thought well of them and 'preferred their society and that of Brooks's to the society of White's and the then opposition': it would be unwise to 'shut the door to employment in your own line' and better to remain a 'free agent, and not to enlist in the ranks of the party, which has always been hostile to the King, that your family has always been in opposition to, and that you have only so lately, and as I conceive so faintly, been inclined to lean to'; if however, Paget was 'conscientiously attached' to them, he should 'retire from Parliament'.9
Paget duly retired in favour of his brother Berkeley at the election of 1807; Lord Bulkeley had written to him, 30 Mar., asking if his intended withdrawal was 'owing to some difference of opinion with your father on the late rumpus'. Soon afterwards, however, he accepted a peacemaking mission to Constantinople: like all his diplomatice efforts it was foiled and, after his return in December 1807, Paget refused further invitations from Canning, who admired him, to play the diplomat. Apart from a day trip to Boulogne, he never again left the country which he had always pined for while abroad.10 The scandal of his elopement with Lady Boringdon, 18 May 1808, was a pretext rather than the cause of his withdrawal from public life. In 1809 his pension was raised to £2,000 p.a. and this and family legacies enabled him to devote himself to the pleasures of agricultural and yachting at Hamble. 'Every inch of grand seigneur', he died 26 July 1840.11
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Paget Pprs. i. 169; Paget Brothers, 2.
- 2. HMC Fortescue, ii. 132, 212, 226, 255; Paget Pprs. i. 37, 67, 95, 108; UCNW, Plas Newydd mss 2/13.
- 3. Paget Pprs. i. 109-12. Lady Holland later alleged that ‘Sir Arthur Paget was always supposed to be the person who infused such disgust against [his wife] into the mind of the Prince’, Lady Holland to her Son, 225. Paget had certainly deplored the marriage: Paget Pprs. i. 45.
- 4. Ibid. 120, 133, 140, 148, 166, 168, 177, 180, 205, 217, 231, 286, 342; Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1422, 1609; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2082; Nicolas, Nelson: Dispatches and Letters, iv. 186; HMC Fortescue, vi. 223-7.
- 5. Paget Pprs. i. 345, 356; ii. 33, 180, 192.
- 6. Ibid. ii. 272-4.
- 7. Ibid. i. p. xiii; ii. 188; Leveson Gower, i. 467; ii. 253; Farington, v. 65; Grey mss, Blagden to Grey, 11 Sept. 1805; Broughton, Recollections, i. 41.
- 8. Paget Brothers, 57.
- 9. Paget Brothers, 61; Grey mss, Paget to Howick, 12 Dec. 1806; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3409.
- 10. Paget Brothers, 61; Paget Pprs. ii. 285, 288, 379-80. For evidence that Paget was tempted by the 'splendid emoluments' to resume diplomatic activities, see Add. 51644, Lady Holland to Horner [?Nov 1816].
- 11. Paget Pprs. i. p. xiii; HMC Fortescue, x. 227; Paget Brothers, p. x.