SEYMOUR, Lord George (1763-1848).
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Family and Education
b. 21 July 1763, 7th s. of Francis Seymour Conway, 1st Mq. of Hertford, by Lady Isabella Fitzroy, da. of Charles, 2nd Duke of Grafton; bro. of Lord Robert Seymour*, Francis Seymour Conway, Visct. Beauchamp*, Hon. Hugh Seymour Conway* and Hon. William Seymour Conway*. educ. Harrow 1775-6; ?Eton 1778-9. m. 20 July 1795, Isabella, da. of Rev. the Hon. George Hamilton, canon of Windsor, 1s. 2da. Styled Lord George Seymour Conway 1793-4 and dropped name of Conway on d. of fa. 14 June 1794.
Ensign, 39 Ft. 1779; lt. 1 Ft. 1781, 10 Ft. 1781, capt. 74 Ft. 1782, 23 Ft. 1782, half-pay 1783; capt. 1 Ft. 1796, ret. 1796; lt.-col. commdt. Excise Office vols. 1803.
Commr. of excise 1801-22, chairman, Board of Excise 1822-33; craner and wharfinger, port of Dublin 1802; naval officer and harbour master, St. Croix ?1808-14.
Seymour, described by Horace Walpole in 1781 as ‘the handsomest giant in the world’,1 was the youngest son of a family of 13 children. His income was inadequate to his rank and he became an inveterate place-seeker. He did not come in again for the family pocket borough in 1790 and in 1792 he was in Paris with his domineering eldest brother, Lord Beauchamp, intending to return home ‘through the armies’ and giving the impression of being ‘a little tired of the constant politics he hears’.2 In the 1784 Parliament he had acted in opposition to Pitt with the rest of his family, but like them he aligned himself with government on the outbreak of war in 1793, when he accompanied his brother, who became Lord Yarmouth on their father’s promotion in the peerage, on his special mission to the allied armies in Germany, where he acted as aide-de-camp to General Wurmser. Yarmouth wrote to Pitt, 14 Oct. 1793, praising George’s services and hoping that they would ‘not be overlooked under the present very extraordinary circumstances of success’. He returned to London at the end of the year, but was in Flanders with the Duke of York’s army in May 1794.3
In August 1794 his brother, who had recently succeeded as Marquess of Hertford, wrote to Pitt an ‘earnest request’ that ‘George might be placed in some situation suitable to his birth, by which £600 or £700 a year might be added to his income’. Pitt evidently held out some encouragement and the following year Seymour reminded him of his promise, explaining that when war broke out he had planned to resume his military career, but had decided otherwise ‘from a well grounded hope, as I then thought it, that by attaching myself to my brother’s mission ... I might by my assiduity and zeal entitle myself to some mark of your favour’.4 Still nothing was done for him and, after briefly holding a captaincy in the Royal Regiment of Foot in 1796, Seymour re-entered Parliament at the general election on the family interest at Totnes, presumably with a view to strengthening his claims on government.
As before, he made no mark in the House. He voted for the assessed taxes augmentation bill, 4 Jan. 1798, but his support for government, like his earlier opposition to it, was apparently silent. In his unremitting quest for a place he set his sights wide and low. From general reminders to Pitt of his promise to give him ‘any situation about government’ he moved to specifics. In 1798 a place ‘at either of the Boards’ was the sum of his ambition; in February 1799 he wondered if promotion of the ‘very brilliant measure’ of Irish union might provide scope for the employment of his talents; the following month he applied unsuccessfully for the vacancy in the bedchamber created by Lord Essex’s death.5 He was interested in a vacant commissionership of customs in June 1799, but Pitt passed him over, imagining that he would ‘not wish to hold anything incompatible with a seat in Parliament’. In this notion Seymour ‘partly acquiesced, feeling that in point of delicacy’ he had ‘no right’ to ask Pitt to put him ‘at once into an independent situation’; but he later told the minister that
under any other view of the subject it must be an appointment highly desirable in my situation, the part I act in Parliament being (unfortunately) purely mechanical, and my seat being equally well to be held by any other part of my family. At the same time I take the liberty of stating this preference, I cannot help adding my hopes that it may not form a bar to my holding any other situation differently circumstanced, which may fall vacant, and which you may judge me worthy of.6
In October 1799 he sought the governorship of Martinique, only to find that it was not vacant, and that even if it became so all the serving West Indian governors would have prior claims; in December he asked in vain for a commissionership of public accounts, which would ‘relieve me from a very great deal of painful and unavoidable anxiety, created by the most embarrassed state of my circumstances’.7 He subsequently appealed to his nephew Castlereagh to impress on Pitt his ‘extreme need’ of assistance to save ‘me and my young family from starving’:
The exact mode of his serving me I am unable to point out ... unless he was inclined to pension off one of those old superannuated gentlemen in the customs and excise ... I mention this line of office not merely as most suited to my talents, but as most accessible, from the constant drudgery and attendance there is annexed to it, which renders it less recherchéd—for circumstanced as I am, there is no favour ... which I should not be happy to accept.8
Seymour was still unprovided for when Pitt resigned. Shortly afterwards the unlikely story circulated that he had declined the lordship of the Treasury subsequently accepted by Lord George Thynne*.9 In June 1801 Addington made him a commissioner of excise, but even then he encountered an annoying snag, according to Glenbervie, for it was
an office hitherto considered as beneath the rank of persons of his description, and would ... have vacated his seat ... but it being thought by Mr Addington and others that this would read ill on the Journals, he did vacate by the Chiltern Hundreds—much against his own inclination ... as the fees ... amount to £20 and he is miserably poor, and, as [a] Conway, probably very fond of money.
At about the same time Hobart, the Colonial secretary, recommended him to the King as a possible governor of the Cape of Good Hope, on the strength of his ‘high rank, conciliating manner, with a very large share of talents, and a strong desire on his part to succeed to the situation’. He was not appointed and Lady Anne Barnard, a resident of the Cape, expressed surprise that he had even been considered, thinking him ‘too supine and a bit too much of the fine gentleman’, though she seemed to recall that he had a reputation for ‘good dormant abilities which if roused would not be found deficient’.10
Seymour, who was never again in the House, remained in financial trouble. In 1802 he secured the addition of his own and his son’s names to that of his brother Lord Henry on the reversionary patent of the office of craner and wharfinger in the port of Dublin, which had been bought at a public auction in Chancery by his father and was leased from the crown at an annual rent of £10. He made little if anything from it.11 After Hertford’s appointment as master of the horse in 1804, George wrote him an outrageous begging letter, which worsened their already strained relations:
I have heard the result of your conversation with Henry with the greatest concern and dismay, the more so as every effort and sacrifice made on my part and Lady George’s seems to be unavailing. I ... hope that, though you have refused to assist me in that way, you will in another. It cannot escape you that, situated as I am at present, I am exposed to be arrested and put into prison from one moment to another, and ... that a more fatal bar could not be well put upon any man’s views, either looking to any leading diplomatic situation, or any prominent situation in India ... As my income cannot be bettered, I wish at least to be taken out of this situation of risk.
He requested a loan of £3,000 to pay off his most pressing debts. Whether Hertford complied is not clear, but he complained to Henry of George’s churlish and ungrateful conduct towards him, and remarked that had he not taken office ‘we should not have heard of the dangers of arrest, nor would the measure of Lord George’s wants have been found exactly to amount to the master of the horse’s salary, as calculated in the court calendar’.12 In 1805 he applied unsuccessfully to Pitt for the agency for Canada.13 His West Indian sinecure was later said to have been worth £3,100 a year, but was put by his own reckoning at £1,200 When he lost it in 1814 he sought diplomatic employment, but Castlereagh told him that he would not qualify for any permanent allowance until he had served for 12 years. Later in the year he wrote to Lord Liverpool from Brussels, where he had been ‘obliged to settle’ his family, seeking the chairmanship of the excise commissioners, worth £1,500 a year.14 Eight years were to elapse before he obtained it.
In the 1840’s Seymour, described in his old age by Countess Granville as ‘a charming man’, lived at Brighton, where he died 10 Mar. 1848.15
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: P. A. Symonds / David R. Fisher
- 1. Horace Walpole Corresp. (Yale ed.), xxxix. 379.
- 2. PRO 30/29/5/4, f. 714.
- 3. PRO 30/8/193, f. 1; Glenbervie Jnls. 107; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1077.
- 4. PRO 30/8/144, f. 174; 177, f. 135.
- 5. PRO 30/8/177, ff. 137-45.
- 6. Ibid. f. 153.
- 7. Portland mss, PwV111, Portland to Seymour, 13 Oct. 1799.
- 8. PRO 30/8/177, f. 149.
- 9. PRO 30/29/5/4, f. 863.
- 10. Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2483; Add. 37308, f. 356.
- 11. Add. 35644, f. 61; 35712, f. 101; 35733, ff. 31, 35, 50, 56; 35734, ff. 94, 153; Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 599, 619.
- 12. Egerton 3260, ff. 96, 98.
- 13. PRO 30/8/177, f. 147.
- 14. Black Bk. (1820), 76; Castlereagh Corresp. ix. 232; Add. 38259, f. 60.
- 15. Letters of Countess Granville, ii. 371, 386.