STRUTT, Joseph Holden (1758-1845), of Terling Place, Witham, Essex.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1790 - 1826
1826 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 21 Nov. 1758, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of John Strutt of Terling Place by Anne, da. of Rev. William Goodday, rector of Strelley, Notts. educ. Felsted sch; Winchester 1768; Brasenose, Oxf. 1778. m. 21 Feb. 1789 at Toulouse, Lady Charlotte Mary Gertrude Fitzgerald, da. of James, 1st Duke of Leinster [I] (she was cr. Baroness Rayleigh 18 July 1821), 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 1816.

Offices Held

Lt.-col. western batt., Essex militia 1783-96; col. S. Essex militia 1798, 1803-5, 1809, W. Essex militia 1823-31; brevet col. during service 1798.


The main theme of Strutt’s life, as he saw it, was filial duty, closely followed by public duty: and he felt that in both spheres his services went too long unrecognized. ‘I was to have been a parson’, he wrote, ‘I believe I should have been happy, but I was placed in another sphere.’ He was ‘an ignorant’ at Oxford when his elder brother John died in 1781 and Holden, as his family called him, soon found himself a magistrate, deputy lieutenant and lieutenant-colonel of the Essex militia. To please his father, he gave up the idea of the legal profession and of marrying for love: when he married the sister of the Duke of Leinster in 1789, his father privately thought the connexion ‘too high’, but consented and retained his heir’s obedience on a modest allowance to the end. Strutt returned from France to succeed his father to his seat for Maldon on the latter’s retirement in 1790 and held it until 1826, by which time father and son had represented the borough for 52 years. Like his father, he was an independent country gentleman who generally supported government, describing himself as a Tory in 1816; but he regarded himself as particularly attached to Pitt in politics and his marriage to a niece of the Duke of Richmond at first reinforced this.1 He was a member of the Pitt Club. In 1791 he was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland.

Strutt made little mark in Parliament, where he thought his chief service was regular attendance and steady support of government; but he set great store by his and his father’s services to government in Essex, where his father was ‘a constitutional pillar’ and where Strutt was active as a militia colonel. They were proudly insistent that Maldon was ‘a county, not a borough interest’ and, waiving pretensions to a county seat, resisted moves by government to influence Maldon elections. Strutt’s younger brother William was a professional soldier on behalf of whom he and his father appealed to Pitt for promotion. In 1794 Strutt had offered to raise a new troop in Essex, being dismayed that the lord lieutenant seemed partial to the efforts of oppositionists like Montagu Burgoyne in this direction; in 1796 he gave up his militia to raise a battalion of 1,000 as supplementary militia in Essex and in 1799 prevailed on the Essex militia to volunteer for Irish service and subsequently for service in Holland, neither of which offers was realized. It was his boast that he had saved government £70,000 or more by his militia regulation and by not drawing his allowances as militia colonel; he also claimed that he risked his life by volunteering for Ireland, his wife being the sister, though a stranger to his views, of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. On 11 Oct. 1799 he wrote to Dundas asking him to inform Pitt, whom he did not know personally, of these services as a claim to rank for his son in the future. Pitt, though ‘with great civility’, put aside his claim and on 22 Nov. 1800 Strutt reminded Dundas of it, asking for an English peerage for his wife; he asked Dundas to remind Pitt of his pretensions. He claimed that the King favoured them and had told him so at a levee.2

When the supplementary militia was reduced, Strutt, by his own account, offered Pitt, and subsequently Addington, his services in raising a regiment: the advent of peace rendered his offer superfluous. Indeed he never saw active service, except in putting down a mutiny at Horsham barracks in 1797. He later informed Pitt that he had at first supported Addington, his old schoolfellow, on the understanding that Pitt himself did so, and that early in 1804 he had attempted to mediate between the two men by an appeal to Addington. He claimed that he had refused a place from Pitt in 1794, when the Duke of Richmond was prepared to place him at the Ordnance, just as his father had refused places from Lord North; and that, again like his father, he had refused a baronetcy, offered him by Addington when he submitted his claims to the latter in 1802.3 In fact, Strutt’s relations with Addington had been poisoned by the suspicion that the minister was somehow involved in the opposition to him at Maldon in 1802. Strutt, reminding him that he sat on an interest friendly to government, assured Addington that he sought ‘no job’, merely mutual support in terms of political friendship, without further obligation. It was only when the petition against the return of 1802 was finally quashed in February 1804, that he ostentatiously reconciled himself to Addington.

Strutt was concerned to dispel uncertainty about his support when Pitt returned to power in 1804. He had made only a few trifling remarks in debate (8 Dec. 1797, 19 June 1801) in the last 15 years when he wrote to Pitt, 19 Mar. 1805, enclosing his ideas on militia volunteering for army service, which he feared he would ‘not have the resolution’ to elucidate to the House; they arose from his partly successful attempt to prevail on a meeting of lords lieutenant and militia colonels at the Thatched House tavern a few months before, to secure a general offer of militia service with the army in Ireland. On 4 July 1805, after being in the minority against Whitbread’s censure on Melville on 8 Apr., he again wrote to Pitt, and reciting the litany of his claims for an English peerage for his wife, added:

I never voted against Mr Pitt when minister, but upon the question, whether there should be a committee appointed with full powers to examine into the tenth report or that Lord Melville should be proceeded against by a civil suit—I voted for the former, because Mr Pitt had before the Easter recess in opposition to Mr Whitbread, who gave notice he should propose the latter, declared his determination to adopt the former, and while I was with my father, for a few days he approved of Mr Pitt’s intention and I voted accordingly—but I should not have so done, had I thought (and I previously informed myself upon the subject) that the division would have pressed upon Mr Pitt, because to have and to retain him minister has invariably been my object both in and out of Parliament.

On 11 July he wrote again, thinking that the disbanding of his regiment should be the occasion of his reward: it was not. He voted against the Grenville ministry on the Hampshire election petition, 13 Feb. 1807, but supported their successors: on 13 June 1808 he renewed his pretentions in a letter to his wife’s kinsman the Duke of Richmond, claiming to be ‘a supporter of the present government never having voted against it except upon the question of a preference given to the colonies over the grain of this country’. This time he wanted either an English peerage for his wife or for his son to succeed Lord Lecale, who was the boy’s uncle and had no issue, to his Irish barony. The Irish secretary thought this out of the question.4

In the following year it was the new minister Perceval’s turn to be cajoled and reminded of these claims, though Strutt disingenuously explained that ‘it did not occur to me that you would have been first minister’, 18 Oct. 1809. He was ‘still serving the State with energy in my situation and opening my purse for its advantage’, he explained, his latest exploit being the thwarting of Colonel Wardle’s friends in Essex. He asked for Lord Lecale’s peerage for his son. Having received a discouraging reply from Perceval on 29 Dec., he renewed his pressure on the Duke of Richmond who, however, was obliged to inform Perceval, 22 Jan. 1810, that ‘the thing is not legal’. Meanwhile, Strutt had missed an opportunity to offer himself for the county on a vacancy. In all critical divisions he voted with the government, January-March 1810, so the Whigs were rightly ‘doubtful’ of him, but he remained silent: his wife had recorded in her diary, 17 May 1808:

a very anxious day for J. H. Strutt, who had undertaken to speak about a road bill in the House of Commons, which, however, he settled to the satisfaction of all parties without making a speech in Parliament as he was afraid he must do. He came home much fatigued.5

He voted against the release of the radical Gale Jones, 16 Apr., against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810, and with ministers on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811. He opposed the reversion bill, 7 Feb. 1812. He was absent on militia duties in May.

In 1810 the borough of Maldon received a new charter, for which Strutt claimed credit, though it could scarcely help the family interest there and Strutt’s father decided to make his son stand down rather than risk a contest at Maldon. Strutt was disappointed: writing to his brother, 12 Oct. 1811, he complained that his father had not provided a retreat for him, and that while he could easily withdraw from Essex affairs, the family now stood on a ‘pinnacle’ from ‘our personal conduct’ which he evidently regretted renouncing. On 18 July 1811, he later recalled, he had dreamt

that his friends had him on the top of a ladder, which they danced about and would not let him descend. He endeavoured to desire them to place the ladder against the wall that he might be able to descend, but his friends continued to keep him on top of the ladder, preventing, when he woke.

This dream was confirmed, for when he prepared to give up Maldon, in accordance with his father’s wishes, he found that the Essex ministerialists to whom he offered his seat all declined, whereupon ‘Colonel Strutt’s father, without a word from him, rang his bell at 2 o’clock in the night, and gave his assent that Colonel Strutt should be a candidate’. Thus ‘he was kept upon the top of the ladder by the friends’. What had alarmed him most on the occasion was the sacrifice of family advancement and he had in fact approached Lord Liverpool, 22 Sept. 1812, with a view to obtaining his reward on retiring from Parliament: but the prime minister urged him not to give up his seat and in a memo of their interview, 1 Oct., was careful to give no promise.6

Strutt remained a supporter of government. On 22 June 1812 he had voted against Catholic claims. His father wished him to oppose all innovations and he invariably voted against them thereafter. The renewal of his claims to an English peerage for his wife were again brushed aside by Liverpool in 1815 and 1816. Strutt emphasized his services at the election of 1812 when, he claimed, but for him government would have had only two instead of five friends returned for Essex, Colchester and Maldon; he even tried to persuade the minister that he had held out hopes at their interview in 1812. He was not attending steadily: in the sessions of 1816 and 1817 he was absent until May, but he was rallied to vote for ministers on the ducal marriage grant, 15 Apr. 1818. He was in the majority against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819, and voted for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June. He had to wait until the coronation of George IV for the realization of his hopes and then he regretted that he had not asked the honour for himself. His son and heir, for whose benefit he had importuned ministers, did not share his father’s notions of filial duty: fortified by strong religious views he rejected the family seat for Maldon when his father withdrew in his favour in 1826. Maldon was thus lost to the family. Strutt died 18 Feb. 1845, without seeing his gloomy prophecy of 1814 realized: ‘it will end in a military government or a convulsion before forty years are expired’.7

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. C. R. Strutt, Strutt Fam. of Terling, 1650-1873, pp. 29-75; Add. 38263, f. 256.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/173, f. 176; 181, ff. 85, 89, 95, 97, 99, 101, 110, 112; SRO GD51/1/60/1, 4, 5.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/181, ff. 112, 116; Essex RO, Strutt mss micro T/B 251, Strutt to Addington 20, 25, 27 June; memo, June 1802; Addington to Strutt, 4 Jan., draft reply; memo, 11 Feb. 1804.
  • 4. PRO 30/8/181, ff. 103, 116, 118; Add. 38574, f. 46; Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 489.
  • 5. Add. 38234, f. 274; 38243, f. 219; 38244, ff. 147, 160, 188; Strutt, 44.
  • 6. Strutt, 32, 46; Strutt mss, Strutt to Liverpool, 30 Sept. 1812; Add. 38262, f. 142.
  • 7. Add. 38263, f. 108; 38268, f. 256; 38379, ff. 171, 202; Strutt, 54-75.