WILDER, Francis John (?1775-1824), of Grosvenor Place, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. ?1775, s. of Peter Wilder, cook, of St. James’s Street by his w. née Connor, da. of an innkeeper at Barnet. educ. Eton 1789-91. m. 11 Aug. 1795, Frances Anne, da. of William Phillips of Shinfield, Berks.,1 8 ch. Kntd. 29 May 1817.
Ensign, 16 Ft. 1794; lt. ind. co. Ft. 1794; capt. and maj. 106 Ft. 1794; maj. 88 Ft. 1798, 9 Ft. 1798; lt.-col. Banff fencibles 1799, brevet lt.-col. 1799; lt.-col. 35 Ft. 1801; brevet col. 1808, maj.-gen. 1811, lt.-gen. 1821.
Wilder’s father, said to have died in the Fleet in 1797, aged 39, is supposed to have entered his son at Eton under the name of Lockhart. It was as Wilder, however, that the son entered the army and acquired field rank in a few months.2 He served at Gibraltar, Malta and in Sicily.3 He was returned on the 11th Duke of Norfolk’s interest at both Arundel and Horsham in 1806, choosing in January 1807 to sit for Horsham, when a double return was resolved in his favour. He supported the Grenville ministry. Twice (10 Jan. and 6 Mar. 1807) he raised questions about motions before the House, but no other speeches are reported. Nor did he vote for Brand’s or Lyttelton’s motions in April 1807. At the ensuing election he was returned for Arundel. He voted for Sheridan’s motion on the state of Ireland, 13 Aug. 1807, and Ponsonby’s for information on the Copenhagen expedition, 3 Feb. 1808; on 14 Mar. he supported Calcraft’s motion against the mutiny bill; on 11 May voted against Duigenan’s appointment and on 25 May for receiving the Irish Catholic petition. There were reports of Wilder’s vacating his seat in January 1809, presumably because his military duties took him abroad.4 Indeed no further vote is recorded until that against the leather tax, 26 June 1812, but he was classed in 1810 as a ‘thick and thin’ opposition man.
In 1812 it became known that the Duke of Norfolk intended to nominate to only one seat at Arundel, and Sir Arthur Piggott* on 28 Sept. told the Norfolk party there ‘that General Wilder would not be their representative’. Next day the news in Whig circles was that ‘an efficient Member’ was to replace him. Nevertheless Wilder, then commanding in south-east Scotland, announced his candidature on 1 Oct., and some of the Norfolk party supported him—to the annoyance of the duke. It was thought ‘quite impossible’ for Wilder to attend the election, but to the ‘surprise and dismay’ of the anti-Norfolk interest he arrived in his coach at the moment of nomination. ‘I presume Wilder stands on the Castle interest’, wrote his absent opponent, Lord Binning: but it seems clear that he stood as an independent.5
Wilder was listed a Treasury supporter after the election. Although the Whigs assumed that he would support Catholic relief, he took a month’s leave for illness on 24 Feb. 1813 and another week’s leave for the same reason on 21 May, avoiding two crucial divisions on it. On 28 Nov. 1814 he was in the minority for the disembodiment of the militia. On 8 and 31 May and 3 July 1815 he voted with ministers on the upkeep of the royal family and likewise on the army estimates and property tax, 6 and 18 Mar. 1816. Although he was again in the majority on civil list questions, 6 and 24 May 1816, as well as against Catholic relief, 21 May, he joined opposition on the Bank restriction, 1 and 3 May, and on revenue questions, 14 and 20 June 1816. He further voted in the minorities on the composition of the finance committee, 7 Feb. 1817, on the third secretaryship of state, 29 Apr., and on the civil services compensation bill, 10 June. After siding with ministers on the effects of the suspension of habeas corpus, 10 and 11 Feb., he reverted to opposition on the ducal marriage grant, 15 Apr. 1818. All this without a word of explanation.
Wilder did not contest the general election of 1818. He died 23 Jan. 1824, aged 49, ‘after a severe and protracted illness’.6