WILSON, Richard II (1759-1834), of 47 Lincoln's Inn Fields, Mdx. and Bildeston, Suff.
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Family and Education
bap. 5 Oct. 1759, 12th child of George Wilson of Hepscott, Northumb. by Elizabeth, da. of John Nowell of Naworth, Cumb., land agent of Earl of Carlisle. educ. articled to solicitor in Hexham, Northumb. m. 20 Feb. 1784, at Margate, Hannah Harwood, 1s. 2da. suc. bro. John to Northumb. property 1820.
Adm. attorney KB 5 May 1781, c.p. 30 May 1788; principal sec. to Ld. Chancellors Eldon and Erskine 1801-7; commr. of bankrupts 1802-31; dep. recorder, Launceston 1809-18; cursitor in Chancery 1807-d.; dir. Rock Life Assurance 1813.
Capt. Bloomsbury vols. 18601.
Wilson came to London as a solicitor under the aegis of his friend and kinsman John Scott, afterwards Lord Eldon. In a few years ‘Morpeth Dick’, as he was nicknamed, built up a flourishing practice. He joined the Whig Club, 2 May 1785, and was one of the Whig theatrical circle, Sheridan (whom he introduced to William Stone ‘the traitor’) and Joseph Richardson being friends of his. In 1802 he became auditor of Drury Lane theatre. He was legal adviser to Lord Chedworth, who at his death in 1804 left him half his property and £40,000; but his most important client was the Duke of Northumberland, whose man of business he was. He managed the duke’s electoral interests at Launceston and Newport and in 1802 dabbled in other Cornish elections on behalf of clients, notably at Tregony, where he fell foul of Sir Christopher Hawkins. One trump card he held was that his friend Eldon had appointed him his principal secretary on becoming lord chancellor the year before, which enabled him to command the election writ. Subsequently he entered into the confidence of Lord Camelford, Lord Grenville’s brother-in-law. He also cultivated the Prince of Wales and in August 1804 was Eldon’s go-between with the Prince in his bid to reconcile him with the King.1
When the Whigs held office under Lord Grenville in 1806, Wilson was in his element. The new lord chancellor, Erskine, retained his services. He was active for Grenville at Bodmin in the contest for that borough in July; he went on to revenge himself on Hawkins at Tregony, and was himself a candidate for Ipswich, where Lord Chedworth’s bequest and his wife’s connexions gave him an interest, reinforced by ministerial support. His personal success at the general election had been clouded, meanwhile, by a fracas between Sheridan, Grenville and Northumberland over the Westminster election, in which Wilson had championed his patron’s son’s pretensions against Sheridan, who accused him of convincing Grenville that he was not in the running for Fox’s seat. On 17 Sept. 1806 he and Sheridan were reconciled by Lord Moira; subsequently Wilson was mediator between the duke and Grenville, whose relations had deteriorated after the episode.2
Wilson made no mark in the Parliament of 1806. He was listed among the ‘staunch Friends’ of the abolition of the slave trade and voted for Brand’s motion following his friends’ dismissal, 9 Apr. 1807. At the ensuing election he was defeated at Ipswich and failed to carry a running partner. He had broken with Eldon over his political commitment, and, on Eldon’s return to the woolsack in 1807, accepted a cursitorship in Chancery on resigning his office. Despite Northumberland’s intention to seat him, he did not re-enter Parliament.3
Wilson remained the duke’s electoral agent in Cornwall and his homme d’affaires until his death in 1817. A year later he helped his heir stave off an attack on his boroughs. He was a trustee of Sheridan’s disorderly affairs from 1808 and, like him, suffered materially from the burning down of Drury Lane in 1809. In 1811 he was detached enough to be an admirer of Perceval. His rural dinners at Craven Cottage, Fulham were fashionable events. He remained titular head of his firm of solicitors but, after inheriting his surgeon brother’s northern properties in 1820, sold them to buy the manor of Bildeston in Suffolk, his country retreat, where he set up a racing stud. He died 7 June 1834.4
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: Winifred Stokes / R. G. Thorne
- 1. John Taylor, Recs. of My Life, ii. 357; Sheridan Letters ed. Price, ii. 6; The Times, 21 Sept. 1802; Gent. Mag. (1804), ii. 1242-4; Cornw. RO, Johnstone mss DDJ 2100, Sandys to Hawkins, 17 June, Wilson to same, 13 Aug. 1802; Pole Carew mss CC/L/37, Rashleigh to Pole Carew, 11 Mar. 1804; Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1788, 1921, 1939.
- 2. Johnstone mss DDJ 2098, ff. 71, 88; see IPSWICH; Fortescue mss, Sheridan to Grenville, 16 Sept., Wilson to same, 11 Dec. 1806; Sheridan Letters, ii. 276-9; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2228.
- 3. Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 393; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2432; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 12 Nov. 1807.
- 4. A. F. Robbins, Launceston Past and Present, 287-8; R. Cornw. Gazette, 13 June 1818; Sheridan Letters, iii. 31, 179; N. and Q. (ser. 12), ii. 75; Hodgson, Hist. Northumb. ii (2), 288; PCC 542 Teignmouth.