MANNERS, Lord Robert William (1781-1835), of Belvoir Castle, Leics.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1802 - 1806
1806 - 1831
1832 - 15 Nov. 1835

Family and Education

b. 14 Dec. 1781, 3rd s. of Charles Manners, 4th duke of Rutland (d. 1787), and Lady Mary Isabella Somerset, da. of Charles Noel Somerset†, 4th duke of Beaufort; bro. of Lord Charles Henry Somerset Manners*. unm. CB 1815. d. 15 Nov. 1835.

Offices Held

Cornet 10 Drag. 1798, lt. 1800, capt. 1803, maj. 1810; lt.-col. 2 Ft. 1811, 23 Drag. 1812, 10 Drag. 1814, half-pay 1819; brevet col. 1821; lt.-col. 3 Drag. 1825; maj.-gen. 1830.


Manners, a cavalry officer who had been wounded at Waterloo, came forward again for Leicestershire on the family interest, headed by his brother, the 5th duke of Rutland, at the general election of 1820. He declared his devotion to ‘the Protestant establishment’ as ‘the palladium of liberty and toleration’ and promised to

use his utmost exertions in support of such measures as were best calculated to remove the sad distresses which had unhappily prevailed throughout the country. He would never, however, lend himself to those wild theories, which, if acted upon, would produce that species of horrid revolutionary frenzy that would habituate the minds of the people to assassination and every species of public as well as private vice.

He was returned unopposed.1 He continued to support the Liverpool ministry, but he was not the most assiduous of attenders, preferring field sports, in which he was a ‘hard rider’, to politics.2

He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided against Catholic relief after presenting the hostile Leicestershire petition, 28 Feb. 1821.3 He voted against Canning’s attempt to relieve Catholic peers, 30 Apr. 1822, brought up more anti-Catholic petitions, 16 Apr. 1823, 18 Apr. 1825,4 and voted against relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. He divided against parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 20 Feb., 2 June 1823, and paired against mitigation of the forgery laws, 23 May 1821. He mustered for the divisions against more extensive tax cuts, 11 Feb., abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., and repeal of the salt duties, 28 June, and for the aliens bill, 19 July 1822. He was in the ministerial minority against inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 16 Apr., and majority against investigation of chancery delays, 5 June 1823. He presented Leicester petitions for the abolition of slavery, 18 May,5 and voted for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824. He divided for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 30 May, 6 June 1825. He voted against attempts to restrict the use of spring guns, 21 June 1825, 27 Apr. 1826.

Manners was returned unopposed at the general election of 1826, when he expressed his ‘pity and admiration’ for the stoicism of the distressed ‘working classes’ and his ‘hopes that the clouds which had caused so much trouble and dismay were fast disappearing’, and reiterated his hostility to concessions for Catholics.6 He voted against their claims, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. After serving on an election committee, he was given a fortnight’s leave to attend to urgent private business, 3 Apr. 1827. Following the formation of Canning’s ministry, Rutland told the duke of Wellington’s confidante Mrs. Arbuthnot that he expected no good from it and that his brothers were ‘enthusiastic respecting the gentleman whom they know by the nickname of the "Beau" ... [and say] "Whatever happens, we’ll stick by "the Beau"’.7 Manners duly supported the duke’s ministry from January 1828; he was in their majority on the ordnance estimates, 4 July 1828. He presented a Loughborough anti-slavery petition, 11 July 1828. In February 1829 Planta, the patronage sectretary, predicted that he would side ‘with government’ for their concession of Catholic emancipation, but he was wrong. On 3 Mar. Rutland told Mrs. Arbuthnot that Manners had gone to the Commons that day ‘to fulfil the wishes of the county’ by presenting with his colleague Legh Keck the hostile Leicestershire petition:

It is a fearful moment altogether, for I foresee that whatever part I might take, my brothers cannot do otherwise than go with the current of public feeling, unless when the measures are detailed they are such as to create a pacification in the spirit of the country.8

Chided by Rutland for remaining silent on this occasion, Manners replied:

I always told you I was not fit to represent the county ... You say ... you wish I had courage to speak, but you must first give me the ability. I wished much to have said something, but I had not two words to put together, so I sat like a log of wood ... I cannot help it, if they turn me out for it.9

He presented petitions against emancipation, 18, 23 Mar., and voted steadily against the measure throughout the month, though Rutland (who voted for the second reading of the bill in the Lords, but sent in his proxy against the third) noted that both he and his brother Lord Charles were ‘very uncomfortable at giving a vote in opposition to the duke’.10 When Rutland’s Member Frederick Trench was appointed storekeeper of the ordnance in June 1829, some observers believed that Wellington ‘might as well previously have made that offer’ to Manners or his brother.11 Emancipation did not permanently alienate him from the administration, and he divided with them against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He presented a petition for the abolition of truck payments, 17 Mar. It is not clear whether it was he or Lord Charles who voted against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., but he definitely did so on 17 May. He was in minorities for amendments to the sale of beer bill, 21 June, 1 July 1830.

He was returned in second place in the contested election for Leicestershire the following month, but Rutland feared for his future hold on the seat.12 Ministers listed him as one of their ‘friends’, and he was in their minority in the decisive division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He brought up a petition for the abolition of slavery, 3 Nov. 1830. He divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He initially planned to stand at the ensuing general election, but the prospect of another contest, this time against two reformers, prompted him to abandon the seat.13 A year later he was reported as saying that if he ever recovered it ‘he supposed he should be under the necessity of supporting Lord Grey’ against the radical extremists.14 He came in for the northern division of the county at the 1832 and 1835 general elections, but died a bachelor, intestate and in harness, aged only 53, in November 1835.15 Administration of his personal estate, which was sworn under £1,600, 10 Aug. 1836, was granted to Rutland.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Simon Harratt


  • 1. Leicester Chron. 26 Feb.; Leicester Jnl. 17 Mar. 1820.
  • 2. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 475; T. F. Dale, Belvoir Hunt, 122.
  • 3. The Times, 1 Mar. 1821.
  • 4. Ibid. 17 Apr. 1823, 19 Apr. 1825.
  • 5. Ibid. 19 May 1824.
  • 6. Leicester Jnl. 16, 23 June 1826.
  • 7. Arbuthnot Corresp. 284.
  • 8. Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Arbuthnot mss.
  • 9. Rutland mss (History of Parliament Aspinall transcripts), Manners to Rutland [Mar. 1829].
  • 10. Arbuthnot mss, Rutland to Mrs. Arbuthnot, 10 Mar. 1829.
  • 11. Rutland mss, Douglas to Rutland, 25 Aug. 1829.
  • 12. Arbuthnot Corresp. 138.
  • 13. Leicester Jnl. 29 Apr., 6 May 1831.
  • 14. Three Diaries, 264.
  • 15. Gent. Mag. (1836), i. 89.