ROSE, Sir George Henry (1770-1855), of Cuffnells, nr. Lyndhurst, Hants.

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



26 Aug. 1794 - Feb. 1818
6 Mar. 1818 - 1832
1837 - 20 Mar. 1844

Family and Education

b. 3 or 5 May 1770, 1st s. of George Rose† of Cuffnells and Theodora, da. of John Duer of Fulham, Mdx. and Antigua. educ. Winchester 1781; L. Inn 1784; Geneva 1786-7; St. John’s, Camb. 1788. m. 6 Jan. 1796, Frances, da. and coh. of Thomas Duncombe† of Duncombe Park, Yorks., 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. (3 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1818; GCH 1819. d. 17 June 1855.

Offices Held

Sec. of legation and chargé d’affaires, Berlin 1793-4; dep. paymaster-gen. 1804-6; spec. mission to USA 1807-8; minister plenip. to Bavaria 1814-15, to Prussia 1815-23; clerk of the Parliaments 1818-44; PC 6 Apr. 1818.

Capt. Christchurch vols. 1795, maj. commdt. 1798, lt.- col. commdt. 1806; lt.-col. commdt. S. Hants vols. 1803.

Metropolitan commr. of lunacy 1829.


The manner in which Rose’s father, Pitt’s chief treasury secretary, had obtained places for his two sons was, according to an 1820 radical commentary, ‘one of the most impudent and selfish jobs recorded’.1 Under this umbrella of patronage Rose, who had succeeded his father as Member for Christchurch (and its patron) in 1818, continued to pursue a lucrative, if undistinguished, diplomatic career. In 1822 his posting to the Berlin court commanded a salary of £7,500, while his sinecure office of clerk of the Parliaments brought him an additional £4,632. The crown emoluments thus enumerated were far in excess of those received by any other Member of the House, in which his attendance while a serving diplomat was inevitably very sporadic.2 His political mentor was the foreign secretary Lord Castlereagh*, with whom he communicated in a private as well as an official capacity. In October 1819 his correspondence echoed alarmist sentiment at home in its portrayal of events in Germany, ‘which had no less an object than the subversion of the whole of the existing government’, and in its defence of press restrictions.3

It fell to Rose to give the news of the death of George III to the duke of Cumberland, who characterized their relations as ‘most cordial and confidential’.4 On 7 Feb. 1820 Rose requested leave of absence from Berlin to deal with matters arising from the death of his father and enable him to be resworn as clerk of the Parliaments, ‘both to secure the post and to collect the emoluments of this session’. He had hoped to ‘stand in person at Christchurch’ at the general election, but in the event was absent from his unopposed return as his leave did not commence until 25 Apr.5 He was present to vote with the Liverpool ministry against a motion for economies in revenue collection, 4 July, but was back in post by 5 Aug. He was evidently vexed by the failure of George IV’s divorce bill in November 1820, when Cumberland assured his brother of Rose’s unswerving loyalty.6 In January 1821 he was troubled by ‘lumbago in an extraordinary degree’, but assured Castlereagh of his fitness for work.7 He apparently visited England that July to attend a coronation dinner in his constituency, and he travelled to Hanover in October 1821 to be presented to George IV, reportedly at the latter’s insistence.8 It had long been rumoured that Rose wished to retire, a matter pointedly alluded to by Canning after his appointment as foreign secretary, 20 Sept. 1822. He offered no hope of the ambassadorship coveted by Rose, then on leave in England, who declared that he had no intention of surrendering his existing appointment.9 According to Lady Holland, 25 Sept., this was already earmarked for Lord Clanwilliam, Castlereagh’s nephew, who duly succeeded when Rose finally took the hint and resigned in December 1822. In the meantime, he had denounced Canning to Sir Charles Bagot, the ambassador at St. Petersburg, as ‘utterly unprincipled’, though he acknowledged his administrative talents.10 Resettled in Hampshire, he pestered Peel, the home secretary, and the duke of Wellington with plans for the reorganization of his militia troop, and irritated the latter by hectoring him for approval of appointments.11 Evidently a keen country sportsman, in 1830 a newspaper highlighted his fame as a dead shot by relating how he had killed a bird at a distance of 298 yards.12

Free to attend the House more regularly, Rose was in the ministerial minority against inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and their majorities against reform of the Scottish representation, 2 June, and inquiry into the currency, 12 June 1823. Before the last he visited his constituency, where he was greeted with ‘a merry peal from the church bells’.13 He voted against the Whigs’ Scottish juries bill, 20 June. As a West India proprietor by inheritance, he testified to the moral improvement of the slave population that had resulted from the advance of Christianity and recommended that religious instruction should be made mandatory, lauding the efforts of missionaries from the Wesleyan and Moravian churches, 15 May 1823. That July he published A Letter on the Means and Importance of Converting the Slaves in the West Indies to Christianity, calling for similar Evangelical spirit to be shown by the resident clergy of the established church. In the House, 16 Mar. 1824, he asserted that ‘the cure for West Indian evils’ lay in moral rather than legislative measures and stressed the need to replace ‘concubinage’ with marriage. He gave a silent vote against inquiry into the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith for inciting riot among the slaves of Demerara, 11 June, but spoke again in glowing terms of Nonconformist missionaries, 15 June. As a Hampshire magistrate, he thought Lord Althorp’s bill to reform the county courts ‘most laudable’, 26 Mar. 1824. Later he privately favoured Peel with his thoughts on the criminal code, which he admitted to be ‘too bloody’, but advised against its mitigation ‘until we have some more efficient substitute for death than transportation’.14 In the reorganization of the parliament office which took place in 1824, he was persuaded to relinquish his right to make all future appointments bar one, though he continued to draw a salary of £3,300.15 He defended his late father from a charge of vote manufacturing in Southampton levelled by Monck, 12 May 1825. He voted against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the disfranchisement of the Irish 40s. freeholders, 26 Apr., 9 May. From personal acquaintance he defended the character of Cumberland, 30 May, and he was in the majorities for his civil list provision that day, 6, 10 June 1825. No trace of parliamentary activity has been found for 1826.

At that year’s general election he was returned unopposed for Christchurch with his eldest son.16 He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May, and repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. He congratulated Peel on his accession as leader of the Commons, 22 Jan. 1828, and in February presented him with a plan for the reform of consular services, which he claimed had been approved by Canning.17 On 14 Apr. he chaired a meeting at Romsey, Hampshire, for replacing boy chimney sweeps with machinery.18 He divided against inquiry into chancery delays, 24 Apr., and ordnance reductions, 4 July 1828. He had declined the offer of a baronetcy from the premier Lord Goderich in November 1827, and had been poised to advance a claim to be made a knight of the Bath when the administration fell.19 On 13 June 1828 he renewed his application to Wellington, the premier, and took great umbrage at its brusque rejection. Writing to Peel, 12 Jan. 1829, he complained that while the Whig diplomat Robert Adair† had been made a privy councillor, he, who had ‘for more than thirty-four years ... supported the Pittite administrations in Parliament by every means in his power’, had long waited in vain for recognition of his services, and hinted that his future support in the Commons could not be counted on.20 Wellington, pleading the volume of claims, remained unmoved, and while Rose thanked Peel for his efforts to mediate, 30 Jan., he plainly regarded his treatment as an insult.21 He warned that the ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation would ‘compromise the Protestant establishment in church and state’, 13 Feb., and was listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, as being ‘opposed’ to the measure. He presented hostile petitions, 9 Mar., and voted against it at every opportunity, 6, 18, 23, 27, 30 Mar. On the 27th he voiced concerns about the proselytizing tendencies of the Catholic church and forecast that its communicants would form a disciplined parliamentary squad in the House. Desirous of ensuring Rose’s future adherence, Goulburn, the chancellor of the exchequer, vainly revived his claim to the order of the Bath, 15 Oct. 1829, and reported him to be still further aggrieved by honours conferred upon other diplomats.22 Rose voted against Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and commented that the recently abolished requirement of British soldiers to attend Catholic services abroad had been indefensible, 17 June 1830. He was in minorities for amendments to the sale of beer bill to restrict on-consumption, 21 June, 1 July 1830.

At the 1830 general election Rose was returned unopposed.23 He presented a petition for the abolition of slavery, 3 Nov. 1830. Ministers listed him as one of the ‘moderate Ultras’, but he was in their minority in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He was returned again without opposition at the ensuing general election, and voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July. He defended the conduct of the Member William Bingham Baring, a colleague on the Hampshire bench, accused of using unnecessary force in the apprehension of two ‘Swing’ riot suspects of respectable status, 21 July, and looked forward to his triumphant vindication, 19 Sept. He recommended that the foreign office should regulate the consular fees charged to merchants, 25 July. On 16 Aug. he argued that a separate legislature for Ireland would inevitably lead to secession, and he voted to censure the Irish government for use of undue influence at the Dublin election, 23 Aug. As the mover of a private divorce bill, he agreed that the limited availability of this option was unjust, 17 Aug. On 19 Aug. he emphasized the need for legally trained, properly remunerated returning officers at future elections. He voted against the third reading of the reform bill, 19 Sept., its passage, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. Rose divided against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and made a procedural intervention during discussion of the registration clauses, 8 Feb. 1832. He voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar., when he warned of the detrimental effect of popular government on a decisive foreign policy and, in a reference to the current cholera epidemic, likened the clamour for reform to a ‘moral pestilence’. The speech was privately published and a copy presented to John Wilson Croker*. He voted against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. On 24 Jan. he called for British protection to be extended to the Vaudois, a proto-Protestant religious sect allegedly suffering persecution in France. He voted against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July. He divided against the Irish education grant, 23 July, and was in the minority of eight against the grant to the Catholic seminary at Maynooth, in protest, he explained, at the withdrawal of financial backing from the Protestant Kildare Place Society, 27 July 1832.

At the 1832 dissolution Rose retired from Christchurch. He was re-elected there as a Conservative after a contest in 1837 and resigned his seat and clerkship in 1844.24 In 1831 he edited A Selection from the Papers of the Earl of Marchmont, and contributed a preface, which was in part an apologia for the Act of Union. ‘I have great suspicion of anything published by so intolerable a bore as Sir George Rose’, noted the Whig George Agar Ellis* to Lady Holland.25 Scripture Researches (1832) was the first of his several works on the Old Testament and the fate of the lost tribes of Israel, which included The Spread of Circumcision (1846), an inquiry into Egyptian circumcision, and The Afghans, the Ten Tribes and the Kings of the East (1852). In The Churches of Luther, Calvin and England, one of three religious tracts published in 1854, he sought biblical justification for the Reformation and likened Roman Catholics to worshippers of the golden calf of Babylon. Rose died in June 1855 at Sandhills, Mudeford, near Christchurch, which, along with Cuffnells, his principal residence, was sold. By his will, dated 13 Dec. 1851, he left £7,000 to religious and charitable institutions, including sizeable bequests to Protestant missions in Ireland, and made provision for his wife and the widow and child of his recently deceased eldest son.26 His surviving sons included Hugh Henry Rose (1801-85), who pursued a distinguished military and diplomatic career and was ennobled as Baron Strathnairn in 1866, and William Rose (1808-85), who was knighted in 1867 and succeeded to his father’s old office of clerk of the Parliaments in 1875.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Howard Spencer / Philip Salmon


  • 1. Black Bk. (1820), 73-74.
  • 2. PP (1822), iv. 48-49.
  • 3. Add. 42795, f. 152.
  • 4. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 791, 798.
  • 5. Add. 42795, ff. 183-7; Salisbury Jnl. 13 Mar. 1820.
  • 6. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 882.
  • 7. Add. 42795, f. 206.
  • 8. Salisbury Jnl. 23 July 1821; Add. 42793, f. 142.
  • 9. Add. 42794, f. 104; NLS mss 3797, ff. 155, 157.
  • 10. Lady Holland to Son, 13; Bagot, Canning and Friends, ii. 140-1.
  • 11. Add. 40358, f. 131; Wellington mss WP1/827/7; 832/2.
  • 12. Salisbury Jnl. 11 Jan. 1830.
  • 13. Ibid. 9 June 1823.
  • 14. Add. 40382, f. 249.
  • 15. Sir J. Sainty, Parl. Office in 19th and 20th Cents. 5; Colchester Diary, iii. 320-1; J. Wade, Extraordinary Black Bk. (1831), 478.
  • 16. Salisbury Jnl. 12 June 1826.
  • 17. Add. 40395, ff. 77, 289; 40396, f. 50.
  • 18. Salisbury Jnl. 14 Apr. 1828.
  • 19. Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1430; NLS mss 3797, f. 188.
  • 20. Wellington mss WP1/936/25; 972/18; 975/13; Add. 40398, ff. 67, 99.
  • 21. Add. 40308, f. 150; 40398, f. 107.
  • 22. Wellington mss WP1/1051/10.
  • 23. Portsmouth Herald, 30 July 1830.
  • 24. Gent. Mag. (1855), ii. 198.
  • 25. Add. 51590, Agar Ellis to Lady Holland, 27 Feb. 1831.
  • 26. Gent. Mag. (1855), ii. 198-9; White’s Hants Dir. (1859), 374; (1878), 334; PROB 11/2216/638; IR26/2043/773.