THROCKMORTON, Robert George (1800-1862), of Buckland House, nr. Faringdon, Berks.
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Family and Educationb. 5 Dec. 1800, 1st s. of William Throckmorton (d. 1819) of 2 Old Square, L. Inn, Mdx. and Frances, da. of Thomas Giffard of Chillington, Staffs. m. 16 July 1829, Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Francis Edward Acton, 6th bt., of Aldenham Hall, Salop, 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. uncle Sir Charles Throckmorton, 7th bt., of Coughton Court, Alcester, Warws., Weston Underwood, Bucks. and Buckland as 8th bt. 3 Dec. 1840. d. 28 June 1862.
Sheriff, Berks. 1843-4.
Throckmorton came from a very old Catholic family, originating in Worcestershire, who had acquired the Warwickshire estate of Coughton by marriage in the first half of the fifteenth century. A later generation obtained the Olney property at Weston Underwood, Buckinghamshire by the same means.1 The 1st baronet, so created in 1642, was Sir Robert Throckmorton (d.1650), whose estates were sequestered in the Civil War. His grandson, Sir Robert Throckmorton (1662-1721), the 3rd baronet, one of the Catholic non-jurors, married Mary Yate, who brought him an estate at Buckland, at the north-western extremity of Berkshire. His younger son, Robert Throckmorton (1702-91), succeeded him to the baronetcy. He in turn was succeeded as 5th baronet by his eldest grandson, John Courtenay Throckmorton, who had younger brothers George, Charles and William, the latter being the father of this Member. Sir John Courtenay Throckmorton, who was born in 1753, was a founder member of the Catholic Committee in 1782 and one of the leaders of the advanced or Cisalpine party of the Catholic laity, who sought to restrict papal interference in British church affairs. His coadjutors included his kinsmen the 9th Lord Petre and Sir Henry Englefield of Whiteknights, another Berkshire Catholic. In his two Letters to the Catholic Clergy of 1790 and 1791 he denied the right of the pope to meddle in the appointment of English bishops. A headstrong, wilful man, he was a personal friend of Fox and a member of Brooks’s and of the Association of the Friends of the People. In his pamphlet of 1806, Considerations arising from the Debates in Parliament on the Petition of the Irish Catholics, he explained why English Catholics had taken no part in the campaign in support of the Irish Catholic petition the previous year, and called for the adoption of ‘an enlarged system of policy’ to prepare the way for emancipation: ‘the higher orders among the Catholics ... their bishops, and their clergy, should be invited to use their influence on the great mass of society’.2 He was one of the principal speakers at the Berkshire parliamentary reform meeting of 11 Feb. 1817.3
On his death without issue in January 1819 he was succeeded as 6th baronet by his next brother George, who had been born in 1754 and had a childless marriage, as did the next in line for the baronetcy, his brother Charles, now aged 61. Their nephew, Robert George Throckmorton, eldest son of their youngest brother William, was therefore the heir presumptive. William Throckmorton, who was born in 1762, entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1786 and appears to have practised as a certificated conveyancer. He was in Paris in the company of other English Catholics in November 1802. Like Sir John, he was a member of the Catholic Board, which replaced the Committee in 1808.4 He died at Brighton, aged 56, 31 Mar. 1819, less than two months after proving his eldest brother’s will. A widower, he died intestate, leaving three sons and two daughters under age. Administration of his effects, which were sworn under a paltry £800, was granted to Sir John’s widow (who was a sister of William’s late wife) and Charles Courtenay, an uncle, the legal guardians of the children.5
It is not known where Robert George Throckmorton received his education, but the Rev. Joseph Berrington, chaplain at Buckland, may have had a hand in it. In the summer of 1821 he travelled from France to Italy, where he spent the following winter, staying first in Naples and then in Rome. His travelling companions included the widow and children of Sir John Francis Edward Acton, 6th baronet (1736-1811), formerly commander-in-chief and prime minister of Naples, who in 1800 had been given papal dispensation to marry his brother’s teenage daughter, his junior by almost 50 years. Throckmorton spent the winter of 1823-4 in Italy.6 He was admitted to Brooks’s on 18 Feb. 1826, was in London in the spring, and after the general election told Denis Le Marchant† that the successful intervention of the Catholic Association in counties Monaghan and Waterford had ‘certainly frightened many moderate persons who favoured the party on account of its political insignificance’.7 Soon afterwards his uncle Sir George died and was succeeded as 7th baronet by Charles. Throckmorton seems to have lived mostly at Buckland from about this time, though in the summer of 1828 he visited Scotland, returning reluctantly to Berkshire in September for the ‘honour and bore’ of acting as steward of some local races. In 1829 he married Acton’s daughter Elizabeth.8
At the general election of 1830 Robert Smith, the Whig Member for Buckinghamshire, solicited his support in case he was threatened with a ‘No Popery’ opposition.9 In Berkshire the aged and long-serving Whig Member Charles Dundas, who was possibly grooming Throckmorton as his successor, asked him to second his nomination. He complied, and delivered what was probably his first public speech, a brief eulogy of Dundas as ‘the most uncompromising foe of corruption and bigotry’.10 He attended the Berkshire county meeting of 16 Mar. 1831 to express approval of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, but did not speak.11 Throckmorton, whose first child, a boy, was born on 1 Apr., was regarded by the Berkshire reformers as a good potential candidate for the next general election. When John Berkeley Monck, the former Member for Reading, resisted pressure from Lord Radnor to come forward after the defeat of the reform bill, arguing that Throckmorton was a better bet, having ‘everything to recommend him, family, property, a good name, and good principles’, he agreed to stand.12 He did so as a firm supporter of the ‘salutary [and] constitutional’ measure. His position was strengthened by county-wide meetings which pledged to support him with Dundas, and by the voluntary withdrawal of the veteran radical reformer William Hallett, who had contested the county on three previous occasions. The other sitting Member, Robert Palmer, a Tory, who had voted for the second reading of the bill but opposed it on Gascoyne’s amendment, because he regarded it as too sweeping, submitted to the tide of opinion against him and retired on the eve of the election, leaving the way clear for the reformers. At the nomination Throckmorton, who was proposed by the radical hero Sir Francis Burdett* and seconded by Monck, both of whom made much of his relationship to the late Sir John, his youth and his independent wealth, proclaimed himself to be ‘the uncompromising advocate’ of the entire bill. He denounced the ‘specious pretext of moderate reform’ and deplored ‘the perjury, the misery, and the vice under which the country had so long groaned, owing to the boroughmongering monopoly’. He emphasized his devotion to the interests of agriculture and called for a speedy abolition of slavery, provided it was attended with ‘proper regard to the property of the West Indian interests ... and to the sufferings of the miserable slaves’. In response to questions, he expressed his approval of Lord Althorp’s bill to reform the game laws, but evaded the issue of renewal of the East India Company’s charter, which he thought the next Parliament would not have time to consider. At the formal election proceedings, he asserted that the reform bill, though not ‘revolutionary’, would ‘sweep away bribery and corruption, from whence had flowed by far the greatest part of those evils which had so long bowed this suffering country to the ground’.13 His wife told her brother: ‘If you could see the faces of the parsons - a popish radical - the poor dear church!’14 From Charles Butler, one of Sir John Throckmorton’s closest allies on the Catholic Committee, he received a letter of congratulation and advice:
You cannot serve the cause of reform, or to speak more properly the great cause of liberty, better, than by watching your own friends and keeping them firm in the popular principles of their party ... In my long life I have seen the Whigs three times called into power, and at each time losing their character and their strength by too great sacrifices to aristocratic feelings. From reproach on this head the present ministry are not free. But it would be invidious to mention particulars. Their conduct, however, deserves your serious attention. The abolition of sinecures, and undeserved pensions, the exercise of office by deputy, the non-residents and pluralities of the clergy, the absence of the prebendaries from their stalls, and the neglect of the religious education of the poor loudly called for remedy. The public expects both a serious and speedy reform of all these particulars, and will take the measure into their own management, if the ministers delay it, or deal it with a sparing hand. I hope to see you at the head of those who promote these substantial and necessary reforms. I hear from Berkshire that your speeches were most favourably received. They certainly have been praised in London ... I hope it will not be long before you hear your own voice in Parliament. Every day’s delay adds to the difficulty of a speaker for the first time. You may be assured that at present, public opinion is greatly in your favour.15
At a celebration dinner at Newbury, 25 May 1831, Throckmorton proclaimed ‘the triumph of reform over a little knot of oligarchists, who had so long usurped their rights’, portrayed himself as ‘the avowed enemy of all jobs’ and said that he would be found ‘foremost in the ranks of the advocates of the comprehensive and enlightened policy’ of the government.16
He made little mark in the House. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and twice against adjournment, 12 July 1831. He was a generally steady supporter of the details of the bill, but he voted against the proposed division of counties, 11 Aug., and for the enfranchisement of tenant farmers, 18 Aug. Explaining the former vote, 12 Aug., when he approved the proposal to create some three Member counties (of which Berkshire was one), he said that division would ‘tend to nomination’. At the same time, he insisted that in his constituency the measure had ‘in all its details given very great satisfaction’. He had presented a Newbury agriculturists’ petition for all occupiers paying rates of a certain amount to be given the county vote, 20 July. He voted with ministers for the prosecution of those found guilty of giving bribes at the Dublin election, 23 Aug., but not against the opposition censure motion which followed it. On 19 Sept. he presented a petition from the Vale for reduction of the duty on fire insurance. He voted for the third reading of the reform bill later that day, and for its passage, 21 Sept. He voted for the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept. At the Berkshire meeting to petition the Lords to pass the English bill, 5 Oct., he professed to be ‘convinced’ that they would do so
as it appeared impossible that they could resist the power of public opinion so vehemently expressed ... It had been said that the question now was, reform and peace, or insurrection and bloodshed; but he denied that it was so, for he felt convinced that a little patience only was necessary, and that after one more session at the utmost, they would see their hopes fully accomplished, even if the cup was now dashed from their lips.17
After the rejection of the bill he told his Tory brother-in-law, Sir Ferdinand Richard Edward Acton, whose known desire for a peerage at that moment was something of an embarrassment to him, that London was ‘perfectly quiet and no apprehension is entertained I believe except in Scotland, where the people are furious’. He voted for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831, and spent the recess at Buckland, Coughton and the Acton residence in Shropshire.18
He went up to vote for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. He was absent from the divisions of 20 and 23 Jan. 1832 on the bill, though he was in London on the 24th, when he told his wife, to whom he wrote frequently, and in terms of great affection, but with whom he seems to have had a passing tiff:
I have just got your darling letter, angel. How sorry I am at what I said. I am so afraid sometimes you do not know how I adore you and I am always trying to do what will please you, so forgive me when I have a jealous fit, darling ... I wish I had never got into this beastly Parliament and that I could get out this year. I hate it. We were so happy and well with our child before.19
He was one of the reformers who voted against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and he divided for inquiry into distress in the glove trade, 31 Jan. He voted for the £10 householder clause of the reform bill, 3 Feb., after which he paired off, ‘except on Belgium’, with Lord Villiers until schedule A came under consideration. He was therefore absent from the division on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb.20 He resumed attendance in the last week of February, and voted with government in the committee divisions on Appleby, 21 Feb., Helston, 23 Feb., Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and Gateshead, 5 Mar. To his great delight, his wife and child joined him in London at Thomas’s Hotel in early March; and later in the month he took possession of a house at 71 Pall Mall on a two-year lease.21 He went to the House for the debate on the third reading of the reform bill, 20 Mar., but, disappointed to learn that there was no chance of a division that night, told his wife, ‘I am sorry I came, though it looks bad only just coming in for the division’. While he could scarcely credit a rumour that his uncle would be offered a peerage if creations proved necessary to get the bill through the Lords, he thought ministers would ‘make a point of not passing over the Catholics’.22 He duly voted for the third reading, 22 Mar. He divided in the minority against restoring the salary of the Irish registrar of deeds to its original level, 9 Apr., but he voted for the address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the reform bill unimpaired, 10 May. He voted against the government’s temporizing amendment to Fowell Buxton’s motion for an inquiry into colonial slavery, 24 May, and on 18 June he presented a petition for abolition from Wantage Baptists. His attendance in Parliament to vote for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, was his excuse for staying away from that day’s county meeting to petition the Lords in favour of reform.23 He voted against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish reform bill, 1 June, and to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June. He did not vote in the divisions on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 16, 20 July 1832.
Throckmorton stood again for Berkshire at the general election of 1832 and was returned in second place, but he retired from Parliament at the dissolution of 1834. He succeeded his uncle to the baronetcy and estates in five counties in 1840.24 He died at his London home at 14 Hereford Street, Park Lane in June 1862. As his eldest son, Robert Charles Courtenay Throckmorton, had died in 1853, he was succeeded in the baronetcy by his second son, Nicholas William George (1838-1919), who was in turn succeeded as 10th baronet by his brother Richard Charles Acton (1839-1927). Throckmorton’s third daughter Emily survived until 1929.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. A.L. Rowse, Ralegh and Throckmortons, 1-2.
- 2. B. Ward, Dawn of Catholic Revival, i. 46-47, 90, 93, 111-12, 116-17, 121, 153, 332, 340; ii. 39-40, 46, 51-52; and Eve of Catholic Emancipation, i. 39- 40, 66, 102, 112, 173; D. Mathew, Catholicism in England (1948), 158; M.D.R. Leys, Catholics in England, 137-8; M.D. Petre, Lord Petre, 121, 126- 7, 157, 205; Burke Corresp. vii. 482-3; HMC Fortescue, ix. 194, 299.
- 3. Jackson’s Oxford Jnl. 15 Feb. 1817.
- 4. Berry Jnls. ii. 201; Ward, Eve of Catholic Emancipation, i. 102.
- 5. Gent. Mag. (1819), i. 181, 380; PROB 6/195 (13 May 1819); 11/1613/96.
- 6. Warws. RO, Throckmorton mss CR 1998/Tribune/folder 4/7-8; folder 21/1.
- 7. Cambridge Univ. Lib. Acton mss, Add. 8121 (4)/185; Baring Jnls. 46.
- 8. Acton mss 354, 355; Throckmorton mss CR 1998/Tribune/folder 17/1-7.
- 9. Throckmorton mss folder 11/2.
- 10. Ibid. folder 11/3; The Times, 9 Aug. 1830.
- 11. Acton mss 316; The Times, 17 Mar. 1831.
- 12. Acton mss 359, 360; Throckmorton mss folder 10/1, 9.
- 13. Throckmorton mss folder 16/24-29, 31, 33, 34; box 61/folder 5, Throckmorton to Sir C. Throckmorton, 9 May; Reading Mercury, 25 Apr., 2, 9, 16 May 1831.
- 14. Acton mss 317.
- 15. Throckmorton mss 11/4; Petre, 280-3.
- 16. Reading Mercury, 30 May 1831.
- 17. Ibid. 10 Oct. 1831.
- 18. Acton mss 318-20, 365.
- 19. Throckmorton mss folder 16/52.
- 20. Ibid. folder 16/56, 57; Acton mss 323.
- 21. Acton mss 324-6; Throckmorton mss folder 16/49, 58, 59.
- 22. Throckmorton mss folder 16/49, 51, 60.
- 23. The Times, 26 May 1832.
- 24. PROB 11/1941/148; IR26/1589/72.