VILLIERS, Hon. John Charles (1757-1838).

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



6 Jan. 1784 - 1790
1790 - 1802
1802 - 24 May 1805
1807 - 1812
1820 - 7 Mar. 1824

Family and Education

b. 14 Nov. 1757, 2nd s. of Thomas Villiers†, 1st earl of Clarendon (d. 1786), and Lady Charlotte Capel, da. (and coh. of her mother) of William, 3rd earl of Essex, and 1st w. Jane, da. of Henry Hyde†, 4th and last earl of Clarendon. educ. Eton 1766; St. John’s, Camb. 1774; L. Inn 1774, called 1779. m. 5 Jan. 1791, his cos. Maria Eleanor, da. and coh. of Adm. Hon. John Forbes, MP [I], 1da. d.v.p. suc. bro. Thomas Villiers† as 3rd earl of Clarendon 7 Mar. 1824. d. 22 Dec. 1838.

Offices Held

KC duchy of Lancaster 1782-6; surveyor of woods in northern parts of duchy 1786-1825; comptroller of household Feb. 1787-Feb. 1790; PC 19 Feb. 1787; member, bd. of trade 1790; c.j. in eyre north of Trent 1790-d.; prothonotary of common pleas, co. of Lancaster 1804-d.; minister plenip. to Portugal Nov. 1808-Feb. 1810; clerk of the peace, Lancs. 1825-d.

Col. 1 fencible cav. 1794-1800, Mdx. yeomanry 1803.

Recorder, New Windsor 1789-1806; town clerk, Wootton Bassett 1794-d.


At the general election of 1820, Villiers, whose brother held the revived earldom of Clarendon and had an estate at The Grove, Watford, Hertfordshire, resumed a parliamentary career which had begun in the first weeks of Pitt’s minority administration by securing (after a break of eight years) his second return for the government borough of Queenborough. Armed with two sinecures worth almost £5,000 a year, he was ‘one of the treasury phalanx’.1 He paired against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820. He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., against a revision of official salaries, 30 Mar., and repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and for the alien office grant and the payment of arrears on the duke of Clarence’s annuity, 29 June 1821. He was on the government side in the divisions on tax reductions, 11, 21, 28 Feb., the joint-postmastership, 13 Mar., Irish tithes, 19 June, the lord advocate’s dealings with the Scottish press, 25 June, the Canada bill, 18 July, and the aliens bill, 19 July 1822. In his only known speech in this period, 5 July, he welcomed ‘the liberal contributions now making for the sufferers in Ireland, and for which every post showed the inevitable necessity’; and he was named to the select committee on employment of the poor there the following year.2 Charles Rose Ellis* wrote to Lord Granville, 6 Sept. 1822, that the offer of the exchequer with the lead of the Commons to George Canning was ‘little short of an insult (and I am very glad to find John Villiers entertains the same feeling, for I know no one whose bias is usually so strongly in favour of Canning’s accepting office on almost any terms)’.3 He voted against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiries into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and chancery administration, 5 June 1823. He evidently remained neutral on Catholic relief.

After succeeding his brother as earl of Clarendon in early 1824 he took little active part in politics, though he continued to exercise control over the corporation and one parliamentary seat at Wootton Bassett. He supported the Whigs in power from 1830, but in 1835 urged Sir Robert Peel* to defy the odds against his ministry in the Commons, as Pitt had done in 1784.4 When corresponding with Dr. Butler of Shrewsbury on endowed schools in 1820 he stressed the importance of ‘implanting and cultivating a due disposition of piety in the useful [sic] breast’; and he largely devoted his later years to the promotion of religious and charitable causes, which were deemed to have suffered ‘a very serious loss’ by his death in December 1838.5 He was succeeded in his titles and estates, but apparently not in his fortune (which went to his wife and her family), by his nephew George William Frederick Villiers (1800-70), the defeated candidate at Newport, Isle of Wight, in 1831, who capped his ministerial career as lord lieutenant of Ireland, 1847-52.6 The 4th earl’s brothers were Thomas Hyde Villiers* and Charles Pelham Villiers, who had been unsuccessful at Hull in 1826, but sat as a Liberal for Wolverhampton from 1835 till his death in 1898.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Black Bk. (1823), 200.
  • 2. The Times, 6 July 1822.
  • 3. Harewood mss WYL 250/8.
  • 4. Holland House Diaries, 244-5; Add. 40418, f. 263.
  • 5. Add. 34585, ff. 40-42, 51, 61; The Times, 28 Dec. 1838; Gent. Mag. (1839), i. 207-8; DNB; Oxford DNB.
  • 6. CP, iii. 271.