VIVIAN, Sir Richard Hussey (1775-1842), of Beechwood House, 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



1820 - 1826
1826 - 3 Feb. 1831
1832 - 1834
1837 - 1841

Family and Education

b. 28 July 1775, 1st s. of John Vivian of Truro, vice-warden of the Stannaries, and Betsy, da. of Rev. Richard Cranch, vic. of St. Clement’s, nr. Truro, Cornw. educ. Truro g.s. 1783; Lostwithiel g.s. 1784-7; Harrow 1789; Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1790. m. (1) 14 Sept. 1804, Eliza (d. 15 June 1831), da. of Philip Champion De Crespigny† of Aldeburgh, Suff., 2s. 3da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 10 Oct. 1833, Letitia, da. of Rev. James Agnew Webster of Ashfield, co. Longford, 1da. KCB 2 Jan. 1815; KCH 1816; suc. fa. 1826; cr. bt. 19 Jan. 1828; GCH 1831; cr. Bar. Vivian 19 Aug. 1841. d. 20 Aug. 1842.

Offices Held

Ensign 20 Ft. 1793; lt. Independent Ft. July 1793, 54 Ft. Oct. 1793; capt. 28 Ft. 1794; capt. 7 Drag. 1798, maj. 1803; lt.-col. 25 Drag. 1804; lt.-col. 7 Drag. 1804-15; a.d.c. to prince regent 1811; col. army 1812; maj.-gen. 1814; col. 12 Lancers 1827; lt.-gen. 1830; col. 1 Drag. 1837-d.

Equerry to prince regent 1812-20, to George IV 1820-30; inspector gen. of cavalry 1825-30; groom of bedchamber 1830-7; c.-in-c. [I] 1831-6; PC [I] 23 July 1831; master-gen. of ordnance May 1835-Sept. 1841; PC [GB] 27 May 1835.


Vivian belonged to the Trewen branch of a very old and extensive Cornish family. His great-grandfather was Thomas Vivian (1685-1759), of Kenwyn, Truro, whose only son and namesake was vicar of Cornwood, Devon, from 1747 until his death in 1793. His eldest son, John Vivian, this Member’s father, was born in 1750. He became an adventurer in Cornish copper mines in 1771 and acquired a personal stake in about eight. In 1785 he co-operated with Matthew Boulton of Birmingham and Thomas Williams† of Anglesey to form the Cornish Metal Company, which had offices in Truro and was intended to divide the national copper market between the producers of Cornwall and Anglesey. Five smelting companies agreed to process its ores at fixed prices. Various problems arose, and in 1790 Vivian and Williams engineered a new arrangement, which effectively put an end to the Metal Company. Vivian, who was an agent for Williams’s Parys Mine Company and a partner in the Truro Miners’ Bank of Willyams and Company, gave some controversial evidence before the Commons select committee on the copper mining industry in 1799. The following year he transferred his interest in the Hayle smelting works to that run by the Cheadle Copper Company at Penclawwd, near Swansea.1

Richard Hussey Vivian, his eldest son, made an educational visit to France in 1791. He was initially destined for the law, in the footsteps of his great-uncle, Richard Hussey, Member for three Cornish boroughs, 1755-70, and attorney-general to the queen, 1761-70, after whom he had been named, and in 1793 he was articled to a Devonport solicitor as a preliminary to entering the Middle Temple. He preferred, however, a military career, on which he embarked in July that year. He saw much action in Flanders in 1794, was stationed at Gibraltar, 1796-8, and went on the Helder expedition in 1799. During a period at home, 1799-1808, he made a runaway marriage and cemented his friendship with Lord Paget† (later marquess of Anglesey), his colonel in the 7th Dragoons. In the autumn of 1808 Vivian commanded the regiment in Spain, where he performed with distinction in covering the retreat to Corunna. Back in England, he was Paget’s second in his duel with Captain Cadogan, 30 May 1809.2 Vivian’s father had made him a partner in the Penclawwd smelting business, and that year he became one, with his younger brother John Henry (1785-1855), in the family’s new and larger scale enterprise at nearby Hafod.3 He served in Ireland, 1800-13, and was made an aide-de-camp (1811) and equerry (1812) to the prince regent. He went to Spain in August 1813 and took command of cavalry brigades. A bad wound received during the advance on Toulouse, 8 Apr. 1814, forced him to return home, where he was knighted and put in charge of the Sussex military district. In April 1815 he joined Wellington’s army in Belgium as a commander of a brigade under Paget. He missed the action at Quatre Bras, but played a significant role at Waterloo, for which he was voted thanks by both Houses of Parliament. He was with the army of occupation until 1818.

At the general election that year he stood for his native town of Truro, a corporation borough, where his father was the focus of local opposition to the controlling interest of Lord Falmouth, under the patronage and encouragement of the regent’s crony Lord Yarmouth*, warden of the Stannaries. Vivian and his colleague were beaten by one vote, and the petition lodged on their behalf was rejected.4 In 1819, he was given a command in the north, where he dealt with disturbances in and around Newcastle and Glasgow, whence he issued his initial address when offering again for Truro at the 1820 general election. On his arrival, he stressed his local connections and deplored the Cato Street conspiracy and the prevalence of blasphemy and sedition, though he refused to pledge himself as to his future conduct. He was returned at the head of the poll.5 General Grant, who ‘knows Sir Hussey Vivian well’, told Mrs. Henry Bankes that he ‘believes him to be opposition in grain when he dares to follow his own inclination. Should this turn out so, Lord Yarmouth will have made a bad exchange for his master’.6 As it was, Vivian proved to be a reliable supporter of Lord Liverpool’s ministry, if not the most assiduous of attenders. He was a teller for the government majority against inquiry into military expenditure, 16 May, and on 14 June 1820 spoke against opposition proposals for army reductions, arguing that it was ‘the duty of government to protect the well-affected’ and asserting that many of the inhabitants of the Glasgow area had ‘forgotten their duty to their magistrates, to their ministers, and even to their God’. His frequent letters to his brother, who managed the smelting business and extended it to Liverpool, Birmingham and London and greatly increased its profitability, contained copious advice on matters appertaining to it, and Vivian himself sometimes dealt in London with various problems as they arose, including negotiations with other copper manufacturers.7

A spectator at the trial of Queen Caroline in the Lords,8 he voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards her, 6 Feb. 1821. He voted against the principle of Catholic relief, 28 Feb., but according to Charles Williams Wynn*, he indicated his ‘intention of not voting in the committee’ on the relief bill.9 He presented a Truro petition for relief from agricultural distress, 1 Mar.10 Opposing army reductions, 12 Mar., he criticized the ‘inconsistency’ of opposition Members who, while they urged ministers to intervene on behalf of the liberals of Naples, ‘would refuse that amount of military force which was essential to enable government to prosecute such a war with effect’. At the same time, as he later explained to his brother, he suggested that ‘the events now passing in Italy were such as ought to be viewed with a most jealous eye and might very probably before long demand an interference, however ministers might at present be disposed to avoid it’. This observation, he admitted, ‘very much annoyed’ Lord Castlereagh, the foreign secretary, though a week later he flattered himself that the minister must now be ‘satisfied I was not far wrong’.11 When opposing a further call for army reductions, 14 Mar., Vivian, goaded by Hume, declared that he was ‘a sincere supporter’ of the government. He raised a laugh with his mockery of the notion that to save money, cavalry going on foreign service should take no horses with them: ‘they were to learn to ride in this country, and when they went abroad they were to take their saddles on their backs till they met with horses to their liking’.12 He voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and on 1 May drew attention to the ‘great hardship’ suffered by major-generals on half-pay. He was given six weeks’ leave, 4 May, on account of the illness of his youngest brother Thomas, whose death in Truro in September 1821 he witnessed.13

He voted against more extensive tax reductions, 21 Feb., and relaxation of the salt duties, 28 Feb. 1822. He said that army economies had been ‘carried as far as they possibly could’, 4 Mar., and thanked ministers for having adopted his suggestion that half-pay major-generals should receive their full regimental allowance. He ‘hoped that the advantages of a good and general system of equitation for the cavalry would never be given up’, 15 Mar.14 He paired against Canning’s bill to relieve Catholic peers of their disabilities, 30 Apr. He denied that agricultural distress was caused by excessive taxation, scorned Wyvill’s scheme for large remissions and supported the government’s modest adjustment of the corn laws, 9 May. He presented a Truro petition for repeal of the salt duties, 20 May 1822.15 He was given a week’s leave to attend to urgent private business, 17 Feb. 1823. He divided with government against repeal of the assessed taxes, 18 Mar., and of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and Scottish parliamentary reform, 2 June 1823. He led the resistance to Hume’s proposal to ban corporal punishment in the army, 15 Mar. 1824, and was a teller for the majority. Later that day he successfully opposed Hume’s bid to end the ‘farce’ of commission purchase certificates. He voted to go into committee on the usury laws repeal bill, 8 Apr., but was listed in the majority against the second reading of the reintroduced measure, 17 Feb. 1825. With a growing family, his finances were in some disarray (his father had long felt that he and John Henry were ‘spending much more than we ought’) and in August 1824 he staked his claim with the king for the governorship of the Royal Military College, or a suitable alternative command:

The state of my finances make it absolutely necessary that I should take some steps in order to relieve myself from difficulties which will otherwise oppress and inconvenience me ... Unless a man makes known his wishes ... he is constantly passed over under the impression that he desires to remain unemployed.16

The College was spoken for, but Vivian was made inspector-general of cavalry towards the end of the following year.

He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr., 9 May 1825. He presented a constituency petition against Catholic claims, 2 May.17 On 28 Feb. he asked ministers not to reduce the import duty on foreign copper below a level which would afford fair protection for Cornish producers. With the county Members and Pascoe Grenfell, Member for Penryn and a commercial rival, he saw Huskisson, the president of the board of trade, on the subject, 4 Mar., when he learnt that the duty was to be halved. He told his brother that this, by opening the way for large quantities of South American produce, would ‘make a strange revolution in the copper trade’, of which it was ‘hardly possible to say what will be the consequence’. Although he personally had ‘no great fear’ of the results, he was seriously alarmed at the prospect of any further diminution; and it was with the intention of forestalling such a development that he spoke at some length on its effects on the Cornish industry, 25 Mar., though he expressed approval of the ministry’s ‘general policy’ of relaxing restrictions on commerce. Vivian, who had strongly advised his brother against becoming involved in speculation in South American mining ventures - ‘be content to go on with the copper trade, where we well know what we are about’ - complained particularly of the threat posed by the South American Mining Company.18 He brought up Cornish petitions against any alteration of the corn laws, 28 Apr.,19 and the following day unsuccessfully opposed the third reading of Stuart Wortley’s game laws amendment bill. He voted for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 30 May, 2 June 1825.

When a dissolution was expected in the autumn Vivian, on military duty in Newcastle, and already assured of a return for Windsor on the Court interest, announced that he would not stand again for Truro, where his position had been undermined by Lord Falmouth. He asserted that ‘on all great questions’ he had supported ‘an administration under whose guidance the country had risen to a state of prosperity its most sanguine friends had not anticipated’ and reiterated his hostility to Catholic claims.20 Soon afterwards Mrs. Arbuthnot (whose stepson was later to marry Vivian’s eldest daughter) visited him at his New Forest residence at Beechwood, but it was Lady Vivian who left the more abiding impression on her, as

a very pretty woman, a great coquette ... [who] practises her art with great success on my eldest brother ... I don’t like her at all, for she is the most complete Mrs. Candour I have ever met with, and an amazing gossip. He is a good-natured, rough hussar.

(Vivian himself wrote that his wife was ‘violent, jealous and touchy, but she has a good heart at bottom and is open and honourable to an extreme’.)21 The commercial crisis of December 1825, which for a time seemed to threaten the Truro bank, took him to London and prompted him to urge his father and brother, without success, to get ‘well out’ of banking and restrict their activities ‘simply to the copper trade’. Indeed, as he told his brother, he could envisage their eventual withdrawal from direct involvement even in the latter, though he did not labour the point:

I am very delicately circumstanced. It is a profitable concern and a safe one and I know not how money could be better laid out ... but still I have invariably said that I have no right to expect you to work for me and my family, whilst on the other hand I have no right to press giving up that which is of more importance to you than to me.22

He said in the House that a story of the victimisation of a trooper in the 10th Hussars by his adjutant had been much exaggerated, 28 Feb., 6 Mar. 1826, when he also defended the grant for the Royal Military College. On 3 Mar. he acknowledged the general efficiency of yeoman cavalry but thought it desirable that they should be inspected by regular officers. He voted with ministers in defence of the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar., but presented a Truro petition for abolition, 20 Apr.23 It was almost certainly Sir Richard Vyvyan, Member for Cornwall, rather than he who voted against the corn bill, 11 May. Vivian was nettled to be lectured by his brother, at the age of 51, on the dangers of gambling, to which he denied being in any way addicted. He conceded that John Henry was ‘quite right as to my having a fine income on which I ought to live, and so I determine to do, but I have many demands on me’. He pleaded this excuse when, admitting that ‘I am a careless fellow about money’, and ‘I have spent very much more than I ought to have done’, he had to ask his brother to help him out of a scrape with his army agent’s bills at the end of May 1826:

I could sell Beechwood and take a small house in town and live no doubt on £2,000 a year ... I could get a command and go either to the East or West [Indies] but this would be for ever separating myself from the man in the world I love best ... To accept it would be to bury my father as far as I am concerned whilst he yet lives. I could live at Beechwood on a somewhat reduced establishment, but it would be out of the question to live in the county and give up its amusements ... My present income is however more than equal to such an expenditure as I should require. The difficulty is to meet the incurred debt. I could give up Windsor [which would initially cost him about £1,000], but were I to do so I might offend the king, and moreover sacrifice that which may be of use to myself and my family, the interest and consequence that it necessarily gives me ... I hardly know what I had best do, and therefore beg of you to consider for me, and above all things do not lecture me for that would only add to my misery without convincing me of my folly one jot more than I am already convinced of it, or make me more sensible than I am of the necessity of retrenchment.24

He was duly returned for Windsor at the general election two weeks later, when he promised on the hustings to ‘oppose Catholicism and to support the Protestant faith’.25 Not long afterwards Vivian, who was pessimistic of his chances of managing on £2,000 a year, as his brother suggested, was again ‘in a great stew’ over the bank.26 His anxiety on this score was ended by his father’s death from the effects of an accident, 7 Dec. 1826, which terminated the Vivians’ involvement in it. By his father’s will, Vivian was entitled to an equal share with John Henry in his ‘chattels’. He proved it, under £14,000, 12 Feb. 1827, but subsequently left the estate unadministered.27

He denied Hume’s allegation of chicanery in the placing of soldiers on the retired list, 19 Feb. 1827.28 He opposed a call for the abolition of army flogging, which was essential to ‘maintain a proper degree of discipline’, 26 Feb., and again, 12 Mar., when he said that pro-abolition speeches created disaffection in the ranks and thus necessitated the infliction of exemplary punishment. He only paired against Catholic relief, 6 Mar., at a time when he was ‘very unwell’,29 but he voted in person for the duke of Clarence’s annuity, 16 Mar. On 22 Mar. he defended and praised the conduct of Anglesey’s brother, Sir Edward Paget†, commander-in-chief in India, in suppressing the mutiny at Barrackpoor. Next day he opposed the spring guns bill. He had egged on Anglesey to seek the master-generalship of the ordnance when it was vacated by Wellington’s anticipated appointment as commander-in-chief on the death of the duke of York. Ministers initially frustrated Anglesey, but in the uncertain situation created by Liverpool’s stroke Vivian urged him to attach himself personally to the king and to steer clear of the aristocratic Tory cabal, led by Rutland and Londonderry, which was working to prevent Canning from becoming premier:

I am no Canningite myself and I should be very glad to see a government formed the principles of which should in many respects differ from the present, but my fear is that the day is not yet arrived when it can be brought about.

He regretted Peel’s resignation on personal grounds, and felt that he and the other anti-Catholic seceders would only drive Canning into the arms of the Whigs and thus ‘actually go to force on the country the very measure that they deprecate and also force it on the king’.30 To the latter he made known Anglesey’s wish to support Canning’s administration. When Anglesey was duly appointed master-general it was widely assumed that Vivian would become clerk or secretary of the ordnance; but he told his brother that he had ‘refused everything but the lieutenant-generalship’, where no change was made.31 It was probably Vyvyan who voted against the third reading of the Penryn election bill, 7 June. In October 1827 Mrs. Arbuthnot noted that Anglesey, backed by the king, was trying to have his ‘dear friend and toady’ Vivian made commander-in-chief in Ireland, but that Wellington was determined to prevent it. In any case, Vivian’s lack of rank as a ‘young major-general’ was a decisive factor against him.32 The following month he accepted the Goderich ministry’s offer of a baronetcy, which had once been declined by his father.33

In January 1828 he wrongly predicted that Wellington would form a government

of Ultras ... He is a fool if he does not. The Whigs have cut such a poor miserable figure in many respects that they are very low in estimation, and a good regular Tory administration would have many supporters; besides which a thing of patchwork would never do. It must be one or other, Whig or Tory.

He told his brother that if the new ministry opted for a dissolution, he might well resign his seat, as ‘I do not much fancy the Ultra Tories’.34 The inclusion of the former Canningites, not to mention Anglesey’s appointment as lord lieutenant of Ireland, presumably satisfied him. He thought that Admiral Codrington was ‘thrown over’ in the slighting reference to Navarino in the king’s speech.35 He spoke against army reductions, 22 Feb., arguing that the military shambles of 1793-4 showed the folly of ill conceived cutbacks, and opposed the abolition of flogging, 10 Mar. 1828. He voted against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and Catholic relief, 12 May. It was probably Vyvyan who voted against the provision for Canning’s family, 13 May. At the end of that month Anglesey was forced to accept Sir John Byng* rather than Vivian, his preference, as Irish commander-in-chief.36 Vivian objected to Stuart Wortley’s bill to legalize the sale of game, which he said would encourage poaching, 13, 24 June. Although he favoured inquiry into the nature of the Holdsworth family’s long monopoly of the governorship of Dartmouth Castle, 20 June 1828, he deplored the abolition of such means of keeping deserving officers from penury. Later that day he defended the grant for Chelsea Hospital.

He spoke against further reductions in the cavalry, 20 Feb. 1829. The patronage secretary Planta predicted that he would side ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation; and on the motion to consider it, 6 Mar., he rose after Anglesey’s son, Lord Uxbridge, who opposed it, to speak at some length in its support on pragmatic grounds. At the same time, he made it clear that he swallowed it with ‘great reluctance’ and expressed strong reservations, based largely on his suspicion of the Irish Catholic agitators. The backbencher Hudson Gurney thought this ‘proved it was against the grain at headquarters’. His vote for emancipation that day was the only one he cast. Three years later he bragged that in this speech, he had accurately ‘foretold [Daniel] O’Connell’s present course’.37 Replying to his brother’s compliments on his performance, he observed that

it contained my honest sentiments. What I used to say was that I hoped to be [a] Member of Parliament, a lieutenant-general and a GCB. As to the future, God knows. The duke of Wellington will never bring me into office. Was Lord Anglesey [recently recalled from Ireland] to come into power I might no doubt have a high office. He asked me two days since if I would under such circumstances take office. To that I replied, with him but not else. Strange things, depend on it, will take place before 12 months pass over. I expect in the first instance a ministry of Ultra Tories, and then if the duke of Clarence comes to the throne I expect Lord Anglesey will come in as a liberal.38

He voted in the minority for the issue of a new writ for East Retford, 2 June 1829. When his brother sent him an alarming account of a ‘falling off in our trade’ that month, Vivian told him that

come what may there is one mischief which I earnestly entreat you not to incur and that is loss of health by worrying ... Times must be bad indeed if between us, what with soldiering and coppering, we cannot raise the wind to maintain ourselves and our children out of a joint purse.

He advised against joining forces with the Grenfells, if the difficulty proved to be anything more than a temporary reflection of commercial depression, and suggested that their own agents, James Palmer Budd and Octavius Williams, should be made partners (which they were in 1831). In December 1829 the Vivians withdrew from the Association of Copper Companies.39

Vivian voted against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb. 1830. He objected to opposition pressure for further army reductions, 19 Feb., when he said that ministers had done everything possible to economize and welcomed their new regulations for military pensions. Opposing inquiry into the state of the nation, 18 Mar., he insisted that distress was not as intense or widespread as was alleged and that there was ‘still an elasticity, a spring of health within the country’. He dismissed protection, retrenchment and currency reform as panaceas. He gave the House the benefit of his recent researches into distress in Hampshire and Cornwall, undertaken while suffering from an illness which had interfered with his attendance: overpopulation and high prices were largely to blame, but in Cornwall, where distress was negligible, intelligent enterprise and low prices had maintained high levels of employment. He later took credit to himself for having in this speech ‘clearly anticipated the outrage’ of the ‘Swing’ disturbances.40 On 23 Mar. he denied O’Connell’s charge that he was the advocate of wage reductions. On the problem of imports of South American ore, he privately thought that unless the Cornish producers were willing to ‘make some concessions’, such as accepting a lower duty on foreign copper in return for an increase in that on ore, the government would ‘yield nothing’. Alarmed by the extravagance of his eldest legitimate son, Charles Crespigny Vivian† (1808-86), a cavalry captain of dragoons, who was threatening to ‘make ducks and drakes’ of his patrimony, Vivian took steps in April 1830 to tighten the reins.41 He presented a petition from licensed victuallers of Windsor and Eton against aspects of the sale of beer bill, 11 May. He paired against abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June. He defended the army’s practice of paying respect to local religious observances when on foreign service, 17 June 1830. That month he was in consultation with ministers over a proposed restriction on smoke emissions from factories, which posed a threat to the Hafod works. A sudden deterioration in his wife’s health forced him to leave the problem in the hands of Wynne Pendarves, Member for Cornwall.42

Just after the death of George IV Vivian, who was about to lose his inspectorship as a result of his promotion to lieutenant-general, sought to succeed Sir Herbert Taylor* as adjutant-general, though not, he stressed, over the head of Taylor’s deputy Macdonald, who was duly appointed.43 Since he was also deprived of his place as an equerry, worth £2,000 a year, he was inclined, as he told his brother, to give up his seat and public life unless he found that there was ‘something in reserve’ for him, a step which he would ‘by no means regret’, in view of his wife’s parlous condition. He contemplated selling Beechwood and going abroad, but his appointment as a groom of the bedchamber evidently reconciled him to coming in again for Windsor at the 1830 general election, when he explained his reasons for supporting Catholic emancipation.44 In the wake of the revolution in France he commented that

it is not possible to look to the state of Europe without fear or exaltation: fear lest the dictation of the people may be carried too far; exaltation that those of France have had courage enough to put down the most outrageous attempt on their liberties ever conceived even in the most despotic times of Napoleon.

He remained intent on selling Beechwood, which was considered to be too damp for his wife’s good, but he now thought of wintering in Brighton and Leamington.45

Ministers listed him among their ‘friends’, but, writing from Dover, 9 Nov. 1830, he thought that Wellington ‘must go out after his most uncalled for, imprudent and unwise speech about reform’. He later observed that the duke had ‘cut his own throat by his silly speech on reform’, for ‘had he met the wishes and the feelings of the people and come forward with some moderate measure of reform, he might have formed the strongest government possible’. He nevertheless went up to vote with ministers on the civil list, 15 Nov. Two days later he informed his brother:

If Lord Anglesey takes office - and it has been offered him - he wishes me to come in with him, and although I believe I should be happier and in Eliza’s state better perhaps out of office, still for the sake of my children and for other reasons I think I cannot decline. If Lord Anglesey does not take office then I shall resign my appointment as groom and place myself in a perfectly independent position in Parliament, for having paid every farthing of expense for my seat I shall not feel myself bound on all occasions to support Lord Grey.

Depending on which office Anglesey took, Vivian anticipated becoming military secretary at horse guards, lieutenant-general of the ordnance, Irish secretary, commander-in-chief in Ireland or secretary at war. As it was, Anglesey was made lord lieutenant of Ireland and Vivian agreed to take the command there when Byng retired in the spring of 1831.46 He was at the head of cavalry on guard against disturbances in Hampshire in late November 1830, and on 2 Dec. was given a fortnight’s leave on this account.47 In the House, 13 Dec., he expressed astonishment at Hume’s demand for army reductions of 20,000 men and regretted that ministers had not inquired into the causes of unrest:

I admit that distress has been in some places the cause of the disturbances; but I cannot allow it to have been the only cause, or even the principal ... The truth is, the lower orders have been tampered with ... They have been taught to read, but have not been taught to profit by education ... in every little pot-house ... you meet with some of those inflammatory publications that are so common ... The poison has been administered, but the antidote has nowhere been provided - the people have been taught that the distress has arisen from the taxes, and the government have been assailed as the cause, not only out of doors, but by Members of this House, but nowhere have they been taught to understand that if the government were overturned tomorrow their distress would be ten times greater than it has ever been.

He urged ministers and country gentlemen to set aside party rancour and co-operate to restore tranquillity, and recommended a programme of waste cultivation to provide employment. On 23 Dec. 1830 he joined in calls for an adjournment of only two weeks.

Vivian envisaged retaining his seat until he went to Ireland, and perhaps even keeping it then; but in late December 1830 ministers, with the approval of the king, claimed it immediately for Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, who had been embarrassingly defeated when seeking re-election for Preston. Anglesey was too squeamish to press Byng to bring forward his retirement, even though Byng himself had offered to do so, and took it for granted that Vivian, guaranteed the succession in June, would make no difficulties about surrendering his seat.48 In fact, he was extremely reluctant to comply, as he made clear first to Smith Stanley and then to Grey, who interviewed him on 9 Jan. 1831, when he moaned about

the inconvenience of vacating his seat before he was appointed; his liking for the business of Parliament; the belief that he had at Windsor, in consequence of the declarations both of the late king and the present, a seat for life; a hope that he might have retained it, as was done by Sir George Murray; the difficulty that might occur at a new election if a fair and ostensible reason, such as his actual appointment might afford, were not apparent for his resigning it, etc., etc.

He left Grey under the impression that he was ‘finally quite satisfied’ with the proposal, put to him at Smith Stanley’s suggestion, to appoint him to the Irish staff until he took over from Byng, with an additional assurance that if the ministry fell, Smith Stanley would hand the Windsor seat back to him. Yet within hours he wrote to Ellice, the patronage secretary, to rehearse the ‘many and considerable’ objections which now occurred to him:

It would in the first place carry with it the appearance of a job ... and perhaps might even be noticed in the House of Commons. In Ireland it might be unpleasant to Byng having me as his successor under his command, and it might be unpleasant to me to be so situated. With a large family I should have no home to go to on getting there; or if I lived on I should have all the misery of changing in a few months.

He suggested that it would be much simpler if Byng could be persuaded to resign at once, perhaps with the sweetener of the promise of a governorship:

I assure you I grieve most truly at going out of Parliament. It has always been a great object to me to have a seat, and it is by no means incompatible with the command in Ireland ... and moreover I had flattered myself [I] possibly might have been occasionally of some use to you in the House.

At the same time, he acknowledged that, sitting as he did on the Court interest, he had little choice but to acquiesce in the king’s wishes; but he told Ellice that he ‘must in return, at some future day, if I require it, help me back again into the ... House’, possibly for a Cornish borough. Although Grey, in his reply to Ellice, expressed ‘some dissatisfaction’ at Vivian’s conduct, he declined to interfere, and told Anglesey that he was inclined to ‘look out for another seat for Smith Stanley and another commander-in-chief’.49 Vivian evidently agreed to the Irish staff arrangement, for which the king’s approval was obtained, 11 Jan., though some objections were raised to it by Lord Fitzroy Somerset*, military secretary at the war office. To Grey’s intense annoyance, as he informed Anglesey, Vivian almost immediately afterwards wrote to Ellice from Dover

saying that Lady Vivian is so ill that he cannot leave her and therefore declining the appointment at present; but stating that he holds himself ready, at the meeting of Parliament, to vacate his seat for Windsor. Nobody can be more ready than I am to admit the validity of such an excuse, but coupling it with all that had previously passed, I do not think that we can rely with certainty on his eventually taking over the appointment of commander-in-chief. I have found out, in the course of these proceedings, that he would have preferred a civil to a military office, and that his real wish was to be appointed secretary at war. At all events it is necessary that we should know what we have to count upon.

For his own part, Vivian told his brother, 12 Jan., that he was to go to Ireland in June and that ministers could have his seat now, as ‘in poor Eliza’s dreadful state I can think of but one thing’. The following day, contemplating her inevitable early death, which would leave him with ‘three motherless girls’, he confided to John Henry:

I sometimes think I shall give up Ireland altogether and go abroad with my whole family for two or three years. In short, I know not what to think or determine on. It is a grievous affliction to look forward to, but it must come ere long.

He duly vacated his seat when Parliament met, though he pleaded the desperate condition of his wife, who died five months later, for pulling out of an arrangement to hold Smith Stanley’s hand at the by-election.50

Vivian took over the Irish command, which brought him £3,600 a year, in addition to £2,600 from his regimental colonelcy and wounds pension, on Byng’s retirement, and held it for five years. John Croker*, for one, was ‘glad to see a man of decision there’.51 From Dublin in March 1832 he put something of a gloss on the circumstances surrounding his retirement from Parliament and his appointment to the command by asserting, for public consumption, that Lady Vivian’s illness had ‘prevented my attending my duty’, and that ‘immediately before I came to this country I was offered the appointment of secretary at war, but I preferred pursuing the line of my profession’: no evidence has been found to substantiate this claim.52 He was also economical with the truth when, standing for Truro as ‘a friend to the great measure of reform’ at the 1832 general election, he attributed his resignation from the Windsor seat to a belief that he could not honourably, as Member for that place, act in accordance with his conviction that in 1831 ‘the time for granting an efficient reform had arrived’. He claimed to have been ‘friendly to reform ... throughout his life’, to have turned down the offer of a seat in 1802 because it had entailed a commitment to oppose reform, and to have made and kept a promise never to vote against it after his first election for Truro.53 He was returned after a contest, and his brother came in as a Liberal for the Swansea district, but his eldest son was beaten at Bodmin. Vivian was defeated at the polls in 1835, when his son was successful at Bodmin, was made master-general of the ordnance in Lord Melbourne’s second ministry, and successfully contested East Cornwall in 1837. He was created a peer in 1841. John Hobhouse* referred to him the previous year as ‘not a wise, though a good man’.54 Vivian sold Beechwood and bought an estate at Glynn, near Bodmin. In December 1841 he complained to his brother of financial problems and, rather than take the drastic option of selling Glynn, he decided to go abroad for eighteen months in the following spring. He planned to go to Rome and Naples, which he had never seen, but he died at Baden-Baden in August 1842.55 By his will, dated 24 Sept. 1841, he left his second wife £2,000 and an annuity of £1,500, and smaller annuities to his younger children. By a codicil of 14 May 1842 he devised his property at Newnham, Cornwall, to his second son, John Cranch Walker Vivian (1818-79), who sat as a Liberal for Penryn, 1841-7, Bodmin, 1857-59, and Truro, 1865-71. His share in the family business became part of his residual estate. He was succeeded in the peerage and the Glynn estate by his eldest son. He left £100 as a token of affection to his illegitimate son, Robert John Hussey Vivian (1802-87), who had been brought up as one of the family and, described by Benjamin Disraeli† as ‘a baddish style of man with his glass always to his eye’, found a place in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography on the strength of his services with the Indian army.56

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


His grandson Claud Vivian’s Memoir (1897) covers his life to Waterloo, but deals with the following 26 years in three pages. Vivian’s own autobiographical reminiscences, written on 9 Mar. 1832, were published in Letters of Sir Walter Scott to Rev. R. Polwhele (1832), 69-79. See also Oxford DNB.

  • 1. J.R. Harris, Copper King, 43, 56-70, 85, 97-98, 125-6; D.B. Barton, Hist. Copper Mining, 24, 36, 56; H. Hamilton, English Brass and Copper Industries (1967), 170-1, 176, 183, 197-9, 209, 324; Add. 38421, f. 227; House of Commons Sess. Pprs. of 18th Cent. ed. S. Lambert, cxxii. 319-25, 327-8, 346-8, 351, 373, 375, 377-8, 396, 397; Glam. Co. Hist. v. 58.
  • 2. Farington Diary ed. J. Grieg, v. 175; Mq. of Anglesey, One-Leg, 103.
  • 3. Glam. Co. Hist. v. 58; Barton, 56.
  • 4. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 88; Late Elections (1818), 351; CJ, lxxiv. 95-96, 393-4, 399.
  • 5. West Briton, 11, 18, 25 Feb., 3, 10, 17 Mar.; The Times, 4 Mar. 1820.
  • 6. Dorset RO D/BKL, Bankes mss, diary of Mrs. Henry Bankes, 21 Mar. 1820.
  • 7. See NLW, Vivian mss A 997-1261.
  • 8. Creevey Pprs. i. 309.
  • 9. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 135.
  • 10. The Times, 2 Mar. 1821.
  • 11. Vivian mss A 1006.
  • 12. The Times, 15 Mar. 1821.
  • 13. Vivian mss A 1008; Gent. Mag. (1821), ii. 379.
  • 14. The Times, 16 Mar. 1822.
  • 15. Ibid. 21 May 1822.
  • 16. Vivian mss A 1003, 1009; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1175.
  • 17. The Times, 3 May 1825.
  • 18. Vivian mss A 1017-23.
  • 19. The Times, 29 Apr. 1825.
  • 20. West Briton, 16, 23 Sept. 1825.
  • 21. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 417; Vivian mss A 1070.
  • 22. Vivian mss A 1036-44.
  • 23. The Times, 21 Apr. 1826.
  • 24. Vivian mss A 1050-4.
  • 25. Berks. Chron. 17 June 1826.
  • 26. Vivian mss A 1055-8, 1061-5.
  • 27. PROB 11/1722/121; IR26/1148/93.
  • 28. The Times, 20 Feb. 1827.
  • 29. Vivian mss A 1074.
  • 30. Anglesey, 155, 167, 367; PRO NI, Anglesey mss, Vivian to Anglesey, 23 Mar., 12, 13 Apr. 1827.
  • 31. Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1315; Canning’s Ministry, 166; Bagot, Canning and Friends, ii. 391.
  • 32. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 146; Add. 40325, f. 51.
  • 33. Vivian mss A 1079; Durham CRO, Londonderry mss D/LO/C 83 (11).
  • 34. Vivian mss A 1087, 1097.
  • 35. Ibid. A 1092.
  • 36. Add. 40325, ff. 49, 51.
  • 37. Scott Letters, 78; Gurney diary, 6 Mar. [1829].
  • 38. Vivian mss A 1120.
  • 39. Ibid. A 1122; UCNW mss 13069.
  • 40. Scott Letters, 78.
  • 41. Vivian mss A 1124.
  • 42. Ibid. A 1126-30.
  • 43. Taylor Pprs. 319-20.
  • 44. Vivian mss A 1131, 1132; Windsor and Eton Express, 31 July 1830.
  • 45. Vivian mss A 1133-5.
  • 46. Ibid. A 1135b, 1137, 1138.
  • 47. Three Diaries, 22.
  • 48. Grey mss, Taylor to Grey, 6 Dec., Grey-William IV Corresp. i. 20-21, 32-33; Anglesey mss D619/28A-B/28; 28C, pp. 19-24.
  • 49. NLS, Ellice mss, Vivian to Ellice, 9 Jan.; Anglesey mss 28A-B/32.
  • 50. Grey-William IV Corresp. i. 44-46; Anglesey mss 28A-B/34, 36; Vivian mss A 1141, 1142; Derby mss 920 Der (14) 124/4, Vivian to Gosset, 25 Jan., to Smith Stanley, 1, 3, 6 Feb. 1831.
  • 51. Croker Pprs. ii. 98.
  • 52. Scott Letters, 77, 79.
  • 53. The Times, 27 July, 8 Oct., 11 Dec.; West Briton, 12 Oct., 16 Nov., 7, 14, 21, 28 Dec. 1832.
  • 54. Broughton, Recollections, v. 273.
  • 55. Vivian mss A 1252; Gent. Mag. (1842), ii. 542-4.
  • 56. PROB 8/236; 11/1975/141; Disraeli Letters, iii. 1089.