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The Radical Lord Radnor

The Radical Lord Radnor: The Public Life of Viscount Folkestone, Third Earl of Radnor (1779-1869)

Ronald K. Huch
Copyright Date: 1977
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    The Radical Lord Radnor
    Book Description:

    The third Earl of Radnor, born William Pleydell-Bouverie, served in the British House of Commons for twenty-seven years (1801-1828) as Viscount Folkestone and in the House of Lords for twenty years (1828-1848). Although he was a great hereditary landowner, Lord Radnor was the most radical nobleman to serve in Parliament in the first half of the nineteenth century. In this political biography, Professor Huch traces Lord Radnor’s entire parliamentary career.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6307-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  3. 1 Background and Political Philosophy
    (pp. 3-16)

    In the society of his friends, William Pleydell-Bouverie, Viscount Folke-stone, third Earl of Radnor possessed the happy union of dignity, ease, and courteousness that distinguished the aristocracy of the early nineteenth century. In conversation he was always a most tolerant disputant, preferring to leave differences of opinion with a touch of humor. Those who visited him on his lush Coleshill estate in Berkshire or at the more pretentious Longford Castle in Wiltshire were uniformly impressed by the relaxed and peaceful atmosphere of the Radnor household. Alexis de Tocqueville was one who enjoyed the comfort of Longford in the 1830s. The...

  4. 2 Early Years in the House of Commons, 1801–1809
    (pp. 17-41)

    Folkestone’s election to Parliament in 1801 came just weeks after Pitt the Younger had resigned as prime minister. This was the only honorable course open to Pitt when neither his cabinet nor that intractable institution, George III, would support his plan to consider emancipation for Irish Catholics. The prime minister understood that Catholics in Ireland would support the Union Bill if they could send members to Westminster. It was fine to argue, as Lord Hobart did, that Pitt had never actually promised civil rights for Catholics, but Pitt knew that Catholic Ireland would think itself betrayed and that the cross...

  5. 3 Mary Anne Clarke and the Revival of Radicalism
    (pp. 42-55)

    When Parliament reconvened in January 1809 the opposition was in tatters. Two moderate whigs, George Ponsonby and George Tierney, were entitled to recognition as nominal opposition leaders, but they were little more than that.¹ John Walter, editor ofThe Times,once remarked that Ponsonby would have benefited England more by fox-hunting in Kildare than trying to guide the opposition.² On the whole Tierney showed more promise than Ponsonby. Lord Holland wrote that Tierney’s disposition was “generous and affectionate, and his integrity unimpeachable.”³ His political acumen, however, did not approach the level of his character. Radicals complained that he was timid...

  6. 4 A Simple Case of Being Duped by a Woman
    (pp. 56-69)

    While Folkestone enjoyed the quiet of Coleshill, Portland struggled to keep his government intact. He had survived the 1809 session, but his ministry was in a veritable shambles; reeling from the exposure of corruption and rent with internal dissension, it obviously required major changes. The situation grew more tense during the summer months.Portland’s foreign secretary, George Canning, and his secretary of state for war, Lord Castlereagh, disagreed bitterly over war policy, with the former scheming to get the latter removed from the cabinet. Portland’s health, meanwhile, had deteriorated so much that he could no longer attend to the affairs of...

  7. 5 Disillusionment and a Desire to Quit Parliament
    (pp. 70-83)

    Folkestone returned to Parliament in 1811 with considerable trepidation. He was fortunate in one regard: the revelations of Mrs. Clarke were overshadowed late in 1810 by the recurrence of George III’s porphyria.¹ The death of Princess Amelia in November apparently triggered his relapse. When the king showed no signs of recoverey, Perceval introduced a regency bill in the House of Commons. The debate on the bill was long and bitter. Controversy centered on whether Parliament ought to restrict the powers of the prince regent (the Prince of Wales). The prince and the royal dukes insisted that the regent’s power should...

  8. 6 Return to Action, 1816-1818
    (pp. 84-96)

    When Bonapartism was finally put to rest at Waterloo, domestic politics reclaimed the center of attention in England. The euphoria of military triumph quickly gave way to monumental postwar problems. Public finances were in disarray, and the merchant community found the going tough. The war with France had cost England £900,000,000, and the national debt was three times greater than it had been before the war. The Bank of England no longer made payments in gold; it issued only paper currency, a sure sign of financial instability.

    For the great grain farmers the peace was the worst possible economic blow....

  9. 7 “Getting Nowhere” 1819-1827
    (pp. 97-108)

    For a time in 1818 and early 1819 the “pulling together” that Duncannon had hoped for brightened the prospects of the opposition. Brougham and Wilson praised Tierney for his energy and discipline; even Castlereagh, Liverpool’s foreign secretary, observed with some surprise that the opposition members kept their “eyes front.” There were assertions that the ministry was now finally finished. In January and February 1819 opposition leaders gleefully prepared lists for a whig cabinet. Then, just as quickly as the momentum had built, it was lost. Duncannon wrote to Folkestone in September 1819, “It grieves me to have to say that...

  10. 8 Reform Bill Politics, 1830-1834
    (pp. 109-131)

    Folkestone (now third Earl of Radnor) did not enter the House of Lords with quite the same insolence that had marked his first months in the Commons. In fact he took almost no part in debate for over two years. The death of his father left the new Lord Radnor with many estate matters to be settled, which required so much of his attention that he did not have as much time as he wished for politics. In addition it was a considerable effort for him to establish residence at Longford. Neither Radnor nor Lady Radnor seemed comfortable away from...

  11. 9 The New Poor Law and Making It Work, 1834-1839
    (pp. 132-147)

    Extravagant claims about the impact of the Great Reform Act were made by its detractors. John Wilson Croker thought it had destroyed the constitution, and conservative churchmen like the Bishop of Exeter, seeing the church under siege in the 1830s, called it the ruination of Anglicanism. Just as preposterous was the suggestion made by the Duke of Wellington that government was now in the hands of the people and that the influence of the aristocracy was finished. There were many supporters of the Reform Bill who also took this view. To be sure, the House of Commons was more representative...

  12. 10 The Aristocracy’s Adam Smith, 1839-1848
    (pp. 148-165)

    Historians have written much about the Corn Law controversy in the 1840s. For nearly a century the whole question was explained rather neatly as a struggle between the protectionist-minded landowners and the free trade commercial interests. There was certainly enough evidence to make this explanation a reasonable one. Parliament, dominated as it was by landed interest, had established a number of protective tariffs on agricultural produce in order to discourage foreign competition on the home market. The most famous of the early nineteenthcentury protective acts was the Corn Law of 1815, which stipulated that the importation of foreign grain must...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 166-170)

    There was no major transformation in Radnor’s politics after he entered the House of Lords in 1828. He still believed in the precepts associated with the whig aristocracy in the eighteenth century. He remained devoted to the Bill of Rights, convinced that orderly change was essential for maintaining an orderly society, opposed to “excessive” taxation, fearful of egalitarian ideas, and certain that an independent, disinterested aristocracy must be ever vigilant against the natural tendency of Crown and ministers to encroach on individual liberties. His demeanor in the Lords was the same as it had been in the Commons. The persistence,...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 173-188)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-196)
  16. Index
    (pp. 199-204)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-205)