FEILDING, William Robert, Visct. Feilding (1760-99).
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Family and Education
b. 15 June 1760, 1st s. of Basil, 6th Earl of Denbigh, by Mary, da. and coh. of Sir John Cotton, 6th Bt. m. 26 Apr. 1791, Anne Catherine, da. of Thomas Jelf Powys of Berwick House, Salop., 3s. 3da.
Lt. 7 Ft. 1777; capt. 75 Ft. 1778; capt. 3 Drag. Gds. 1779; lt.-col. 22 Lt. Drag. 1782; raised 22 Regt. of Lt. Drag. 1794, of which he was col.- d.; maj.-gen. 1795.
At the by-election of December 1780 Feilding, while under age, was returned unopposed for Bere Alston on the Duke of Northumberland’s interest. In Parliament he steadily supported North’s Administration till its fall. On 8 May 1781, in his first reported speech, he condemned the Yorkshire reform petitions as ‘a very dangerous spirit of innovation ... He did not think the object of the reform, even if quietly effected, a subject so much to be desired; it must at least be done with great caution.’ Nor did he believe that ministerial influence had increased, in fact ‘a new third party’ had
sprung up in that House, unknown to former periods. He meant the country gentlemen; the balance of power in that House was taken out of the hands of the minister, and placed in those of the country gentlemen ... men neither to be frowned into servility nor hussaed into faction; by the support of these men, and not as had been asserted, by the low arts of corruption, did the present minister stand.1
According to Horace Walpole,2 Feilding was to have moved the Address of thanks for the King’s speech in November 1781, but when its optimistic tone was scarcely modified at the news of Cornwallis’s defeat at Yorktown, he ‘avoided being as ridiculous as the royal speech by excusing himself’. Feilding voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and did not vote on Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. He was classed as an Administration supporter in Robinson’s list of January 1784, in Stockdale’s of 19 Mar., and Adam’s in May. At the general election he was again returned for Bere Alston by Northumberland. On 27 Nov. 1787 Feilding praised Pitt’s successful policy in Holland, declaring that he ‘exulted in the respectable figure Great Britain had made in the eyes of Europe by her well-timed and successful exertions’.3 But although Lord Lovaine, who in 1786 had inherited Bere Alston from his father, the 1st Duke of Northumberland, sided with Pitt, Feilding voted with the Opposition over the Regency, 1788-9, and on 22 Dec. 1788 suggested that ‘an immediate declaration be made of the Prince of Wales, Regent’—
A Prince born among us, whose filial tenderness and natural goodness of heart had already endeared him to all who knew him, and gave the best promise of being as anxious with the legislature in securing his father’s rights as ... Parliament could wish or expect.4
In 1790 he was returned for Newport, by Lovaine’s brother, the 2nd Duke of Northumberland, who was in opposition to Pitt.
Feilding died v.p. 8 Aug. 1799.