VILLIERS, Hon. Thomas (1753-1824), of The Grove, Watford, Herts.
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Family and Education
b. 25 Dec. 1753, 1st s. of Hon. Thomas Villiers, and bro. of Hon. John Charles Villiers. educ. Eton 1764-70; St. John’s, Camb. 1771. unm. Styled Lord Hyde 1776-86. suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Clarendon 11 Dec. 1786.
Returned for Christchurch on Edward Hooper’s interest (with whom his family had a long-standing connexion through John, 2nd Earl Granville), Villiers adhered in Parliament to his father’s line, and was a regular Government supporter. On 18 Nov. 1777 he moved the Address—‘very poorly’ says Horace Walpole1—and this is his only reported speech in the House. He ‘prefaced his motion by a panegyric on the prudence of Government, the necessity of the war, and the good conduct of our commanders’.2 On a by-election for Cambridge University in May 1779, Hyde vacated his seat at Christchurch, but came out bottom of the poll. He was re-elected at Christchurch on 15 June for the seat which had not been filled; but Robinson, in his electoral survey of 1780, noted that Hyde would not come in again, having disobliged the borough—how is not known, unless it was by his readiness to change his constituency.
At the general election of 1780 Hyde stood both for Cambridge University and for Helston. Lord North wrote to Robinson, 13 Aug.:3
I cannot tell what to write to Lord Clarendon. I suppose you wish me to write upon the subject of the university of Cambridge. I do not like to put the King to the expense of £3,000 to bring in so uncertain a supporter as Lord Hyde, and yet I suppose that you would have me engage to bring him in, if he should fail at Cambridge.
Presumably North had in mind that Hyde would shortly succeed his father, who was then over seventy. Hyde stood for Cambridge University but was defeated; at Helston in an absurd electoral tangle there was a double return, and on 19 Feb. 1781 Hyde’s return was taken off the file. ‘I’ve no frank left’, wrote the Dowager Lady Gower to Mrs. Delany, 27 Mar. 1781.4 ‘Poor Tommy [Hyde] gave me many; but, alas! his mother has bustled him out of Parliament, and they are as useless as almanacs out of date!’ How and why Lady Clarendon did so is not known. But Villiers returned to the House on a by-election at Helston, 30 June 1781, and voted with the Administration on 27 Feb. 1782, and in the decisive division of 15 Mar.
Over Shelburne’s peace preliminaries he was one of four Members who ‘voted with the minister the second night though not the first’, having by then realized that the opposition ‘was levelled not at the measures of Government but at the man’.5 He voted against Fox’s East India bill; supported Pitt; and was re-elected at Helston with Government support. He did not vote on Richmond’s fortifications plan.
He succeeded his father as 2nd Earl of Clarendon, 11 Dec. 1786; and died 7 Mar. 1824.