ABDY, Sir William, 7th Bt. (?1779-1868), of Felix Hall, Essex.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

8 Feb. 1817 - 1818

Family and Education

b. ?1779, o.s. of Sir William Abdy, 6th Bt., of Felix Hall by Mary, da. of James Gordon (formerly Brebner) of Moor Place, Herts. educ. Eton 1791-3; Christ Church, Oxf. 22 Jan. 1796, aged 17. m. 3 July 1806, Anne (div. 25 June 1816), illegit. da. of Richard Colley Wellesley*, 1st Mq. Wellesley, s.p. suc. fa. as 7th Bt. 21 July 1803.

Offices Held

Lt. S. Essex militia 1798; 2nd lt. Southwark vols. 1807.

Biography

Abdy’s parliamentary career might have started in 1812 had a suggestion of the prime minister’s that he should stand for Maldon been acted upon. Perceval wrote to the Marquess Wellesley, 7 Feb. 1810:

If Sir William Abdy has any wish to make good his way to a seat ... for Maldon, it has been suggested to me that the means are not difficult. Pray learn for me what he wishes upon this subject, and if he likes the idea I will then enable you to put him in the train.

Later that year Joseph Holden Strutt*, whose family had so much influence at Maldon, indicated to Perceval that he was aware that Abdy’s father-in-law probably wished him to be returned there.1 But nothing came of it and Abdy did not enter the House until 1817, on the interest of Joseph Pitt* at Malmesbury. He did not seek re-election at the dissolution. He made no known speech at Westminster, voting with ministers on the Admiralty questions, 17 and 25 Feb. 18I7; with the majority against Catholic relief, 9 May; in favour of the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817; but in the opposition majority on the ducal marriage grant, 15 Apr. 1818.

Shortly before he entered Parliament Abdy had been cast in the role of ‘a weak man’ in a triangle in which his wife figured as ‘proud, disdainful and stupid’ and her lover Lord William Charles Augustus Cavendish Bentinck* as ‘a fool’.2 She eloped with him, 4 Sept. 1815, regretted it next day and expressed a wish to return to her husband. Her wish was concealed from him by his mother and sister, who saw to it that she was exposed publicly as an erring wife. When she returned to Abdy, he refused to see her and she was thrown back upon her lover. Her family blamed Abdy’s ‘silly management’ of her for her conduct, which was further mitigated by his rumoured infidelity, and looked to a speedy divorce. But Abdy now sought a reconciliation, on condition that her father used his influence to obtain him a post abroad where he could live down the scandal. The marquess disclaimed influence and could only suggest that his brother Henry might be able to obtain Abdy a vice-consulship in Spain or an embassy post at Madrid. He took a dim view of Abdy’s bargain:

An appointment abroad is not at all essential to Sir William’s honour, if he thinks fit to forgive his wife. It will not cover the disgrace, if there be any, in the transaction. On the contrary, it will draw public attention more keenly on the whole affair, and will bring forth a whole host of sarcasms in the newspapers, which otherwise would probably be silent. If Sir William’s mind has subdued his first sensations on the transaction, I think he is bound as a consequence of his own mercy not to leave the matter in a state of suspense which, while it is disgraceful to him, is the most cruel and ruinous of all imaginable proceedings towards Anne, exposing her to the utter loss of all comfort, and depriving her of all chance of any reparation of the disgrace to which she has subjected her character and condition. On the other hand, if Sir William cannot make up his determination to receive Anne as his wife immediately, she ought to return to Lord Charles, and every step should be taken to prevent embarrassments in the application for a divorce. I think it necessary to add (as you say that Lord Charles in this latter case talks of insisting on a divorce) that the divorce must proceed entirely from Sir William’s application, and that any interference on the part of Lord Charles, for the avowed purpose of facilitating a divorce, would effectually defeat it.3