BRODRICK, Hon. William (1763-1819), of Savile Row, Mdx.

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



1796 - 1818

Family and Education

b. 14 Feb. 1763, 5th s. of George, 3rd Visct. Midleton [I], and bro. of George Brodrick*, 4th Visct. Midleton [I]. educ. Eton 1775-80; St. John’s, Camb. 1780-3; L. Inn 1782. m. 25 Aug. 1794, Mary, da. of Rev. Nathaniel Preston of Swainston, co. Meath, s.p.

Offices Held

Sec. to Board of Control July 1793-Nov. 1803; ld. of Treasury Nov. 1803-May 1804, Dec. 1807-June 1812.

Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1798-1802.


When Brodrick’s eldest brother went over to government with their kinsman the 3rd Duke of Portland, he became secretary to the Board of Control, an office vacated by Henry Beaufoy*. Another brother, Thomas, had become Portland’s under-secretary at the Home Office (but died in 1795). On 28 Nov. 1794 Viscount Sydney informed Henry Dundas’s secretary:

My nephew William Brodrick has certainly by no means given the degree of attention to the business of his office, which I wished and expected him to do. He is perfectly sensible of his error himself. Since his marriage he has necessarily been to the sea for the health of Mrs Brodrick as well as his own. He is now returned to town with a firm resolution to give every attention to the duties of his office. I am, and so is he, extremely sensible of Mr Dundas’s great indulgence to him, and I shall ever look upon it as one of the first of many marks of friendship ... He has really excellent parts and much knowledge, and therefore has the means of making himself both useful and agreeable.1

Brodrick replaced his brother as Member for Stockbridge in 1796. On 6 July 1797 he brought up the report of the committee on the Indian judicature and on 4 Jan. 1799 moved for Indian accounts, but played no part in debate. On 16 May 1800 he joined Brooks’s Club. He voted with the majorities for the loyalty loan bonus and the triple assessment, 1 June 1797 and 4 Jan. 1798. Dundas was prepared to release him in 1800 to serve under Lord Chatham his cousin-in-law.2 He remained in office under Addington and in January 1803, after visiting France, was tipped to succeed to a vacancy at the Treasury board.3 He fell ill, taking leaves of absence from the House, but took office later that year. Pitt pensioned him off in May 1804 and he was listed ‘doubtful’, but, by September, ‘Pitt’ and again in July 1805. He opposed the Grenville ministry on Ellenborough’s cabinet seat, 3 Mar., and the American intercourse bill, 17 June 1806. He seconded an amendment to the latter, 8 July. His name was crossed out of a list of those ‘adverse’ to the abolition of the slave trade. He spoke and voted against ministers on the Hampshire election petition, 6, 13 Feb. 1807.

Brodrick was restored to the Treasury a few months after the Duke of Portland took office. At first he was to have been joint surveyor of woods and forests with Lord Glenbervie, which the King approved, 26 Aug. 1807, but a snag was then found to the partition of the office, which was awarded to Glenbervie alone.4 He spoke only on a point of order, 18 May 1808. When his late brother Thomas’s friend Spencer Perceval revealed to him the cause of the rift in the cabinet in September 1809, his first reaction was that ‘Canning has exceeded in duplicity every thing that I thought possible even in a politician’, but on scrutiny he informed Charles Arbuthnot:

The impression made upon my mind ... is that Canning is exonerated from much blame for his conduct towards Castlereagh. It appears to me that the latter has more reason to complain of the D[uke] of Portland and Ld. Camden, who have erred from good nature and weakness, than he has of Canning—and that Perceval and the rest of his colleagues had as just a ground of quarrel with Canning, for his reserve on a subject deeply affecting the whole administration, as Castlereagh had.

There can be no doubt that Canning’s constant object has been to have the sole government of the D[uke] of P[ortland] while he continued the minister, and to be his successor afterwards. What degree of moral guilt belongs to the reserve and finesse he has practised to retain these ends, as I am no politician, I will not pretend to determine ... I hope that I shall soon hear from you either that Perceval has arranged some strong administration which has been approved by the King—or that he has advised HM to put his affairs into other hands.5

Brodrick rallied to Perceval, though he was not conspicuous at the Treasury board, and was staunch in the divisions of January-March 1810, being listed ‘against the Opposition’ by the Whigs. He voted against the discharge of the radical Gale Jones 16 Apr., and against parliamentary reform, 21 May. He was in the ministerial camp on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811, and named to the committee to confer with the Lords on it, 8 Jan. He opposed sinecure reform, 24 Feb. and 4 May 1812, and on 21 May voted against a more comprehensive administration. He did not retain office under Lord Liverpool, but was listed a Treasury supporter after the election of 1812.

In June 1812 Lord Midleton reported:

My brother William, who has for some time in my opinion had a hankering after the Catholic side of the question, wrote to me before Canning’s motion to ask how I should have voted if it were to come on in the Lords and whether 1 had altered my opinion.6

When Midleton assured him that he was strongly anti-Catholic, Brodrick abstained, 22 June. But in 1813 he opposed relief on 2 Mar. and 11 May, supported the second reading of the bill on 13 May, but opposed it on 24 May—behaviour that would seem odd but for his brother’s divulging his doubts. Brodrick was in France and Italy in 1815.7 There is no further evidence of his attendance until 1817, when in an isolated speech of 2 May he defended the committee on policing the metropolis, paired against Catholic relief, 9 May, voted for the opposition candidate for Speaker, 2 June, and for the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June. On 13 and 15 Apr. 1818, surprisingly, he joined opposition on the ducal marriage grants. Whether such sparks of independence displeased his brother does not appear, but he was not returned again in 1818. Perhaps his health was the real reason, for he died at Nice within a year, 29 Apr. 1819.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Brian Murphy / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. SRO GD51/6/1024.
  • 2. PRO, Dacres Adams mss 3/23.
  • 3. The Times, 4 Jan. 1803.
  • 4. Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3522; Dacres Adams mss 10/64.
  • 5. Perceval (Holland) mss 2, ff. 18, 19.
  • 6. Add. 33112, f. 269.
  • 7. Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 143; Harrowby mss, Brodrick to Harrowby, 1815-16, passim.