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COKE, Thomas William II (1793-1867), of Longford, Derbys.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. Jan. 1793, 1st s. of Edward Coke*. educ. by Dr Samuel Parr of Hatton; Eton 1807; Christ Church, Oxf. 1812. unm. 2s. suc. fa. 1836.
‘Billy’ Coke was heir apparent to his uncle William Coke I* of Holkham until, on his refusing to marry Lady Anne Keppel in 1822, his uncle allegedly declared, ‘By God, if you won’t marry her, I will marry her myself’: which he did, and produced an heir. ‘Tall and slight with a small finely shaped head, covered with chestnut curls, a very fair, clear complexion, an aquiline nose and the eye of a hawk’, Coke was ‘as reckless and uncontrolled in character as he was handsome in appearance’. At Eton he distinguished himself as a poacher and, dissuaded from entering the army, became a daredevil sportsman. He was the first Highland deerstalker and (wrongly) credited with the invention of the ‘billycock’ hat. George Osbaldeston* recalled him as
a thorough gentleman and very agreeable. He was an extraordinary rider, and a good but not first rate shot. His uncle was very proud of him, and he thought no man in Norfolk could beat young Coke at partridge shooting when he used setters of a particular breed which he possessed. [We were] on the best of terms; it was almost impossible to be otherwise with young Coke, as he never interfered with anybody’s affairs, nor gave anyone reason to quarrel with him.1
In a life devoted to sport, his coming into Parliament in succession to his father was a mere interlude. True to type, he acted with the Whig opposition, usually in company with his uncle, occasionally (2 Feb., 18 May, 21 June 1819) in his uncle’s absence. He attended at least until 2 Dec. 1819 when he voted against the seditious meetings bill. His first known speech was made in the ensuing Parliament, when his growing negligence made his retention of his seat unlikely. He retired to West Bilney Hall in Norfolk, ‘where he spent the rest of his life, hunting energetically to the last’. He died 21 May 1867.2