COPLEY, Sir Lionel, 2nd Bt. (c.1767-1806), of Sprotborough, Yorks. and Bake, Cornw.

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



1796 - 1802

Family and Education

b. c.1767, 1st s. of Sir Joseph Copley, 1st Bt., of Sprotborough by Mary, da. of John Francis Buller of Morval, Cornw. educ. Harrow 1776-80; continental tours 1790, 1792. unm. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 11 Apr. 1781.

Offices Held


Copley’s father, Joseph Moyle, a cadet member of the Moyle family of Bake, Cornwall, succeeded in the right of his mother to the Copley estates in Yorkshire (1766), took their name (1768) and obtained in 1778 the re-creation of that family’s baronetcy for himself. Copley succeeded him as a youth, one of his guardians being Reginald Pole Carew*. Before coming of age, he was an accomplished gambler. He contemplated a naval career, beginning as acting lieutenant on the Melampus under Charles Morice Pole*, but changed his mind. In the autumn of 1790 he had returned from Copenhagen to London on a rumour of war breaking out. He resumed his travels and developed radical ideas in politics: at Brussels in 1791 he was described as ‘a pretty odd young man’.1

He was determined to come into Parliament in 1796, so much so that he arranged the purchase of a seat for Bletchingley on the interest of Sir Robert Clayton*, which probably cost 4,000 guineas, while at the same time contesting Tregony at the instigation of (Sir) Christopher Hawkins* against its patron Richard Barwell*. He was returned for both places and chose to take his seat for Tregony, 14 Feb. 1797.2 He voted with the minority for Sheridan’s and Fox’s motions on the Bank stoppage, 28 Feb., 1 Mar., and on 3 Mar. for Whitbread’s motion for inquiry into the French invasion of Ireland. On 5 Mar. he joined Brooks’s Club. The same month he was reckoned a member of the ‘armed neutrality’ anxious to promote a change of government. He again voted with opposition for Whitbread’s censure motion, 10 May, and for parliamentary reform, 26 May 1797.

Copley seceded with the Foxite Whigs, though like some of them he attended to vote against Pitt’s assessed taxes, 14 Dec. 1797 and 4 Jan. 1798. He signed requisitions for opposition county meetings in Yorkshire in 1797 and 1798. Lady Holland, after dining with him, 23 Mar. 1799, thought him:

As usual, Jacobinical and tiresome. His only merit in conversation (for in conduct he has many) is that he surprises his audience by the extreme accuracy of his knowledge of all the epochs in the revolution, the stations of the armies, and the names of the members of different councils.

She added on 30 May, ‘Sir L. has been kind and friendly; though he is rough and selfish, he is cap able of doing good-hearted actions’. Lord Holland valued his opinions on French affairs and conveyed them to Fox.3

Copley, who does not appear to have uttered in the House, resumed attendance and opposition in the session of 1800 and was staunch for the remainder of that Parliament. If he sought re-election in 1802, he did not obtain an opening. In 1806 he fell from a ladder in his library and ‘broke his leg in so shocking a manner that the bone stuck in the floor’. A fever ensued and he died on 4 Mar., two days after making a will in which he left his estates to his brother Joseph, charged with £1,500 p.a. for Miss Maria Buller, to whom he was attached.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Add. 48218, f. 77; Pole Carew mss, CC/K/20 and 20a (‘Sprotborough papers’), Copley to Pole Carew, 25 May, 7 June, 10 July, [Sept.] 1790, Rev. Pole to same, 27 Feb. 1791; Jerningham Letters, i. 65.
  • 2. NMM, WYN/107, Pole Carew to Pole, 21 June 1796; Blair Adam mss, Graham to Adam, 24 Jan. 1797.
  • 3. Jnl. of Lady Holland, i. 232, 257; Add. 47574, f. 8.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1806), i. 290, 377; PCC 278 Pitt; Pole Carew mss, CC/L/39, Rashleigh to Pole Carew, 28 Mar. 1806.