HOWARD, Hon. William (1781-1843).

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



1806 - 1826
1830 - 1832
1837 - Mar. 1840

Family and Education

b. 25 Dec. 1781, 2nd s. of Frederick, 5th Earl of Carlisle, and bro. of George Howard, Visct. Morpeth*. educ. Raikes’s sch., Neasden 1789; Eton 1793; Christ Church, Oxf. 1799; L. Inn 1802. unm.

Offices Held

2nd lt. 1 N. Yorks. riflemen vols. 1798, lt. 1803, capt. 1803; capt. E. Yorks. militia 1805.


According to Lady Harriet Cavendish, William Howard was ‘as hard and impenetrable as a stone, and no warmer’ (1804). She subsequently contrasted his attitude to his father, who kept his children ‘in great awe of him’, with that of his younger brother: ‘William, by not drawing any line between independence and obstinacy will yield to him in nothing and Frederick by the same error of not distinguishing civility from servility, yields to him in everything’. What was to become of him? Nothing came of his brother’s bid to persuade Lord Granville Leveson Gower* to attach him in 1804 to his embassy to Russia, so that he might learn ‘the rudiments of diplomacy’. When Lord Grenville came to power in 1806, his father applied for a place for him, having declined office for himself. He had in mind a situation at one of the boards (such as Customs or Excise). The answer, he recalled, was ‘far from encouraging’. After William had been returned unopposed for Morpeth on the family interest later that year, Carlisle renewed the application, thinking that his being in Parliament would improve his prospects. Not so: Grenville regretted that he had nothing to offer.1

Howard could be relied on to support the Whigs, in and out of office. On 28 June 1807 he joined Brooks’s Club. He assured his mother in March 1809 ‘that it is my wish, and always will be, to conform my political opinions to those of my father and to those of the party with whom, ever since I have been in Parliament, I have been acting’. So he had done, but when on 15 and 17 Mar. 1809 he divided with three minorities against the Duke of York, he was called on to explain himself to his father. The latter, he thought, ‘only seemed to wish that I would be more moderate in future’, but began to suspect that his son’s political opinions were ‘the same as those of the violent and intemperate people in this country’. Unless his vote against alleged ministerial corruption, 25 Apr. 1809 (in which Morpeth joined) could be so considered, he was never more than a moderate Whig thereafter: on 21 May 1810 he voted against parliamentary reform. His only known speech was in opposition to Wellington’s annuity, 16 Feb. 1810.2 When the Whigs were cabinet making in January 1811, Howard’s father was disappointed at their want of ‘any spontaneous attention to him’, and Thomas Grenville* felt obliged to promise that he would try to obtain a place at the Admiralty board for him.3

Howard invariably supported Catholic relief, when present. On 10 Mar. 1815 he voted against the corn bill, his only known minority vote in the sessions of 1814 and 1815. In 1816 he resumed regular opposition, voting for retrenchment in that and the following two sessions. He did not oppose the seditious meetings bill, 24 Jan. 1817, but on 23 June opposed the suspension of habeas corpus, as well as its consequences. In the Parliament of 1818 he supported criminal law reform, 2 Mar. 1819, burgh reform, 1 Apr., 6 May, and opposed lotteries, 4 May. He voted for Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May. His father approved his abstaining with Morpeth on the amendment to the address, 24 Nov. 1819, but unlike Morpeth he voted for Althorp’s critical motion of 30 Nov. They both voted to limit the duration of the seditious meetings bill, 6 Dec., but Howard also voted against the seizure of arms bill, 16 Dec. and was again in minorities against repressive measures on 20 and 21 Dec.4

Howard made no greater impression in Whig society than in Parliament. Sydney Smith, who met him in 1815, reserved him ‘for further consideration’. In 1821 Smith reported that Howard was to marry Miss Cuthbertson who ‘has £16,000, is little and accomplished’, but he died unmarried, 25 Jan. 1843.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: J. M. Collinge / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Letters of Lady Harriet Cavendish, 104, 207; PRO 30/29/6/5 f. 901; Add. 38737, f. 133; 41854, ff. 125, 150; Fortescue mss, Carlisle to Grenville and reply, 11 Dec. 1806.
  • 2. Carlisle mss, Howard to Countess of Carlisle [March 1809]; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4087.
  • 3. Add. 41854, ff. 150, 152; Carlisle mss, Grenville to Morpeth, Wed. night [1811].
  • 4. Diary of Lady Shelley, ii. 87; Carlisle mss, Carlisle to Morpeth, 1 Dec. [1819].
  • 5. Sydney Smith Letters ed. N. C. Smith, i. 253, 380.