PAGET, Henry William, Lord Paget (1768-1854), of Plas Newydd, Anglesey and Beaudesert, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 17 May 1768, 1st s. of Henry, 1st Earl of Uxbridge, and bro. of Hons. Arthur Paget*, Berkeley Thomas Paget*, Charles Paget*, Edward Paget*, and William Paget*. educ. Westminster 1777-84; Christ Church, Oxf. 1784-6; continental tour 1768-8. m. (1) 25 July 1795, Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers, da. of George Bussy Villiers†, 4th Earl of Jersey, 3s. 5da. (she div. him in Scotland Oct. 1810); (2) c. Nov. 1810, Lady Charlotte Cadogan, da. of Charles Sloane Cadogan†, 1st Earl Cadogan, div. w. of Hon. (Sir) Henry Wellesley*, 3s. 3da. Styled Lord Paget 1784-1812; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Uxbridge 13 Mar. 1812; GCB 2 Jan. 1815; cr. Mq. of Anglesey 4 July 1815; GCH 1816; KG 19 Feb. 1818.
Capt. Staffs. militia 1792; lt.-col. Staffs. vols. (aft. 80 Ft.) 1793; lt. 7 R. Fus. 1795; capt. 23 Fus. 1795; maj. 65 Ft. 1795; lt.-col. 16 Drag. 1795, col. 1796; lt.-col. 7 Drag. 1797, col. 1801; maj.-gen. 1802, lt.-gen. 1808, gen. 1819, f.m. 1846.
PC 30 Apr. 1827; master gen. of Ordnance May 1827-Jan. 1828, July 1846-Feb. 1852; ld. lt. [I] Feb. 1828-Mar. 1829, Dec. 1830-Sept. 1833.
Ld. high steward at George IV’s coronation 1821; chamberlain N. Wales 1822-30.
Ld. Lt. Anglesey 1812-d., Staffs. 1849-d.; capt. Cowes Castle 1826-d.
Lord Paget’s father, ‘only a lieutenant in the army’ at the time of his birth, succeeded a distant kinsman to the Paget barony and was created an earl in 1784. A staunch courtier, he overruled his heir’s schoolboy ambition to enter the navy and prepared him for public life, but Paget informed his father on leaving Oxford that he had ‘no desire to be a public man’ and his pranks and dissipations while on a continental tour caused some concern to his parents. A friend of the family wrote in 1789:
Lord Paget, eldest of his noble race
Form’d for the Council soon will take his place
In Senate, and debate with manly grace.
So he did, for he was returned unopposed for Caernarvon, where the family had just assumed complete control of the boroughs in 1790, although his father had contemplated putting him up for Dorset. Subsequently he sat for the other family appanage of Milborne Port: but he did not ‘debate’, for, as he later wrote, ‘I have not a grain of [oratory]. I have no facility of expressing myself—the thing does not come naturally to me.’ He supported Pitt’s administration as his father expected of him, and was listed an opponent of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791, but from 1793 was frequently absent on active service. Seeing the Prussian review in Silesia in 1788 had made him an enthusiastic cavalryman and, though Pitt would not allow him to raise a regiment of cavalry in 1793,1 he raised infantry and saw service with them in the Netherlands late in 1794. On his return, he entered the regular army and as lieutenant-colonel of the 7th light Dragoons was again in the Netherlands in the campaign of 1799; in 1801 he became colonel and made a crack cavalry regiment of them, though he did not again see active service until 1808.
A friend of the Prince of Wales, who envied him his impeccable turnout, Paget voted in the minority on Calcraft’s motion for an inquiry into the Prince’s debts, 4 Mar. 1803, his only recorded minority vote. His father expected him to support Addington and according to George Rose, ‘threatened to turn his eldest son ... out of Parliament if he voted with Mr Pitt in his late opposition to Mr Addington’,2 but Paget wrote to his brother Arthur, 20 Apr. 1804, ‘We must have Pitt’. In June 1804, because he ‘decidedly and conscientiously differed’ from his father in favouring Pitt’s return to office, Paget whose reason was his ‘long attachment and adherence to Pitt’, vacated his seat in favour of his brother Charles. His mother wrote to his brother Arthur, 3 May 1804:
[Your father] could not desert the King at such a moment, and [Paget] had pledged himself to vote with Mr Pitt, but his duty and affection to his father got the better and he did not come up, but he resigns his seat in Parliament, the conduct of both does them the greatest credit ... The only thing to lament is Paget’s having made the engagement without the knowledge of his father . . Mr P[itt] knows perfectly your father’s sentiments towards him, and that it was out of consideration alone to the King, that he persuaded Paget not to vote against him: in justice to P[aget] I must make use of his own words, that nobody could feel more sincerely attached to H.M. than he did, but that he did not consider opposition to the minister opposition to the King.3
Paget, who had been disappointed in his hope of a cavalry command, resumed his seat in 1806 when the family interest at Milborne Port was under attack, and though his father had no sympathy for the Grenville administration, no vote against them is known, nor did Paget play any greater part in Parliament than before. From correspondence with his brother Arthur, however, it is clear that he disliked the ‘Talents’, whom he regarded as treacherous, and could see no merit in them, but was averse to a ‘rancorous opposition’: ‘Alas! there is no leading man in the whole country, and I am sure there is not one consistent one in the whole administration’. He also complained of being ignorant of his father’s intentions towards them (21 Dec. 1806). When they went out, Paget thought the Catholic measure, which he was at one time ‘very much in favour of’, enough to condemn them, as he believed the King ‘would died upon his throne rather than submit’. He claimed that he had ‘no great faith’ in the new government either, ‘although I am persuaded they cannot do worse than their predecessors’ (2 Apr. 1807).
In 1808 he went to the Peninsula, where he distinguished himself in the retreat from Corunna, being ‘in the thick of everything’ with his cavalry, according to his brother Edward, and to quote another source, ‘hoping from day to day to die in the bed of honour’, owing to a hopeless love affair. On his return, his elopement with the wife of Henry Wellesley* caused a scandal. It simmered while he joined the Walcheren expedition in 1809, during which he offered ‘any bet’ that there would be a change of ministry before Christmas, and exploded in 1810, when there was a double divorce which cost him over £30,000, but was, he thought ‘a good and cheap bargain notwithstanding’. This caused him to vacate his seat and retire from public life: he eluded a summons to give evidence to the House on the Walcheren fiasco, which his brother-in-law Lord Galloway regretted: ‘his evidence would have been good, because it would have been decided, and he would have become a little more habituated to the world, which by prolonged retirement he will dislike to meet again’.4 Unable, despite the favour of the Duke of York, whom he had reconciled to his brother the Prince of Wales in their quarrel of 1804, to obtain military employment, he took over from his aged father the management of the immense but encumbered estate (worth £76,000 p.a.) which he inherited in 1812. At Waterloo he returned to action and showed himself ‘the cleverest cavalry officer in the British Empire’ and ‘the only one with a cavalry genius’;5 he lost a leg but gained a marquessate. His political career did not properly commence until 1827, when he emerged as a flexible Tory. He died loaded with honours, 29 Apr. 1854.