SHELDON, Ralph (c.1741-1822), of Weston, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. c.1741, 1st s. of William Sheldon of Weston by Margaret Frances Disney, da. of James Rooke of Bigsweir House, Mon. educ. St. Gregory’s, Douai 1755. m. 1780, Jane, da. of Adm. Francis Holburne† of Lymington, Hants, 1s. 3da. suc. fa. 1780.
Col. Oxford loyal vols. 1803; lt.-col. 3 Warws. militia 1808.
Sheldon came of an old Catholic recusant family, and after a dissolute youth at home and abroad conformed to the established church. This enabled him to become a colonel of volunteers and a Member of Parliament. In 1775 he joined Brooks’s Club. His intimacy with the 4th Duke of Marlborough’s family and relationship to the 10th Earl of Pembroke made him an ideal go-between to settle the marriage of Pembroke’s heir to the duke’s daughter. He stood proxy for the duke’s friend Francis Burton in October 1801 in the canvass for the city of Oxford.1 In 1804 he was himself brought in for Wilton by the 11th Earl of Pembroke. In September 1804 and July 1805 he was listed a supporter of Pitt’s administration. An inconspicuous Member, he was listed ‘against the Opposition’ by the Whigs in 1810. This was warranted by his votes with Perceval’s government on the address, 23 Jan., on the Scheldt question, 26 Jan. and 30 Mar., against the release of the radical Gale Jones, 16 Apr., and against parliamentary reform, 21 May. He further supported ministers on the Regency, Jan. 1811, and opposed Stuart Wortley’s motion for a more efficient administration, 21 May 1812.
Sheldon appeared on the Treasury list of supporters after the election of 1812. He invariably supported Catholic relief thereafter. In other respects he could normally be relied upon to attend in support of government. In 1818 he was on the ministerial dinner list.2 He approved their attempts to curb radicalism and stayed in town as late as 23 Dec. 1819 to vote in this sense. His only reported speech was as a member of the committee on the abuse of charitable foundations, 23 June 1819, and on this question he joined the minority. He was also a member of the Poor Law committee that session.
He died 22 Nov. 1822, described by ‘Nimrod’ as ‘that perfect example of the old English gentleman’.3