SOMERVILLE, Sir Marcus, 4th Bt. (?1772-1831), of Somerville, co. Meath.
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Family and Education
b. ?1772 1st s. of Sir James Quaile Somerville, 3rd Bt., of Somerville by Catherine, da. of Sir Marcus Lowther Crofton, 1st Bt., MP [I], of the Mote, co. Roscommon. educ. by Mr Berington, Devon; Trinity, Dublin 1 Aug. 1791, aged 19. m. (1) 1 Oct. 1801,1 Marianne, da. and h. of Sir Richard Gorges Meredyth, 1st Bt., MP [I], of Catherine’s Grove, co. Dublin, 2s.; (2) 7 Apr. 1825, his cos. Elizabeth, da. of Piers Geale of Clonsilla, co. Dublin, s.p. suc. fa. as 4th Bt. 1800.
MP [I] 1800.
Somerville was returned for his county in a by-election in 1800 on the independent interest, and at Westminster achieved the distinction of being the only Irish Member to vote with opposition for Grey’s amendment to the address, 2 Feb. 1801. The Castle duly labelled him ‘Opposition’ and he was thus distinguished by Lord Wycombe, 15 Jan. 1802, with reference to the Irish corps at Westminster: ‘Of the whole deputation Sir Marcus Somerville alone, if I mistake not, declines concurring in the vote which gives to that transcendent measure [i.e. the Union] the sanction of a parliamentary approval’. On 7 May 1802 he voted for a motion of thanks for the removal from office of Pitt. He voted for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s finances, 4 Mar., and against the resumption of hostilities, 24 May 1803, and was apparently recruited from Ireland to vote as a friend of the Prince. His opposition was not particularly vocal, the only speech by him traced being a condemnation of the Irish duties, 20 June 1803, if nothing was to be done for Catholic relief.2 In the spring of 1804 he was reported as having ‘voted in opposition last year’ and on Pitt’s return to power he again did so, appearing in the minorities against the additional force bill in June 1804, against war with Spain, 12 Feb., for the resumption of the naval inquiry, 1 Mar., and for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 6 Mar. 1805. He was in the majorities against Melville, 8 Apr. and 12 June, in the minority for Catholic relief, 14 May, and against the Duke of Atholl’s claims, 7 June 1805.
Somerville, who was counted a supporter of the Grenville ministry and was believed by Fox to be ‘staunch’, puzzled the latter by his elusive absence in May 1806, despite the appeals of the chief secretary and Irish lord chancellor. On 9 June Fox informed the viceroy, ‘No one can tell where Sir Marcus Somerville is to be found’. Perhaps he was preparing the fête champêtre in honour of the Prince of Wales’s birthday held at Somerville on 12 Aug.3 He was detained by the assizes when the Grenville ministry protested at their dismissal in April 1807,4 but voted steadily with them in opposition throughout the next Parliament, though he does not appear to have attended in 1809, and his main object the year before was to support Catholic relief. He voted for parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810. On 21 May 1812 he voted for Stuart Wortley’s motion for a stronger administration.
The Regency gradually brought about a volte face in Somerville’s politics. In the Parliament of 1812, while he invariably voted for Catholic relief, he appeared in no other opposition minority. In January 1815, in an interview with the viceroy, he stated his wish ‘to support the government and interest of the Prince Regent, from whom I have received marks of gracious consideration’, asking at the same time for legal office for his cousin Sir Henry Meredyth. Having ‘sent in his adhesion’, Somerville was certainly in the government divisions by 31 May 1815, and by 8 Mar. 1816 the chief secretary could assure the viceroy that Somerville had, since his ‘conversion’ given ‘a regular and very efficient support as far as attendance goes’. He added that Somerville ‘has hitherto received no favour from us whatever, but has expressed no kind of dissatisfaction—indeed, quite the contrary ... He is perhaps the best attendant we have.’5 In May 1816 the Castle was irritated to discover that he was trying to buy Sir Jonah Barrington out of his judicial office for the benefit of Sir Henry Meredyth and that he relied on the Regent’s secretary to effect what he did not have the face to ask of government: which would have as consequence his attachment ‘not to the government but to Carlton House’. He had already applied to government for an office for his brother and continued to lobby them on Sir Henry Meredyth’s behalf; but by 1820 had netted the office of crown solicitor of Leinster worth £800 p.a. for his cousin by marriage, Piers Geale, an inspectorship of fisheries at £100 p.a. and a clerkship at Dublin.6 In the Parliament of 1818 he appeared in the minority only on Catholic relief, 3 May, and on the Irish window tax, 5 May 1819. He died 11 July 1831.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. According to Burke PB. The register of St. Michael’s, Bath has 11 Aug.
- 2. Grey mss, Grey to Lady Ponsonby, 3 Feb.; The Times, 4 Feb. 1801; Lansdowne mss; Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1820; Debrett (ser. 4), iii. 626; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 510.
- 3. NLS mss 12910, p. 155, Elliot to Fox, 25 May; 12920, Fox to Elliot [May 1806]; Add. 47569, ff. 284-8, 293-6; J Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 393.
- 4. Dublin Evening Post, 23 Apr. 1807.
- 5. Add. 40243, f. 115; 40290, f. 130.
- 6. Add. 40192, f. 68; 40291, f. 39; 40297 (Somerville).