BRUDENELL BRUCE, George William Frederick, Earl Bruce (1804-1878), of 26 Jermyn Street, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 20 Nov. 1804, 1st s. of Charles Bruce Brudenell Bruce†, 1st mq. of Ailesbury, and 1st w. Hon. Henrietta Maria Hill, da. of Noel Hill†, 1st Bar. Berwick. educ. Eton 1818;1 Christ Church, Oxf. 1822. m. 11 May 1837, Lady Mary Caroline, da. of George Augustus Herbert†, 11th earl of Pembroke, s.p. summ. to Lords in his fa.’s barony as Lord Bruce 5 July 1838; suc. fa. as 2nd mq. of Ailesbury 4 Jan. 1856; KG 24 May 1864; suc. 2nd cos. James Thomas Brudenell* as 8th earl of Cardigan 28 Mar. 1868. d. 6 Jan. 1878.
A.d.c. to Queen Victoria and col. yeomanry force 1857-d.; PC 18 June 1859; master of horse June 1859-July 1866, Dec. 1868-Mar. 1874.
Capt. Marlborough troop of Wilts. yeoman cav. 1826-38; capt. R. Wilts. regt. of yeoman cav. 1826, lt.-col. commdt. and col. 1837, hon. col. 1876-d.
Hered. warden, Savernake Forest 1856-d.; ld. lt. Wilts. 1863-d.
In 1747 Thomas Brudenell, a younger son of the 3rd earl of Cardigan, succeeded his maternal uncle, the 3rd earl of Ailesbury, as 2nd Baron Bruce of Tottenham, and to his estates in Wiltshire, which centred on Tottenham Park, near Marlborough. An undistinguished courtier and ministerialist, he was created earl of Ailesbury in 1776. In 1814 he was succeeded as 2nd earl by his son Charles, an inactive but basically Pittite Member since 1796, who achieved his ambition of obtaining a marquessate in 1821. His eldest son, who was known in the family as George Frederick, was styled Lord Bruce until 1812, and Earl Bruce thereafter.2 His coming of age having been celebrated in 1825, his father proposed to bring him in at the next general election for his former seat, Marlborough, which was under his control. At the election in June 1826 Bruce was duly introduced as holding the same ardent attachment to church and state as his father, and it was reported to his sister Elizabeth that his speeches were ‘particularly good’. Despite a boisterous opposition, he was returned with his second cousin Lord Brudenell after a contest, and they survived a petition.3
Bruce was an inactive Member and made no known speeches in the House. He visited Dieppe and Paris in late 1826 and early 1827, but was present to vote for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. During that session he was named as a defaulter three times, twice being briefly taken into custody by the serjeant-at-arms. He made another visit to France in the autumn.4 He voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and again for Catholic claims, 12 May, and he presented a petition from the corporation of Marlborough against the alehouses licensing bill, 19 May 1828. In early 1829 he was turned out by his father, a staunch anti-Catholic, so that he could bring in Thomas Henry Sutton Bucknall Estcourt, who subsequently voted against emancipation. Unlike Brudenell, who also vacated, Bruce did not find another seat, and in July 1830 it was reported that he had returned from a long absence on the continent.5 Nothing came of an absurd idea that he might be induced to stand for Marlborough as a reformer, on the independent interest, at the general election of 1831.6 In 1837 a similar fate met the attempt by a ‘certain marquis, high at least in office, if nothing else’ (presumably Lansdowne, lord president in Lord Melbourne’s second administration) to press him to stand ‘for one division of a southern county, promising that he should be supported by the entire influence of the treasury if he would only join a faction which his whole family abhor, and vote in the teeth of his own father’.7
Ailesbury having spent a fortune, traditionally put at £250,000, on the rebuilding of Tottenham House, Bruce was obliged to retrench after the establishment of a family trust in 1832.8 He was summoned to the Lords in the lifetime of his father, whom he succeeded in 1856. He inherited a considerable electoral interest at Marlborough, where his brother Lord Ernest Augustus Charles Brudenell Bruce† and (until 1868) Henry Bingham Baring* continued to be returned. Nominally a Liberal, who held household office under Lord Palmerston*, Lord John Russell* and William Ewart Gladstone†, he took little part in politics in the Lords, preferring to devote his time to the pleasures of the Turf and his official duties, as well as to his estate improvements and charitable activities.9 He succeeded his erstwhile colleague, Brudenell, as 8th earl of Cardigan in 1868, and died in January 1878, leaving the bulk of his estate to Lord Ernest (1811-86), who succeeded him as 3rd marquess of Ailesbury.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
- 1. Wilts. RO, Ailesbury mss 1300/5200B, 5700, 5707.
- 2. Earl of Cardigan, Wardens of Savernake Forest, 269, 271, 280-6, 295, 300.
- 3. Ailesbury mss 1300/5183, 5617; Devizes Gazette, 24 Nov. 1825, 15 June 1826; Wilts. RO, Marlborough borough recs. G22/1/47.
- 4. Ailesbury mss 1300/5186-9, 5763, 5995.
- 5. Devizes Gazette, 19 Mar. 1829, 8 July 1830.
- 6. Wilts, RO, Marlborough (Burke) mss 124/1/46, 47.
- 7. The Times, 11 July 1837; Disraeli Letters, ii. 634.
- 8. F.M.L. Thompson, ‘English Landownership: The Ailesbury Trust’, EcHR (ser. 2), xi (1958), 121-32.
- 9. VCH Wilts. v. 310; Baily’s Monthly Mag. iv (1862), 217-20; T.L. Kingsbury, Blessed are the Merciful (1878), 9-12; The Times, 7 Jan. 1878; Cardigan, 300-6.