BURRELL, Peter III (1754-1820), of Langley Park, Beckenham, Kent
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Family and Education
b. 16 June 1754, o.s. of Peter Burrell II. educ. Eton 1761-70; St. John’s, Camb. 1771. m. 23 Feb. 1779, Lady Priscilla Barbara Elizabeth Bertie, da. of Peregrine, 3rd Duke of Ancaster, 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 6 Nov. 1775. His wife suc. to a great part of the Ancaster estates 1779, to the barony of Willoughby of Eresby 18 Mar. 1780, and to the hereditary office of lord great chamberlain; Burrell was appointed her deputy, having previously been kntd. 6 July 1781. suc. uncle Sir Merrick Burrell as 2nd Bt. 6 Apr. 1787; cr. Baron Gwydir 16 June 1796.
Returned on the family interest at Haslemere, Burrell was independent, and on 18 Apr. 1777 voted with Opposition against payment of the King’s debts; otherwise he usually supported the Government. Most of his recorded speeches are on America, in favour of coercion.1 On 17 Feb. 1777 he ‘spoke a few words’ in favour of suspending the Habeas Corpus Act in cases of high treason in America.2 Discussing North’s conciliatory bills he said, 24 Feb. 1778, he had hitherto supported the Government ‘because he had been persuaded they were fighting for the rights of Parliament; that taxation was the primary object of the contest; that therefore it was unwarrantable to give up that ground till some concessions had been made by America’; further, he objected to the bill leaving the commissioners free, as he thought, to treat with the Americans on the subject of independence.3 He opposed, on 14 Dec. 1778, withdrawing the troops from America as being equivalent to an acknowledgment of her independence;4 and, on II June 1779, Meredith’s motion for restoring peace with America.5 As for his votes: he was absent from the division on the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779, and from three of the six divisions March 1779-April 1780 for which lists are available; but when present he voted with the Government, including the division on Dunning’s motion.
The control of Haslemere having passed to Sir James Lowther, Burrell did not seek re-election in 1780, but on 23 Mar. 1782 was returned for Boston on the Ancaster interest, apparently unopposed, though an opposition had been intended; and he was re-elected in 1784, in a contested election. On 21 Feb. 1783 he spoke against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, calling them ‘one of the most disgraceful, the most infamous treaties that had ever insulted that or any other House of Parliament’; and advocated recourse to our ‘power to resist’ to avoid such ‘humiliation and degradation of a great and powerful people’. ‘He spoke ... as an independent country gentlemen, who, unconnected with party ... gave vent to his honest indignation’6 (Burrell was emphatically the ‘country gentleman’ whenever occasion offered7). He supported the Coalition; voted for Fox’s East India bill; attacked Pitt on 14 Jan. 1784 for remaining in office against the resolutions of the House; and in Adam’s list of the Parliament of 1784 was classed as Opposition. Although on 7 May 1783 he had voted for Pitt’s motion in favour of parliamentary reform, he was not one of its supporters in April 1785. He spoke and voted during the Regency crisis on the Opposition side (as he put it himself on 6 Jan. 1789, he spoke ‘but seldom in the House’8). As deputy lord great chamberlain he officiated at the trial of Warren Hastings.
The luck of the Burrells became almost proverbial with contemporaries—the brilliant marriages of Peter Burrell’s sisters and his own, which proved even more fortunate than could have been expected, when a few months later the sudden death of the 4th Duke of Ancaster left Burrell’s wife the heiress to honours and riches. ‘The fortune of the Burrells is powerful enough to baffle calculation’, wrote Walpole to Lady Ailesbury, 10 July 1779; and A. M. Storer to William Eden, 14 Dec. 1787, ‘Sir Peter Burrell’s good luck is never failing’.9 Wraxall describes Peter Burrell as ‘a young man ... of the most graceful person and the most engaging manners’ and ‘great elegance of deportment’.10 Farington reported him as having £18,000 p.a.11
He died 29 June 1820.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Evidence to the contrary is too uncertain to count. Walpole states (Last Jnls. ii. 122) that on North’s conciliatory propositions (23 Feb. 1778) Burrell ‘quitted the majority’—which may have been because he opposed the idea of conciliation. Further, on 6 Apr. he is reported by Stockdale (viii. 205) to have seconded Meredith’s motion to repeal the Declaratory Act of 1766; Parlty. Hist. xviii. 1010 makes Sir G. Yonge second Meredith—which is much more likely.
- 2. Almon, vi. 259.
- 3. Almon, viii. 399; Parlty. Hist. xix. 784-5.
- 4. Almon, xi. 161.
- 5. Fortescue, iv. 352.
- 6. Debrett, ix. 307-9.
- 7. See e.g. 16, 21 June 1784, Stockdale, ii. 4-5, 9, and 119; and 10 Aug. 1784. Debrett, xvi. 383.
- 8. Stockdale, xvi. 189.
- 9. Auckland Corresp. i. 453.
- 10. Mems. iii. 353-4.
- 11. Diary, i. 7.