LYTTELTON, Sir Richard (1718-70), of Little Ealing, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1747 - 1754
1754 - 1761

Family and Education

b. 1718, 5th s. of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, 4th Bt., M.P., of Hagley, Worcs., bro. of Sir George Lyttelton, 5th Bt. and William Henry Lyttelton.  educ. prob. Marylebone;1 at Besançon 1737-8.  m. 23 Dec. 1745, Rachel, da. of Wriothesley, 2nd Duke of Bedford, wid. of Scroop, 1st Duke of Bridgwater, s.p. She had ‘besides a life income of £3000 p.a. a considerable sum of money’.2  cr. K.B. 27 Aug. 1753.

Offices Held

Page of honour to Queen Caroline 1734-7; ensign 3 Ft. Gds. 1737; capt. 10 Marines 1741; lt.-col. 1744; col. army 1747; maj.-gen. 1757; lt.-gen, 1759; master of the jewel office 1756-62; gov. Minorca 1762-6, Guernsey 1766- d.


At the general election of 1754 Lyttelton was returned unopposed for Poole, where he had been recommended to the corporation by Henry Pelham. In Dupplin’s list drawn up after the election he was classed as a Government supporter. But in May 1755 he acted as an intermediary in negotiations between Leicester House, Pitt and the Grenvilles,3 and on 13 Nov. 1755 he divided with them against the Address.4 On 2 Dec., during the debate on Pulteney’s bill on manning the navy, Lyttelton had an exchange with Fox in which he declared that ‘he honoured Fox in his private character, but believed that if he had the same power as Sir Robert Walpole, he would not use it with the same moderation’.5 On 5 Dec. 1755, in a letter to Lyttelton’s brother-in-law Bedford, then in Administration, Rigby wrote with obvious satisfaction (which may indeed have coloured his report): ‘Poor Dick Lyttelton the House can no longer be brought to hear a word from, and he sat down in the midst of the greatest buzz through mere vexation.’6 In February 1757, after the trial of Byng, Lyttelton, according to Walpole, ‘interested himself warmly for the condemned’. And in the House on the 25th, when Keppel was pressing for a bill to absolve him from his oath of secrecy, Lyttelton read a letter from Admiral Smith (his half brother) ‘entreating him to move in the same cause. He then injudiciously went into the case of Mr. Byng, which, he said he should think murder if this method was not followed.’7

Crippled by gout, Lyttelton could no longer pursue an active military career, nor even assume office which required close attendance. On the formation of the Pitt-Devonshire Administration his name was put down for the jewel office (£450 p.a.)—

but Sir Richard [wrote Temple to Pitt, 9 Nov. 1756] does not like it by any means, as it is not a place of particular dignity, nor much profit ... I offered to Sir Richard to renew his pretensions to comptroller; but that he declines, from an impossibility of going through the courtly attendance.

Finally, as Temple informed Pitt on 11 Nov., he agreed to accept the jewel office,8

though with reluctance, unless the Privy Council be added to it: in which case, he will be most thoroughly pleased; without it he will be pleased too, if his friends wish him to accept it.

The Privy Council was not added. In March 1758 he was thought of for envoy to Turin but did ‘not care for such commission’.9

Some time before 1760 Lyttelton went abroad for his health, and spent the next three or four years in France and Italy. He did not stand again for Poole in 1761,10 and never tried to re-enter the House. In 1762, at the King’s personal recommendation,11 Lyttelton was appointed governor of Minorca, his duties being performed through a deputy. In March 1766 Lord Barrington, by order from the King, offered Lyttelton Guernsey instead of Minorca. Lyttelton, wrote Barrington on 21 Mar., ‘is a grateful man, and will ever properly remember your Majesty’s goodness to him’. The King replied the same day: ‘I am glad Sir Richard Lyttelton is pleased with the offer ... I have long known the goodness of his heart and can depend that he is one of the few that mean what they say.’12

When in 1761 the Lytteltons were expected in Florence, Walpole wrote to Mann: ‘You will be happy in Sir Richard Lyttelton and his Duchess; they are the best humoured people in the world.’

Lyttelton died 1 Oct. 1770.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. M. Wyndham, Chrons. of 18th Cent. i. 112.
  • 2. Ld. Camelford, ‘Family Characters Anecdotes’, 74, Boconnoc mss.
  • 3. Grenville Pprs. i. 432.
  • 4. Add. 33034, f. 208.
  • 5. Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, ii. 81-84.
  • 6. Bedford Corresp. ii. 181.
  • 7. Mems. Geo. II, ii. 307, 329.
  • 8. Chatham Corresp. i. 188-9, 192.
  • 9. Pitt to Lord Bute, n.d., Essays presented to Sir Lewis Namier, 147.
  • 10. Add. 32915, f. 172.
  • 11. Sedgwick, 166.
  • 12. Fortescue, i. 286.