CLINTON, William Henry (1769-1846), of Foley Place, Marylebone, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



3 Mar. 1794 - 1796
1806 - 1818
1818 - Feb. 1829

Family and Education

b. 23 Dec. 1769, 1st s. of Sir Henry Clinton*, and bro. of Henry Clinton*. educ. Eton 1780-5. m. 14 Mar. 1797, Louisa Dorothea, da. of John Baker Holroyd*, 1st Earl of Sheffield, 2s. 3da. suc. fa. 1795. GCB 2 Jan. 1815.

Offices Held

Cornet 7 Drag. 1784, lt. 1787; capt. 45 Ft. June 1790; lt. and capt. 1 Ft. Gds. July 1790, capt. and lt.-col. 1794; a.d.c. to Duke of York 1796-9; brevet col. Jan. 1801, brig.-gen. Madeira July 1801; milit. sec. to Duke of York 1803; q.m.g. [I] 1804; maj.-gen. 1808, lt.-gen. Sicily 1812, lt.-gen. 1813; col. 55 Ft. 1814; lt.-gen. of Ordnance 1825-9; gen. 1830.


Clinton joined his father’s regiment at an early age.1 Shortly before his return to Parliament he served in the Flanders campaign. He succeeded his kinsman Thomas Pelham Clinton*, become 3rd Duke of Newcastle, as Member for East Retford on the ducal interest. As such, his only known parliamentary gesture was a speech detailing the Netherlands campaign, with reference to the conduct of the King of Prussia, which was dismissed by the reporters as ‘scarcely audible’, 5 Feb. 1795.2 His patron died in that year and he did not seek reelection. Active service had reclaimed him. He subsequently served in Ireland, was sent on a secret mission to the Russian generals, joined the Helder expedition and was acting deputy quartermaster in Egypt. In July 1801 he led the expedition which took Madeira, on which occasion the King remarked of him and his brother Henry, ‘both the brothers are men of uncommon abilities and are well respected in their profession’, and that his success fitted him for further employment.3 In 1803 he became military secretary to the Duke of York (whose a.d.c. he had been) and in July 1804 returned to Ireland as quartermaster-general. He declined joining Lord Harrington’s mission to Berlin in December 1805, informing Pitt that he did not feel well qualified for this task.4

On coming of age in 1806 the 4th Duke of Newcastle returned Clinton to Parliament on his interest at Boroughbridge—two years later his brother Henry became his colleague. When present (he went on a secret mission to Sweden in 1807) he gave a silent support to the Portland and Perceval ministries. In 1810 there was some confusion between his and his brother’s votes, but he voted for the address, 23 Jan., against the Scheldt inquiry (if only by pair) and against the discharge of Gale Jones the radical, 16 Apr. The Whigs were rightly doubtful of him that session. He was in the ministerial minority on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811. In the following year he proceeded to Sicily and thence to Spain. He was listed a Treasury supporter abroad after the general election. While on leave he voted against Catholic relief, 2 Mar. 1813, but returned to Spain a month later, commanding the first division at Castalla. On the recall of Sir John Murray, Lord William Bentinck awarded him the command in chief. In May 1814 the Duke of Newcastle fell foul of Lord Liverpool and the Prince Regent in a bid to obtain Clinton the red ribbon and the government of Gibraltar: they would not be bullied.5 The only further votes of his known in that Parliament were against Catholic relief, 21 May 1816 and 9 May 1817: in this he saw eye to eye with his patron. ‘Military matters’ were ‘his natural and favourite subjects’.6 In the ensuing Parliament, for which his patron transferred him to a seat for Newark, he took leave of absence on 3 Mar. and his only known vote was with ministers against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819, His patron’s anti-Catholic fanaticism cost him his seat and his office in 1829.7 He died 15 Feb. 1846.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Winifred Stokes


  • 1. DNB.
  • 2. Woodfall, vi. 13.
  • 3. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 246; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2454, 2508.
  • 4. PRO 30/8/123, f. 184.
  • 5. Add. 38257, ff. 241, 321, 339; HMC Fortescue, x. 389.
  • 6. Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 220-1.
  • 7. Ellenborough Diary, i. 355; ii. 42.