FEILDING, William Robert, Visct. Feilding (1760-99), of Chesterfield Street, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 15 June, 1760, 1st s. of Basil Feilding, 6th Earl of Denbigh, by Mary, da. and coh. of Sir John Bruce Cotton, 6th Bt., of Conington, Cambs. educ. Harrow 1774-5. m. 26 Apr. 1791, Anne Catherine, da. of Thomas Jelf Powys of Berwick House, Salop, 3s. 1da.
Lt. 7 Ft. 1777; capt. 75 Ft. 1778; capt. 3 Drag. Gds. 1779; lt.-col. 22 Drag. 1782, col. 1794-d.; maj.-gen. 1795.
Feilding was again returned on the Duke of Northumberland’s interest in 1790, but for a different borough. At this time, but the son of a courtier, he was a supporter of opposition like his patron, having gone over to them during the Regency crisis. On 12 Mar. 1790 he joined the Whig Club. On 13 Dec. 1790 he spoke in favour of Grey’s motion critical of the government’s convention with Spain. That he did not invariably agree with opposition was shown by his criticism of the resolutions on Indian affairs of Philip Francis, 28 Feb. 1791. A month later he suggested possible recruiting methods for the army, of which he had sufficient experience. He voted for Grey’s resolutions on the Oczakov crisis, 12 Apr. 1791. Three days later he protested against government’s adding to the sail of the line without explanation: he complained that the measures of administration had ‘so little title to confidence’, as they had ‘withholden from the House and the country every point which could explain their measures, or satisfy the people’. He was listed ‘doubtful’ on the Test Act repeal question that month.
No further vote with opposition is known. In December 1792 Feilding was listed a Portland Whig, though Portland laid no claim to the Duke of Northumberland’s friends. On 13 Dec. in debate, admitting that it had not been often in his power to agree with ministers, he stated that they should have his support: it was now time to rally round the throne and constitution. He was even prepared to move for the suspension of habeas corpus in the case of foreigners, though he disliked the details of the aliens bill, 4 Jan. 1793, and deprecated alarmism. He seceded from the Whig Club and was thought of as a recruit to the ‘third party’, February 1793. He was, however, not above castigating ministers for the misconduct of the Hanoverian assistance to the Dutch, 15 Mar. 1793, and on 10 Apr., explaining that he hoped the end of the war was in sight, he proposed that militia volunteers should be added to the regulars for an expeditionary force to France, suggesting Brittany, next day, as a suitable landing place. On 16 Apr. he elaborated on this plan, but added that he had heard that the colonels of militia and lord lieutenants were hostile, though the men were willing, and so he gave up his proposed motion to allow militiamen to be added to the regulars. He protested that the minister had had no influence on him in waiving his motion, but was called to order, it being pointed out that no one had impeached his conduct. He said ‘a few words’ on the management of Warren Hastings’s trial on 12 June 1793. On 3 Feb. 1794 he clashed with Jenkinson on the failure of the Dunkirk expedition. He failed in his bid to become a gentleman of the bedchamber to the Prince of Wales.1
That year he raised his own regiment of light dragoons and was frequently preoccupied by his military activities next session. In any case his political volte face precluded his being returned again by Northumberland, who wrote to Charles Rainsford, 5 May 1796:
I must fairly tell you that Lord Feilding though not approving of his Majesty’s ministers yet felt that as an officer wishing to be employed, his conduct might put him under difficulties in certain cases and perhaps would certainly be the means of preventing his being employed. In consequence of which though perfectly of my sentiments, he has desired to decline coming into Parliament again.
Feilding died 8 Aug. 1799 (a year before his father) ‘at his lodgings in Newcastle after a short illness’.2