GRAVES, Thomas North, 2nd Baron Graves [I] (1775-1830), of Bishop's Court, nr. Exeter, Devon and Thanckes, Cornw.
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Family and Education
b. 28 May 1775, 1st s. of Adm. Thomas Graves†, 1st Baron Graves [I], of Thanckes by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of William Peere Williams of Cadhay, Devon. educ. Eton 1788-92; Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1794; I. Temple 1792. m. 27 June 1803, Lady Mary Paget, da. of Henry, 1st Earl of Uxbridge, 5s. 7da. suc. fa. as 2nd Baron Graves [I] 9 Feb. 1802; kntd. 20 Aug. 1821.
Comptroller of household to Duke of Sussex 1804-d.; ld. of bedchamber July 1813-27; commr. of excise 1827-d.
Ensign, E. Devon militia 1794, lt. 1795, capt. 1796; maj. Devon yeomanry 1802, lt.-col. 1823.
Graves’s father, himself the son of an admiral, had an eventful naval career which was ended by wounds received in the victory of 1 June 1794. Rewarded with an Irish peerage and a pension of £1,000 a year, he bought a number of small estates in the Exeter area to add to the family property at Thanckes on the Cornish bank of the Tamar.
Graves, an ‘extremely fat’ man, preferred a less hazardous life and attached himself, through his wife’s family, to the court. He contested Plympton, unsuccessfully, at the instigation of Canning’s friend Lord Boringdon, at a by-election in 1803 and had hopes of a seat by courtesy of Pitt’s ministry in 1805, but it was not until the general election of 1812 that he obtained one, coming in for Okehampton as a ministerialist on the Savile interest.1
He is not known to have spoken in the House before 1820, but he drew attention to himself by his conduct on the Catholic question in 1813. He paired in favour of relief, 2 Mar., and voted for the second reading of the relief bill, 13 May. He was not listed as having voted on either side in the decisive division of 24 May, and in the Morning Chronicle of 1 June was named among ‘former supporters absent’; but both Fremantle and Peel, friend and foe respectively of relief, reported that, along with his brother-in-law Berkeley Paget, he had in fact changed sides and voted with the hostile majority ‘by order of the Prince of Wales’, who had just named him for a lordship of the bedchamber. Fremantle commented, with due exaggeration, that Graves’s appointment had thus ‘legislated for four millions of the King’s subjects’.2 He is not known to have voted in the subsequent divisions on the Catholic question during this period.
On other issues Graves naturally voted with government, though his voting record in the 1812 Parliament suggests that he was not the most assiduous of attenders. He failed to find a seat at the general election of 1818, but was returned on the court interest for Windsor on a vacancy early the following year. A month later he told his brother-in-law Arthur Paget* that
My time has been wholly occupied since my arrival in London by attendance at an election committee, and afterwards watching divisions in the House of Commons. I have given up the gaieties of London as incompatible with my present employments.3
Ordered to be taken into custody for non-attendance, 4 May 1819,4 he voted with government against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and for the blasphemous libels bill, 23 Dec. 1819.
George IV’s private secretary, Sir William Knighton, wrote that Graves ‘had a mind stuffed full of the vice of conversation and few men had dipped deeper into the scenes (in early life) of immorality. One of his accomplishments was to recall them at the King’s table.’ He was driven to commit suicide, 7 Feb. 1830, by luridly publicized allegations of his wife’s adultery with the infamous Duke of Cumberland.5