PERCY, George, Lord Lovaine (1778-1867).
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Family and Education
b. 22 June 1778, 1st s. of Algernon Percy†, 1st Earl of Beverley, by Isabella Susanna, da. of Peter Burrell† of Langley Park, Beckenham, Kent; bro. of Hon. Josceline Percy* and Hon. William Henry Percy*. educ. Eton 1789-95; St. John’s, Camb. 1797. m. 22 June 1801, Louisa Harcourt, da. of Hon. James Archibald Stuart*, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Beverley 21 Oct. 1830; cos. Algernon Percy as 5th Duke of Northumberland 12 Feb. 1865.
Ld. of Treasury May 1804-Feb. 1806; commr. Board of Control Apr. 1807-May 1812; ld. of bedchamber 1821-30; capt. yeomen of the guard 1842-6; PC 15 Jan. 1842.
Col. Percy vols. 1798, col. en second 1803; lt.-col. Northumb. militia 1804, col. 1804.
On the death of the 1st Duke of Northumberland in 1786 his sons Hugh, the 2nd Duke, and Algernon, created Earl of Beverley in 1790, went separate political ways. Northumberland attached himself to the Prince of Wales, while Beverley supported Pitt. The duke wrote in 1811 that no ‘political intercourse of any kind’ had ‘subsisted since between Lord Beverley’s family or mine’.1 Lovaine, who was returned for his father’s pocket borough as soon as he came of age, was therefore spared any of the tyrannical interference with which his uncle blighted the life of his own son, Hugh Percy*.
He supported Pitt and, initially, Addington, at whose invitation he moved the address, 29 Oct. 1801, but he voted, along with his father-in-law, for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s claims to duchy of Cornwall revenues, 31 Mar. 1802, having been appointed to the civil list committee on this subject, 17 Feb. He visited France after peace had been concluded and on his return followed Pitt’s political line, voting with him in the division of 3 June 1803 and joining in the general attack on Addington in 1804. On 24 Mar. 1803 he brought the business of the House to a standstill. He was nominated for service on the Okehampton election committee, but had left the House under the mistaken impression that his name had been deleted from the list of Members drawn by ballot. After a lengthy search he was found and hauled before the furious Speaker, who reproved him. He was given minor office in Pitt’s second ministry, was a member of the committee on Indian affairs, 8 May 1805, briefly considered standing as Pitt’s successor for Cambridge University on his death2 and in the debate on his funeral honours, 27 Jan. 1806, praised his ‘great and brilliant talents’.
Lovaine, who dined in conclave with Canning, Rose and other leading Pittites in March 1806, actively opposed the ‘Talents’. He voted against them on the question of Ellenborough’s seat in the cabinet, 3 Mar., the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr., and the American intercourse bill, 17 June, and spoke against their army reform proposals, 2 June. Militia business, as he later told Huskisson, prevented him from attending to vote against the militia officers bill, 16 July. When Canning was negotiating with Lord Grenville in March 1807 he named Lovaine as a friend to be provided for, and Grenville, though unable to make a precise engagement, ‘expressed general good disposition’. At the same time Lord Melville noted that Lovaine ought to be ‘competently provided for’ in any administration formed by Pitt’s friends.3
He received a salaried place at the Board of Control on the formation of the Portland ministry. He is not known to have made any contribution to debate, but he occasionally acted as a ministerial teller. In August 1808 he went as a volunteer to the Peninsula, regardless, as Lord Auckland censoriously commented, of his official duties and his responsibilities as acting head of the family (his father had been imprisoned in France since 1803), husband of a pregnant wife and father of three young children.4 He thought Canning’s conduct during the ministerial débâcle of 1809 had ‘not been such as his friends should wish’, and kept his office under Perceval, but soon complained of Palmerston’s promotion to the War Office as a slight to himself. Perceval sought to mollify him and pressed him not to resign, but felt bound to observe that, as Lovaine had neither applied for ‘a more efficient situation’ nor ‘manifested the least symptom of a disposition to take a more active part in Parliament’, he could hardly wonder that he had not been considered for the post.5 He stayed in office, but still made no effort to put himself forward in debate. In September 1811 Perceval, wishing to recall Lord Strangford as minister to the Regent of Portugal in Brazil, recommended Lovaine as his replacement. The Regent consulted Northumberland, whose strongly expressed objection to the appointment of his nephew as the immediate successor to Strangford, his protégé, prompted him to veto the proposal and assure the duke that Lovaine would never know it had been made.6
Lovaine tendered his resignation to Perceval in March 1812, almost certainly because of Lord Sidmouth’s impending junction with the ministry, but was prevailed on by the minister to withhold it ‘for his accommodation’. Perceval’s death and Liverpool’s accession to power merely strengthened his determination to resign and he seems to have done so by 21 May. He was expected by the Grenvilles to support his brother-in-law Stuart Wortley’s motion of that day for the formation of a stronger administration but, clearly unable to bring himself to vote with the Whigs, he divided with the ministerial minority against it. In the subsequent negotiations for an alternative government he was disgusted with the ‘arrogance’ of Grenville and Grey, and on 17 June he told Northumberland, who had been reconciled to government since the Regent assumed unrestricted power, that ‘in the present state of the country I should not have systematically opposed any administration’, that he had supported Stuart Wortley’s second motion of 11 June and that he was prepared to rally to the support of the crown. On 7 Aug. he confided to William Fitzgerald, the newly appointed Irish chancellor of the exchequer, that he would have been ‘extremely glad to have gone’ as minister to St. Petersburg, ‘though I dare say I should have been thought presumptuous even in asking for that’. He thought the new ministers had ‘acted most unreasonably’ towards Canning and deplored the presence and influence among them of the Sidmouthites.7
Government head-counters listed him as a friend after the 1812 general election, but Rose commented to Arbuthnot, 8 Nov., that while he would ‘probably not be against’, he was ‘at least cool towards the government; dislikes Lord Sidmouth’s connections and is an admirer of Mr Canning’, and would ‘not go up to the meeting of Parliament’. He may well not have done so, for he was ordered to be taken into custody, 22 Feb. 1813.8 He voted for Grattan’s motion for consideration of Catholic relief, 2 Mar., but on 11 May 1813 voted for Hippisley’s motion to investigate safeguards, designed to delay the second reading of the relief bill. No other vote by him on the Catholic question in this period has been found. On his return from a visit to France in June 1814 he applied to Liverpool for the vacant joint postmastership, but was told in reply that the office was spoken for by prior engagement and that it was not in any case tenable with a seat in the House.9 Nevertheless Lovaine, probably influenced by Canning’s reconciliation with government, subsequently gave them consistent, if not particularly zealous support: his name appears on their side in 12 of the 23 divisions in the period 1815 to 1818 for which lists of ministerial voters have been found, he paired in their favour in one of the remainder, and did likewise on at least two other occasions, on the leather tax, 9 May 1816, and the suspension of habeas corpus, 26 Feb. 1817. No vote by him is recorded in the 1818 Parliament, however: he may well have become progressively bored with parliamentary life.
He later held Household appointments under George IV, William IV and Victoria, and enjoyed the dukedom of Northumberland for two-and-a-half years before his death on 21 Aug. 1867.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Prince of Wales Corresp. viii. 3181.
- 2. Kent AO, Stanhope mss 730/3, Malmesbury to Sturges Bourne, 24 Jan. 1806.
- 3. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 11 Mar. 1806, 7 Mar. 1807; Add. 38737, f. 145; SRO GD51/1/195/24.
- 4. HMC Fortescue, ix. 211-12.
- 5. Sir W. Fraser, Haddington Mems. ii. 313; Perceval (Holland) mss 21, ff. 21a and 21b.
- 6. Prince of Wales Corresp. viii. 3169, 3181, 3183, 3189.
- 7. Perceval (Holland) mss 10, ff. 5, 6; HMC Fortescue, x. 264; Buckingham, Regency, i. 311; Alnwick mss 67, f. 68; NLI mss 7817, pp. 295-7.
- 8. T.64/241; CJ, lxviii. 197.
- 9. Add. 38258, f. 1.