KEPPEL, Augustus Frederick, Visct. Bury (1794-1851), of 8 St. James's Place, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 2 June 1794, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of William Charles Keppel, 4th earl of Albemarle, and 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of Edward Southwell, 20th Bar. de Clifford. m. 4 May 1816, Frances, da. of Charles Steer of Chichester, Suss., s.p. styled Visct. Bury 1804-49. suc. fa. as 5th earl of Albemarle 30 Oct. 1849. d. 15 Mar. 1851.
Midshipman RN 1809; ensign 1 Ft. Gds. 1811; lt. and capt. 1814, ret. 1816.
Bury, whose family were of Dutch noble origin, had assumed the courtesy title on his elder brother’s death in 1804, ‘in consequence, as was believed in the family, of ill treatment at Harrow School’; this may explain why he was apparently educated privately. He followed in the military traditions of his family and was a midshipman aboard the Superb in 1809, before switching to the army in 1811 and serving in the Peninsula. According to his brother, ‘in one action a bullet passed through his boot near the ankle. In another the rosette which concealed the socket of his feather was carried away - "a feather in his cap" as his comrades used to say’. He was appointed aide-de-camp to the prince of Orange in 1815 and left the army the following year, having been awarded the Waterloo medal.1 He joined Brooks’s Club, 15 Apr. 1815. In October 1819 he stood at a by-election for Arundel on the duke of Norfolk’s interest but withdrew the day before the poll. He successfully contested the seat at the 1820 general election.2
He was initially a fairly regular attender who, in keeping with his family’s politics, voted with the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry on all major issues, including parliamentary reform, 10 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 26 Feb. 1824. In view of his background, his consistent support for military retrenchment is noteworthy. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. In February 1821 he read a letter from his father to the committee at Brooks’s for the management of the subscription for Queen Caroline, which ‘objected to the plan as doubting the chance of success, from the division of our friends’ on the subject.3 He praised the ‘steadfast loyalty and patient obedience’ of English Catholics in the face of the ‘intolerable’ exclusion laws, 28 Feb., and declared that Ireland ‘called still more loudly for change’, as ‘no kingdom could be equitably ruled under laws which, of themselves, drew a line between the governors and the governed’. His only other reported speech, packed with rhetorical flourish, was in support of reform, 17 Apr. 1821, when he launched a wide-ranging attack on ministers, whom he derided as a ‘faction’. He complained that Parliament as constituted, far from ‘maintaining the political pre-eminence of England on the sound principles of civil and religious liberty’, was called merely to ‘ratify treaties with foreign powers leagued in one common principle of despotism’, and he regretted that political abuses were so ‘unblushingly practised’ that ‘those who seek reform [are] branded as being disaffected’. He predicted that ‘reform must come and would come to teach Parliaments for what purpose they are delegated’.
Bury’s decision not to seek re-election, announced in October 1824,4 can safely be ascribed to his financial difficulties, which may also explain his lax attendance after 1823. As early as 1816 he had been obliged to resort to moneylenders and was in dispute with his father over the inadequacy of his £500 annual allowance, although Albemarle claimed to have paid him more than £1,500 in the previous year, partly to cover ‘a gambling debt’. In April 1824 Thomas Creevey* reported seeing him gambling at Crockford’s, where ‘it appears inevitable that all the young ones must be ruined’.5 After 1826 he resided in Paris, presumably to escape his creditors, but by January 1831 his insolvency was such that his furniture was seized in lieu of rent and his wife returned to her family. From Boulogne he informed his attorney:
I owe in France long-standing debts to the amount of £700 which I am liable to be arrested upon any day and in England about £1,000 ... but of course it is my debts in this country that require the most immediate attention; then the next thing to be considered will be to save me from starvation. I am sorry to say since I wrote to you last ... I have been arrested for 1,000 Fr. and not having one shilling in the world they were taking me off to prison when my servant ... went to his box and paid over 1,000 Fr. ... and thus saved me from the everlasting disgrace that awaited me.
With Albemarle’s own finances in a precarious state, it was left to another member of the family to send subsistence money. Bury had hoped that his wife’s family might assist him, but his fecklessness and lack of tact had soured relations with them. His reputation also hampered his father’s exertions to obtain an appointment for him from the Grey ministry, and the offer of a post in Ceylon was rejected as he could not pay his passage and feared for his health, recently impaired by serious illness.6 In March Albemarle helpfully suggested that he should ‘change his name and be concealed in Jersey ... or any country not subject to France or England’. In June he was in Calais, still destitute, and by October 1831 had been consigned to prison there ‘by a usurer’. In a despairing letter to his attorney he complained that his family were bent on ‘humiliating’ him by threatening to withdraw all support unless he made a declaration that ‘all that has occurred has been brought upon me by my own follies and extravagances’ and promised to ‘lead a new life for the future, repenting thoroughly my past conduct’; he claimed to have ‘more than once meditated whether or not I would allow myself to survive my disgrace’. An advance from his attorney eventually secured his release, and he returned to England in February 1832, despite having earlier vowed never to do so. His rakish days were over, and he hoped to find ‘some means to employ myself that I may not become a burden on my relations and friends’ and to manage on £200 a year. However, his unsurprising omission from the recent batch of peerage creations prompted the bitter observation that ‘I cannot see what I have gained by professing and acting upon Whig principles all my life’, for ‘now that the party is in power and ... I am in distress they will not give me the slightest assistance’.7 He failed in his pretensions to his mother’s family title of de Clifford in 1833, when doubts began to be aired about his sanity.8 In July 1849, three months before he succeeded to his father’s title and encumbered estates,9 he was confined to an asylum, his condition alternating between torpor and ‘paroxysms of maniacal excitement’; on one occasion he nearly killed his keeper. He was certified by a commission of lunacy, 24 Nov. 1849, after several witnesses had described his deluded boasts of vast wealth and macabre stories of armed combat; one of them had ‘always considered him eccentric’.10 He died in March 1851 and was succeeded by his brother, George Thomas Keppel (1799-1891), Liberal Member for East Norfolk, 1832-4, and Lymington, 1847-9.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Howard Spencer
- 1. G.T. Keppel, Fifty Years of my Life (1877), 2, 67-68.
- 2. W.D. Cooper, Parl. Hist. Suss. 8.
- 3. HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 24.
- 4. The Times, 14 Oct. 1824.
- 5. Suff. RO (Ipswich), Albemarle mss 461/365, Albemarle to Medcalfe, 23 June; 461/364, attorney’s letter, 26 July 1816; Creevey Pprs. ii. 75.
- 6. Albemarle mss 461/396, Lady Bury to Bury, 11, 14 Jan., Bury to Medcalfe, 13 Jan., 3 Mar., replies, 16 Feb., 25 Mar., Albemarle to Medcalfe, 16 Feb., to Steer, 16 Aug. 1831.
- 7. Ibid. Albemarle to Medcalfe, 18 Mar., Bury to same, 21 Mar., 22 June, 23 Oct., 15 Nov. 1831, 7 Feb. 1832.
- 8. Ibid. 461/365, letter to Medcalfe, 17 Sept., Stephenson to Albemarle, 29 Sept. 1833.
- 9. His father left debts of over £10,000 and attached stringent conditions to his inheritance (PROB 11/2108/84).
- 10. TNA C/211/1(106); The Times, 13 Dec. 1849.