Sunday, 15 March 2015

Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland

It is a delight to welcome Jacqui Reiter back to the salon today with her take on the life of the 4th Duke of Rutland.


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Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland, 15 March 1754 – 24 October 1787
  

The 4th Duke of Rutland is not as well-known as he should be. He was a prominent politician of his time who held several high offices during his short life, including the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. He was notable not just because he was one of the highest-ranking noblemen in the country, but also because he allied himself closely to one of the most important late 18th century political dynasties: the Pitts.

Charles Manners was the second son of John Manners, Marquis of Granby, himself a major political and military figure of his time. Charles's elder brother John died aged nine in 1760, so that when his father died in 1770 Charles became first in line to inherit the Dukedom of Rutland from his grandfather. He took his father's courtesy title of Lord Granby, by which he was known till he succeeded to the Dukedom.

He received a typical aristocratic education, passing through Eton to the University of Cambridge, where he took his MA by privilege as a nobleman in 1774. Given his father's political reputation it was, perhaps, inevitable that he would end up in politics, particularly as his family owned considerable electoral interests across the Midlands. He was elected unopposed for one of the University of Cambridge's two seats in 1774, and immediately attached himself to the opposition party under the Marquis of Rockingham.

With the outbreak of war with America in 1775, however, he shifted his position. His maiden speech on 5 April 1775 championed the American rebels:

"I have a very clear, a very adequate idea of rebellion, at least according to my own principles; and those are the principles on which the [Glorious] Revolution was founded. It is not against whom a war is directed, but it is the justice of that war that does, or does not, constitute rebellion. ... From the fullest conviction of my soul, I disclaim every idea both of policy and right internally to tax America. I disavow the whole system. It is commenced in iniquity; it is pursued with resentment; and it can terminate in nothing but blood."[1]

He associated himself expressly with William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, rather than Rockingham, stating that although he was "not even personally acquainted with the noble lord", he was "not in the least ashamed to avow my attachment" to him. This might have seemed a natural connection to those who remembered Granby's father had served in Lord Chatham's ministry, but Granby's forthright declaration of allegiance shocked many. Chatham was careful to express his gratitude: "His Lordship's declaration, so favourable to a former minister, and in support of a rejected plan for preventing a civil war in America, are circumstances too affecting for an old man to be silent, and not to trouble his Lordship with the most respectful and warm acknowledgments for so great an honour."[2]

Granby's connection with Chatham proved fruitful, and not simply from a political point of view. He continued to move in tandem with Chatham in political affairs, parting ways definitively with Rockingham. Meanwhile, Granby became acquainted with Chatham's two elder sons, John and William. What might have begun as a political alliance developed into deep and sincere friendship.

In May 1779 Granby's grandfather died, and he became the 4th Duke of Rutland. His first political act as Duke was to try and get his friend William Pitt elected for the University of Cambridge, but failing that he used his political influence to get the young man elected for the pocket borough of Appleby-in-Westmoreland. This was not the first or the last time Rutland helped advance Pitt family ambitions. He also provided his friend John, now 2nd Earl of Chatham, with a commission in his own 86th (Rutland) Regiment, and assisted both brothers financially on more than one occasion.

The association paid off. In 1782 Lord Shelburne, a former protege of Lord Chatham's, became First Lord of the Treasury, but Rutland did not reach Cabinet rank until February 1783, when he was made Lord Steward of the Household. He was not long able to enjoy his new position, for Shelburne resigned within weeks, but when Pitt became Prime Minister in December 1783 Rutland accepted the cabinet post of Lord Privy Seal under his friend.

In February 1784 Pitt elevated Rutland to the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. Rutland was uncertain about accepting a position he knew to be arduous. Ireland had recently been placated with a degree of political independence in 1782, but was still full of unrest, strongly divided between Catholics and Protestants and brimming with desire for parliamentary reform. Still, Rutland accepted, knowing Pitt wanted a man he could trust in such an important post.


Rutland went out in February 1784, leaving his wife Mary (whom he had married in 1775) in England to campaign for Pitt during the general election. He immediately faced public unrest in Dublin, and spent the next few years trying to balance the various political interests in Ireland. Rutland was never entirely happy in his position: he felt his task of keeping everyone happy to be an impossible one, and told Pitt without hesitation "that without an union Ireland will not be connected with Great Britain in twenty years longer ... Ireland is not a land of tranquillity, nor can Government be maintained respectable, unless it be prepared for all contingencies".[3]

The great crisis of his lieutenancy came in 1785, when Pitt decided to address the Irish issue. His solution was for a partial union on a commercial basis: to barter Irish freedom of trade for a larger financial contribution to British defence. The issue caused a storm on both sides of the water: in Britain, the manufacturers, led by the potter Josiah Wedgwood, formed a political bloc to oppose the proposals, while the Irish objected to the size of their defence contribution. Pitt's attempt to compromise pleased nobody and the Irish Commercial Propositions were withdrawn from the Irish Parliament in August 1785.

Rutland had worked closely with Pitt on the Commercial Propositions but was reluctant to try anything so controversial again. The remainder of Rutland's time as Lord Lieutenant was taken up with the business of government, dispensing patronage to keep the local nobility under control. Rutland did not much enjoy his task, as he complained to Lord Chatham:

"I would rather be at Belvoir breaking my neck all morning, & Bottles & Glasses all ye Evening than Disposing of Bishopricks Peerages &c, However Pleasant Power & Patronage most certainly is. But yet the Little Ambition I have in my Composition & the great attachment which I bear to yourself & your family bind me to my present Situation as long as I can render Service to our Country & Strengthen your Brother's able and Honourable Government I shall never desert you, & by the Strict Union which Subsists between us we shall ever Mutually assist each other".[4]

There was, however, no doubt that he was very good at the diplomatic side of his job. In the words of Jonah Barrington, the 19th century historian of Ireland:

"The vice-regal establishment was much more brilliant and hospitable than that of the monarch: the utmost magnificence signalized the entertainments of the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, and their luxury gave a powerful impulse to industry ... The Duke was singularly popular ... His Grace and the Duchess were reckoned the handsomest couple in Ireland."[5]

"His courage, the affability of his manners, the hospitalities of his table, and the generosity of his disposition, justly acquired him universal popularity," Sir Nathaniel Wraxall remembered. "... Never was viceroy more formed to conciliate affection throughout that convivial kingdom."[6]

Unfortunately it all proved too much. In October 1787, after a lengthy progress round the north of the country, Rutland collapsed with a serious fever. He died after only a few days, aged only thirty-three. His contemporaries had no doubt that his lifestyle had cut his life short: "The Duke of Rutland's incessant conviviality deprived ... the British Peerage of an honourable, generous, and high-minded nobleman".[7]

His connection with the Pitts continued long after his death. His friendship with William Pitt, who signed himself off to Rutland "with the truest friendship and affection", had been close and sincere.[8] Rutland showed his trust in Pitt by making him one of the co-executors of his will and a guardian of his children, as well as leaving him a legacy of £3000.[9] Lord Chatham received £500, although it was he, of the two Pitt brothers, with whom Rutland was arguably closest. "God Bless you my dear Friend & love you as much as I do. I am ever unalterably yours," Rutland once wrote.[10] The words were a testimony to the kind of man Rutland must have been: good-natured, generous, and loyal to his friends.

  
References

[1] Parliamentary History XVIII, 602-3
[2] Chatham Correspondence IV, 405, 7 April 1775
[3]  ed. Lord Stanhope, Correspondence between the Right Hon. William Pitt and Charles, Duke of Rutland, 1781-7 (London, 1890), pp 18-19
[4] Rutland to Chatham, 14 February 1785, National Archives PRO 30/70/3 f 145
[5]  Jonah Barrington, Historic Memoirs of Ireland ... II (Colburn, 1835), 216, 224-5
[6] Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, Posthumous Memoirs of his Own Time (London, 1836), II, 365-7
[7] Barrington, 224-5
[8] Correspondence between Pitt and Rutland, p 9
[9] Rutland's will, National Archives PROB 11/1162
[10] Rutland to Chatham,  14 February 1785, National Archives PRO 30/70/3 f 145



About the Author  
Jacqui Reiter has a Phd in 18th century political history. She is currently working on the first ever biography of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, due to be released by Pen & Sword Books in September 2016. When she finds time she blogs about her historical discoveries at http://alwayswantedtobeareiter.wordpress.com/, and can be found on Twitter as https://twitter.com/latelordchatham.

Written content of this post copyright © Jacqui Reiter, 2015.

5 comments:

Caroline Warfield said...

Remarkable Jackie. Excellent work.

Jacqui Reiter said...

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. I have a proper soft spot for Rutland. :-)

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you, both!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this wonderful and enlightening article. I recently discovered my 4th grandfather, John Keogh, and his wife, Mary Barton were in the employ of the Charles Manners, Duke of Rutland. When the Duke died, he left about 40 employees some "accounts". He was a generous employer as well!

McConnell-Keogh said...

Thank you for this enlightening article. The Duke was generous to his employees as well!. I recently discovered that my 4th grandfather, John Keogh (wife Mary Barton) was employed by the Duke and received an "account" upon his death. About 40 employees posted a letter of gratitude in the Daily University Register, Dec. 10 1878, thanking the executor.