Lyttelton, William Henry (1782-1837) (DNB00)

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LYTTELTON, WILLIAM HENRY, third Baron Lyttelton of Frankley of the second creation (1782–1837), born on 3 April 1782, was the son of William Henry, first baron Lyttelton of the second creation [q. v.], by his second wife, Caroline, daughter of John Bristow, esq., of Quiddenham, Norfolk. Lyttelton matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, 24 Oct. 1798; graduated B.A. 17 June 1802, and M.A. 13 Dec. 1805; was student from December 1800 until 1812; and on 5 July 1810 was created D.C.L. on the occasion of Lord Grenville's installation as chancellor. He unsuccessfully contested Worcestershire in March 1806, but was returned in the following year, and represented the county until 1820 as a zealous member of the whig party. His maiden speech was made on 27 Feb. 1807 in favour of the rejection of the Westminster petition; and on 16 March he brought forward a motion (rejected by 46) expressing regret at the substitution of the Duke of Portland's administration for Lord Grenville's. He attacked the new ministers, especially Perceval, for raising a cry about ‘religion’ and ‘awakening the furies of bigotry and fanaticism to the manifest injury of all true religion’ (Parl. Deb. ix. 434). He supported the expedition to Copenhagen in opposition to the bulk of his party, but voted with them, on the motion of Whitbread, for the production of papers relative to it (ib. vol. x.) Lyttelton felt strongly the old whig jealousy of the influence of the crown and court. In supporting Curwen's bill for the prevention of the sale of seats, he suggested that the Duke of York, the late commander-in-chief, had to some degree corrupted members of parliament (ib. xiv. 777); and in speaking on the budget resolutions of 1808 he declared his belief that ‘the influence of the prerogative had increased fourfold to what it was in former times’ (ib. xi. 22). Again, on 4 May 1812, in a debate on the Royal Sinecure Offices Bill, he asserted that ‘it was notorious that the regent was surrounded with favourites, and as it were hemmed in by minions,’ and he strongly opposed a clause in the Royal Household Bill (19 March 1819), which awarded an extra grant of 10,000l. a year to the Duke of York (ib. xxxix. 1074). Nevertheless, Lyttelton in 1819 thought that ‘the revolutionary faction of the radicals ought to be opposed.’ In the same session, on 2 Dec. 1819, he made a weighty speech in favour of the second reading of the Seditious Meetings Prevention Bill, although he blamed ministers for having made the measure necessary by want of conciliation, and thought an inquiry needful into the ‘Peterloo massacre’ at Manchester (ib. xli. 608). Between 1816 and 1819 he actively opposed state lotteries, but he thrice introduced without success a motion against them, denouncing the immorality and infertility of this source of revenue, as well as the frauds in its administration.

Lyttelton interested himself also in naval and military questions, and succeeded in obtaining an important modification of the order which deprived officers in the army of their half-pay if unable to make affidavit that they had no other emolument or employment under the crown, and were not in possession of a certain private income. He also advocated the disuse of the system of sweeping chimneys by climbing boys, and was a strong opponent of the property tax. He supported Sheridan's motion of 6 Feb. 1810 against the standing order for the exclusion of strangers from the house. In the same session, on 16 Feb., he opposed the voting of an annuity to Wellington, whose merits he considered to be far short of those of Nelson (ib. xv. 450). He spoke strongly against the Alien Bill in 1816 and 1818 (ib. xxxiv. 968, xxxviii. 742).

On the death of his half-brother, George Fulke, second baron, on 12 Nov. 1828, he succeeded to the title. He did not take much part in the debates of the House of Lords, but on 6 Dec. 1831 he made an earnest speech in favour of the Reform Bill in the debate on the address. He was appointed lord-lieutenant of Worcestershire on 29 May 1833. He died at the house of his brother-in-law, the third Earl Spencer, in the Green Park, on 30 April 1837, aged 55.

By his marriage, on 4 March 1813, with Lady Sarah Spencer, eldest daughter of George John, second earl Spencer, who was for a time governess to the children of Queen Victoria and a lady of the bedchamber, and who died 13 April 1870, he had three sons: George William [q. v.], who succeeded to the title; Spencer (1818–1882), who became marshal of the ceremonies to the royal household; and William Henry Lyttelton [q. v.], canon of Gloucester; besides two daughters, Caroline (b. 1816), who died unmarried, and Lavinia (1821–1850), wife of Henry Glynne, rector of Hawarden. Lyttelton was an accomplished Greek scholar, and so high was his reputation as a wit that the ‘Letters of Peter Plymley’ were for a time ascribed to him before Sydney Smith's authorship of them was known. In August 1815, through his friendship with the captain, he obtained a passage on board the Northumberland from Portsmouth to Plymouth, and privately printed fifty-two copies of ‘An Account of Napoleon Buonaparte's coming on board H.M.S. Northumberland, 7 Aug. 1815; with Notes of two Conversations held with him;’ he also printed a ‘Catalogue of Pictures at Hagley.’ He published ‘Private Devotions for School Boys,’ an edition of which, revised and corrected by his eldest son, appeared in 1869 (new editions in 1874, 1881, and 1885).

[Gent. Mag. 1837, ii. 83; Burke's Peerage; Foster's Alumni Oxonienses and Peerage; Clayden's Rogers and his Contemporaries, i. 116, 199; Martin's Privately Printed Books, 2nd edit., p. 466; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, passim.]

G. Le G. N.