Bouverie, William Pleydell- (DNB00)

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BOUVERIE, WILLIAM PLEYDELL- (1779–1869), third Earl Radnor, a distinguished whig politician, was born in London on 11 May 1779, descended from a Huguenot family which settled in Canterbury in the sixteenth century. He was partly educated in France. When quite a boy he was presented to Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, and he subsequently witnessed the early scenes of the French revolution. He returned to England a staunch advocate of popular rights, and entered parliament in 1801 as representative for the family borough of Downton, and boldly ventured into the front ranks of opposition. In 1802 he was returned for Salisbury, and sat for that borough as Viscount Folkestone until he succeeded to the title of Radnor in the year 1828. During this long period he uniformly advocated advanced liberal principles. He took a leading part in the impeachment of Lord Melville, the proposed inquiry into Wellesley's alleged abuse of power in India, and Wardle's charges against the Duke of York; he was an active assailant of corporal punishment in the army, excessive use of ex-officio information against the press, attempts to exclude strangers from the House of Commons, endeavours to coerce the people in times of distress, and any process which aimed at limiting public freedom. He opposed the treaty of Amiens, and the proposal to pay Mr. Pitt's debts. He warmly resisted the imposition of the corn laws in 1815, and in 1819 the arbitrary coercive measures of Lord Castlereagh. Upon his removal to the upper house, Radnor continued his active support of all measures bearing on social amelioration. He made two vigorous but unsuccessful endeavours to promote university reform, the first in 1835, by the introduction of a bill for abolishing subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles; secondly, two years later, with a measure for revising the statutes of Oxford and Cambridge universities. One of his later parliamentary efforts (1845) was to enter a lords' protest against an Allotment Bill, which he maintained would strike at the independence of the agricultural labourer and have a tendency to lower wages. Radnor offered the borough of Downton to Robert Southey in 1826, and subsequently to Mr. Shaw-Lefevre, stipulating on each occasion that the member should vote for its disfranchisement. He never held office.

Radnor gradually withdrew from the scene of his political career, and devoted himself to agricultural pursuits and to the duties of a country gentleman. He was long associated, both in political views and on terms of private friendship, with William Cobbett. It has been said that he was the only man with whom Cobbett never quarrelled. He did not pretend to be an orator, but he was always attentively listened to. Some of his speeches may still be read in 'Hansard' with considerable interest, notably that of March in support of his proposal to abolish subscription. He died 9 April 1869, at the age of ninety, leaving behind him a name distinguished by unwearied generosity and devotion to the welfare of his countrymen.

Radnor married in 1800 Lady Catherine Pelham Clinton, who died in 1804; and secondly, in 1814, Judith, daughter of Sir Henry Mildmay.

[Random Recollections of the House of Lords, pp. 290-4; Swindon Advertiser, April 12 and 19; Salisbury and Winchester Journal, April 17; Wilts County Mirror, April 14; Times, April 12, 1869; Cobbett's Register, passim; Journal of Thomas Raikes, Esq., ii. 169, iii. 159; Romilly's Memoirs, ii. 380, iii. 329; Southey's Life and Correspondence, v. 261; William Cobbett, a Biography (1878), ii. 23, 49, 97, 112, 231, 264, 277.]

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