Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Osborne, Francis (1751-1799)

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1429444Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 42 — Osborne, Francis (1751-1799)1895George Fisher Russell Barker

OSBORNE, FRANCIS, fifth Duke of Leeds (1751–1799), born on 29 Jan. 1751, was the third and youngest son of Thomas, fourth duke of Leeds, by his wife Lady Mary Godolphin, youngest daughter and eventually sole heiress of Francis, second earl of Godolphin. He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he matriculated as Marquis of Carmarthen on 11 June 1767, and was created M.A. on 30 March 1769, and D.C.L. on 7 July 1778. At a by-election in March 1774 Carmarthen was returned to the House of Commons for the borough of Eve in Suffolk. He voted uniformly with the government, except on the petition from the Massachusetts, when he divided with the minority, as he 'could by no means approve of the rejecting it unheard' (Political Memoranda, p. 3), and on 2 May he spoke in favour of the third reading of the Bill for regulating the Government of Massachusetts Bay. At the general election in October 1774 he was returned for the borough of Helston in Cornwall. He voted against Lord North*s propositions for conciliating the differences with America in February 1776 (Political Memoranda, p. 4), and was unseated on petition in the following month (Commons' Journals, xxxv. 194-5, 196-197). On 16 May 1776 he was called up to the House of Lords in his father's barony, and took his seat on the following day as Baron Osborne of Kiveton in the county of York (Lords' Journals, xxxiv. 732). On the 31st of the same month he was appointed a lord of the bedchamber, an office which he resigned in December 1777, on being appointed lord chamberlain of the queen's household. Carmarthen spoke for the first time in the House of Lords during the debate on the address on 31 Oct. 1776, when he opposed Lord Rockingham's amendment in favour of an inquiry into the American grievances (Parl. Hist. xviii. 1391-2). He supported the address at the opening of parliament in November 1777 (16. xix. 388), and on 24 Dec. in the same year was admitted a member of the privy council (London Gazette, 1777, No. 11834). In March 1778 he spoke in favour of the Conciliatory Bills (Parl. Hist. xix. 849-60), and in July following was appointed lord-lieutenant of the East Riding or Yorkshire. He had, however, 'for some time lamented the notorious want of ability in the ministry,' and at length, finding himself at variance with Lord North on the subject of the York meeting, he resigned his office in the queen's household on 27 Jan. 1780 {Political memoranda, pp. 17-20; Walpole, George III, ii. 263), On 8 Feb. Carmarthen was summarily dismissed from his lord-lieutenancy, and on the same day he supported Lord Shelburne's motion for an inquiry into the public expenditure, when he declared that the ministers' were the curse of this country, and he feared would prove its ruin' (Parl. Hist. 1339-40, 1341-2, 1346). Lord Shelburne's motion in the following month with regard to Carmarthen's dismissal was defeated by ninety-two votes to thirty-two (ib. xxi. 217-28). In March Carmarthen published 'A Letter to the Right Honourable L[or]d Thrurlo]w, L[or]d H[ig]h Ch[ancello]r of E[nglan]d, &c., &c., &c.,' London, 1780, 8vo, in which he advocated a change of government, and particularly the removal of North, Sandwich, and Germain {Political Memoranda, p. 21). At the opening of parliament on 1 Nov. he moved an amendment to the address, but was defeated by a majority of forty-five (Parl. Hist. xxi. 815–16; Political Memoranda, p. 34). On his motion the Earl of Pomfret was committed to the tower for challenging the Duke of Grafton to a duel (Parl. Hist. xxi. 864-866). In March 1781 Carmarthen resigned his commission as captain and keeper of Deal Castle (Political Memoranda, p. 40), and in the same month signed the protest against the third reading of Lord North's Loan Bill (Rogers, Complete Collection of the Protests of the Lords, 1876, ii. 208-10). Early in 1782 he published a small pamphlet entitled 'An Adoress to the independent Members of both Houses of Parliament,' London, 1782, 8vo, in which he urged them to take an active part in the business of the nation (Political Memoranda, p. 51). In February 1782 he unsuccessfully opposed Lord George Germain's promotion to the peerage, as 'derogatory to the honour of the House of Lords' (Parl. Hist. xxii. 999-1023). On the formation of the second Rockingham administration in March 1782 Carmarthen was restored to the post of lord-lieutenant of the East Riding. He moved the address at the opening of parliament on 6 Dec. 1782 (ib. xxiii. 210-11), and on 9 Feb. 1783 was appointed ambassador-extraordinary and minister-plenipotentiary at Paris. On the 17th of that month he seconded the address approving of the preliminary articles of peace, which was only carried by a majority of thirteen (ib. xxiii. 376). Owing to the change of administration, Carmarthen did not proceed to Paris, and in April resigned the post. He was appointed secretary of state for the foreign department in Pitt's ministry on 23 Dec. 1783, and in the following year records that he could not prevail upon the cabinet 'to give that attention to foreign affairs that I thought necessary, and consequently afterwards gave them little trouble on the subject,' adding, 'Mr. Pitt, however, for some time applied himself to the correspondence with great assiduity' (Political Memoranda, p. 101). Jealousy of France seems to have been the keynote of Carmarthen's foreign policy, his chief object at this time being to form an alliance with Russia and Austria, and to destroy the existing connection between France and Austria. He, however, defended Pitt's commercial treaty with France in the House of Lords on 5 March 1787 as a measure 'which he was firmly convinced would prove of infinite advantage to this country' (Parl. Hist. xxvi. 571). On 3 March 1789 Carmarthen was personally thanked by the king 'for his affectionate behaviour during his illness' (Political Memoranda, p. 142), and on the 23rd of the same month he succeeded his father as fifth Duke of Leeds. He was elected and invested a knight of the Garter on 15 Dec. 1790, but was never installed (Nicolas, History of the Orders of British Knighthood, 1842, vol. ii. p. lxxiii). In consequence of a disagreement with his colleagues on the question of 'the Russian armament,' Leeds resigned office on 21 April 1791 (Political Memoranda, pp. 148–74). During the debate in February 1792 on Lord Fitzwilliam's resolutions with respect to our interference between Russia and the Porte, Leeds referred at some length to the change of opinion in the cabinet, which had caused his resignation (Parl. Hist. xxix. 805–6). In the summer of this year Leeds, at the instance of the Duke of Portland, took part in some abortive negotiations for forming a coalition between Pitt and Fox (Political Memoranda, pp. 175-200, see also pp.2016) While speaking in support of the second reading of the Alien Bill on 21 Dec. 1792, Leeds declared he 'would always be so much of an Englishman as to believe it unlikely that a Frenchman should be a friend to England' (Parl. Hist. xxx. 160). In February 1793 he expressed his approbation of the war with France {ib. xxx. 423), and in February 1794 opposed Lord Lansdowne's motion in favour of peace {ib. xxx. 1415-16). Later on, however, he became more placable. At the opening of parliament on 30 Dec. 1794 he refused to vote for the address, 'because it went to pledge the house never to be in amity with France whilst that nation continued a republic' (ib. xxxi. 99l; Political Memoranda, p. 213), and on 27 Jan. 1795 he supported the Duke of Bedford's motion that 'any particular form of government which may prevail in France should not preclude negotiation or prevent peaces consistent with the interest, the honour, and the security of this country' (Parl. Hist. xxxi. 1277). In the following May he spoke in favour of an inquiry into the circumstances of Lord Fitzwilliam's recall from Ireland (ib. xxxi. 1506). He spoke for the last time in the House of Lords on 30 May 1797, during the debate on the Duke of Bedford's motion for the dismissal of the ministry, when he ridiculed the idea that 'the existence of the constitution was inseparably connected with the continuance of the present ministry in power,' and expressed his opinion that parliamentary reform was 'a most dangerous remedy to resort to' (ib. xxxii. 762-3). He died at his house in St. James's Square, London, on 31 Jan. 1799, aged 48, and was buried in All Saints Church, Harthill, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, on 15 Feb. following.

Leeds was an amiable nobleman of moderate abilities and capricious disposition. His vanity was excessive and his political conduct unstable. While secretary of state for the foreign department the chief despatches, though formally signed by him, were really the composition of Pitt. According to Mrs. Montagu, he was 'the prettiest man in his person ; the most polite and pleasing in his manners, with a sweet temper and an excellent understanding, happily cultivated' (Doran, A Lady of the Last Century, 1873, p. 258; and see Selections from the Letters and Corresp, of Sir James Bland Barges, p. 62).

Leeds was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 1 April 1773, and a Busby trustee on 22 April 1790. He was appointed governor of the Scilly Islands on 11 June 1785, high steward of Hull on 11 April 1786, vice-admiral of the county of York on 5 March 1795, and colonel of the East Riding regiment of provisional cavalry on 24 Dec. 1796. Though generally styled Francis Godolphin Osborne in the peerages, Godolphin was not one of his names (Gent. Mag. 1799, pt. i. p. 286; see also Journals of the House of Lords, xxxiv. 732). His 'Political Memoranda,' edited by Mr. Oscar Browning, throw an important light on fragmentary portions of English history of the latter part of the last century. They form apart only of the valuable collection of the 'Osborne Papers' preserved at the British Museum, which includes eight volumes of his official correspondence (Addit. MSS. 28059-68). Two comedies written by him (ib. 27917) and several of his letters (see Indices of ib. 1854-75 and 1882-7) are preserved in the same place. A portion of his political correspondence in 1784-5 and 1787-1790, including a number of letters to him from Pitt, is in the possession of the present Duke of Leeds (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. vii. pp. 2, 63-6).

Leeds married first, on 29 Nov. 1773, Lady Amelia, only daughter and sole heiress of Robert D'Arcy, fourth earl of Holderness, afterwards Baroness Conyers in her own right, from whom he was divorced by Act of Parliament on 31 May 1779. By his first marriage he had two sons — viz. George William Frederick, born on 21 July 1775, who succeeded his mother as Baron Conyers and his father as sixth Duke of Leeds, became master of the horse to George IV, and died on 10 July 1838; and Francis Godolphin, born on 18 Oct. 1777, who was created Baron Godolphin of Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire, on 14 May 1832, and died on 15 Feb. 1850—and one daughter, Mary Henrietta Juliana, born on 6 Sept. 1776, who married on 16 July 1801 Thomas, lord Pelham, afterwards second Earl of Chichester, and died on 21 Oct. 1862. He married secondly, on 11 Oct. 1788, Catherine, daughter of Thomas Anguish, accountant-general of the court of chancery, by whom he had one son, Sidney Godolphin, born on 16 Dec. 1789, who died on 15 April 1861; and one daughter, Catherine Anne Sarah, born on 13 March 1798, who married, on 1 June 1819, John Whyte-Melville of Strathkinness, Fifeshire, captain of the 9th lancers, and died on 23 Dec. 1878. His widow, who was an accomplished musician, became mistress of the robes to Queen Adelaide, and died in Grosvenor Street, London, on 8 Oct. 1837.

A portrait of Leeds by Sir Joshua Reynolds, in a group with Lord Mulgrave and others, was lent by the Dilettanti Society to the Loan Collection of National Portraits at South Kensington in 1868 (see Catalogue, p. 182). There is a whole-length engraving of Leeds by Meadows, after Sir Thomas Lawrence.

[Political Memoranda of Francis, fifth Duke of Leeds (Camden Soc. Publ.), 1884; Selections from the Letters and Correspondence of Sir James Bland Burges, 1885; Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, first Earl of Malmesbury, 1844, vol. ii.; Journal and Correspondence of Lord Auckland, 1861, vols. i. and ii.; Diary and Correspondence of Lord Colchester, 1861, vol. i.; Lord Stanhope's Life of William Pitt, 1861, vols. i. and ii.; Wraxall's Hist. and Posthumous Memoirs, 1884, ii. 178–80, 412, iii. 201–2, v. 165–6; Westminster Review, new ser. lxviii. 443–86; Gent. Mag. 1799, pt. i. pp. 168–169; Hunter's South Yorkshire, 1828, i. 143, 144, 149; Collins's Peerage, 1812, i. 260–1; Doyle's Official Baronage, 1886, ii. 330–1; Foster's Peerage, 1883, p. 418; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1866, iii. 1046; Alumni Westmonast. 1852, pp. 547, 556; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 143, 149; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. iii. 267, 318.]

G. F. R. B.