Fitzpatrick, Richard (1747-1813) (DNB00)

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FITZPATRICK, RICHARD (1747–1813), general, politician, and wit, was second son of John, first earl of Upper Ossory in the peerage of Ireland and M.P. for Bedfordshire, by Lady Evelyn Leveson Gower, daughter of the second Earl Gower, and was grandson of Richard Fitzpatrick, lord Gowran [q. v.] He was born in January 1747, and was educated at Westminster School, where he formed an intimacy with Charles James Fox. They were afterwards connected by the marriage of Stephen Fox, the elder brother of Charles James, to Lady Mary Fitzpatrick, the sister of his friend. The schoolboy friendship lasted until the death of Fox in 1806, and Fitzpatrick is chiefly remembered as Fox's companion. On 10 July 1765 Fitzpatrick entered the army as an ensign in the 1st, afterwards the Grenadier, guards, and on 13 Sept. 1772 he was gazetted lieutenant and captain, but he had no opportunity of going on service, and devoted himself to the pleasures of London life. He lived in the same lodgings with Fox in Piccadilly, and shared his love for gambling and betting, classical scholarship and brilliant conversation. The two friends were recognised as the leaders of the young men of fashion about town, and both were devoted to amateur theatricals, in which Fitzpatrick was voted to be superior to Fox in genteel comedy, though his inferior in tragedy. Both indulged in vers de société, and Fitzpatrick published ‘The Bath Picture, or a Slight Sketch of its Beauties,’ in 1772, and ‘Dorinda, a Town Eclogue,’ which was printed at Horace Walpole's press at Strawberry Hill in 1775. When Fox entered the House of Commons he expressed the keenest desire that his friend should join him there, and in 1774 Fitzpatrick was elected M.P. for Tavistock, a seat which he held, thanks to the friendship of the Duke of Bedford. for thirty-three years. Fitzpatrick had none of Fox's debating power, but his political influence was very great on account of his confidential relations with Fox, who generally followed his advice. Fitzpatrick was strongly opposed to the American war, but when he was ordered with a relief belonging to his battalion to the scene of action, he at once obeyed and refused to throw up his commission. He arrived in America in March 1777, and served with credit in the guards in the action at Westfield, the battle of Brandywine, the capture of Philadelphia, and the battle of Germantown, and he returned to England in May 1778 on receiving the news that he had been promoted captain and lieutenant-colonel on 23 Jan. in that year. In 1782 he first took office, when Lord Rockingham formed his second administration, and in that year he accompanied the Duke of Portland, lord-lieutenant of Ireland, as chief secretary. He was promoted colonel 20 Nov. 1782, and in April 1783 he entered the coalition ministry of Fox and Lord North as secretary at war. Fitzpatrick shared the subsequent exclusion of the whigs from power, and he warmly supported the policy of Fox and Sheridan during the excitement caused by the French revolution. During this period Fitzpatrick was best known as a man of fashion and gallantry, and as a wit; he was one of the principal authors of the ‘Rolliad;’ he was a constant attendant in the green-rooms of the theatres and at Newmarket, and he was so noted for his fine manners and polite address that the Duke of Queensberry left him a considerable legacy on this account alone. On 12 Oct. 1793 he was promoted major-general, and in 1796 he made his most famous speech in the House of Commons, protesting against the imprisonment of Lafayette and his companions by the Austrians. In answer to this speech Henry Dundas remarked that ‘the honourable general's two friends [Fox and Sheridan] had only impaired the impression made by his speech.’ On 1 Jan. 1798 Fitzpatrick was promoted lieutenant-general, and on 25 Sept. 1803 general, and in 1804 Pitt made him lieutenant-general of the ordinance. When the ministry of All the Talents came into power in 1806, Fox appointed Fitzpatrick once more secretary at war, and he was concurrently lieutenant-general of the ordnance. On 20 April 1806 he was made colonel of the 11th regiment, from which he was transferred to the colonelcy of the 47th on 25 Feb. 1807. The death of Fox profoundly affected Fitzpatrick, and the great orator left him in his will a small personal memento ‘as one of his earliest friends, whom he loved excessively.’ In 1807 Fitzpatrick was elected M.P. for Bedfordshire, and in 1812 once more for Tavistock, but his health was seriously undermined, and he was little better than a wreck during the latter years of his life. He died in South Street, Mayfair, on 25 April 1813, leaving behind him one of the best known names in the history of the social life of the last half of the eighteenth century, and the proud title of being the most intimate friend of Charles James Fox.

[Army Lists; Military Panorama, Life, with portrait, September 1813; Gent. Mag. May 1813, and supplement; Hamilton's History of the Grenadier Guards; Sir G. O. Trevelyan's Early Life of Fox; Lord John Russell's Memorials of Fox; Horace Walpole's Letters.]

H. M. S.