Larpent, Francis Seymour (DNB00)

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LARPENT, FRANCIS SEYMOUR (1776–1845), civil servant, eldest son of John Larpent [q. v.], and half-brother of Sir George Gerard de Hochepied Larpent [q. v.], was born on 15 Sept. 1776, and educated at Cheam school. He graduated B.A. from St. John's College, Cambridge, as fifth wrangler in 1799, was elected fellow, and proceeded M.A. in 1802. He studied for some time under Bayley, the eminent special pleader, was called to the bar, and went the western circuit. On circuit he did little business, but made some useful friendships. Manners Sutton, judge-advocate-general, selected him in 1812 to go out to the Peninsula as deputy judge-advocate-general to the forces there. He remained till 1814 at headquarters with Wellington, who thought highly of his services (Despatches, vi. 360). In August 1813 he was taken prisoner, but was exchanged almost immediately (ib. pp. 737, 761). In 1814 he was made a commissioner of customs. About the same time he was appointed civil and admiralty judge for Gibraltar. A new code was in course of formation, and Larpent was employed for a month or two in arranging the court-martial on General Sir John Murray. In the spring of 1815 Larpent was invited by the prince regent to inquire into the improprieties which the Princess Caroline was alleged to have committed abroad, but he wisely insisted that his appointment should proceed from the government directly, and that he should be employed to sift rather than gather partisan evidence. Although he nominally set out to take up his work at Gibraltar, he went to Vienna, where he was accredited to Count Münster, and began his investigations into the princess's conduct, with the result that he dissuaded the prince regent's advisers from bringing her to public trial. He thence travelled to Gibraltar, and remained there till 1820, when he was again employed in secret service with reference to the Princess Caroline. In 1821 Lord Liverpool made Larpent one of the commissioners of the board of audit of the public accounts. In 1826 he became its chairman, and in 1843 he retired. He died at Holmwood, near Dorking, Surrey, on 21 May 1845.

Larpent married, first, on 15 March 1815, Catherine Elizabeth, second daughter of Frederick Reeves of East Sheen, Surrey—she died without issue on 17 Jan. 1822; secondly, on 10 Dec. 1829, Charlotte Rosamund, daughter of George Arnold Arnold of Halstead Place, Kent—she died at Bath on 28 April 1879.

When in the Peninsula Larpent wrote descriptive letters to his step-mother; these were edited, with a preface by Sir George Larpent, under the title of 'Private Journals of Francis Seymour Larpent,' London, 1853, 3 vols. 8vo, and passed through three editions the same year. The manuscript forms British Museum Addit. MS. 33419.

[Memoir prefixed to the Journals; Gent. Mag. 1845, ii. 99; Burke's Peerage.]

W. A. J. A.