Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pitt, George

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PITT, GEORGE, first Baron Rivers (1722?–1803), eldest son of George Pitt of Stratfieldsaye, Hampshire, by his wife Mary Louisa, daughter of John Bernier, matriculated on 26 Sept. 1737 from Magdalen College, Oxford; he graduated M.A. on 13 March 1739, and D.C.L. on 21 Aug. 1745. At a by-election in June 1742 Pitt was returned to the House of Commons for Shaftesbury, and in December of that year voted against the payment of the Hanoverian troops (Parl. Hist. xii. 1057). At the general election in the summer of 1747 he was returned both for Shaftesbury and for Dorset. He elected to sit for the county, and continued to represent Dorset until the dissolution in September 1774. He was appointed colonel of the Dorset militia on its establishment in 1757, and from 1761 to 1768 he served as envoy-extraordinary and minister-plenipotentiary to Turin. On 19 Feb. 1770 he was appointed ambassador-extraordinary and minister-plenipotentiary to Madrid, but was succeeded in that post by Lord Grantham in January 1771. He was created Baron Rivers of Stratfieldsaye in the county of Southampton on 20 May 1776, and took his seat in the House of Lords on the following day (Journals of the House of Lords, xxxiv. 741). In May 1780 he was appointed lord lieutenant of Hampshire, but only held that post until 1782, when he became one of the lords of the bedchamber. In October 1793 he was appointed lord lieutenant of Dorset, and on 16 March 1802 he was created Baron Rivers of Sudeley Castle in the county of Gloucester, with remainder, in default of male issue, to his brother Sir William Augustus Pitt, K.B. (see below), with a subsequent remainder to the male issue of Lord Rivers's second daughter, Louisa. He died on 7 May 1802, and was buried in the family vault at Stratfieldsaye; there is a mural tablet by Flaxman to his memory in the church.

He married, on 4 Jan. 1746, Penelope, daughter of Sir Henry Atkins, bart., of Clapham, Surrey, by whom he had an only son—George, born at Angers in France on 8 Sept. 1751, whose estate of Stratfieldsaye was purchased in 1814 for the Duke of Wellington, under the provisions of 54 George III, c. 161, and who died, unmarried, on 20 July 1828, when the barony of Rivers of Stratfieldsaye became extinct—and three daughters, viz.: (1) Penelope, who married, first, in 1766, Lieutenant-colonel Edward Ligonier (afterwards Earl Ligonier) [see under Ligonier, John], from whom she was divorced by a decree of the London consistory court on 10 Dec. 1771, the marriage being dissolved by a private act of parliament in the following year (12 Geo. III, c. 43), and, secondly, on 4 May 1784, a trooper in the blues; (2) Louisa, who married, on 22 March 1773, Peter Beckford of Steepleton Iwerne, Dorset, and died at Florence on 30 April 1791, leaving an only son, Horace William, who became third Baron Rivers of Sudeley Castle upon the death of his uncle George in 1828; and (3) Marcia Lucy, who married, on 4 Aug. 1789, James Fox-Lane of Bramham Park, Yorkshire, and died on 5 Aug. 1822. Lady Rivers died at Milan on 8 Feb. 1795.

Rivers was a very handsome man, and when young was a great favourite with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (Walpole, Letters, 1857, i. 179, ii. 157). Walpole, who celebrated the charms of Lady Rivers in ‘The Beauties, an Epistle to Mr. Eckardt the painter’ (Orford, Works, 1798, i. 23), never tires of praising ‘his lovely wife, all loveliness within and without’ (Walpole, Letters, iii. 460), while he describes Rivers as ‘her brutal, half-mad husband’ (ib. v. 422). A fulllength portrait of Rivers in uniform, painted by Gainsborough in 1769, was lent to the winter exhibition at Burlington House in 1881 (Catalogue, No. 20). There are mezzotints of Lady Rivers by C. Corbutt after Miss Read, and by R. Houston after Miss Carwardine. There is no record of any speech made by Rivers either in the House of Commons or in the House of Lords.

He published: 1. ‘Letters to a Young Nobleman, upon various subjects, particularly on Government and Civil Liberty … with some Thoughts on the English Constitution, and the Heads of a Plan of a Parliamentary Reform,’ London, 1784, 8vo, anon. 2. ‘An Authentic Account of a late Negotiation, for the purpose of obtaining the Disfranchisement of Cranbourne Chace, with an Appendix’ [London], 1791, 4to, anon. 3. ‘The Present State of the Dorsetshire Militia, set forth in a Series of Letters between the Colonel and some of the Principal Officers of that Regiment, from September 1793 to this Time,’ London, 1797, 4to, anon.

The brother, Sir William Augustus Pitt (1728–1809), general, fourth son of the family, was appointed cornet in the 10th dragoons on 1 Feb. 1744, and served in the seven years' war (1756–63). He distinguished himself in several actions, and was wounded and taken prisoner at Campen. Becoming colonel in 1762, and major-general in 1770, he was promoted to be colonel of the 12th dragoons in October 1770, and five years later was transferred to the 3rd Irish horse, now the 6th dragoon guards or carabineers. He became lieutenant-general in 1777, and general in 1793, was from 1784 to 1791 commander of the forces in Ireland, and was governor of Portsmouth from 1794 till his death, and colonel of the 1st dragoon guards from July 1796. He was created a knight of the Bath in 1792. He predeceased Lord Rivers, dying at Highfield Park, Hampshire, on 29 Dec. 1809, and leaving no issue. He married Mary, daughter of Scroope, viscount Howe, of the kingdom of Ireland (Cannon, Historical Records of the First or King's Dragoon Guards, 1837: Gent. Mag. 1810, pt. i. p. 92).

[Hutchins's History of Dorset, 2nd edit. iii. 360 et passim; Chatham Correspondence, 1838, ii. 163–4; Gent. Mag. 1746 pp. 44–5, 1751 p. 427, 1771 pp. 566–7, 1773 p. 154, 1789 pt. ii. p. 762, 1784 pt. i. p. 395, 1791 pt. i. p. 490, 1795 pt. i. p. 255, 1822 pt. ii. p. 186, 1828 pt. ii. pp. 463–5; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886, iii. 1120; Edmonson's Baronagium Geneal. 1784, suppl. vol. pp. 70–1; Burke's Extinct Peerage, 1883, p. 616; Collins's Peerage, 1812, vii. 490–2; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890; Official Return of List of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 87, 100, 111, 126, 139; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.