- Nov 17, 2012
24 October 1787: Charles Manners 4th Duke of Rutland & Lord Lieutenant of Ireland died on this day. One of the more colourful characters to occupy the position in the 18th century. He owed his position to the patronage of the Pitt family of whom William Pitt the Younger was the Prime Minister at the time. He was the son of John Manners, Marquess of Granby - a noted soldier. They were an important family in the affairs of England and their primary residence is Belvoir castle in the county of Leicestershire. It has been the home of the Manners family for five hundred years and seat of the Dukes of Rutland for over three centuries. His brother Captain Lord Robert Manners also followed a military career and died at sea a Hero as a result of wounds received at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782.
He was educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge graduating the latter with a nobleman's MAin 1774. That year, he was elected for one their Parliamentary seat to the House of Commons in London. He continued to maintain the family's substantial electoral interests, and to collect objects d'art to decorate Belvoir castle . He pledged to redeem his father's substantial debts, but was hampered by his passion for gambling. He opposed the conduct of the War with the American Colonies. His maiden speech on 5 April 1775 championed the American rebels:
"I have a very clear, a very adequate idea of rebellion, at least according to my own principles; and those are the principles on which the [Glorious] Revolution was founded. It is not against whom a war is directed, but it is the justice of that war that does, or does not, constitute rebellion. ...
On 26 December 1775, he married Lady Mary Isabella Somerset [above] , daughter of Charles Somerset, 4th Duke of Beaufort and a celebrated beauty, renowned for her elegance and good taste. She was one of the most prominent society hostesses of the day. They had six children.
Rutland did not reach Cabinet rank until February 1783, when he was made Lord Steward of the Household. He was not long able to enjoy his new position, for Shelburne resigned within weeks, but when Pitt became Prime Minister in December 1783 Rutland accepted the cabinet post of Lord Privy Seal under his friend. The pinnacle of his career and his Nemesis came in February 1784 when Pitt elevated him to the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. It was not a role he relished as Ireland was notoriously difficult to govern with so many competing interests to placate. Ireland in theory since 1782 had gained the right to decide her own laws in ‘Grattan’s Parliament’ but Rutland was charged with ensuring that what London decided would be the final outcome.
He favoured the Union of Ireland and Britain as the best possible outcome and told Pitt so:
that without an union Ireland will not be connected with Great Britain in twenty years longer ... Ireland is not a land of tranquillity, nor can Government be maintained respectable, unless it be prepared for all contingencies.
Jacqui Reiter A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life: Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland
His attempts to push through legislation in 1785 allowing for Free Trade between Ireland and Britain was frustrated by parliamentary opposition both in London and Dublin and ended in Fiasco. Rutland found the situation impossible and only stayed out of loyalty to Pitt. He wrote:
I would rather be at Belvoir breaking my neck all morning, & Bottles & Glasses all ye Evening than Disposing of Bisho******************************s Peerages &c, However Pleasant Power & Patronage most certainly is.
However the one thing he was good at was social hospitality. His lavish receptions at Dublin Castle and at the vice Regal Lodge in the Phoenix Park gained him a popularity that escaped him in the political sphere. The noted raconteur Sir Jonah Barrington recalled:
The vice-regal establishment was much more brilliant and hospitable than that of the monarch: the utmost magnificence signalized the entertainments of the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, and their luxury gave a powerful impulse to industry ... The Duke was singularly popular ... His Grace and the Duchess were reckoned the handsomest couple in Ireland.
Jonah Barrington, Historic Memoirs of Ireland
However it was too much of a good thing to last as Charles imbibed much Drink in his ‘Tours’ of the Kingdom of Ireland. His fondness for Claret was his Downfall and after a particularly long and difficult journey round the North he collapsed and just made it back to Dublin. He lingered for a few days but passed away on 24 October 1787.
Not much remains today to remind us of Charles Manners in this Country though his descendants in England can still make rather lurid headlines. In Dublin there is Rutland street in the north inner city and Parnell Square was previously known as Rutland Square until 1933. There is also a Granby Row.
But what is probably the most interesting and bizarre monument to his tenure here lies in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham Dublin. There lies a rather curious structure that started life as a water fountain donated to the people of Dublin in 1785 by the said Lord Lieutenant. It was installed in Barrack St [today Benburb St] the site of the then Royal Barracks and now the location of the National Museum of Decorative Arts & History. When the Royal Square was knocked down in 1889 due to a Typhoid epidemic the fountain was transferred to its present location where it became a soldiers urinal. On my last visit there I could not observe anyone availing of its facilities.