LYTTELTON, Richard (1718-70), of Little Ealing, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1747 - 1754
1754 - 1761

Family and Education

b. 1718, 5th s. of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, 4th Bt., of Hagley Hall, Worcs. and bro. of George and William Henry Lyttelton. educ. prob. Marylebone sch.; at Besançon 1737-8. m. 23 Dec. 1745, Rachel, da. of Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford, wid. of Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgwater, s.p. K.B. 27 Aug. 1753.

Offices Held

Page of honour to Queen Caroline 1734-7; ensign 3 Ft. Gds. 1737; capt. 10 Marines 1741; lt.-col. 1744; col. 1747; master of the jewel office 1756-62; maj.-gen. 1757; lt.-gen. 1759; gov. Minorca 1762-6, Guernsey 1766-d.


Lyttelton served as a volunteer in the war of the Austrian succession, acting as aide-de-camp to Lord Stair at Dettingen and attending the Duke of Cumberland at Fontenoy. Failing to get the advancement he expected, he wrote home in July 1745: ‘I am so discontented that if I could possibly live without the army I would not continue in it longer than this campaign’.1 A few months later his whole position was changed by his marriage to the dowager Duchess of Bridgwater: ‘she forty, plain, very rich, and with five children; he six and twenty, handsome, poor, and proper to get her five more’.2 On the eve of his marriage, which proved a very happy one, he wrote to his father:

I have lived long enough in the world to think the bloom of youth an unnecessary ingredient in an agreeable woman ... As to her circumstances, they are such as give me a fortune in the present beyond the utmost of my ambition, and secure me an independency hereafter to put an honest man above the frowns of a minister; whilst on the other hand the weight of her fortune and the interest of her brother and son, the Dukes of Bedford and Bridgwater, must contribute greatly to my advancement in the army if I choose to continue in it.

In 1746, seeing the Duke of Cumberland’s favourites ‘being put over his head,’ he threatened to resign;3 his wife appealed to her brother, the Duke of Bedford, to use his influence for her husband; and at last in April 1747 he was promoted colonel, a favour for which, he wrote to Bedford, ‘I am solely indebted to your goodness’.4

At the general election of 1747 Lyttelton was returned for Brackley, which he controlled through his step-son, the young Duke of Bridgwater, still a schoolboy at Eton, living in the holidays with his mother. On 4 Mar. 1749 Horace Walpole wrote to Mann:

a great storm ... was stirred up by Colonel Lyttelton, who, having been ill-treated by the Duke, has been dealing with the Prince. He discovered to the House some innovations in the mutiny bill, of which, though he could not make much, the Opposition have, and fought the bill for a whole fortnight; during the course of which the world has got much light into many very arbitrary proceedings of the commander-in-chief.

He renewed his vendetta against Cumberland in January 1751, on a government motion condemning a treasonable leaflet, in which the commander-in-chief was accused of planning to establish military government. Supporting a previous speaker, who had maintained that some of the charges made in the leaflet were not ungrounded, Lyttelton, ‘with a greater command of absurdity’,

told a long story of Colonel George Townshend’s having been refused leave to stay in Norfolk, though he was cultivating the Whig interest, and an alarming history of the Duke’s having placed two sentinels to guard the ruins of Haddocks Bagnio and the Rummer tavern at Charing Cross, which had been burnt down.5

On the Prince of Wales’s death two months later Horace Walpole wrote (to Mann 1 Apr. 1751),

Dick Lyttelton, one of the patriot officers, had collected depositions on oath against the Duke for his behaviour in Scotland, but I suppose he will now throw the papers into Hamlet’s grave.

Lyttelton now became involved in a bitter quarrel with his brother-in-law, the Duke of Bedford, over the custody of the young Duke of Bridgwater. On 13 Apr. 1751 he wrote to Bedford complaining that the young Duke’s ‘good disposition has been perverted ... and estranged from us’ and that there had been ‘caballing’ and ‘wicked practices to set him against his mother’.6 Rejecting these ‘groundless imaginations’, Bedford warned Lyttelton (14 Apr. 1751) that if he saw his nephew

improperly used or treated at your house, I would as his next relation apply to Mr. Egerton, his guardian, to interpose the authority the late Duke of Bridgwater gave him and me to apply to the court of Chancery.

The upshot was that the custody of the young Duke was transferred from his mother to his uncle, who thereby gained control of the borough of Brackley.7 Soon afterwards Lyttleton made his peace with Pelham, who found him another seat at Poole in 1754.

He died 1 Oct. 1770.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. M. Wyndham, Chrons. of 18th Cent. i. 112-135, 136.
  • 2. Walpole to Mann, 20 Dec. 1745.
  • 3. Wyndham, i. 137, 205.
  • 4. Bedford Corresp. i. 112, 208.
  • 5. Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, i. 10-11.
  • 6. Bedford mss.
  • 7. Ld. Camelford, ‘Family Characters and Anecdotes’, Boconnoc mss.