CALVERT, Nicolson (1764-1841), of Hunsdon House, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1802 - 1826
1826 - 1834

Family and Education

b. 15 May 1764, 1st s. of Felix Calvert of Thames Street, Southwark, Surr. and Hunsdon House, and bro. of Charles Calvert*. educ. Harrow 1775-6; Trinity Hall, Camb. 1781. m. 9 Jan. 1789, Hon. Frances Pery, da. and coh. of Edmond Sexten, 1st Visct. Pery [I], 4s. 4da. surv. suc. fa. 1802.

Offices Held

Capt. Stansted Abbot vols. 1798.


Calvert was heir to the Hertfordshire, Essex and Cambridgeshire estates of his father, the ‘eminent brewer’. Hunsdon, settled on him at his marriage, became his residence in 1801 and he proceeded to rebuild it. His wife, an Irish beauty, became one of the hostesses of the day and the personable couple were members of the Prince of Wales’s set. In 1802 Calvert succeeded his kinsman John Calvert of Albury to a seat in Parliament for Hertford. His father was a Whig, interested in finding a seat in 1790, and Calvert was described in his obituary as having ‘from the commencement of his parliamentary career supported Whig principles and parliamentary reform’.1

In fact he appeared in the minority during Addington’s administration only on the question of the Prince of Wales’s finances, 4 Mar. 1803, and in May and September 1804 was listed Addingtonian. He had called for the parties guilty of bribery in the Ilchester election to be brought to justice, 22 Apr. 1803, objected to taxation of farm horses, 15 July, and called Aylesbury ‘one of those jobbing boroughs, all of which he should be happy to see thrown open’, 23 Mar. 1804, though he opposed the prosecution of Robert Bent* for bribery, 9 May. He voted against Pitt’s additional force bill in June 1804. According to his wife, he offended the Prince of Wales by voting with ministers early in February 1805, but resumed voting with opposition on defence, 21 Feb. It was he and not John Calvert II* who voted for Sheridan’s motion to repeal the Additional Force Act, 6 Mar. On 1 Mar. he had voted for his neighbour Daniel Giles’s motion to continue the naval commission of inquiry. He went on to vote in censure of Melville, 8 Apr., his wife reporting the Prince as saying that Calvert, rather than Whitbread, should have moved it, ‘as coming from an independent man it would have had still more effect’; was proposed by Whitbread for a select committee on the subject, 25 Apr., and voted for the criminal prosecution on 12 June. He was accordingly listed ‘Opposition’. His only known speech that session was for further exemption for charities from the property duties bill, 5 Apr. On 15 Jan. 1806 his wife reported that the opposition had requested Calvert to second their amendment to the address, but ‘were he inclined to do so, he would have no time to prepare a speech’.2

Calvert was well disposed to the Grenville ministry. He voted for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. He defended the training bill, 26 June, though he doubted if it would be effective without provision for Sunday training. On 6 June he was a spokesman for the brewers against taxation. He welcomed the finance committee, 10 Feb. 1807, as an instrument for regulating sinecures and pensions and was appointed to it, but doubted if its modus operandi would achieve the object, 11 Feb. He befriended Whitbread’s Poor Laws bill, 19 Feb. 1807, but opposed the freehold estates bill, 11 Mar. He complained, moreover, that the landed interest were treated by government as ‘sheep to be sheared’, 18 Mar., and acted as opposition teller that day. On 9 Apr. he returned from leave of absence to vote for Brand’s motion against the Portland ministry, taking fresh leave on 15 Apr.

Calvert was, at first, ‘even violent’ in opposition after the election of 1807, as his votes on 26 June and 6 July confirmed. It was on 23 July that he joined Brooks’s Club, sponsored by Lord Howick. He would not act with opposition on the Copenhagen expedition in 1808, but he voted with the minorities against the new military plan, 14 Mar., against the Scottish legal pensions, 4 May, and favourably to the Irish Catholics’ cause, 29 Apr., 5 and 11 May.3 He further voted against the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb. 1809, against the Duke of York, 17 Mar., and against alleged ministerial corruption, both on 25 Apr. and 11 May. He seldom spoke, but supported Cochrane’s motion, 7 July 1807, and objected to the muzzling of the finance committee, 24 Jan. 1809. He remained a member of it throughout the Parliament. He was a spokesman for agricultural protection, 3 June 1808. He complained on 17 Feb. 1809 that the liberties taken by newspapers with Members’ speeches were ‘too slightly passed over’.

Calvert was not present at the Whig pre-sessional meeting in January 1810, but he voted steadily against ministers on the Scheldt question and against the committal of Burdett to the 5 Apr., though he opposed the release of Gale Jones, 16 Apr. He voted for parliamentary reform on his friend Brand’s motion, 21 May, and for supervision of the droits of Admiralty, 30 May. On the King’s illness he voted with ministers for the adjournment, 29 Nov. 1810, but with opposition on the Regency bill, 1 Jan., and, after a Whig circular to attend, on 21 Jan. 1811. The Prince’s assumption of the Regency seems to have qualified his attitude. On 4 Feb. 1812 he was swayed by the Irish secretary into voting against Morpeth’s Irish motion.4 On 21 Feb. he favoured the local militia bill, though he voted against John McMahon’s* sinecure and appointment as secretary to the Regent, 21, 24 Feb., 14 Apr., and for the sinecure bill, 4 May. He also voted for Catholic relief, 24 Apr., but he appeared in no other minorities. On 17 June he moved for statistics on prisoners of war and on 27 June commented on the breaking of parole by officers taken prisoner who had since absconded.

Calvert headed the poll and was the only well received candidate at Hertford in 1812.5 He remained independent, though strongly inclined to opposition after 1815; he was not a signatory to the requisition to Tierney to lead the Whigs in 1818. He supported the sinecure bill, 29 Mar. 1813, regularly supported Catholic relief and voted against Christian missions to India, 22 June 1813. His aloofness probably irked the Whigs: Whitbread rebuked him, 20 July 1814, for defending the status quo in Poland. From 1815 he began to vote steadily for retrenchment, starting with the civil list, 14 Apr., 8 May. He opposed the Duke of Cumberland’s marriage grant, 28 June-3 July. He spoke against the local militia bill, 9 May, and in favour of the paupers’ removal and gas light bills, 2, June. He voted with ministers for the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816, but against them on most questions of retrenchment that session and the next, except that he was prepared to concede the secretary of the Admiralty’s right to claim a wartime salary, 17 Feb. 1817. He was a member of the finance committee in 1817, 1818 and 1819. He voted for parliamentary reform on Burdett’s motion, 20 May 1817, and was in the minority on the election of a new Speaker, 2 June. He voted against the suspension of habeas corpus, 26, 28 Feb. 1817, and paired against it on 23 June. He also favoured inquiry into the treatment of state prisoners in Scotland, 10 Feb. 1818. He objected to the ducal marriage grants, 13, 15 Apr., 15 May 1818. He complained that the conviction of offenders reward bill added to the county rate burden, 4 May. He was favourable to the resumption of cash payments by the Bank, 1 May 1818, 2 Feb. 1819, and to inquiry into the sinking fund, 13 May 1819. In the latter session he continued to vote for economy, against the tax burden, for burgh reform, 6 May, and voted for Tierney’s censure motion on 18 May. He opposed the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June, and voted for the extension of the franchise at Penryn, 22 June. He voted with opposition on the address, 24 Nov., for Althorp’s motion, 30 Nov., against the seditious meetings bill, 2 Dec., and for the attempt to limit its duration to three years, 6 Dec. 1819. He died 13 Apr. 1841.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1841), i. 660; PCC 880 Kenyon; Warrenne Blake, Irish Beauty, passim.
  • 2. Warrenne Blake, 32-33, 37, 40, 60.
  • 3. HMC Fortescue ix. 146; Add. 45034, f. 41.
  • 4. Lady Bessborough and her Family Circle, 202; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 5 Dec. 1810; NLI, Richmond mss 67/987.
  • 5. Warrenne Blake, 187, 189.