CECIL, James Brownlow William, Visct. Cranborne (1791-1868), of Hatfield, Herts.

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



9 June 1813 - Feb. 1817
6 Feb. 1817 - 13 June 1823

Family and Education

b. 17 Apr. 1791, o.s. of James Cecil, 1st Mq. of Salisbury, by Lady Mary Amelia Hill, da. of Wills Hill, 1st Mq. of Downshire [I]. educ. Eton c. 1801-5; Christ Church, Oxf. 1811-13. m. (1) 2 Feb. 1821, Frances Mary (d. 15 Oct. 1839), da. and h. of Bamber Gascoyne* of Childwall, Lancs. 3s. 2da.; (2) 29 Apr. 1847, Lady Mary Catherine West, da. of George John, 5th Earl de la Warr, 3s. 2da. Took name of Gascoyne bef. Cecil on marriage 22 Mar. 1821; suc. fa. as 2nd Mq. of Salisbury 13 June 1823; KG 11 Apr. 1842.

Offices Held

Commr. Board of Control June 1818-27; PC 1 June 1826; ld. privy seal Mar.-Dec. 1852; ld. pres. of council Feb. 1858-June 1859.

High steward, Hertford 1823-d.; ld. lt. Mdx. 1842-d.

Col. Herts. militia 1815; maj. S. Herts. yeoman cav. 1831, lt.-col. 1833, maj. 1847.


Viscount Cranborne’s youthful ambition to enter the army was overruled by his resolute mother, ‘the head and ornament and patroness of the beau monde of London’, who intended her only son for a public career. As soon as he was of age, the marchioness canvassed Hertfordshire for him. By September 1812 he boasted of 1,500 promises of support, but at the ensuing election he was withdrawn for the county and stood instead for the borough, of which his father was high steward. His unexpected intervention there proved unpopular and he was defeated. His mother relied on Lord Liverpool’s friendship to find an opening and in June 1813 he came in for Weymouth on the Johnstone interest, after a contest. His father, who applied to Liverpool to become postmaster-general in 1814 (and succeeded in 1816) claimed, ‘I have been at a considerable expense in bringing Lord Cranborne into Parliament, who is strongly attached to the government’.1

Cranborne’s votes bore this out, though no speech by him is known until 1821, unless he was the mysterious ‘Lord Cranley’ who approved the seditious meetings prevention bill and thought it should be made permanent, 6 Dec. 1819. He voted for Christian missions to India, 12 July 1813, and opposed Catholic relief in 1816 and 1817. As he was in the government minorities for the grants to the Dukes of Clarence and Cumberland (3 July 1815, 15 Apr. 1818), it is ironical that his only known vote with opposition was on provision for the Duke of Kent’s marriage, 15 May 1818. Early in 1817 he had vacated his seat to come in quietly for Hertford. His mother prompted Liverpool to take advantage of the opportunity to place Cranborne ‘at some board or in a line of business as you were so obliging as to express a disposition to do’. The prime minister was unable to do so then, but in June 1818, within weeks of his wayward vote, he offered Cranborne a place on the India Board.2 He was on the Poor Law committees of 1818 and 1819.

Cranborne, who ‘never attained great distinction in politics’, consoled himself by a ‘constant impulse of opposition to all experts in whatever connection they appeared’.3 He died 12 Apr. 1868, father of a future prime minister.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Lady G. Cecil, Life of Robert Mq. of Salisbury, i. 2-4; Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, ii. 37; Leveson Gower, ii. 458; Add. 35650, ff. 176, 325; 38258, f. 36; 38262, f. 352.
  • 2. Add. 38262, f. 106; 38264, ff. 144, 193.
  • 3. Lady G. Cecil, 5.