OSBORNE, Lord Francis Godolphin (1777-1850), of Gogmagog Hills, Cambs.
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Family and Education
b. 18 Oct. 1777, 2nd s. of Francis Godolphin Osborne†, 5th Duke of Leeds, by 1st w. Lady Amelia Darcy, da. and h. of Robert, 4th Earl of Holdernesse, s.j. Baroness Darcy and Conyers. educ. Dr Glass’s sch., Greenford 1783; Christ Church, Oxf. 1795-7; northern European tour 1797-8. m. 31 Mar. 1800, Hon. Elizabeth Charlotte Eden, da. of William Eden*, 1st Baron Auckland, 5s. 1da. cr. Baron Godolphin 14 May 1832.
Commdt. Stapleford vols. 1803; capt. Cambs. militia 1831.
High steward, Cambridge 1836-d.
Osborne had a ‘miraculous escape’ from shipwreck in the Baltic while on his tour of the northern courts with Lord Talbot in the winter of 1797. When he came of age, he was expected to be returned for the family borough of Helston by his father, Pitt’s former Foreign secretary, who had gone over to opposition in 1791. Both Members for Helston duly proffered their resignation to the duke in October 1798; his reply was ‘unless he has very lately changed his mind [I] believe he would as soon wish for a seat in the stocks as one in Parliament’. By December, Osborne had changed his mind and it was settled that Richard Richards should make way for him. On 31 Jan. 1799 his father died. His brother the 6th Duke now announced his adhesion to Pitt’s government. On 4 Apr. 1799 Charles Abbot, the other Member for Helston, introduced Osborne to the House of Commons, five days after his election.1 Apart from a vote in the minority critical of the failure of the Helder expedition, 10 Feb. 1800, he made no mark in his first Parliament until he moved the address approving the convention with the Baltic powers, 13 Nov. 1801. He had in January 1801 made up his mind not to sit again for Helston, his brother disliking the expense (which he had agreed to share) of maintaining his interest there.2 Later that year his brother-in-law Lord Pelham, then Home secretary, made known his intention of sponsoring Osborne at Lewes and he headed the poll there in 1802.
No vote of Osborne’s against Addington’s ministry is known until April 1804. He was in Fox’s minority on defence on 23 Apr., joined Brooks’s on 23 June and was listed among the opposition by Pitt’s calculators in September 1804 and July 1805. His voting behaviour confirmed this. He supported his friends in power in 1806, appearing in their majority for the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act on 30 Apr. In October he attended Fox’s funeral, Lord Holland being informed by Lord John Townshend that Osborne ‘had no other politics but his respect and regard for our dear friend, to whom (though he had no personal intercourse with him) he was most sincerely and faithfully attached’.3 Osborne’s brother-in-law gave up his interest at Lewes in 1806 and Osborne did not come into Parliament. On 26 Dec. 1807 he informed his father-in-law Lord Auckland, who was also in opposition to the Portland ministry:
I am sick of politics if our progressive steps towards certain ruin can be so called. The emigration of the House of Braganza is a great event. Why should not the House of Brunswick imitate so noble an example and transport themselves with ... all the ministers and the German Legion to Botany Bay?4
In 1810, thanks to the initiative of a freelance Whig agent John Goodwin, Osborne became the Whig candidate against Charles Philip Yorke, the unpopular ministerial Member for Cambridgeshire, who was seeking re-election. His property qualification was of the slightest: a ‘shooting box’ afterwards enlarged; but unlike other contenders, he was sufficiently known, ready to risk a contest and acceptable to the Whig grandees. Lord Hardwicke, also in opposition, clinched matters by promising to support Osborne if his brother stood down, and when that happened he was returned unopposed. The Whigs were jubilant and no sooner had Osborne taken his seat than he launched into an attack on the conduct of the Scheldt expedition, 29 Mar. 1810. He remained ‘strong in opposition’, but never shone in debate. His only other known speeches in that Parliament were against the Regency proposals, 2 Jan. 1811, a speech which elicited a courteous reply from his vanquished opponent Yorke, and against the diplomatic pensions bill, 5 Apr. 1811: he wished the ‘brave’ army officers were as well provided for. He voted for parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810, as also in 1817 and 1819. He was equally staunch in favour of sinecure reform and Catholic relief. His attendance record was good, but at times he required nudging: Lord Auckland prompted him. In April 1818 he was one of eight Whig defaulters at Newmarket who did not come up to oppose the ducal grants, though he was present to vote against the Duke of Kent’s on 15 May. He was open to persuasion: on 22 Apr. 1814 he supported the reprimand of the Speaker moved by Morpeth after being swayed by the debate.5 He shared the Whig ‘Mountain’s’ hostility to renewal of war in the spring of 1815 and voted steadily for economy and retrenchment thereafter. On 24 Feb. 1816 he presented four county petitions against the renewal of the property tax and he duly voted against it. In 1817 and 1819 he voted against the suspension of civil liberties. He signed the requisition to Tierney to lead the Whig opposition in 1818 and voted for his censure motion, 18 May 1819. His only known speech in that Parliament was a question which showed his wish for the revival of the Poor Law committee, 15 Dec. 1819.
Osborne retained his county seat until shortly before his Whig friends raised him to the peerage.6 He died 15 Feb. 1850.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Morning Chron. 11 Aug. 1797; PRO 30/9/32, ff. 327, 329, 331, 332, 385 and Abbot diary, 6 Feb., 4 Apr. 1799.
- 2. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 3/3, Lee to Abbot [Nov. 1801]; 30/9/33, f. 5.
- 3. Add. 51570.
- 4. Add. 34457, f. 390.
- 5. Bath Archives ed. Lady Jackson, i. 390; HMC Fortescue, x. 223; Grey mss, Lambton to Grey, 17 Apr. 1818; Buckingham, Regency, ii. 64.
- 6. Gent. Mag. (1850), i. 242.