A'COURT, Edward Henry (1783-1855), of Heytesbury, Wilts. and 16 Ryder Street, Mdx.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Educationb. 10 Dec. 1783, 2nd s. of Sir William Pierce Ashe A’Court†, 1st bt. (d. 1817), of Heytesbury and 2nd w. Letitia, da. of Henry Wyndham of The Close, Salisbury; bro. of Charles Ashe A’Court* and (Sir) William A’Court†. educ. Portsmouth naval acad. 1796. unm. suc. cos. Charles Edward Repington to Amington Hall, Warws. 1837 and took additional name of Repington by royal lic. 24 Sept. 1847. d. 22 Sept. 1855.
Midshipman RN 1800, lt. 1804, cdr. 1808, capt. 1811; naval a.d.c. to Queen Victoria 1841-7; r.-adm. 1847, v.-adm. ret. 1854.
Like his younger brother Charles, Edward Henry A’Court fought for many years in the Napoleonic wars, though in his case in the navy. In 1800, on his first ship, he served in the Channel and off the Western Isles. In November 1803, ‘in command of a boat with only five hands, he succeeded in capturing, after a severe struggle, a French schooner, with a detachment on board, besides other passengers, of between thirty and forty soldiers’. In January 1804 he was in joint command of part of the successful invasion force against Curaçao. Promoted lieutenant for these exploits, he saw service with several vessels on the Jamaica station and at the Cape. He was captain of the Owen Glendower in 1811 and of the Perseus, 1813-15, in the Mediterranean, and off Newfoundland and Halifax.1 On the death in 1817 of his father, who had been given a baronetcy in 1795, A’Court received a legacy of £4,000.2 It was probably at this time that he became a half-pay officer and, with Charles, took up residence at Heytesbury. Together they began to handle estate business on behalf of their eldest brother, William, now the 2nd baronet, who was envoy to Naples.3
A’Court was probably also involved in the electoral management of Heytesbury, now fully under the control of the family, but seems to have mostly deferred to his brother Charles, with whom he was returned unopposed for the borough at the general election of 1820. In the Commons he was one of the almost silent members of the ‘ministerial phalanx’.4 He voted against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820, and in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided against Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821, and the Catholic peers bill, 30 Apr. 1822. On 20 Mar. 1821, vindicating the conduct of Sir William A’Court, he ‘observed that the reception which the reading of his note met with in the Neapolitan Parliament furnished a complete answer to the objections which had been urged’ by Sir Robert Wilson in moving for the production of this letter. He voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and the disqualification of civil officers of the ordnance from voting in parliamentary elections, 12 Apr. Mrs. Arbuthnot recorded, 14 Apr. 1821, how during a recent scuffle between Lord Lowther and Wyvill in a committee, A’Court
jumped on the table and said, if they wished to fight, he was ready, that he had come into the House of Commons a few weeks before and had been glad to do so because he thought it would introduce him into a society of gentlemen, but that it had never before been his fate to be in company with such a set of blackguards, and that the sooner he got out of Parliament the better he should be pleased.5
He voted against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. 1822. He divided against inquiry into the right of voting in parliamentary elections, 20 Feb., abolition of the tax on houses worth less than £5, 10 Mar., repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823. He voted against reform of the representation of Edinburgh, 26 Feb. 1824, 13 Apr. 1826, and inquiry into the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He divided for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb. 1825, and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. He voted for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 30 May, 6, 10 June 1825.
A’Court was again returned unopposed for Heytesbury at the general election of 1826, as he was in 1830 and 1831. He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. He may possibly have travelled to Russia during the latter year, on the appointment of his brother, now Lord Heytesbury, as ambassador. No trace of parliamentary activity has been found during the 1829 session, and Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, listed him among those who would be absent from the House when Catholic emancipation was considered. He probably remained opposed to this, however, as the wife of the Russian ambassador, Princess Lieven, told her brother Alexander Benckendorff that ‘your Captain A’Court’, whom she and her husband considered ‘a charming man’, ‘would not vote in the final division in the Commons’.6 He divided against parliamentary reform, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. According to the Parliamentary Candidate Society, he also voted against radical reform, 28 May, and condemning chancery administration, 14 June 1830.7 After the general election he was listed by ministers among their ‘friends’, and he voted with them on the civil list, 15 Nov. He was granted three weeks’ leave on account of the disturbed state of his neighbourhood, 6 Dec. 1830. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar. 1831. As his name headed the alphabetical list of opposition Members, he was the initial target of a pamphlet entitled the Parliamentary Candidate Society, dated 31 Mar., which was intended to be the first of a long series of publications. In it he was condemned as a ‘High Tory: a very constant attendant in the House of Commons and a steadfast supporter of all ministers, except the present’, who had given no votes ‘in favour of the popular interest’.8 He voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the bill, 19 Apr. 1831.
At the ensuing general election, A’Court apparently canvassed Wiltshire against the pro-reform and, in the end, unopposed sitting Members.9 He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least once for adjourning proceedings on it, 12 July, for using the 1831 census to determine the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July, and to postpone discussion on the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July. On the question of placing Heytesbury in schedule A, 22 July, he told the Commons that ‘it is not my intention to offer any arguments against this motion, after the decision which the House has come to in the case of Downton. I shall, therefore, content myself with saying, that I oppose it’. The following month he signed the Wiltshire anti-reform declaration.10 He voted to censure the Irish government over its interference in the Dublin election, 23 Aug., and was listed in the minority of 20 against the quarantine duties, 6 Sept. That month he signed the address to the anti-reformer Henry Bankes*, unsuccessfully calling on him to stand for Dorset.11 He divided against the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. He voted against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He was credited with dividing in the minority of 11 for Hunt’s motion to give the vote to all tax-paying householders, 2 Feb. His only other known votes were with opposition against the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July. He was a founder member of the Carlton Club early that year. Heytesbury having been abolished, he left the Commons at the dissolution in 1832. In 1837 he inherited Amington Hall and personal wealth sworn under £30,000 by the will of his father’s first cousin, Charles Edward Repington (1755-1837), though he did not change his name, as stipulated, for another ten years. During that time he sat as a Conservative for nearby Tamworth in tandem with Sir Robert Peel.12 He died in September 1855, bequeathing his Warwickshire estate to Charles A’Court.13
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
- 1. W.R. O’Byrne, Naval Biog. i. 2-3; Gent. Mag. (1855), ii. 539-40.
- 2. PROB 11/1595/407; IR26/698/708.
- 3. Wilts. RO, Heytesbury mss 101/27.
- 4. Black Bk. (1823), 135; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 448.
- 5. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 86.
- 6. Lieven Letters, 182, 188.
- 7. BL, Place Newspaper Coll. 63/2.
- 8. Ibid.; A.H. Graham, ‘Parl. Candidate Soc.’, in Essays presented to M. Roberts ed. J. Bossy and P. Jupp, 111.
- 9. H.A. Wyndham, A Fam. Hist. 1688-1837, p. 353.
- 10. Devizes Gazette, 11 Aug. 1831.
- 11. Dorset RO, Bankes mss D/BKL, address to Bankes, 15 Sept. 1831.
- 12. PROB 11/1886/797; IR26/1463/930; Gent. Mag. (1837), ii. 214.
- 13. Gent. Mag. (1855), ii. 539-40.