PEEL, Laurence (1801-1888), of 43 Park Street, Grosvenor Square, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 28 June 1801, 6th s. of Sir Robert Peel†, 1st bt. (d. 1830), of Drayton Manor, Staffs. and 1st w. Ellen, da. of William Yates, calico printer, of Springside, Bury, Lancs.; bro. of Edmund Peel*, Jonathan Peel*, Robert Peel* and William Yates Peel*. educ. Rugby 1812; Christ Church, Oxf. 1819. m. 20 July 1822, Lady Jane Lennox, da. of Charles Lennox†, 4th duke of Richmond, 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.). d. 10 Dec. 1888.
Commr. bd. of control Feb. 1828-Feb. 1830.
Laurence was the youngest and least talented, but perhaps the most personally attractive of the Peel brothers. He entered Christ Church 15 years after Robert, the eldest, but never threatened to emulate his academic brilliance.1 He became fast friends there with the Whig Lord Holland’s son, Henry Edward Fox*, who was informed by their college contemporary Robert Vernon Smith* in July 1821 that Peel intended to stay in Oxford until August, ‘compelled by a prudent horror of Sir Robert’s wrath’.2 Notwithstanding his family’s Tory politics, Peel became a welcome guest at Holland House, where early in 1822 Fox found him ‘less formal than before’ and looking ‘quite handsome’.3 When he left Oxford in March 1822 Robert, recently appointed home secretary in Lord Liverpool’s ministry, took him into the office as his unpaid private secretary, though in practice he had virtually nothing to do.4 Peel seems to have flirted with homosexuality at Oxford, but in the summer of 1822, just after coming of age, he married the daughter of the late duke of Richmond, Robert’s former chief in Ireland. Fox thought it ‘odd’, for she was ‘not pretty, nor with any great attraction but extreme good-nature’; indeed, she was ‘too old and ugly’. But Peel was ‘in the most tearing spirits’ and ‘happy beyond measure’ at the prospect; and when Fox visited them at Fulham later in the year he found them ‘as happy as the day is long’. She, having ‘caught some of his sarcasm’, now revealed herself to be ‘clever’, and he, as ever, was ‘very kind and pleasant’.5 Lady Holland deemed them ‘agreeable and good hearted’ and liked them ‘uncommonly’.6 On his marriage Peel’s father settled on him an annual income of £2,000, with £800 a year to go to Lady Jane in the event of his death. Complications arose in 1826 when, on attaining the age of 25, he became entitled to £60,000 of the £106,000 which Sir Robert had allotted as his personal fortune. Peel, who had been ill and was taking the cure at Tunbridge Wells, was in some financial trouble, having exceeded his allowance for a London house by taking on one at 11 Connaught Place which was too big for his needs. His good relations with his father were momentarily threatened but Robert, who loaned him cash to tide him over his immediate difficulties, interceded and supervised a satisfactory settlement of the problem. The bond of the marriage settlement was annulled, about £47,000 of Laurence’s portion was invested to provide £2,000 a year, and he was given control of the remaining £13,000. He disposed of the Connaught Place house and moved to more suitable premises off Grosvenor Square. On the death of his father in 1830 he received such an additional sum as raised his portion, like that of his four older brothers, to a total of £135,000.7
In January 1827 Lord Lowther*, a lord of the treasury, recommended Peel to his father, Lord Lonsdale, as a suitable Member ‘for the next session’ for their borough of Cockermouth, where a vacancy was pending: ‘He will [be] a steady fellow and a good attender, and go in and out, just as you please. It will be paying a compliment to [Robert] Peel at a cheap rate’.8 The latter was ‘much pleased’ by the offer, as was Laurence when he told him of it:
I am quite at a loss how to express my thanks to you for the additional proof ... of your willingness to interest yourself in my welfare. When Jane spoke to you some time back about my getting into Parliament, it was entirely without my knowledge or concurrence; and though I should never have consented to her troubling you with the subject, I could not, when informed of the circumstances several weeks afterwards, blame her for it, as her only motive was to contribute by that means to the restoration of my health, and my future happiness. There is nothing, I am convinced, which will be of such service to me, or afford me a more interesting occupation than a constant attendance in the House of Commons during the approaching session; and I trust it is unnecessary for me to add ... that I shall do everything in my power to prevent your having cause to regret the favour you have conferred upon me, and be ready and anxious at all times, and upon all occasions, to be directed entirely by your advice, and to act in conformity with your principles, which so far from being at variance with my own feelings, would be the line I should wish to pursue, even were I unbiased by any ties of relationship or gratitude.9
For all his pious good intentions, Peel was an undistinguished Member, who is not known to have spoken in debate. He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and for the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. 1827. John Robert Townshend met him in the House that year and told Fox that ‘I like [him] of all things, though I think sometimes one sees marks of the Jenny’.10
In January 1828 Peel excitedly relayed to Robert’s wife the ‘excellent news’ that the Goderich ministry had collapsed.11 He became an unpaid member of the board of control in the duke of Wellington’s administration (Robert was again home secretary) after receiving another ‘sessional lease’ of his seat, which he was ‘very anxious to keep’, though ready to surrender if required.12 He presented petitions against the 1827 Malt Act, 22 Feb., 26 Mar., voted against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and Catholic relief, 12 May, and was in the government majorities on chancery delays, 24 Apr., and the silk duties, 14 July 1828. It was rumoured that he might be promoted or placed on the ministerial pay roll, and Lowther, worried by the evident drift of ministers towards the concession of Catholic relief, advised his father not to be ‘very accommodating’ about re-electing Peel, as ‘there is no occasion to surrender your sword, and make yourself incapable of any resistance should that time arrive’.13 When it did, in February 1829, Peel was expected to follow his brother’s line, though Lowther claimed to know that he was ‘anxious to have ... [Lonsdale’s] wishes expressed to him to vote against him’. In the event he voted for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar. He offered to resign his seat, but the Lowthers, wishing to keep their options open in case of ‘any political changes’, allowed him to keep it ‘at least for the present’.14 Peel, who was listed by the Ultras in October 1829 among ‘present government connections who will be hostile to a new one’, left the board of control in February 1830. He was inconspicuous in the House in the ensuing session and at the dissolution was turned out of Cockermouth for an opponent of government.
Soon afterwards he removed to Brighton, where he and his wife devoted themselves to the promotion of charitable and religious causes. He continued to take a lively interest in Robert’s career at the summit of politics, and during his first ministry offered suggestions on his scheme of church reform.15 He died at his house at 32 Sussex Square, Brighton, in December 1888, having provided handsomely for his surviving children.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
Not to be confused with his cos. Sir Lawrence Peel (1799-1884), c.j. Calcutta, 1842-55 (Oxford DNB).
- 1. N. Gash, Secretary Peel, 63, 404; Parker, Peel, i. 291.
- 2. Add. 52011, Stuart Wortley to Fox, 31 Jan., 5 June; 52059, Smith to same, 6 July .
- 3. Fox Jnl. 92, 103; Lady Holland to Son, 20.
- 4. Add. 40605, f. 220.
- 5. Add. 52059, Smith to Fox, 6 July ; Fox Jnl. 120, 123, 125-8, 149.
- 6. Lady Holland to Son, 28.
- 7. Fox Jnl. 126; PROB 11/1772/396; Gent. Mag.(1830), i. 557; Add. 40401, f. 238; 40605, f. 132; 40606, ff. 197, 203, 206, 214, 218, 222, 224, 236.
- 8. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 7, 17 Jan. 1827.
- 9. Add. 40391, ff. 98, 101, 141; 40607, ff. 61, 63.
- 10. Add. 52017, Townshend to Fox, 29 July 1827.
- 11. Add. 40395, ff. 7, 9.
- 12. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 26, 29 Jan. 1828.
- 13. Ibid. same to same, 5, 7 July 1828.
- 14. Ibid. same to same, 9, 12, 15 Mar., Lowther to Peel [c.12 Mar.] 1829.
- 15. Add. 40412, ff. 42, 45; 40487, f. 350; 40519, f. 237; 40540, f. 309; 40548, f. 179; 40555, f. 110; 40598, f. 76.