Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Finch-Hatton, George William

FINCH-HATTON, GEORGE WILLIAM, Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham (1791–1858), politician, born at Kirby, Northamptonshire, on 19 May 1791, was grandson of Edward Finch-Hatton [q. v.], and son of George Finch-Hatton (1747–1823) of Eastwell Park, near Ashford, Kent, M.P. for Rochester 1772–84, by his wife whom he married in 1785, Elizabeth Mary, eldest daughter of David Murray, second earl of Mansfield. She died 1 June 1825. George William, the elder son, was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he proceeded B.A. in 1812. On 13 Oct. 1809 he became a captain in the Ashford regiment of Kentish local militia, on 14 Dec. 1819 commenced acting as a lieutenant of the Northamptonshire regiment of yeomanry, and on 7 Sept. 1820 was named a deputy-lieutenant for the county of Kent. His cousin, George Finch, eighth earl of Winchilsea and fourth earl of Nottingham, having died on 2 Aug. 1826, he succeeded to these peerages. He presided at a very large and influential meeting held on Pennenden Heath, Kent, on 10 Oct. 1828, when strongly worded resolutions in favour of protestant principles were carried. In his place in the House of Lords he violently opposed almost every liberal measure which was brought forward. He was particularly noted as being almost the only English nobleman who was willing to identify himself with the Orange party in Ireland, and he was accustomed to denounce in frantic terms Daniel O'Connell, Maynooth, and the system of education carried out in that college. Occasionally he took the chair at May meetings at Exeter Hall, but his intemperate language prevented him from becoming a leader in evangelical politics. The Catholic Relief Bill of 1829 encountered his most vehement hostility, and ultimately led to a duel with the Duke of Wellington. Lord Winchilsea, in a letter to the secretary of King's College, London, wrote that the duke, ‘under the cloak of some coloured show of zeal for the protestant religion, carried on an insidious design for the infringement of our liberties and the introduction of popery into every department of the state.’ The duke replied with a challenge. The meeting took place in Battersea Fields on 21 March 1829, the duke being attended by Sir Henry Hardinge, and his opponent by Edward Boscawen, viscount Falmouth. The duke fired and missed, whereupon Winchilsea fired in the air and then apologised for the language of his letter (Annual Register, 1829, pp. 58–63; Stoqueler, Life of Wellington, ii. 147–8, with portrait of Winchilsea; Steinmetz, Romance of Duelling, ii. 336–43). He was a very frequent speaker in the lords, and strenuously opposed the Reform Bill and other whig measures. He was gazetted lieutenant-colonel commandant of the East Kent regiment of yeomanry 20 Dec. 1830, named a deputy-lieutenant for the county of Lincoln 26 Sept. 1831, and created a D.C.L. of Oxford 10 June 1834. He died at Haverholme Priory, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire, 8 Jan. 1858.

He was the writer of a pamphlet entitled ‘Earl of Winchilsea's Letter to the “Times,” calling upon the Protestants of Great Britain to unite heart and soul in addressing the Throne for a Dissolution of Parliament,’ 1851.

Winchilsea was married three times: first, on 26 July 1814, to Georgiana Charlotte, eldest daughter of James Graham, third duke of Montrose, she died at Haverholme Priory 13 Feb. 1835; secondly, on 15 Feb. 1837, to Emily Georgiana, second daughter of Sir Charles Bagot, G.C.B., she died at Haverholme Priory 10 July 1848; thirdly, on 17 Oct. 1849, to Fanny Margaretta, eldest daughter of Edward Royd Rice of Dane Court, Kent.

[Portraits of Eminent Conservatives and Statesmen, 1st ser. 1836, with portrait; Doyle's Baronage (1886), iii. 690, with portrait after T. Phillipps; Carpenter's Peerage for the People (1841), pp. 772–3; Gent. Mag. February 1858 pp. 211–12.]

G. C. B.