Open main menu

HARCOURT, EDWARD (1757–1847), archbishop of York, youngest son of George Vernon, first Lord Vernon, who died 21 Aug 1780, by his third wife, Martha, third daughter of the Hon. Simon Harcourt, was born at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire, 10 Oct. 1757. He was educated at Westminster; matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, 2 July 1774; was elected fellow of All Souls College in 1777; and graduated B.C.L. 27 April 1786, and D.C.L. 4 May following. After his ordination he was instituted to the family living of Sudbury. He became a canon of Christ Church, Oxford, 13 Oct. 1785, and a prebendary of Gloucester on 10 Nov. in the same year; he resigned his prebendal stall in 1791, but held his other appointments to 1808. On 18 Aug. 1791 he was nominated bishop of Carlisle in succession to Dr. John Douglas, and was consecrated on 6 Nov. following. For sixteen years he administered the affairs of the see of Carlisle with good sense and discretion, spending more than the whole income of the see upon the wants of his diocese. After the death of Archbishop William Markham, Vernon was nominated, 26 Nov. 1807, archbishop of York, and was confirmed in St. James's Church, Westminster, 19 Jan. 1808. In the same year, on 20 Jan., he was gazetted a privy councillor, and made Lord high almoner to George III, an office which he afterwards held under Queen Victoria. Harcourt was a member of the queen's council who had charge of George III during his illness. He was an eloquent speaker, and occasionally spoke in the House of Lords on ecclesiastical matters, but usually abstained from political contentions. He lived under five successive monarchs, and was respected for benevolence and simplicity of character. On 15 Jan. 1831 by sign-manual he took the surname of Harcourt only on inheriting the large estates of the Harcourt family, which came to him on the death of his cousin, Field-marshal William, third and last Earl Harcourt [q. v.] In 1835 he was appointed one of the first members of the ecclesiastical commission. In 1838 he was offered the renewal of the Harcourt peerage, but declined it, not wishing to be fettered in his parliamentary votes. York Minster was twice burnt down during his primacy, 1829 and 1841, and he contributed largely to both restorations. Archbishop Harcourt preached his valedictory sermon in York Minster on 13 Nov. 1838; he, however, continued to enjoy good health, and as late as 1 Nov. 1847 visited York and inspected the repairs of the chapterhouse. He died at the palace, Bishopthorpe, near York, on 5 Nov. 1847, and was buried at Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, 13 Nov. His portrait by Hoppner was engraved in 1804 by C. Turner in a large folio size. Other portraits are by Owen at Bishopthorpe; by J. Jackson, R. A., at Castle Howard, engraved by H. Meyer; by Hayter at Nuneham; by Hudson at Christ Church and All Souls; and by Sir T. Lawrence at Sudbury. On 5 Feb. 1784 he married Anne Leveson-Gower, third daughter of Granville, first marquis of Stafford, and by her, who died at Bishopthorpe Palace 16 Nov. 1832, aged 72, he had sixteen children. His second son, the Rev. Leveson Vernon Harcourt (1788-1860), was chancellor of York and the author of 'The Doctrine of the Deluge,' London, 1838, 2 vols. 8vo, and of other theological works. His fourth son, William Vernon, and eighth son, Admiral Octavius Henry Cyril, are separately noticed.

As a director of the Ancient Concerts, Harcourt entertained his fellow-directors (the prince regent and the Dukes of Cumberland, Cambridge, and Wellington) at his house in Grosvenor Square on 23 Feb. 1821. On the same night the Cato Street conspirators had designed the murder of the cabinet ministers at the house adjoining Harcourt's, where the ministers had agreed to dine with Lord Harrowby. Canning jestingly said that Harcourt and his friends ran some danger of being assassinated in mistake for the cabinet ministers.

Harcourt's publications were: 1. 'A Sermon preached before the Lords on the Anniversary of the Martyrdom of King Charles the First,' 1794. 2. 'A Sermon preached before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel,' 1798. 3. 'A Sermon preached at the Coronation of George IV,' 1821, which was twice reprinted.

[Times, 8 Nov. 1847, p. 5, and 15 Nov. p. 3; Guardian, 10 Nov. 1847, p. 667; Gent. Mag. August 1830, p. 178, and January 1848, pp. 82-84; Harcourt Papers, xii. ; Dibdin's Bibliographical Tour in the Northern Counties. 1838, i. 223-30; Burrows's All Souls, 1874, p. 420; Yorkshire Gazette, 6 Nov. 1847, p. 5, and 13 Nov. p. 5; Churton's Remembrance of a Departed Primate, a Sermon, 1847.]

G. C. B.