Hugh Fortescue, 2nd Earl Fortescue

Hugh Fortescue, 2nd Earl Fortescue KG, PC (13 February 1783 – 14 September 1861), styled Viscount Ebrington from 1789 to 1841, was a British Whig politician. He served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1839 to 1841.

The Earl Fortescue

"Hugh, Earl Fortescue KG, Lord Lieutenant of Devon". Wearing Garter Star. Marble bust by Edward Bowring Stephens, 1861; Memorial Hall, West Buckland School, Devon
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
In office
13 March 1839 – 11 September 1841
Prime MinisterThe Viscount Melbourne
Preceded byThe Marquess of Normanby
Succeeded byThe Earl de Grey
Personal details
Born(1783-02-13)13 February 1783
Died14 September 1861(1861-09-14) (aged 78)
Political partyWhig
Spouse(s)(1) Lady Susan Ryder
(2) Elizabeth Geale
(c. 1805–1896)
ChildrenHugh Fortescue, 3rd Earl Fortescue
John Fortescue
Dudley Fortescue
ParentsHugh Fortescue, 1st Earl Fortescue
Hester Grenville
Alma materBrasenose College, Oxford
Arms of Fortescue: Azure, a bend engrailled argent plain cottised or. Motto: Forte Scutum Salus Ducum ("A Strong Shield is the Salvation of Leaders")[1]
Left: Statue of Hugh Fortescue, 2nd Earl Fortescue (1783–1861), by Edward Bowring Stephens 1863, in Castle Yard, Exeter, Inscribed on plinth in capitals: "Hugh Earl Fortescue KG Lord Lieutenant of Devon". Right: Print published in Illustrated London News 1863: "Inauguration of the Fortescue Memorial in the Castle Yard, Exeter 1863". Now repositioned on grass verge on side of Castle Yard. The Earl had been Colonel of the 1st Devon Militia which was headquartered in Exeter Castle

Background and educationEdit

Fortescue was the eldest son of Hugh Fortescue, 1st Earl Fortescue, and Hester Grenville, daughter of Prime Minister George Grenville. He was educated at Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford.

Political careerEdit

Fortescue (as Ebrington) first became an MP for Barnstaple, just after his 21st birthday; and he sat for various constituencies almost continuously until 1839, when he was summoned to the House of Lords through a writ of acceleration in his father's junior title of Baron Fortescue.

Ebrington had entered Parliament in the 1800s as a Grenvillite connection, belonging to that section of the Whig party that supported the war with Napoleon; but in the following decade (in a generational shift) he broke away from them to join the Young Whigs.[2] Fearing the corruptive effects of militarism on British society,[3] the latter sympathised with the liberalising side of the French Revolution: Ebrington would later publish his conversations with Napoleon in his Elba exile.[4]

After the war, in 1817, Ebrington confirmed his breach with the bulk of his Grenville relatives,[5] and emerged as a prominent pro-Reform Whig—albeit one somewhat unusually rooted in a liberal, morally intense Anglicanism,[6]—which he combined with an interest in political economy.[7] Ebrington strongly condemned the Six Acts as ”the most alarming attack ever made by Parliament upon the liberties and constitution of the country”;[8] and during the 1820s, he would repeatedly promote and vote for Parliamentary Reform.[9]

When the Whigs finally came to power in 1830, Ebrington played a significant part in the passing of the Great Reform Act. After the Commons passed the second bill, Ebrington convened a meeting of 100 reformist Whigs, urging strong measures should the Lords reject it, and acting as leader of a pressure group lobbying the Whig leadership: Ebrington himself appeared on a list of potential peer-creations that was drawn up to increase the pressure on the Lords.[10] When the Government resigned in the face of Tory intransigence in the House of Lords, Ebrington took the lead, despite leadership hesitations, in moving that the House of Commons implore the King “to call to his councils such persons only as will carry into effect unimpaired in all its essential provisions that Bill for reforming the Representation of the people which has recently passed this House”.[11]

During the 1830s, Ebrington led a strong body of Reformist Whigs;[12] and he played a prominent role in establishing Whig party organisation under the new electoral system.[13] In 1839, as Baron Fortescue, he served under Lord Melbourne as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland,[14] until in 1841 he succeeded his father in the earldom. He went on to serve under Lord John Russell as Lord Steward from 1846 to 1850; was sworn of the Privy Council in 1839; and created a Knight of the Garter in 1856.


A statue of the Earl stands in Exeter Castle Yard, and his marble bust is displayed on the staircase of the Memorial Hall in West Buckland School. 49 of the Fortescue family portraits were saved from the disastrous fire at Castle Hill of 9 March 1934 with minor smoke damage, but were shortly afterwards all destroyed by fire when the delivery lorry returning them from the restorer caught fire whilst parked overnight pending their return to Castle Hill.[15]

Co-founds West Buckland SchoolEdit

Foundation stone laid at West Buckland School by Earl Fortescue
"Devon County School, West Buckland, recently opened by Earl Fortescue". Print published in Illustrated London News, 1861
Portrait of Hugh Fortescue when Viscount Ebrington, painted between 1826–1841 by Frederick Christian Lewis Sr, after Joseph Slater. National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG D20597
Hugh Fortescue, 2nd Earl Fortescue (1783–1861). Engraving by W Holl from a painting by George Hayter (1792–1871)

In 1858 together with Rev. J.L. Brereton, Prebendary of Exeter Cathedral and Rector of West Buckland, he founded the Devon County School, situated on land between West Buckland and East Buckland donated by him from his North Devon estate centred at Filleigh. The school was intended to provide a top quality education to local boys, including therefore the sons of many of his tenant farmers; it continues today as West Buckland School, an independent private school. A marble bust of Earl Fortescue, sculpted in 1861 by Edward Bowring Stephens (1815–82), stands on the staircase of the school's Memorial Hall.

Marriage and progenyEdit

Lord Fortescue married twice:

Death and successionEdit

Fortescue died in September 1861, aged 78, and was succeeded by his eldest son from his first marriage, Hugh Fortescue, 3rd Earl Fortescue.


External linksEdit


  1. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.461
  2. ^ B. Hilton, A Mad, Bad and Dangerous People? (Oxford 2006) p. 205
  3. ^ E. A. Wasson, Whig Renaissance (Garland 1987) p. 64
  4. ^ M. Zarzeizny, 'Mmeteors that Enlighten the Earth (2012) p. 147
  5. ^ Fortescue, Hugh
  6. ^ R. Brown, Church and State in Modern Britain (2002) p. 236
  7. ^ B. Hilton, A Mad, Bad and Dangerous People? (Oxford 2006) p. 205 and p. 521-3
  8. ^ E. Wasson, A History of Modern Britain (2016) p. 141
  9. ^ Fortescue, Hugh
  10. ^ E. Pearce, Reform! (London 2003) p. 167 and p. 238
  11. ^ Quoted in E. Pearce, Reform! (London 2003) p. 284
  12. ^ Fortescue, Hugh
  13. ^ P. Gray, Famine, Land and Politics (1999) p. 20
  14. ^ E. Halevy, The Triumph of Reform (London 1961) p. 198
  15. ^ Lauder, R. op.cit. p.81
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Edward Pellew, Bt
William Devaynes
Member of Parliament for Barnstaple
With: William Devaynes
William Taylor
Succeeded by
George Thellusson
William Taylor
Preceded by
William Shipley
Scrope Bernard
Member of Parliament for St Mawes
With: Scrope Bernard to 1808
Earl Gower from 1808
Succeeded by
Scrope Bernard-Morland
Earl Gower
Preceded by
Richard Griffin
Lord George Grenville
Member of Parliament for Buckingham
With: William Fremantle
Succeeded by
James Hamilton Stanhope
William Henry Fremantle
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Dyke-Acland, Bt
Edmund Pollexfen Bastard
Member of Parliament for Devon
With: Edmund Pollexfen Bastard
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Dyke-Acland, Bt
Edmund Pollexfen Bastard
Preceded by
John Fazakerley
John Peter Grant
Member of Parliament for Tavistock
With: John Peter Grant to 1826
Lord William Russell 1826–1830
Lord Russell from 1830
Succeeded by
Lord John Russell
Lord Russell
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, Bt
Edmund Pollexfen Bastard
Member of Parliament for Devon
With: Sir Thomas Dyke-Acland, Bt, to 1831
Lord John Russell from 1831
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for North Devon
With: Newton Fellowes to 1837
Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, Bt from 1837
Succeeded by
Lewis Buck
Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, Bt
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Earl Fortescue
Lord Lieutenant of Devon
Succeeded by
The Duke of Somerset
Vice-Admiral of Devon
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Mulgrave
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Succeeded by
The Earl de Grey
Preceded by
The Earl of Liverpool
Lord Steward
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Westminster
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Hugh Fortescue
Earl Fortescue
Succeeded by
Hugh Fortescue
Baron Fortescue
(writ in acceleration)
(descended by acceleration)