A'COURT, William Pierce Ashe (1747-1817), of Heytesbury, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

3 Sept. 1781 - Dec. 1790
1806 - Jan. 1807

Family and Education

b. 1747, o.s. of Gen. William A’Court (Ashe) of Heytesbury by Annabella, da. and coh. of Thomas Vernon of Twickenham Park, Mdx. educ. Eton 1759-65. m. (1) 29 Apr. 1769, Catherine (d. 23 Sept. 1776), da. of Lt.-Col. John Bradford, s.p.; (2) 30 Oct. 1777, Letitia, da. of Henry Wyndham of The Close, Salisbury, Wilts., 3s. 4da. suc. fa. 1781; cr. Bt. 4 July 1795.

Offices Held

Capt. 11 Ft. 1769-78; lt.-col. 2nd Wilts. militia 1797.

Sheriff, Wilts. 1812-13.

Biography

A’Court inherited the nomination to a seat in Parliament for Heytesbury. He returned himself from 1781 until 1790, attaching himself to the Duke of Portland. In December 1790 he vacated to let in a Whig, but he subsequently regarded the seat primarily as a source of income. On 9 Sept. 1795 he informed Portland, after whose return to office he obtained a baronetcy and who seemed to have expected him to resume the seat himself: ‘I am desirous of remaining a little longer in retirement, and ... the situation ... will wait your Grace’s nomination and I beg leave to leave the business entirely in your hands’.1

Not until 1806 did he resume the seat. On 30 Mar. he had looked to Lord Grenville to promote his son William in the diplomatic service. In January 1807 he vacated his seat and on 20 Mar. applied to Viscount Howick on his son’s behalf, expecting the support he had given to the Grenville ministry to be taken into account. He is not known to have spoken in the House. On 23 Feb. 1810 he wrote to John King*:

The death of the Duke of Portland, to whom I was most sincerely attached, having left me without any remaining friend in the political world, it becomes necessary for me, with so large a family to provide for, to form new connexions, which may in some measure repair the heavy loss which I have sustained. I feel this the more incumbent upon me, as I am no longer equal to take an active or personal share in politics myself ... I have already had some slight intercourse with [Lord Grenville] upon political matters, and the civility and attention I experienced during his administration, are strong inducements to me to range myself under his banners. Since that period my political friendship has acquired a double value, and such as it is, I should be happy to offer it through you to Lord Grenville.2

A’Court’s faith in Portland, who had wooed him on taking office in 1807, had been damaged by a setback to his son William’s diplomatic career which had not been made good, and the ‘double value’ he referred to was his acquisition of the nomination to the other seat at Heytesbury from the 4th Duke of Marlborough. The offer embarrassed Grenville, for as King informed him, 21 Aug. 1811; ‘Sir William A’Court grows anxious about his borough. At all events, i.e. in or out he wishes now to nominate on the same terms as his late Grace did, i.e. the full price at which government accommodates their friends.’ By 1812 A’Court’s son was complaining that his father was prepared to sell to the highest bidder, without reference to his own career prospects.3 He died 27 July 1817.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne

Notes

  • 1. Portland mss PwF11.
  • 2. Add. 51469, f. 113; Grey mss; Fortescue mss.
  • 3. Malmesbury mss, A’Court to Malmesbury, 24 Sept., 4, 11 Oct. 1807, 16, 20 May, 3 Dec.; Portland to A’Court, 11 May, reply 13 May 1808 (copies); Fortescue mss; Pembroke mss, W. A’Court to Pembr