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  Dudley Ryder (1762–1847), by Thomas Phillips, 1810 Dudley Ryder (1762–1847), by Thomas Phillips, 1810
Ryder, Dudley, first earl of Harrowby (1762–1847), politician, was born in the parish of St George, Hanover Square, London, on 22 December 1762, the eldest of the three sons of , member of parliament for Tiverton from 1756 until he was created Baron Harrowby on 20 May 1776 [see under ], and his wife, Elizabeth (bap. 1739, d. 1804), daughter of , bishop of Peterborough (1757–64) and London (1764–77). Dudley Ryder was educated privately before going on to Harrow School (1774–9) and St John's College, Cambridge (1779–82). At the general election of 1784, three months after coming of age, he was returned to parliament for Tiverton, the family borough, where he sat undisturbed throughout his Commons career. He showed promise in debate and attached himself devotedly to Pitt, the premier, who became his personal friend and political patron. In August 1789 Pitt forced Ryder's appointment as under-secretary at the Foreign Office on the secretary of state, the duke of Leeds, who would have preferred someone of his own choosing. He had to resign after six months on account of doubts about the legality of two under-secretaries from the same department sitting in the Commons, but he was handsomely compensated with appointments as comptroller of the household and a commissioner of the Board of Control and admission to the privy council (3 March 1790). That month he was made a member of the Board of Trade, and in October 1790 he was promoted to be its vice-president. He remained in that place for eleven years and in 1791, when he gave up his household and India board offices, became also a joint paymaster-general. In the summer of 1800 he exchanged this post for the treasurership of the navy, having declined the mastership of the Royal Mint a year previously. Ryder, who chaired the finance committee in 1791 and the coin committee in 1800, showed considerable aptitude for routine business. In the sessions of 1795–6 and 1800–01 he was responsible for steering through the Commons measures to deal with corn scarcities. As a member of the 1797 secret finance committee, he wrote a report on the Treasury and worked closely with Pitt in assessing the implications of the committee's findings. Beyond his departmental brief he was an effective and combative debater, who readily defended the government's repressive domestic policies and conduct of the war. He was, however, favourable to abolition of the slave trade and to Catholic emancipation. He was Pitt's second in his duel with Tierney on 27 May 1798. On 30 July 1795 he had married Lady Susan Leveson-Gower (1772–1838), daughter of , with whom he had four sons and five daughters. His first son, who succeeded him, was .

At Pitt's earnest request, Ryder remained in office under Addington, although he refused to take the foreign secretaryship. A serious illness in the summer of 1801, which seemed at one point likely to be fatal, prompted him to surrender his places in the autumn. He grew increasingly uneasy with the ministry's feebleness and, anxious for Pitt's reinstatement, defected from it in May 1803. On his father's death on 20 June 1803, he succeeded to the peerage and the family's Staffordshire estates at Sandon, near Stone. On Pitt's return to power in May 1804 Harrowby became foreign secretary, but an accident in December, when he sustained head injuries after falling downstairs at the Foreign Office, compelled him to resign. He had recovered by July 1805, when Pitt made him chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. In November Pitt sent him on a special mission to Berlin in a bid to forge a new continental coalition against France. His nerves soon gave way and he begged to be recalled, but Pitt kept him steady and he was able to effect an alliance with Prussia before Bonaparte's victory at Austerlitz put an end to the project. He resigned with his colleagues after Pitt's death and did not take office in the duke of Portland's tory administration until July 1809, when he was appointed president of the Board of Control. On 19 July that year he was created earl of Harrowby. From November 1809 he sat in Perceval's cabinet without holding office until June 1812, when on the formation of Lord Liverpool's ministry he was made lord president of the council. He had a deep interest in the church, and on 9 March 1813 he introduced to the Lords a bill to provide for stipendiary curates, which became law on 20 July (53 Geo. III c. 149). In April 1815 he and William Wellesley Pole went on a brief special mission to Brussels to confer with the latter's brother the duke of Wellington at army headquarters. In 1819 he chaired the Lords committee on the currency and prepared its report. It was at his London house in Grosvenor Square that the Cato Street conspirators planned to massacre the cabinet in February 1820, when the plot was betrayed to him. He remained in place under Canning in April 1827 but retired on the formation of Lord Goderich's administration in August. On Goderich's first resignation in December 1827 he declined the premiership, as he later claimed to have done twice previously. He was never again in office, but he became a member of the judicial committee of the privy council in 1833.

Harrowby made his last and arguably most significant political exertion as joint leader, with Lord Wharncliffe (whose son John Stuart Wortley had married his daughter Georgiana in 1826), of the tory waverer peers during the reform crisis of 1831–2. He decided to oppose the second reading of the Grey ministry's bill, and did so in an accomplished speech on 4 October 1831, pleading in effect for a delay in order that a compromise might be reached, while indicating his willingness to support the enfranchisement of large towns and an enhancement of the county representation at the expense of rotten boroughs. He then tried to promote agreement on a modified measure. He, his eldest son, and Wharncliffe began negotiations with the government, the bishops, and leading figures in the City, but their efforts had failed by the end of November 1831. In January 1832 Harrowby drafted a circular to opposition peers outlining the waverers' preferred policy of supporting the second reading of the revised bill in order to avoid a mass creation of peers to force it through, and of then using their numerical superiority to secure amendments in committee. On 26 March and 10 April he stated the waverers' case in the Lords and on 13 April he voted for the second reading, which was carried by 184 votes to 175. He and his associates reluctantly acquiesced in the opposition leaders' decision to vote for postponement of the borough disfranchisement clauses, failing to realize that ministers would call their bluff by resigning when they were defeated on this on 7 May. In the ensuing brief crisis Harrowby refused to try to form a tory ministry to carry a modified reform. The failure of Wellington's attempt to do so and the return to power of the Grey ministry marked the ultimate failure of Harrowby's efforts (Brock, 240–41, 243–7, 260–62, 271–3, 275–7, 279, 281, 283, 285–6, 289–90, 294). He took little part in politics thereafter.

In 1801 Lord Glenbervie had this to say of him:
Ryder is … a man of parts, and has certainly a good deal of information, and he … means to be a good sort of man. But his manner is not advantageous to him. His little circular pursed-in mouth, a sort of ruddiness and smoothness of face, and a weak short kind of articulation, make him appear both in private and in public what has been called missey, and there appears to be a certain quickness in his temper which, when he fails in venting it in a species of captious smartness or repartee, renders him what by another familiar expression is called miffy. (Diaries of Sylvester Douglas, 1.193)
Liverpool, his former chief at the Board of Trade, wrote in 1804:
Few know Lord Harrowby better than myself. He has a very sharp understanding, but a wretched mind, or a very distempered body which operates on his mind … This last circumstance disqualifies him for business … I have heard that he has a bad temper; but this temper never showed itself to me, so that I know nothing of it. Though reasonably rich, he is interested. (Journal and Correpondence of … Auckland, 4.226)
Henry Fox felt in 1824 that he:
would be a more agreeable man, if nature had benevolently given him a larger mouth. His knowledge is great, his quickness lively, and his opinions just and moderate. His articulation is too rapid and precise, and his temper is peevish. (Journal of … Fox, 198)
His sister-in-law Lady Harriet Leveson-Gower described him in 1810 as:
certainly agreeable and well informed, and disposed to communicate his knowledge in the most pleasant manner, without any pretension or display; but … the whole thing is too tight, and it would improve him to go a great deal into a warm bath. He would come out so relaxed and upon a more enlarged scale, which would be an unspeakable improvement to both body and mind. (Private Correspondence, 2.361)
Greville, who noted that despite his bad health he had lived to be the last survivor of his political generation, wrote after his death at Sandon Hall on 26 December 1847:
He was at the top of the second-rate men, always honourable and straightforward, generally liberal and enlightened, greatly esteemed and respected … He was remarkably well informed … but his precise manner and tart disposition prevented his being agreeable in society. He was very religious, very generous, and a man of the strictest integrity in private and in public life. (Greville Memoirs, 6.1)

D. R. Fisher


D. R. Fisher, ‘Ryder, Dudley’, HoP, Commons, 1790–1820 · M. Brock, The Great Reform Act (1973) · J. Ehrman, The younger Pitt, 3: The consuming struggle (1996) · The diaries of Sylvester Douglas (Lord Glenbervie), ed. F. Bickley, 1 (1928), 193 · The journal and correspondence of William, Lord Auckland, ed. G. Hogge, 4 vols. (1861–2), vol. 4, p. 226 · The journal of the Hon. Henry Edward Fox, ed. earl of Ilchester [G. S. Holland Fox-Strangways] (1923), 198 · Lord Granville Leveson Gower: private correspondence, 1781 to 1821, ed. Castalia, Countess Granville [C. R. Leveson-Gower], 2nd edn, 2 (1916), 361 · The Greville memoirs, 1814–1860, ed. L. Strachey and R. Fulford, 8 vols. (1938), vol. 6, p. 1 · D. Ryder, Autobiography (privately printed, 1891) · D. Ryder, first earl of Harrowby, Family reminiscences, etc. (privately printed, 1891) · GEC, Peerage


Hants. RO, family corresp. · Sandon Hall, Staffordshire, Harrowby Manuscript Trust, corresp. and papers; corresp. relating to Tiverton |  All Souls Oxf., corresp. with Charles Richard Vaughan · BL, corresp. with Lord Aberdeen, Add. MS 43230 · BL, corresp. with Lord Grenville, Add. MS 58961 · BL, corresp. with first and second earls of Liverpool, Add. MSS 38226–38354, 38472, 38565–38580, passim · BL, corresp. with Sir Arthur Paget, Add. MS 48390 · BL, corresp. with Sir Robert Peel, Add. MSS 40254–40422, passim · PRONI, corresp. with Lord Castlereagh · Sheff. Arch., letters to Lord Wharncliffe · TNA: PRO, letters to William Pitt, PRO 30/8


T. Phillips, portrait, 1810, priv. coll. [see illus.] · J. S. Agar, stipple, 1813 (after T. Phillips), BM, NPG; repro. in The British gallery of contemporary portraits (1814) · R. Dighton, coloured etching caricature, pubd 1818, NPG · J. Doyle, pen and pencil caricature, 1832, BM · H. B. Hall, stipple, 1837 (after Meunier), BM, NPG; repro. in H. T. Ryall, Portraits of eminent conservatives and statesmen [in pts, 1836–46] · J. Doyle, pen and chalk caricature, BM · G. Hayter, group portrait, oils (The trial of Queen Caroline, 1820), NPG · K. A. Hickel, group portrait, oils (The House of Commons, 1793), NPG

Wealth at death  

under £60,000: TNA: PRO, death duty registers, IR 26/1805/155