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Sir Edward Knatchbull (1781-1849)

This article was written by James McMullen Rigg and was published in 1892

Sir Edward Knatchbull, statesman, eldest son of Sir Edward Knatchbull of Mersham Hatch, Kent, eighth baronet of the name, by Mary, daughter and coheiress of William Westom Hugessen of Provender in the same county, was born on 20 December 1781, and succeeded to the baronetcy on 21 September 1819. On 16 November following he was returned to parliament for Kent in his father's room. He retained the seat until the dissolution of 1830, when he did not stand for re-election.

During this period he distinguished himself by his stout opposition to corn-law reform and catholic emancipation. His speech on the second reading of the Catholic Relief Bill, in which he pointed his remarks on Peel's change of front with the apt quotation, ‘Nusquam tuta fides,’ made a deep impression, and marked him out as leader of the House of Commons in the event of the bill being defeated and the protestant party coming into power.

In 1830 he moved an amendment to the address pledging ministers to take steps to alleviate the prevalent distress. It was lost by a majority of 158 to 105. A large number of country gentlemen voted for it, and the Duke of Wellington's government was, in fact, saved by the whigs. In the following November Knatchbull led his following of tory malcontents into the opposition division lobby on Sir Henry Parnell's motion for a reduction of the civil list. The government was placed in a minority, and resigned on 17 November. Knatchbull was offered a place in Lord Grey's government, but declined it because, though not altogether opposed to the extension of the franchise, he could not accept the ministerial scheme in its entirety; nor did he go to the polls at the general election.

After the passing of the bill he was returned at the general election of 1832 for the eastern division of Kent, which he continued to represent until February 1845, when he accepted the Chiltern hundreds. On the accession of Peel to power in December 1834, he chose, though offered higher office, the subordinate place of paymaster of the forces, and was sworn of the privy council. Towards the close of this short-lived administration he is described by Greville as ‘the only cabinet minister who has shown anything like a faculty to support Peel.’ To Peel he adhered steadily in opposition, and returned to power with him in September 1841, taking the same office as before. His retirement in February 1845 was due solely to ill-health and domestic affliction, and has been erroneously attributed to the internal differences in Peel's cabinet, which did not occur until after his retirement. He died on 24 May 1849.

Knatchbull married twice: (1) on 25 August 1806, Annabella Christiana, daughter of Sir John Honywood, bart.; (2) on 24 October 1820, Fanny Catherine, eldest daughter of Edward Knight of Godmersham Park, Kent. He had several children by each wife. He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son, Norton Joseph, father of Sir Wyndham Knatchbull, the present baronet. Knatchbull's eldest son by his second wife, Edward Hugessen, became Lord Brabourne.

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