SIR CECIL WRAY 13th Bt.

Sir Cecil Wray, 13th Baronet of Glentworth

MEMBER FOR RETFORD
MEMBER FOR WESTMINSTER


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It was his parliamentary services for which Sir Cecil is best remembered. In June of 1782 Sir Cecil was elected member for Westminster, the other member being Charles James Fox. A strong friendship had existed between Charles James Fox and Sir Cecil Wray prior to the formation of the Coalition Ministry. When this Ministry was formed in March 1783, and Fox allied himself with Lord North, his foe in politics, a split occurred between Sir Cecil and his fellow colleague in the representation of Westminster. The two members for Westminster were diametrically opposed in politics.

Mr. Fox had proposed an India Bill that Sir Cecil was one of the first to declaim against. The India Bill was rejected by the House of Lords by a vote of 95 to 76 and Fox and Lord North were asked to deliver up the seals of their offices to the King. A few months later Sir Cecil waited on the King at St. James’ with a petition signed by 2,834 persons thanking His Majesty for the dismissal of the late ministers. A day later a well attended meeting of electors of Westminster was convened in the Court of Requests at Westminster Hall. With about 3,000 persons in attendance Sir Cecil was unanimously called to take over the Chair. He commenced with a statement that he had hoped that his conduct in Parliament had merited their approval. This declaration was met with the greatest of applause and “every testimony that was due to the exemplary conduct of their worthy Representative”.

Shortly after, another meeting was held by the electors, at which both Mr. Fox and Sir Cecil were present. Mr. Fox was met with cries of “Down with him!” and “No Coalition, no dictator!” Sir Cecil was loudly cheered and a petition passed almost unanimously, “That the parliamentary conduct of Sir Cecil Wray, Bart., has ever been honourable to himself as well as beneficial to his country - that he is entitled to the warmest gratitude of his constituents, and in the highest degree deserving of their future confidence and support.”

On March 24 following, Parliament was dissolved, and the election of the two members for Westminster was fixed for April 1. Three candidates presented themselves for election, Mr. Fox, Admiral Lord Hood, and Sir Cecil Wray. Of all the elections of the year 1784, the one that attracted most attention was that for Westminster. In the end the standings were Lord Hood - 6694, Mr. Fox - 6234, and Sir Cecil - 5998. Fox had beaten him by 236 votes. Many writers have referred to this great election contest in which “the processions, the fights, the bribery, and the drunkeness which took place during the election, disreputably mark the manners of the day.”

Admiral Lord Hood canvassed using the ensigns of the French and Spanish nations taken by him in the previous war. Mr. Fox had the unending support of “the Queen of Hearts”, the beautiful and irresistable Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire. From the beginning to the very end of the election the beautiful Duchess sparred no pains or trouble in canvassing for Mr. Fox. For three weeks Sir Cecil maintained his majority but it was impossible to win when the Duchess stooped to conquer. She certainly procured the greater part of Mr. Fox’s votes for him. The campaign lasted six weeks and the excitement became more intense daily. The newspapers were full of stories, songs and cartoons about the candidates. All of this political excitement produced much ill feeling, and rioting was the order of the day. A man was killed at one of these election rows and both sides tried to make capital out of this shameful occurance by casting blame on the other side. At one point a huge fight took place between Lord Hood’s sailors and Mr. Fox’s supporters. In the end though, Fox won out over Sir Cecil and thus ended this memorable contest - a contest never before or since equaled for bribery, intimidation, and dishonest practices. No wonder then that Sir Cecil demanded a recount, and the High Bailiff of Westminster immediately agreed. The scrutiny of the votes was tedious and lasted well into the new parliament. In eight months there was no noticeable progress and it was estimated that, at the rate it was progressing, it would take two years to complete. Under these circumstances the scrutiny had become hateful to both parties­quite as hateful to Mr. Fox as to Sir Cecil. In the end Parliament passed a Bill to simply recognize the results as previously reported and Sir Cecil was thus defeated.

Sir Cecil never entered Parliament again and the remaining twenty years of his life were passed in the private pursuits of a country gentleman, in ameliorating the condition of his tenantry and in charitable works. In his private life he was remarkable for the practice of virtues which rendered him the admiration of all who knew him, and will preserve his name from oblivion as long as society is capable of estimating departed worth. His extensive charities procured him the prayers of all the poor in the vicinity of his residence. As a landlord, he was a rare instance of liberality, and was never known to raise his rents. Indeed, his chief pleasure was to see his poor neighbours happy and his tenants affluent. He had no children, so the Baronetcy passed to the Reverend William Ullithorne Wray. Sir Cecil left a widow who survived him by twenty years. Her maiden name was Esther Summers and the portraits of her at Summer Castle represent her as a handsome woman. Sir Cecil, having no children, left the Wray estates after the death of his wife Dame Esther Wray, to his cousin Sir W.J. Wray and his sons in strict entail, and failing them he entailed the estates to his nephew John Dalton, second son of Captain Dalton and Isabella Wray. This is where the estates finally ended up, but that is another story.