Lord-Lieutenants of the West Riding (West Yorkshire)

There have been twenty-eight Lord-Lieutenants since 1660, two of whom served for only a year. Several held the post for more than twenty years, of whom the longest in office was William, 6th Earl Fitzwilliam, Lord-Lieutenant for thirty-five years in the later-nineteenth century. All were aristocrats until 1970 when an industrialist, Brigadier Kenneth Hargreaves, became the last Lord-Lieutenant of the West Riding and the first of West Yorkshire. He was step-father to the current incumbent.

Four noble families recur in the lists: three Earls of Burlington held the office in the decades around 1700, two Marquesses of Rockingham in the mid-18th century, two Earls of Scarborough in the late-19th and mid-20th century, and four Earls of Harewood, interspersed between other holders in the period from 1819 to 1948.

The first among several colourful or remarkable Lord Lieutenants for the county was Sir Marmaduke Langdale, later 1st Baron Langdale. He fought for the Royalist cause during the Civil War and commanded the Royalist left wing at the Battle of Naseby. He was eventually captured and imprisoned at Nottingham Castle in 1648, but escaped abroad, where for a time he served as a mercenary, fighting the Turks under the banner of the Venetian Republic. He returned to England with Charles II in 1660, was given his barony and appointed Lord-Lieutenant. He died the following year.

George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, Lord-Lieutenant from 1661 to 1674, was the son of James I’s and Charles I’s favourite, George Villiers. In 1648 the House of Commons resolved that he should be executed for his Royalist activities, but he escaped abroad with the Prince of Wales (later Charles II), returning to fight at the disastrous Battle of Worcester (1651). He spent much of the inter-regnum in Holland, returning to England in 1657, when he married Mary Fairfax, the daughter of Cromwell’s great Lord General, who had been awarded Buckingham’s forfeited estates. In 1663 he was among the original Fellows of the Royal Society and from 1667-1672 was one of the five members of the King’s close advisors, known as the Cabal. He was the holder of several other prestigious public offices. His personal life was colourful: in 1668 he seduced the Countess of Shrewsbury, fatally wounding her husband in a duel, and in 1680 he was charged with sodomy. The following year he retired to his Yorkshire estates where in 1687 he died from a chill caught while out hunting. He was buried with his father in Westminster Abbey.

Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (the contemporary name for Bridlington), known to art-historians as the Architect-Earl, was Lord-Lieutenant of the West Riding from 1715 (the year of the Jacobite Rebellion, in which he performed his office satisfactorily) to1733. He took on the Lieutenancy at the age of twenty. His father, Richard, an uncle, Henry, and a great-grandfather, Richard, all preceded him in office. Burlington’s status as a major landowner in Ireland (he was also 4th Earl of Cork) and Yorkshire was recognised by George I, who appointed him Lord Treasurer of Ireland and Lord-Lieutenant of the East and West Ridings. He resigned all his posts, when a promised ‘white staff’ (the symbol of high office under the Crown) was not forthcoming in 1733, and went into opposition. Burlington was a liberal patron of the arts (he provided Handel with an apartment at Burlington House, Piccadilly) and was a Fellow of the Royal Society, but it was his work as an architect that brought enduring fame. Among his many buildings are Chiswick House, Middlesex and the York Assembly Rooms.

Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquis of Rockingham, succeeded his father as Lord-Lieutenant in 1751 and enjoyed two terms of tenure, in 1751-63 and 1765-82. He was a formidable collector, particularly of antique sculpture, which was largely housed at his county seat, Wentworth Woodhouse. Rockingham served under the Duke of Cumberland during the 2nd Jacobite Rebellion (1745) and in 1757, when confronted with serious riots threatening the authority of the Lord-Lieutenants and JPs, particularly in the East Riding, his firm but moderate response quickly restored order. He was Prime Minister in 1765-6 and led the Whig Opposition in the 1770s supporting the cause of American independence. He was Prime Minister again briefly in 1782 but died of influenza a few months later. He is buried in York Minster.

Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk, Lord-Lieutenant from 1782-98, was also a member of the Whig Opposition who opposed the war against the American colonists. He renounced his Catholic faith in 1780. He was a Lord of the Treasury, Grand Master of the Herefordshire Masons and President of the Society of Arts. King George III deprived him of all his offices in 1798 for a toast given before 2,000 people at a Whig Club dinner: ‘Our Sovereign’s Health – The Majesty of the People ‘. Nine years later he was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Sussex.

Henry Lascelles, 2nd Earl of Harewood, Lord-Lieutenant 1819-41; Henry Lascelles, 3rd Earl of Harewood, 1846-52; Henry Lascelles, 5th Earl of Harewood, 1904-27; Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood (1927-48). This remarkable dynasty of Lord-Lieutenants had a particular loyalty to the West Riding, where they enjoyed country pursuits and making improvements to Harewood House and the surrounding estate. The 2nd Earl was a Tory MP and a friend of William Pitt the Younger. He died suddenly while returning from a hunt at Bramham on 25 November 1841. His son, the 3rd Earl, carried the standard of the 2nd Battalion of 1st Foot Guards at the Battle of Waterloo. He too was a passionate follower of hounds, who died from a fall out hunting at Harewood in 1857. The 5th Earl was Yeomanry ADC to Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V. His son, the 6th Earl, was wounded in the First World War and awarded the DSO and bar in 1918. He married Princess Mary, the only daughter of George V.

Roger Lumley, 11th Earl of Scarborough, Lord-Lieutenant from 1948-69, was the nephew of the 10th Earl, who had held the office from 1892-1904. He served on the Western Front from 1915 to 1919 and was Governor of Bombay through much of the Second World War. He was an MP during the 1930s, serving as PPS to Austen Chamberlain and later to Anthony Eden. He became Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1951 and was the first High Steward of York Minster from 1967 until his death in 1969.

The Lord-Lieutenants since 1970 have all come from a business background, so properly reflecting the character of West Yorkshire. Most have served as High Sheriff, as well as taking an active and admirable part in county affairs. Brigadier Kenneth Hargreaves CBE (1970-78) was Managing Director and then Chairman of the well-diversified Hargreaves Group, who were originally coal-distributors. He served in India in the 2nd World War, had a life-long interest in the Territorial Army, including being the final Honorary Colonel of the Leeds Rifles, and was was on the Board of Sadlers Wells and Opera North, where he was President of the Friends. Sir William Bulmer (1978-85) held many offices in the wool textile business and was knighted for his services to industry. John Taylor, Baron Ingrow (1985-92), was Chairman and Managing Director of the Keighley brewing firm, Timothy Taylor and Co. He served in the Royal Signals in Europe, the Middle East and Far East during the 2nd World War and was later actively involved in politics, for which he was awarded his peerage. John Lyles, CBE, JP (1992-2004) was Managing Director of S Lyles PLC, yarn-spinners, Chairman of the Yorks and Humberside Chambers of Commerce, and was appointed President of the Shrievalty Association in 1999. He was made a Companion of the Victorian Order on his retirement as Lord-Lieutenant. His successor is Ingrid Roscoe PhD FSA.