Edward Venables-Vernon-Harcourt

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Edward Venables-Vernon-Harcourt

Archbishop of York
Abp Edward V-Harcourt by Thomas Phillips (crop).jpg
Portrait by Thomas Phillips
Province Province of York
Diocese Diocese of York
Elected26 November 1807 (nominated)
19 January 1808 (confirmed)
Term ended1847 (death)
Predecessor William Markham
Successor Thomas Musgrave
Other posts Bishop of Carlisle (1791–1807)
Personal details
Birth nameEdward Venables-Vernon
Born(1757-10-10)10 October 1757 [1]
Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire, England
Died5 November 1847(1847-11-05) (aged 90) [1]
Bishopthorpe, Yorkshire, England
Buried Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire
Nationality British
Denomination Anglican
Parents George Venables-Vernon, 1st Baron Vernon
SpouseAnne Leveson-Gower
Children16 children
Education Westminster School
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford

Hon. Edward Venables-Vernon-Harcourt (10 October 1757 – 5 November 1847) was a Church of England bishop. He was the Bishop of Carlisle from 1791 to 1807 [2] and then the Archbishop of York until his death.


He was the third son of the George Venables-Vernon, 1st Baron Vernon (1709–1780), and took the additional name of Harcourt on succeeding to the property of his cousin, the last Earl Harcourt, in 1831. [2]


Edward Venables-Vernon was born at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire on 10 October 1757. He was educated at Westminster School; matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford on 2 July 1774 ; was elected fellow of All Souls College in 1777 ; and graduated B.C.L. 27 April 1786, and D.C.L. 4 May following. After his ordination he was instituted to the family living of Sudbury. He became a canon of Christ Church, Oxford, 13 October 1785, and a prebendary of Gloucester on 10 November in the same year . He resigned his prebendal stall in 1791, but held his other appointments to 1808.

On 18 August 1791 he was nominated as the Bishop of Carlisle [2] in succession to John Douglas and was consecrated on 6 November following. For 16 years he administered the affairs of the see of Carlisle with good sense and discretion, spending more than the whole income of the see upon the wants of his diocese. [1]

Archbishop of York

After the death of Archbishop William Markham. Venables-Vernon was nominated on 26 November 1807 as archbishop of York, [2] and was confirmed in St. James's Church, Westminster on 19 January 1808. [3] In the same year, on 20 January, he was gazetted a privy councillor, and made Lord High Almoner to George III, an office which he also held under Queen Victoria's reign.

According to the account of Dean Alford:

"Archbishop Harcourt was very fond of hunting, so fond that he was very near refusing the archbishopric because he thought if he accepted he should have to give it up. He consulted a friend, who said that he must take counsel with others. 'Of course I should never join the meet,’ said the Archbishop, 'but you know I might fall in with the hounds by accident.' After some time the friend came back and said that on the whole the party considered that the Archbishop might hunt, provided he did not shout." [4]

The Archbishops of Yorks residence: Bishopthorpe Palace (viewed from the Ouse in 1995) BishopthorpePlalce(TomPennington)Jul1995.jpg
The Archbishops of Yorks residence: Bishopthorpe Palace (viewed from the Ouse in 1995)

Venables-Vernon was a member of the queen's council who had charge of George III during his illness. He was an eloquent speaker, and occasionally spoke in the House of Lords on ecclesiastical matters, but usually abstained from political contentions. He lived under five successive monarchs, and was respected for benevolence and simplicity of character. On 15 January 1831 he took the surname of Harcourt only on inheriting the large estates of the Harcourt family, which came to him on the death of his cousin, Field-marshal William, third and last Earl Harcourt. [1]

In 1835 he was appointed one of the first members of the ecclesiastical commission. In 1838 he was offered the renewal of the Harcourt peerage, but declined it, not wishing to be fettered in his parliamentary votes. York Minster twice suffered fires during his primacy, 1829 and 1841, and he contributed largely to both restorations. Archbishop Harcourt preached his valedictory sermon in York Minster on 13 November 1838. However Harcourt continued to enjoy good health, and as late as 1 November 1847 visited York and inspected the repairs of the chapterhouse. He died at the palace, Bishopthorpe, near York, on 5 November 1847, and was buried at Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, 13 November [1]


On 5 February 1784 he married Anne Leveson-Gower, third daughter of Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford, and they had sixteen children. His wife predeceased him at Bishopthorpe Palace on 16 November 1832, aged 72.

His second son, the Revd Leveson Vernon Harcourt, [5] was chancellor of York, an author of The Doctrine of the Deluge [6] and of other theological works. His fourth son was William Vernon Harcourt, the founder of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Two of his sons became Admirals and his youngest daughter, Georgiana, distinguished herself as a translator.

The children included:

Cato Street conspiracy

As a director of the Ancient Concerts, Harcourt entertained his fellow-directors (the prince regent and Prince Adolphus – the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Cumberland (later the King of Hanover), and the Duke of Wellington) at his house in Grosvenor Square on 23 February 1821. On the same night the Cato Street conspirators had designed the murder of the cabinet ministers at the house adjoining Harcourt's, where the ministers had agreed to dine with Lord Harrowby. [1]

Harcourt's publications

  1. A Sermon preached before the Lords on the Anniversary of the Martyrdom of King Charles the First, 1794.
  2. A Sermon preached before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1798.
  3. A Sermon preached at the Coronation of George IV, 1821, which was twice reprinted.

An account of the life of Margaret Godolphin who died in 1678 was written by John Evelyn and this was passed down through his family to Harcourt. Harcourt allowed it to be published in 1847 with the assistance of the Bishop of Oxford. [9]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Dictionary of National Biography now in the public domain
  2. 1 2 3 4 A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage
  3. Episcopal succession at ucl.ac.uk Archived 11 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine accessed 10 November 2007
  4. Augustus Hare, The Story of My Life, Volume II (Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1896) at pages 338 to 339
  5. 1788–1860
  6. London, 1838 in 2 volumes
  7. Hollis, Christopher (1965). The Oxford Union. Evans.
  8. "Godolphin, Margaret"  . Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
Church of England titles
Preceded by
John Douglas
Bishop of Carlisle
Succeeded by
Samuel Goodenough
Preceded by
William Markham
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
Thomas Musgrave