Born 1773 Died 1840
Henry Richard Vassall-Fox was the son of Stephen Fox, 2nd Baron Holland, his mother, Lady Mary Fitzpatrick, being the daughter of the Earl of Upper Ossory. He was born at Winterslow House in Wiltshire, on the 21st of November 1773, and his father died in the following year. He was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he became the friend of Canning, of Hookham Frere, and of other wits of the time.
Lord Holland did not take the same political side as his friends in the conflicts of the revolutionary epoch. He was from his boyhood deeply attached to his uncle, C. J. Fox, and remained steadily loyal to the Whig party. In 1791 he visited Paris and became acquainted with Lafayette and Talleyrand, and in 1793 he again went abroad to travel in France and Italy. At Florence he met with Lady Webster, wife of Sir Godfrey Webster, Baronet, who left her husband for him. She was by birth Elizabeth Vassall (1770-1845), daughter of Richard Vassall, a planter in Jamaica. A son was born of their irregular union, a Charles Richard Fox (1796-1873), who after some service in the navy entered the Grenadiers, and was known in later life as a collector of Greek coins. His collection was bought for the royal museum of Berlin when he died in 1873. He married Lady Mary Fitzclarence, a daughter of William IV by Mrs Jordan. Sir Godfrey Webster having obtained a divorce, Lord Holland was enabled to marry on the 6th of July 1797. He had taken his seat in the House of Lords on the 5th of October 1796. During several years he may be said almost to have constituted the Whig party in the Upper House. His protests against the measures of the Tory ministers were collected and published, as the Opinions of Lord Holland (1841), by Dr Moylan of Lincoln's Inn.
In 1800 he was authorized to take the name of Vassall, and after 1807 he signed himself Vassall Holland, though the name was no part of his title. In 1800 Lord and Lady Holland went abroad and remained in France and Spain till 1805, visiting Paris during the Peace of Amiens, and being well received by Napoleon. Lady Holland always professed a profound admiration of Napoleon, of which she made a theatrical display after his fall, and he left her a gold snuff-box by his will. In public life Lord Holland took a share proportionate to his birth and opportunities. He was appointed to negotiate with the American envoys, Monroe and W. Pinkney, was admitted to the Privy Council on the 27th of August 1806, and on the 15th of October entered the cabinet 'of all the talents' as Lord Privy Seal, retiring with the rest of his colleagues in March 1807. He led the opposition to the Regency bill in 1811, and he attacked the 'orders in council' and other strong measures of the government taken to counteract Napoleon's Berlin decrees. He was in fact in politics a consistent Whig, and in that character he denounced the treaty of 1813 with Sweden which bound England to consent to the forcible union of Norway, and he resisted the bill of 1816 for confining Napoleon in St Helena. His loyalty as a Whig secured recognition when his party triumphed in the struggle for parliamentary reform, by his appointment as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the cabinet of Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne, and he was still in office when he died on the 22nd of October 1840.
Lord Holland is notable, not for his somewhat insignificant political career, but as a patron of literature, as a writer on his own account, and because his house was the centre and the headquarters of the Whig political and literary world of the time; and Lady Holland (who died on the 16th of November 1845) succeeded in taking the sort of place in London which had been filled in Paris during the 18th century by the society ladies who kept 'salons'. Lord Holland's Foreign Reminiscences(1850) contain much amusing gossip from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic era. His Memoirs of the Whig Party (1852) is an important contemporary authority. His small work on Lope de Vega (1806) is still of some value. Holland had two legitimate sons, Stephen, who died in 1800, and Henry Edward, who became 4th Lord Holland. When this peer died in December 1859 the title became extinct.
See The Journal of Elizabeth, Lady Holland, edited by the Earl of Ilchester (1908); and Lloyd Sanders, The Holland House Circle (1908).
Being the entry for HOLLAND, HENRY RICHARD VASSALL-FOX, 3RD BARON in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.