Mar 062012

In our Regency Promenade today, Nancy Mayer looks at the lives of The Brothers Scott.

William, who became Lord Stowell, and John, who became Lord Eldon.


Their father, William Scott of near Newcastle upon Tyne who made a modest fortune selling coal.  He had thirteen children with his wife but only three sons and two daughter survived to adulthood….

William born with a twin sister in 1745; Henry; and John born 1751. Henry followed in his father’s footstep’s.

William Scott 1st Earl of Stowell 1745- 1836

William Scott 1st Earl of Stowell 1745- 1836


William Scott– went to Oxford where he excelled in ancient history and became the Camden professor of ancient history.  He also earned a doctorate of civil law and became an advocate in civil law courts — the mainly ecclesiastical courts as well as court of admiralty and probate court. He rose though the ranks and was knighted in 1788.

In 1790 he was elected MP for Downton and in 1802 was elected MP from Oxford, which position he held until he was raised to the peerage in 1821 as Lord Stowell. He served on various ecclesiastical courts until 1821 and on was head of the Court of admiralty until 1827. He died in 1836. His only son died unmarried so his peerage died with him.



John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon  by Sir Thomas Lawrence

John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon 1751- 1838 by Sir Thomas Lawrence


John Scott –  was not a scholar but had a good memory.


His father thought he should enter into the business, but his brother William suggested that he enter university with a view to taking orders.




Either because of a lack of offers or a change of opinion, John went instead into law.  He entered into the Middle Temple inn of court in 1772.

He was called to the bar in 1776. He was fortunate in earning early recognition of his talents.  He was elected MP for Weobly in 1783, appointed solicitor general and knighted in 1788, attorney-general in 1793. Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1799, and created Lord Eldon.

In 1801, he was named Lord High Chancellor which made him chief justice of the court of Chancery and speaker of the House of Lords, He stayed in this position until 1806 when he resigned at the change of administration.

He was reappointed in 1807 and remained in the position until1827. He was raised to an earl in 1821 when his brother was made a baron. He died in 1838 and was succeeded in the peerage by his grandson.

Both brothers made fortunes during their lives.

Many commentators say that Lord Stowell was the better jurist. Sir William (as he was then) was the judge who presided over the case of Dalrymple v Dalrymple. Charles Dickens blamed Lord Eldon for the proverbial slowness of the Court of Chancery. He painted a devastating portrait in Bleak House.

Alan Harding, the author of Social History of English Law says that Eldon had too much law for the position of chief judge of Chancery and was opposed to reform.

( NB.  There is no relationship to Walter Scott the novelist. )

Sources –  WIKIPEDIA,_1st_Earl_of_Eldon,_1st_Baron_Stowell


Debrett’s peerage 1842 “Lord Eldon”

A Social History of English Law by Alan Harding and many other sources on the courts and the men.

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