Lord Frederick Beauclerk
|Full name||Lord Frederick de Vere Beauclerk|
|Born||8 May 1773|
|Died||22 April 1850 (aged 76)|
|Domestic team information|
|1791–1825||Marylebone Cricket Club|
Source: ESPNCricinfo, 13 July 2009
Lord Frederick de Vere Beauclerk (8 May 1773 – 22 April 1850) was an outstanding but controversial English first-class cricketer for 35 years from 1791 to 1825. On his retirement, he served as president of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 1826.
Early life and ecclesiastical career
Beauclerk was born in London on 8 May 1773, the fourth son of Aubrey Beauclerk, 5th Duke of St Albans and his wife, the former Lady Catherine Ponsonby, daughter of William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough.
Like other younger sons of the nobility, Beauclerk became a clergyman, being ordained deacon in 1795 and priest in 1797. He was Vicar of Kimpton (1797–1827), then of Redbourn and St Michael's Church, St Albans (1827–1850). However, he "never allowed his clerical duties to interfere materially with the claims of cricket" and "his sermons were legendary for their dullness".
Beauclerk was a right-handed batsman and a right arm slow underarm bowler who was a recognised all-rounder. He generally fielded at slip. His career spanned the 1791 to 1825 seasons. In his prime, his height was 5 ft 9 in and he weighed between 11 st and 12 st.
He played at Cambridge University where his talent as an accurate slow bowler was spotted by the Earl of Winchilsea, who invited him to play for MCC. Beauclerk's first-class debut was for MCC v Gentlemen of Kent at Lord's Old Ground on 2 & 3 June 1791. Beauclerk was "now but 18 years of age". He played two first-class matches in the 1791 season but then was unavailable until the 1795 season while he completed his studies. He then became a regular and prolific player.
Having started as a bowler, he developed his batting skills and became better known as a hard-hitting batsman, but remained a genuine all-rounder.
Beauclerk scored 170 as a given man playing for Homerton against Montpelier in 1807, a match not widely recognised as first-class. This score set a world record for the highest individual innings in all forms of cricket that lasted until 1820 when it was beaten by William Ward's score of 278.
In 1810, Beauclerk and Thomas Howard were due to play George Osbaldeston and William Lambert in a lucrative single wicket match. Osbaldeston was taken ill just before the match and Beauclerk flatly refused to postpone it, saying: "Play or pay". Lambert had to play on his own but he was a canny professional who was well aware of Beauclerk's weakness: his uncontrollable temper. By deliberately bowling wide, Lambert caused Beauclerk to lose both his temper and his wicket with the result that Lambert won the match by 15 runs.
The humiliated and vindictive Beauclerk would have his revenge on Osbaldeston and Lambert in years to come but first he used his influence at MCC to secure a change in the Laws of Cricket so that wide balls were for the first time banned in 1811.
In 1817, Beauclerk played in a highly controversial match at Nottingham in which he captained an All-England team while Osbaldeston and Lambert were given men for Nottingham. Accusations of match-fixing were made by both sides and Beauclerk was able to produce witnesses who implicated Lambert. As a result, MCC banned Lambert from ever playing again at Lord's Cricket Ground. Osbaldeston's turn came in 1818 after he too lost his temper when beaten at single wicket by George Brown of Sussex. Osbaldeston was so angry that he resigned his MCC membership. Later, he repented and asked to be reinstated but Beauclerk refused his application.
Beauclerk persuaded MCC to call a meeting to ban roundarm bowling in 1822 even though he had been known to claim wagers when playing alongside the early roundarmers like John Willes. According to Lord Harris: "When he (Willes) played on the side of Lord Frederick his bowling was fair, when against him, the contrary".
Beauclerk was the second president of MCC in 1826, playing for its team in minor matches while in office. Thereafter, he was a regular attendee at Lord's to watch matches and was occasionally involved in them as a patron. A "persistent symbol of insensitive autocracy long after his retirement", he was invariably accompanied by a "nasty, yapping dog" whereas the rule for everyone else was: "No dogs allowed".
Style and technique
Beauclerk was one of the best single wicket players of his time. His batting style was "rather scientific, in the more orthodox manner of the professionals", while his under-arm bowling was very slow, but extremely accurate and he could get the ball to rise abruptly off a length.
Although his batting style was described as scientific, Beauclerk was also impulsive as "he sometimes lost his wicket by trying to cut straight balls". He was a hard-hitting batsman with fine strokeplay, "especially to the off". He improved his batsmanship by modelling himself on William Beldham, but he lacked the latter's natural flair.
Beauclerk was an astute tactician and it has been recorded that he carefully studied opposing batsmen with the ability to quickly understand their strengths and weaknesses so that he could set his field accordingly.
Beauclerk wore a white beaver hat when playing, the remainder of his outfit being a white shirt, nankeen breeches, a scarlet sash and white stockings. He once threw his hat down on the pitch in frustration at his inability to dismiss the obdurate batsman Tom Walker, known as "Old Everlasting". Beauclerk called Walker a "confounded old beast" but, when Walker was asked about it afterwards, he shrugged and said: "I don't care what he says".
My Lord he comes next, and will make you all stare
With his little tricks, a long way from fair.
Much that is hagiography exists about cricketers but "an unqualified eulogy of Beauclerk has never been seen and that is significant". Although he was a cleric and ostensibly against gambling, he estimated that he made up to £600 a year from playing cricket, which at the time was funded mostly by gambling. But Beauclerk as a vicar was "completely devoid of Christian charity". In this vein, Rowland Bowen likened him to Talleyrand as "a cleric without, it would seem, the faintest interest in being a clergyman or any kind of Christian".
Beauclerk has been described as "an unmitigated scoundrel". Among the quotations about him is one that he was a "foul-mouthed, dishonest man who was one of the most hated figures in society ... he bought and sold matches as though they were lots at an auction". Another described him as "cruel, unforgiving, cantankerous and bitter".
In an early example of gamesmanship, he is said to have occasionally suspended an expensive gold watch from the middle stump whilst batting, the inference being that his batting was sound enough, or the bowling bad enough, for it to remain unscathed. Sadly, there is no record of how many watches he lost in this fashion.
Family and personal life
- Caroline Henrietta Frederica Beauclerk (1815–1878)
- Charles William Beauclerk (1816–1863)
- Captain Aubrey Frederick James Beauclerk (1817–1853)
- Henrietta Mary Beauclerk (1818–1887)
His sons, Charles and Aubrey, also played cricket as did his nephew, William Aubrey de Vere Beauclerk, 9th Duke of St Albans.
Beauclerk lived mostly at Winchfield House, Winchfield, Hampshire. He also had a London residence at 68 Grosvenor Street, Westminster, where he died aged 76 on 22 April 1850. He was buried in Winchfield at St Mary's Church. His wife erected a tablet inside the church which refers to "his many virtues".
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