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Leeds, Francis Godolphin Osborne, 5th duke of

Leeds, Francis Godolphin Osborne, 5th duke of (1751–99). Leeds was known as Lord Carmarthen till 1790, but sat in the Lords as Baron Osborne from 1776. A supporter of Lord North, he shifted to opposition and was punished, in 1780, with dismissal from his lord-lieutenancy (Yorkshire, East Riding). Although reinstated in 1782, he was never a Rockinghamite and supported Shelburne after Charles Fox's resignation. Shortage of available talent led to his appointment as foreign secretary under William Pitt in December 1783. An active, but never illustrious, foreign secretary, Leeds resigned in April 1791, when Pitt refused to back his aggressive policy towards Russia. Thereafter he had little political influence, but suffered occasional delusions of grandeur, as in the summer of 1792, when convinced that he could unite Pitt and Fox by acting as a neutral 1st lord of the Treasury. An embarrassing interview with George III disabused him. This episode confirms contemporary characterizations of him as a vain man, puffed up by an immediate circle of sycophants.

David Wilkinson

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