William was born in Dursley, Gloucestershire, the son of William Vizard (died 1807), a solicitor there, and his wife, Ann Phelps. He went to London in 1790 and worked for his articles under Thomas Lewis of Gray's Inn Square, an attorney of the Court of Exchequer.
In 1797 Vizard went in practice on his own account as a solicitor in Holborn Square. This office became a law firm that was the ancestor of Vizard Oldham Brooke Blain (Vizards). After further corporate changes, it became part of Veale Wasbrough Vizards LLP, trading as VWV. For a period the firm traded as Vizard & Lemans of Lincoln's Inn Fields, where Vizard was in partnership with James Leman (1793–1876), Henry Leman and William Leman.
Through Thomas Creevey, Vizard encountered Whig politicians. He worked with Henry Brougham to have the Orders in Council (1807) repealed, on behalf of a group of merchants of Liverpool and Manchester, from 1807 to 1812.
From around 1812, William became active in Whig politics, initially as an unsuccessful candidate at Bristol in the 1812 general election. It was at this period that he was appointed solicitor to Caroline, Princess of Wales, at Brougham's suggestion. She was largely absent from the United Kingdom, from 1814.
When George IV came to the throne in 1820, he attempted to impose "pain and penalties" on his wife Queen Caroline, by means of a bill in the House of Lords to dissolve their marriage. Vizard defended the Queen, by organising opposition to the bill's second reading. This took place from August to November 1820. The defence was successful, and Vizard announced the bill's withdrawal from the balcony of the House of Lords.
In later years, Vizard was a legal reformer, proposing changes in the 1820s to the Court of Chancery. When Brougham was Lord Chancellor, from 1830, Vizard worked on his reform of bankruptcy.
He died at Little Faringdon on 15 January 1859.
The late William Vizard, Esq.
— In our obituary, a few weeks since, was recorded the decease of a remarkable man, in whom the county of Gloucester claims an interest. We are, therefore, led to offer some reminiscences of the career of William Vizard, Esq. of Little Faringdon, Berks, and formerly of 51, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, who departed this life on January 15th, 1859, in his 85th year.
He belonged to an age and class now nearly passed away, who distinguished themselves and rose to eminence in their sphere of life through singular ability, and the circumstances of the times in which they lived.
Descended from an old family at Dursley, in this county, where his father practised as a solicitor during a long life, and himself the second of three sons, brought up to the legal profession, Mr. Vizard was sent to London, after finishing his education at the College School, at Gloucester, and articled to a respectable solicitor in Gray’s Inn, where he afterwards took chambers, and commenced practice on his own account in the like profession.
An adjoining set of chambers was then occupied by the late Mr. Creevy, M.P., with whom Mr. Vizard accidentally became acquainted; and this circumstance appears to have opened the way to his future prosperity.
Having allied himself to the Whig political party, he was employed conducting the case at the bar of the House of Commons against the famous Orders in Council issued in retaliation for Buonaparte’s Berlin Decrees. He also acquired a great reputation for conducting contested elections, and carrying them afterwards, when their results were disputed, through parliamentary committees, and was much employed in Parliament in the business of disfranchising some of the old boroughs in Cornwall and elsewhere, while his general practice increased at the same time to a considerable extent.
During the Regency, before the Princess of Wales quitted England, he was appointed her solicitor, and on her return to this country as Queen, after the accession of George IV, it devolved on him to conduct her Majesty’s defence in the famous trial before the House of Lords, which followed the introduction of the Bill of Pains and Penalties by the Prime Minister.
On this important occasion he exercised such professional skill and indefatigable industry as tended in no small degree to the successful result with which his efforts for his royal client were ultimately crowned; and he was the first to announce the withdrawal of the bill from the balcony of the House of Lords to the assembled crowds who were waiting the result with impetuous excitement, threatening even to break open the doors of the building.
On the accession of the Whigs to office in 1830, he was immediately offered by Lord Chancellor Brougham the office of Secretary of Bankrupts, previously filled by a barrister, and then producing emoluments to the amount of about £2500 a year. The first duties of his office were to cooperate with his lordship in entirely remodelling the jurisdiction of bankruptcy in London, causing a considerable diminution in the expense of administering bankrupts’ estates and a permanent reduction of the income of his own office to about £1200 a year; and also in establishing the system of official assignees as a remedy to the evils so loudly complained of connected with the management of bankrupts’ estates by creditors’ assignees only.
The Lord Chancellor’s Secretary of Bankrupts was always changed with the Ministry, and Mr. Vizard, therefore, went out with the Melbourne Administration, but he was again appointed to the office on the return of the Whigs to power, when the Great Seal was put in commission, and twice afterwards re-appointed by two successive Chancellors, Lords Cottenham and Truro. He was thus four times made Secretary of Bankrupts, a distinction to which, none probably in his branch of the profession ever before attained; and ultimately resigned the office, when increasing age made him feel that the time had now arrived for diminishing his labours.
During the period he held this office he was also appointed to fill another, which was created by the Whig Government, that of Solicitor to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. This office was afterwards considered un-necessary, and a debate took place in the House of Commons, on the subject, during which Members on both sides of the House spoke of Mr. Vizard in the most flattering terms. He then resigned, though contrary to the advice of some of his Parliamentary friends. It may be mentioned that it was through his influence and exertions the town of Dursley was made the place of election for the Western Division of this County, for which he was afterwards presented by the town with a gold snuff-box. He was, on more than one occasion, offered a seat in Parliament, but declined the honour on the ground that it would interfere too much with his professional duties.
After a long life spent in conducting a most extensive business with great zeal, promptitude, and ability, and with the highest character for rectitude and integrity, numbering among his clients some of every rank in the nobility, and many of them becoming his personal friends, he ultimately withdrew from business a few years ago, and spent the remainder of his days in cheerful and tranquil retirement at his seat at Little Faringdon, enjoying the pursuits of country life, to which he had always been much attached. His remains were removed from thence to his native town, Dursley, on Friday, the 21st January where they lie interred with those of his ancestors.
Source: Gloucester Journal, 19 February 1859, page 3,