Born at Woodside near Brechin, Scotland, Rose was the son of the Reverend David Rose of Lethnot, by Margaret, daughter of Donald Rose of Wester Clune. He was educated at Westminster School, afterwards entering the Royal Navy, a service which he left in 1762 after he had been wounded in some fighting in the West Indies. He then obtained a position in the Civil Service, becoming joint Keeper of the Records in 1772 and secretary to the Board of Taxes in 1777. In 1782 he gave up the latter appointment to become one of the secretaries to the treasury under Prime Minister Lord Shelburne, though he did not enter Parliament.
He left office with his colleagues in April 1783, but in the following December he returned to his former position at the Treasury in Pitt's ministry, being henceforward one of this minister’s most steadfast supporters. He entered parliament as Member for Launceston early in 1784, and his fidelity and friendship were rewarded by Pitt, who gave him a lucrative post in the court of exchequer; in 1788 he became Clerk of the Parliaments. In 1801 Rose left office with Pitt, but returned with him to power in 1804, when he was made vice-president of the committee on trade and joint Paymaster-General.
Rose resigned these offices a few days after Pitt's death in 1806, but he served as vice-president of the committee on trade and Treasurer of the Navy under the Duke of Portland and Spencer Perceval from 1807 to 1812. He was again Treasurer of the Navy under Lord Liverpool, and he was still MP for Christchurch, a seat which he had held since 1790, when he died at Cuffnells, in Hampshire. He and many of his family are buried at Christchurch Priory,
Rose was a close friend of Admiral Lord Nelson. He first met Nelson when the latter was a young Captain and had just returned from the West Indies. This friendship grew over the years. Nelson invited Rose to go on board HMS Victory before the ship sailed for the Battle of Trafalgar; his purpose was to tell Rose that, if he was killed, he had left Lady Hamilton and their daughter Horatia to the Nation. Rose was thus the last man in England to see Nelson alive. After Nelson's death Rose became Emma Hamilton's executor and Horatia's guardian; but Pitt's death diminished Rose's influence and his fellow Ministers did not support her.
Rose was also a friend of King George III and his family who stayed with him a number of times at his house "Cuffnells" in Lyndhurst, on their way to summer holidays at Weymouth. Rose also owned a seaside house at Sandhills near Christchurch, now a holiday camp.
Rose wrote several books on economic subjects, and his Diaries and Correspondence, edited by the Rev. L. V. Harcourt, was published in 1860.
His elder son, Sir George Henry Rose (1771–1855), was in parliament from 1794 to 1813, and again from 1818 to 1844, and in the meantime he was British minister at Munich, at Berlin, and at Washington. He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Hanoverian Guelphic Order. In 1818 he succeeded his father as clerk of the parliaments. He was the father of Field Marshal Baron Strathnairn who was described as one of the bravest men in the British Army and the best commander in the Indian Mutiny. The second son was the poet William Stewart Rose who was friendly with Sir Walter Scott.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- The Right Honourable George Rose by Peter Poland, published in Sydney, Australia January 1989
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by George Rose
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