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John Cust was educated at Eton and Cambridge, and shortly after leaving there moved into politics, becoming M.P. for Clitheroe, a constituency controlled by his father, in 1802. He was not active in the House of Commons and apparently did not speak in debate. His Commons career proved to be short-lived. In 1807 he succeeded his father to become 2nd Baron Brownlow and removed to the House of Lords.
In 1809 Baron Brownlow became Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, a position which he held until 1852.
He actively solicited for a peerage, telling Lord Liverpool that 'no one has been a more steady and zealous friend to your lordship’s administration'. His effort was rewarded in 1815 when he was created 1st Earl Brownlow.
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