BERTIE, Hon. Charles (c.1641-1711), of Newport Street, Westminster and Uffington, nr. Stamford, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1641, 5th s. of Sir Montagu Bertie†, 2nd Earl of Lindsey, by 1st w. Martha, da. of Sir William Cokayne, ld. mayor of London 1619-20, of Rushton, Northants., wid. of John, 1st Earl of Holdernesse; bro. of Hon. Peregrine Bertie I, Hon. Richard Bertie and Hon. Robert Bertie, and half-bro. of Hon. Henry Bertie. educ. Amersham (Dr Charles Croke) to 1650; M. Temple 1658; travelled abroad (France) 1660-2. m. 2 Sept. 1674, Mary, da. of Peter Tryon of Harringworth, Northants., wid. of (Sir) Samuel Jones of Courteenhall, Northants., 1s. 1da.1
Attaché, Madrid 1664-5; envoy to Denmark 1671-2, German states 1680-1; sec. to the Treasury 1673-9; commr. for arrears of queen mother’s revenue 1676-85, excise appeals 1677-9, inquiry into the Mint 1678-9; treas. of Ordnance 1681-99, 1702-5; asst. corp. for setting the poor to work 1691; commr. for Million lottery 1694.2
2nd Lt. RN 1668; capt. Coldstream Gds. 1668-73.3
J.p. Mdx. 1676-87, Lincs. (Kesteven) 1679-?d., (Lindsey) 1679-85; commr. for assessment, Lincs. 1679-80, Northants. 1689, Lincs. and Westminster 1689-90; dep. lt. Lincs. 1680-?d.; alderman, Boston and Stamford 1685-Oct. 1688; mayor, Stamford 1685-6; director, Greenwich hospital 1703-d.4
Bertie prepared for a diplomatic career by travelling abroad after the Restoration. He served as attaché at Madrid under Sir Richard Fanshawe, who wrote to the King that his
virtues and extraordinary qualities (the former not lost, the latter acquired with much travels at few years) do no whit degenerate from the nobility of his blood and active loyalty of his progenitors. My duty to your Majesty, as well as my affection to his person, obliging me ex officio to this short testimony of his merit unrequested, to the end so hopeful a branch of that house may not want even this means among others of being early known to his sovereign, I could humbly wish I could add his master too, and that in some near degree of service to your sacred person for the present, in order to public employment for the future, towards which, as years shall increase and occasions be ministered, he is already furnished in a very good measure with two principal and proper gifts, that of tongues and that of observation.
Notwithstanding this glowing testimonial, which he carefully preserved, he failed to make any sort of career in the public service by his own efforts. He tried the navy and the army as well as diplomacy; but it was not until his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Osborne became lord treasurer that he achieved any responsible office. He was appointed secretary to the Treasury, granted a reversion in the Ordnance, and sought a seat in Parliament, contesting Grimsby unsuccessfully. His post increased in importance as his department assumed responsibility in 1676 for issuing the greater part of the secret service money, totalling close on a quarter of a million in three years. Bertie did not actually handle the funds, which was done by two of his clerks, but his knowledge of what went through made him influential, and his fee of 1d. in the £ for managing it was supplemented by gratuities whenever an account was presented.5
Bertie bought Uffington, two miles from Stamford, from the Duke of Buckingham in 1673, and was first returned for the borough unopposed at a by-election five years later, though only after giving an undertaking that ‘I shall not any way prosecute the bill for draining of the Lindsey level’. In the Cavalier Parliament he was appointed only to the committee of elections and privileges and to that for hearing a petition from the creditors of the Merchant Adventurers. Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’, and his name appeared on both lists of government supporters in 1678. He defended Danby in the impeachment debate of 19 Dec., counter-attacking by the production of two letters from Ralph Montagu incriminating Members of the Opposition in intrigues with France. He acted as a teller in favour of an unsuccessful motion to recommit the articles of impeachment.6
In the first general election of 1679 Bertie stood for Stamford with his brother Peregrine, but they withdrew ignominiously before the poll. As Danby’s most faithful adherent, he was one of those entrusted with the management of his probable supporters in the Lords, but his attention was distracted by the new Parliaments investigation into the spending of the secret service money, much of which, it was believed, had been used to bribe Members of Parliament. Some of it had been accounted for in the Exchequer, but a proportion had been, by the King’s direction, allowed to Bertie in one entire sum without account. The investigating committee tried to elicit from Bertie a detailed account of how the money had been spent. On 10 Apr. he sent Danby a description of his examination by the committee, writing:
Sir Francis Winnington, as chairman, demanded of me an account of upwards of £190,000 which the committee found I had received for secret service. ... He also asked me if I had not paid a great part of it to Parliament men, and whether I paid by the King’s directions or your lordship’s only. I answered in general that my privy seal was without account, and that his Majesty having entrusted me with that service, I could not disclose his secrets without his commands. Sir Francis replied that they knew very well to what persons I had distributed the money, and that they expected from me a more ingenuous and fair answer. I told him again that what I had done was by the King’s command, and that I was not at liberty to give them any satisfaction in the least particular, which he said he would report to the House, who, he believed, would expect another sort of answer from me.
On 9 May the Commons issued an order for Bertie to attend the House the following day. He at once wrote to the Earl of Bath to ‘acquaint his Majesty that I will never disclose any trust he had been pleased to repose in me unless his Majesty shall think fit to command me’. He kept his promise. The following day he was summoned to the bar of the House where he was interrogated by the Speaker, who informed him that the House
has been informed of great sums of the King’s money, which have come to your hands, and that no account has been given of it in the place where the King’s revenue is accounted for, in the Exchequer. The House would know how you have disposed of those great sums to Members of Parliament, and if you have receipts for them. The House would have you produce your books, that they may see how you have disposed of that money. The House is particularly informed that you have struck tallies in the Exchequer for £200,000. The House would know how you disposed of it. The general name of ‘secret service’ will not serve turn; you must produce your books, and the acquittances else you will fall under the displeasure of the House.
Bertie denied that he had any accounts and again refused to reveal the King’s secrets without his permission. He also claimed that he had accounted for the money to the King and been fully discharged by a privy seal. The Speaker ordered him to bring the book the King had signed for his discharge to the House. After a short debate he was again summoned to the bar. This time he admitted that he had kept a book containing his accounts of the issue of secret service money, but he insisted that he had given it to the King, when his Majesty signed his discharge. No amount of further pressure could produce any more information from him and he was accordingly committed to the custody of the serjeant-at-arms for ‘his contempt of the House’. On 23 May he wrote to Danby,
I wish I might receive from his Majesty a direction for giving answer, viz. that I have delivered up this account into his own hands and the rather because I am every day told that his Majesty denies in private that ever he received the book of my account of secret service, which my Lord Bath is my witness he commanded me to say. But I hope his Majesty will be steady therein, and then I am sure I shall not be discouraged.
Meanwhile Bertie was faced with a fresh challenge from the committee of secrecy, who intended to charge him with the receiving of £80,000 from France. This was the secret French subsidy disclosed by Montagu, which the Treasury had issued as part of the secret service account. Despite this Bertie informed Danby by letter on 24 May that if he were
this day sent for to the House—as I hear I shall be—I determine to confine myself to this short answer, that I should never have lain under the displeasure of the House had I dared to have given any account of his Majesty’s secret service without his command, and though his Majesty is so gracious as to indulge me the liberty of repeating those persons [Sir] Stephen Fox has named, yet considering the general rule he has given me of saying as little as I can, as also that the saying so much will but tempt them to ask other questions which may be prejudicial to his service, I resolve to forbear the owning of it. ... I desire your lordship to assure his Majesty that I will stand firm to him in the matter he was pleased to entrust to me, and that nothing shall ever deter me from my constancy of my duty both to him and your lordship upon whose account I shall glory in my suffering.
In fact Bertie was not again summoned before the House and his release came with the dissolution of Parliament in July.7
In the summer of 1680, in order to get Bertie out of the country before the second Exclusion Parliament met, the King appointed him envoy extraordinary to the electors and princes of Germany with an allowance of £500 for his equipage and £5 a day for his expenses. After a short delay caused by an attempt on the part of the Earl of Anglesey (Arthur Annesley) to prevent him from going, he left England in mid-October. He remained in Germany until April 1681 when Lord Conway wrote to him:
Now that the Parliament at Oxford is dissolved and the King hath not declared his pleasure when he will have another, your friends here think it convenient for you to return. And I am by his Majesty’s order and command to signify to you that it is his Majesty’s pleasure you should return hither with all convenient speed.
He returned home accordingly, and on the death of Sir George Wharton on 12 Aug. 1681 took up his reversion to the office of treasurer of the Ordnance. During the next few years he joined with other members of his family in helping to secure the release of Danby from the Tower, while on his own account building himself ‘a noble home’ at Uffington.8
In the next reign Bertie was appointed an alderman of both Boston and Stamford under the new charters, and regained his seat at Stamford, which he was to retain for the rest of his life. He was probably moderately active in James II’s Parliament, in which he may have served on seven committees, the most important being for the disbandment accounts. Unlike his brothers and nephew, he did not openly oppose the commissioning of Roman Catholic officers, and he remained on the commission of the peace for Kesteven. No replies were recorded to the questions on the Test Act and Penal Laws, probably because the lord lieutenant was his brother. The royal agents recommended that he should be added to the commissions of the peace for Lindsey and Holland, and Sunderland proposed him for re-election to the abortive Parliament of 1688 as court candidate. Moreover in the second remodelling of the Boston corporation he was again appointed an alderman. Nevertheless he accompanied Danby to the north during the preparations for the northern rising, although he was sent back to London on 18 Oct., probably to disarm suspicion. In December James had some idea of retreating northwards and throwing himself on the support of Danby. He appointed Bertie his envoy, and formal instructions were drawn up to guide him in arranging terms. But the King changed his mind and nothing was done. On 9 Dec. he was sent to Lord Ailesbury (Thomas Bruce)
by several chief officers of the army that stuck to the King, for to assure me, and I was to do the same to the King, that they would have ready at 24 hours’ warning, between three and four thousand horse ready to march with him wherever he would command them.
But James had already resolved to flee the country.9
Bertie was re-elected to the Convention, in which he supported Danby’s original proposal to make Mary sole monarch. Consequently he voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant; but he presumably followed his patron as a court Tory in accepting that the majority of the Lower House must prevail, and he continued to hold office under the new regime. An inactive Member, he was teller against proceeding with the report on the conference about the removal and disarming of Papists. He probably served on seven committees, of which the most important was to reverse the judgments obtained or pending on behalf of the Duke of Beaufort (Henry Somerset) for scandalum magnatum. He was registered as the holder of £1,000 East India stock. He remained a court Tory, signing the Association in 1696. He died on 22 Mar. 1711 in his seventy-first year, and was buried at Uffington. His epitaph records that he served 30 years as Member for Stamford ‘with unspotted reputation’. His son Charles succeeded to the seat and retained it as a Tory for a further 16 years.10
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Paula Watson
- 1. The Ancestor , ii. 181; HMC Ancaster , 425.
- 2. HMC Lindsey, 269-70; CSP Dom. 1671, pp. 15, 70; 1679-80, p. 628; 1691-2, p. 422; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 609, 663, 986, 1204; vi. 158; vii. 274, 597; viii. 1723; x. 552; xiv. 370; xvii. 233; xx. 247.
- 3. Cat. Pepysian Mss (Navy Recs. Soc. xxvi), 324; CSP Dom. 1667-8, p. 594; 1673, p. 529.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 39, 50; 1703-4, p. 463; J. Drakard, Hist. Stamford, 104.
- 5. HMC Lindsey, 269-70; CSP Dom. 1665-6, p. 538; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 2, p. 456; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 403.
- 6. F. E. D. Willis, Hist. Uffington, 43; Lady E. C. Cust, Recs. Cust Fam. i. 220; Grey, vi. 354, 359; CJ, ix. 562.
- 7. HMC 13th Rep. VI, 13; Grey, vii. 228-36; CJ, ix. 616, 619; HMC Lindsey, 270; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 407-10.
- 8. CSP Dom. 1679-80, pp. 596, 628; 1680-1, pp. 16, 52-53; Add. 35104, f. 10; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 439, 446; HMC Rutland, ii. 113.
- 9. Add. 38102 ff. 3-4; CSP Dom. 1687-9 p. 275; Browning, Danby, i. 390, 394, 412; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 451; Ailesbury Mems. 191.
- 10. CJ, x. 69, 337; Add. 22185, f. 14; The Ancestor, ii. 181; Willis, 47-48.