RICKETTS, Charles Milner (1776-1867).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



4 Jan. 1820 - Mar. 1822

Family and Education

b. 21 Apr. 1776, 2nd s. of George Poyntz Ricketts of Midgham, Jamaica and Grove Place, Hants by Sophia, da. of William Watts of South Hill, Berks., gov. Fort William. educ. Westminster 1788. m. 8 Mar. 1800, Ellen Theresa, da. of Miles Prendergast of co. Galway, wid. of Sackville Marcus Taylor, 4s. 4da.

Offices Held

Writer, E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1792; asst. to sec. to government Aug. 1792, to resident at Rangpur Nov. 1792, to opium agent at Bihar 1798; first asst. to commercial resident, Dacca 1798; jun. merchant 1801; acting sec. to board of trade 1799, sec. to board 1802; commercial resident, Commarcolly 1801; jt.-inspector of opium 1805; sen. merchant 1807; sec. to government in public dept. 1811; dir. Bank of Bengal 1811; principal private sec. to gov.-gen. Nov. 1813, again Jan. 1817; chief sec. to government 1815; member of council and pres. board of trade Dec. 1817; ret. Jan. 1819.

Consul general at Lima 1827-29.


Ricketts, the last Member to be returned to the House in this period, owed everything to Charles and Robert Banks Jenkinson*, 1st and 2nd Earls of Liverpool. In 1772 his father, who owned a Jamaican plantation which he later sold, married the sister of Charles Jenkinson’s first wife, who had died in 1770 after giving birth to the future prime minister. Ricketts senior fell on hard times in the 1780s, but obtained the governorship of Tobago in 1793 and that of Barbados the following year. He died at Liverpool in 1800 just after returning home because of ill health.1

By then Ricketts and his elder brother George had been in India for almost eight years, thanks to the influence of their uncle, a member of Pitt’s cabinet. On at least three occasions in 1798 and 1799 their mother, who had stayed in England, begged Liverpool to urge Lord Mornington, the governor-general, to ‘push them forward in their lines’, alleging that his predecessor, Lord Teignmouth, had blocked their promotion ‘because they were young men sent out by government interest, and not by an East India director’s’. Charles in particular, she said, had been driven to ‘despair’ and serious illness by his lack of progress. Liverpool obliged and Ricketts duly benefited, but in November 1801 he wrote critically to his cousin, then Lord Hawkesbury, of Mornington’s policy of ‘conquest and aggrandizement’.2 He was one of the chief rivals for the affections of Rose Aylmer, the celebrated beauty who took Calcutta by storm, but ‘very shortly after her premature death’, in the words of William Hickey, ‘sought comfort for himself in the arms of a vulgar, huge, coarse Irish slammerkin’, sister of the wealthy India merchant, Michael George Prendergast*.3 The marriage was to end unhappily in the early 1820s, but Prendergast and the 2nd Earl of Liverpool, as Ricketts’s cousin became in 1808, took responsibility for the welfare and education in England of his eldest children, while Prendergast looked after his financial concerns.

Ricketts, who was appointed as his private secretary by Lord Moira, later Marquess of Hastings, on his arrival as governor-general in 1813, became a respected and competent administrator. In 1816 Liverpool turned down his application for the governorship of Ceylon, normally given to ‘military men’, but made every effort to secure his election to the council. The hostility of the court of directors to Ricketts, on the ground of his ‘want of independence’ as secretary to the government and Moira’s confidant, caused an initial set-back, but Liverpool’s personal interference eventually forced the appointment through in 1817. In January 1818 he told Liverpool that ‘my health continues tolerably good, but I often feel that I am unable to cope with these labours as I was wont to do’, and that he was determined to join his family in England at the end of the year. A friend wrote to Mrs Ricketts from India thoroughly approving her husband’s decision: ‘he can retire from an uncongenial climate, with honour, affluence, and independence, and will stand on high ground, as vacating an office that usually chains its possessor to India to the last hour’. When he left for England in January 1819 Hastings commended him to Liverpool for his ‘elevated probity’, combined with ‘great talent and indefatigable industry’ and ‘minute knowledge of all the concerns of this country’.4

On Ricketts’s return to England Liverpool, as he later told Prendergast, did for him ‘what all our common friends thought at the time was the best thing I could’, that is ‘procured him an easy seat in Parliament’, for Dartmouth, by persuading the patron and sitting Member, Arthur Howe Holdsworth, to vacate and return Ricketts in his place. Liverpool subsequently claimed that he had ‘never held out to Mr Ricketts any expectation of office either at home or in Europe’, but that by securing his return to Parliament he had given him ‘the opportunity of making himself known here, and of forming English connections’, to improve his prospects of advancement.5 He had little chance to make any mark in his first Parliament, which was dissolved only 56 days after his election. He died 7 Sept. 1867.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Add. 38226, f. 178; 38229, ff. 38, 213; 38306, f. 63; 38470, ff. 198, 225, 276; 38471, ff. 93, 106, 245; 38472, f. 305.
  • 2. Add. 38233, ff. 50, 55; 38237, f. 179; 38310, f. 214b; 38472, f. 307.
  • 3. Hickey Mems. ed. Spencer, iv. 230.
  • 4. Add. 38263, ff. 138, 153, 192; 38364, f. 31; 38410, ff. 293, 399, 429; 38578, ff. 5, 7.
  • 5. Add. 38475, f. 103.