STEWART, Hon. Charles William (1778-1854), of Mount Stewart, co. Down.

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



1801 - 1 July 1814

Family and Education

b. 18 May 1778, o.s. of Robert, 1st Mq. of Londonderry [I], by 2nd w. Lady Frances Pratt, da. of Charles Pratt 1st Earl Camden; half-bro. of Hon. Robert Stewart*. educ. Eton 1790-4. m. (1) 8 Aug. 1804, Lady Catherine Bligh (d. 11 Feb. 1812), da. of John, 3rd Earl of Darnley [I], 1s.; (2) 3 Apr. 1819, Frances Anne Emily, da. and h. of Sir Henry Vane Tempest, 2nd Bt.*, 3s. 3da. Took name of Vane in lieu of Stewart 5 May 1821. KB 1 Feb. 1813; cr. Baron Stewart [UK] 1 July 1814; GCB 2 Jan. 1815; GCH 22 Mar. 1816. suc. half-bro. Robert as 3rd Mq. of Londonderry [I] 12 Aug. 1822; cr. Earl Vane [UK] 28 Mar. 1823; KG 19 Jan. 1853.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1800.

Ensign, lt. and capt.-lt. Macnamara’s Ft. 1794; maj. 106 Ft. 1795; a.d.c. to ld. lt. [I] 1795-8; maj. 5 Drag. 1796, lt.-col. 1797-9; lt.-col. 18 Drag. 1799; a.d.c. to the King 1803; col. 1803, brig.-gen. 1808; gov. Fort Charles 1809-22; adj.-gen. in the Peninsula 1809-12, maj.-gen. 1810; col. 25 Drag. 1813, lt.-gen. 1814; col. 10 Hussars 1820-43; gen. 1837; col. 2 Life Gds. 1843-d.

Under-sec. of state for War and Colonies Mar. 1807-May 1809; groom of bedchamber July 1812-14, ld. of bedchamber June 1814-27; PC 22 July 1814.

Envoy extraordinary and minister plenip. to Prussia and commr. with the allied armies Apr. 1813-14; ambassador to Austria Aug. 1814-23 and plenip. at Congress of Vienna 1815.

Custos rot. co. Londonderry 1821, co. Down 1822; gov. co. Londonderry 1823, jt. gov. co. Down 1824; ld. lt. Durham 1842-d.


Stewart’s military career was assisted by his maternal uncle Lord Camden, to whom he was a.d.c. during his Irish lord lieutenancy. In his favourite role of a dashing cavalry officer he saw action in 25 battles in the Netherlands, Ireland and the Peninsula until Wellington declined his services in 1813. By then, his half-brother Castlereagh being foreign minister, he was assured of a diplomatic career. His political life was uninspired, governed by his family’s and Castlereagh’s requirements; his devotion to Castlereagh, on whose death his public career fell into abeyance and whose reputation, alive and dead, he jealously guarded, was unquestionable and Castlereagh in turn indulged and, according to Wellington, over-valued him.1

Stewart was returned to the last Irish parliament for Lord Clifden’s borough of Thomastown in March 1800 at his brother’s request, but transferred to county Derry three months later, his uncle Alexander exchanging seats with him. His family’s interest enabled him to retain the county seat at Westminster without much difficulty: he headed the poll in his only contest in 1806. At Westminster, ‘votes with Lord Castlereagh’ was the typical comment on him. In May 1804 he alarmed the chief secretary and viceroy by insisting on lingering in Ireland with his regiment when required in Parliament, which led to rumours that he was acting on his half-brother’s instructions while Castlereagh came to ‘some understanding’ with ‘some of the opposition’.2 Such fears proved idle. Stewart spoke in favour of limiting punishments by courts martial and for the reform of the latter, 5, 12 Mar. 1805, and on 6 Mar. defended the additional force bill, until a better plan could be found. His Suggestions for the improvement of the force of the British Empire, published that year, was his own contribution to the subject. On 14 May 1805 he voted against the Catholic claims.

Like his brother, Stewart went into opposition to the Grenville ministry, voting against Ellenborough’s seat in the cabinet, 3 Mar. 1806. On 2 June he criticized Windham’s enlistment scheme, and when Grattan clashed with him, informed him that he did not profess to be an Irish orator, but an Irish soldier. As under-secretary to Castlereagh at the War Office, he was a regular attender in support of the Portland ministry until in August 1808 he went to the Peninsula as a brigadier-general. Back in England, 24 Jan. 1809, he justified the discretionary publication of Sir John Moore’s despatches, as authorized by the latter, to Castlereagh’s satisfaction, and next day paid tribute to Wellesley’s conduct at Vimeiro. Castlereagh secured him a colonial sinecure worth £1,200 p.a. that month, and in April 1809, relinquishing office, he returned to the Peninsula. He distinguished himself as Wellesley’s adjutant-general at the Douro and Talavera. For this, while on sick leave, he received and acknowledged the thanks of the House, 5 Feb. 1810, having four days previously paid tribute there to Wellington as a military leader. He was in the government majority against the Scheldt inquiry, 30 Mar. 1810. While fully in Castlereagh’s confidence, in sympathy with his quarrel with government in September 1809 and, inevitably, listed as one of Castlereagh’s squad in 1810, he was prevented from public expression of it by his resumption of his Peninsular duties. He further distinguished himself at Badajoz and again received the thanks of the House. In February 1812 he returned home ill and became a groom of the bedchamber and a mediator in Castlereagh’s restoration to favour and office. On 10 Dec. 1812 he came to the defence of the German legion in debate and, though due back on duty, lingered in the House until 2 Mar. 1813, when, like Castlereagh, he supported Catholic relief.3

A reluctant adjutant-general, he was disgruntled by his failure to obtain a cavalry command from Wellington and switched to diplomacy, serving the allies as a military commissioner from Berlin, on which account he was absent from Parliament until, on the eve of becoming ambassador to Austria, he was given a peerage in July 1814. Thereafter ‘all stars and tenderness’, he assisted Castlereagh in ‘keeping Metternich steady’ in Congress Europe, not without disadvantageous comment on his pretensions and conduct. He could not stomach Canning’s succession to Castlereagh in 1822 and devoted himself subsequently to the development of the Tempest estate, his wife’s heritage, in county Durham. He was also a memorialist of the Napoleonic wars and of Castlereagh.4 He died 6 Mar. 1854.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Add. 33101, f. 240; 33102, f. 51; Wellington Supp. Despatches, vii. 165, 549; HMC Bathurst, 532; Castlereagh Corresp. i. 143; Croker Pprs. ed. Jennings, i. 346.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/123, f. 155; Add. 35705, f. 302; 35715, f. 33.
  • 3. Geo III Corresp. v. 3781, 3870; HMC Var. v. 164.
  • 4. Letters of Countess Granville, 62; Castlereagh Corresp. xii. 1; HMC Bathurst, 319, 327; Greville Mems. ed. Strachey and Fulford, i. 28.