WYNDHAM, Hon. Charles William (1760-1828), of Bignor Park, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. 8 Oct. 1760, 3rd s. of Charles, 2nd Earl of Egremont, by Alicia Maria, da. of George Carpenter†, 2nd Baron Carpenter [I]; bro. of Hon. Percy Charles Wyndham*. educ. Westminster 1767-75. m. 4 Feb. 1801, Lady Anna Barbara Frances Child Villiers, da. of George Bussy Villiers†, 4th Earl of Jersey, wid. of William Henry Lambton* of Lambton, co. Dur., s.p.
Sec.; commissary and steward gen.; clerk of enrolments; clerk of the council, Jamaica May 1763-1816.
Capt. Suss. yeomanry 1794.
Wyndham joined the Whig Club on 6 Dec. 1784, having by then been a member of Brooks’s for five years. Precociously profligate, he was a boon companion of the elder royal princes and one of whom the King disapproved. His mistress Mrs Hodges’s husband failed in an action against him in 1791, being exposed as an accessory after the fact. He subsequently resided with her six miles from Petworth. Like his brothers, Wyndham had no commitment to conventional morality, and when he aped it came to grief. In 1801 he proposed marriage to a gentlewoman one day, married her the next and parted from her the day after. Shortly before his return to Parliament footpads fired at him in his curricle, lodging two small slugs in his head and putting a bullet through his hat.1
His eldest brother the 3rd Earl of Egremont rescued him from his financial scrapes and continued his racing stud as ‘an amusement’ for him.2 He also returned him for Midhurst in 1790, having purchased that borough from the trustees of the Catholic family of Montagu. (Wyndham was also returned as a stopgap for Tavistock on the 5th Duke of Bedford’s interest.) His maiden speech was in defence of Catholic lay patrons nominating to Anglican livings, 8 Apr. 1791; later that month he was counted favourable to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. He voted against Pitt on the Oczakov question, 12 Apr. 1791. Like his brother Percy he was listed a Portland Whig in December 1792 and thought of as a potential recruit to Windham’s ‘third party’ in February 1793. Unlike his brother, he did not rally to Fox on the outbreak of war and became a captain of yeomanry. He transferred to a seat for Shoreham in 1795, not long before his brother sold his interest at Midhurst, relying again on the family interest. Egremont then supported Pitt. On 23 Nov. 1795 Wyndham apparently called for a debate on John Reeves’s pamphlet in preference to the orders of the day and tried to call William Windham to order when he eulogized Reeves: although these sentiments would seem to have been more appropriate for his brother Percy. The Treasury confused them in its election forecast at that time, labelling Charles ‘con’ and Percy ‘pro’.
No such confusion was possible after 1796 when Percy left Parliament, but Wyndham made no mark there, except that he voted for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s claims to the duchy of Cornwall revenues on 31 Mar. 1802. Soon afterwards his brother authorized his giving up Parliament. After the peace of Amiens he visited France. In January 1807 he was reluctantly returned for the county at his brother’s instigation, as representative for the western part of it. At the ensuing general election he headed the poll in a contest that was not directed against him. It was understood that he was keeping the seat warm for the 4th Duke of Richmond’s heir. Egremont had been unable to accept the Grenville ministry’s measures, but was ‘violent for government’ [i.e. the Portland administration] and Wyndham was reported to have voted against Brand’s motion, 9 Apr. 1807. His only known votes in the next Parliament were (after a pressing letter from the premier) with ministers against the Scheldt inquiry, 26 Jan. 1810 (the Whigs listed him ‘doubtful’ from their point of view in March), and on the Regency proposals, 1 Jan. 1811.3
As early as 1809 it was known privately that he had no wish to seek re-election in 1812. Nor did Egremont wish him to do so, whatever the embarrassment to his supporters, who were hard put to it to find a convincing replacement for one who neglected both Sussex and Parliament. In 1823, beset by his creditors, he begged the premier to compensate him for the sinecure for life which he stood to forfeit, referring to an ‘unredeemed’ promise made him in 1807.4 ‘A constant attendant on the turf, of which he was a zealous supporter’, he died at Newmarket, 1 July 1828. Afterwards Egremont claimed that ‘when I brought in my brother Charles, who was unfit for it and detested it and only submitted to oblige me it was because I saw no other way of preventing two or three things which would have [been] very disgraceful and very unpleasant to every honest man in the county’.5