BENNET, Charles Augustus, Lord Ossulston (1776-1859).
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Family and Education
b. 28 Apr. 1776, 1st s. of Charles, 4th earl of Tankerville, and Emma, da. of Sir James Colebrooke†, 1st bt., of Gatton Park, Surr.; bro. of Hon. Henry Grey Bennet*. educ. Eton 1788-93; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1793; in Italy 1797.1 m. 28 July 1806, Corisande Armandine Sophie Leonice Hélène de Gramont, da. of Antoine Louis Marie, duc de Gramont, 1s. 2da. suc. fa. as 5th earl of Tankerville 10 Dec. 1822. d. 25 June 1859.
Treas. of household Feb. 1806-Mar. 1807; PC 12 Feb. 1806.
Maj. commdt. Glendale vols. 1803.
Lord Ossulston, ‘Little O’, a Foxite with a pretty French wife, was a member with his brother Henry of the Whig ‘Mountain’.2 Thwarted in his ambition to represent Northumberland, for which his father’s seat at Chillingham made him a strong contender, he had been returned for Steyning by the 11th duke of Norfolk in 1803, and sat for Knaresborough from 1806 until 1818, when its patron the 6th duke of Devonshire bade him vacate on account of Henry’s constant ‘abuse’ and criticism of ministers. He was soundly defeated at Berwick-upon-Tweed, where his family had some local influence, at the general election that year, and remained out of Parliament until he topped the poll there in a severe contest in 1820.3 In notices, when seconding the Northumberland addresses of condolence and congratulation, 22 Feb., and on the hustings, he projected himself as a defender of the constitution and advocate of humanitarian reform and civil liberties.4 A compromise that he brokered with the 2nd earl of Darlington facilitated his brother’s unopposed return for Shrewsbury on their (Astley) interest.5
Ossulston accepted Henry’s political leadership and divided steadily with the main Whig opposition on major issues and with the ‘Mountain’ for economy and retrenchment, but his support for radical measures was spasmodic. Although known to be favourable to Catholic relief, he failed to vote for it, 28 Feb. 1821. He divided for parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, voted for his brother’s bill to increase Parliament’s independence by reducing the number of placemen, 31 May 1821, and divided against the burgh accounts bill, 19 July 1822. He voted to make forgery a non-capital offence, 4 June 1821. The Bennets (both diminutive figures) were among Queen Caroline’s ‘furious partisans’ depicted in Cruikshank’s cartoon ‘The Cradle Hymn’.6 They waited on the queen when she returned from France and joined her subscription committee at Brooks’s. Ossulston procured and presented an address to her from the corporation of Berwick-upon-Tweed, 2 Aug. 1820.7 He strenuously supported the 1820-21 parliamentary and extra-parliamentary campaigns on her behalf, promoted critical addresses and petitions from Durham and Northumberland, and endorsed his constituents’ petition for the restoration of her name to the liturgy, 13 Feb. 1821.8 According to the duke of Wellington’s confidante Mrs. Arbuthnot, his presence at a ball hosted by the king at Carlton House, 13 June, gave ‘great offence to the Tory party’.9 He waited on the queen during her final illness in August 1821, and voted for inquiry into the assault on Robert Waithman* at her funeral, 28 Feb. 1822.10 In the only speech attributed to him between his election in 1820 and his elevation to the Lords by his father’s death, 10 Dec. 1822, he refuted Burdett’s claim that agricultural distress did not emanate from the return to a metallic currency, 15 Feb. 1822.11 He paired for Western’s motion attributing distress to currency changes, 12 June 1822.
As 5th earl of Takerville, he inherited Chillingham Park and estates at Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, and in Shropshire.12 He was an interested observer of events before and during the Northumberland elections of 1826, but, possibly on account of Henry’s sexual disgrace and gossip about his wife, he was slow to make his mark in the Lords, where in 1829 he divided silently for Catholic emancipation.13 Greville described him in 1830 as a ‘sour malignant little Whig’.14 Veering to the Conservatives, Tankerville, whose activities became increasingly curtailed by partial blindness, was attacked by the Durham mob for opposing the Grey ministry’s reform bills.15 After testing the ground in Shrewsbury, he organized a successful campaign to bring in his only son Charles Augustus Bennet (1810-99) for Northumberland North in 1832.16 He died at his London home in Hertford Street in June 1859 after a protracted illness and was succeeded in his titles and estates by Charles.17
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Authors: Margaret Escott / Robin Healey
- 1. Add. 51650, Penrose to Lady Holland, 4 Nov. 1797.
- 2. D. Rapp, ‘The Left-Wing Whigs: Whitbread, the Mountain and Reform, 1809-1815’, JBS, xxi (1982), 35-66.
- 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 175-8; Berwick in Parliament ed. Sir L. Airey, A. Beith, D. Brenchley, J. Marlow and T. Skelly, 23-26; NAS GD51/1/200/43; Grey mss, Grey to Sir R. Wilson, 13 Mar. 1820.
- 4. Berwick Advertiser, 12 Feb., 12, 18 Mar.; The Times, 29 Feb. 1820.
- 5. Grey mss, Darlington to Grey [Mar. 1820].
- 6. M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 13764; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 101.
- 7. The Times, 29 July, 4, 22 Aug. 1820.
- 8. Ibid. 28 Nov., 26 Dec. 1820, 14, 20 Feb. 1821; HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 23.
- 9. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 101.
- 10. The Times, 6 Aug. 1821.
- 11. Ibid. 16 Feb. 1822.
- 12. Ibid. 12 Dec. 1822; PROB 11/1667/115; IR26/975/113.
- 13. Grey mss, Tankerville to Grey, 8 Mar., Grey to Howick, 10 Sept. 1824; Lady Holland to Son, 136; Creevey Pprs. ii. 132, 152; Creevey’s Life and Times, 215-6; The Times, 7, 15 Apr. 1829. See NORTHUMBERLAND.
- 14. Greville Mems. ii. 21.
- 15. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 267; G.M. Trevelyan, Lord Grey of the Reform Bill, (1920 edn.), 316; Wellington mss WP1/1199/13, 16.
- 16. Salop Archives 840/159/441; The Times, 5, 15 June, 18 Dec. 1832. See NORTHUMBERLAND and SHREWSBURY.
- 17. The Times, 27 June; Gent. Mag. (1859), ii. 186.