FOX, Charles Richard (1796-1873), of 1 Addison Road, Kensington and 33 South Street, Grosvenor Square, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 6 Nov. 1796, illegit. s. of Henry Richard, 3rd Bar.Holland (d. 1840), and Lady Elizabeth Vassall, w. of Sir Godfrey Vassall† (otherwise Webster), 4th bt., of Battle Abbey, Suss., da. and h. of Richard Vassall of Jamaica and Golden Square, Mdx.; bro. of Henry Edward Fox*. educ. Eton 1808; M. Temple 1814. m. (1) 19 June 1824, Mary Fitzclarence (d. 13 July 1864), illegit. da. of HRH William, duke of Clarence (later William IV), of Bushey Park, Mdx., s.p.; (2) 16 Aug. 1865, Katharine, da. of John Maberly*, s.p. d. 13 Apr. 1873.
Midshipman RN 1809, res. 1813.
Ensign 85 Ft. 1815; lt. Royal W.I. Rangers 1818, half-pay 1818; lt. 85 Ft. 1819; capt. Cape corps 1820; capt. 15 Ft. 1822; capt. 95 Ft. 1824; maj. army (half-pay) 1824; maj. 85 Ft. 1825; lt.-col. army and half-pay 1827; lt.-col. 34 Ft. 1829; capt. and lt.-col. 1 Ft. Gds. 1830; half-pay 1836; col. army 1837; maj.-gen. 1846; lt.-gen. 1854; gen. 1863; col.-commdt. 57 Ft. 1865-d.
Equerry to Queen Adelaide 1830-1, to William IV 1831-2; a.d.c. to William IV 1832-7, to Victoria 1837-46.
Surveyor-gen. of ordnance Dec. 1832-Dec. 1834, May-Sept. 1841, July 1846-June 1852; sec. to master-gen. of ordnance 1835-41.
Receiver-gen. duchy of Lancaster 1837-d.
Fox was descended from the notoriously corrupt paymaster-general Henry Fox†, who held high office in the mid-eighteenth century and was created Baron Holland in 1763 (the title having been granted to his wife suo jure the previous year). He died in 1774, leaving an elder son Stephen, who also died that year, and his celebrated younger brother Charles James Fox†, the great Whig leader. The peerage was inherited by Stephen’s son Henry Richard, a minor, who was educated to adore his uncle’s character and venerate his principles. Travelling on the continent in the mid-1790s, he made the acquaintance of Sir Godfrey Webster, who in 1795 adopted the surname of his wife Elizabeth Vassall, in place of his own; they had been married in 1786. Holland began a liaison with her in Florence, which continued after her husband’s departure for England in 1795, and she gave birth to a son on 6 Nov. 1796 at Brompton Park House, where she had taken up residence with Holland after their return. Vassall, who obtained a decree of separation and £6,000 in damages in February 1797, divorced her by an Act of Parliament, which received royal assent on 4 July 1797. Two days later Lady Vassall married Holland at Rickmansworth, and in 1800, when she inherited Jamaican estates by the will of her grandfather Florentius Vassall, they took the additional surname of Vassall before Fox.1 The mentally unstable Vassall, who had resumed the name of Webster in 1797, committed suicide in 1800, when the baronetcy was inherited by his elder son Godfrey, Member for Sussex, 1812-20.
Charles Fox, who was acknowledged by Holland, nearly succumbed to a serious childhood illness in the winter of 1801-2.2 He visited Spain with his parents from 1802 to 1804, and noted in the earliest of his numerous travel journals that ‘we saw a fountain into which 36 noble moors had their heads chopped off’.3 He toured Scotland, with the Rev. Henry Hartopp Knapp as a tutor, in 1807 and, having briefly attended Eton, accompanied the Hollands to Spain and Portugal from October 1808 to August 1809.4 He was thus brought up, with the Hollands’ other surviving children, Henry Edward, Mary and Georgina, in the febrile, intellectual and ardently Whig atmosphere of Holland House. Lady Holland, who directed her brilliant social circle with a mixture of heavy charm and forthright importunity, proved to be a difficult and demanding mother. Margaret Macaulay recollected in 1831 that ‘her [first] son ... she was never kind to, and though she is very much attached to the second son, the heir to the title, she plagues him out of his life’.5 Fox himself later remonstrated with her that ‘you well know how you have been towards all your children for years and years, you know the things you have said to them, you know the jealousy you have shown of their being with him they loved above all’.6 In contrast, by his father, a scholarly and amiable man, who was lord privy seal in the Grenville ministry, he was treated with patience, consideration and generosity, though he was occasionally teased (as ‘Snarles’) for his irritability.7
Evidently at his own request, Fox was allowed to join the navy in 1809. According to Lady Holland’s journal for June 1810, Major-General Ronald Craufurd Ferguson*
acted the part of a real friend to our dear boy, he went out with him in the Lively and assumed a parental authority over him. He also, upon arriving at Cadiz, removed him from that ship and placed him with Captain Codrington of the Blake, where he now is, and is gone up to Minorca to escort the Spanish ships from Cadiz thither.
On 28 Dec. 1810, she wrote:
Hurrah! Huzza! A long and delightful letter from Charles, and a copious journal of all that has occurred since he sailed from Cadiz Bay, 7th August! ... Seems not so keen for navy as before; thank Heaven, if he should at the end of the year sicken of it!8
He witnessed the hardships endured by seamen during his voyages in the Mediterranean, and was present at the siege of Tarragona in 1813.9 In answer to Fox’s censure of his dining with his political opponent Lord Wellesley, a pro-Catholic, in 1812, Holland rebuked ‘my little Charles’ for having
got a fancy that it is wrong to feel any good will to those whom one has once opposed, and that it is either foolish or wicked (I do not know which) to entrust a ship to a man who has a different opinion about the Virgin Mary and the sacrament from ourselves.10
Fox is not otherwise known to have held any but orthodox Whig views. In a letter to Henry, 1 Nov. 1813, he recounted a dream in which Charon had summoned the ancients for him to converse with, as well as Charles I (‘a good man, but a bad king’), who was apparently ‘condemned to go through the pain of being beheaded once every six years in the infernal regions, but that all the remaining time he lived in Heaven, and lived most cordially with Hampden and all the honest men who had opposed him in his mortal state’.11
Reports of Fox’s poor progress in the navy eventually persuaded Holland to let him resign from it in 1813. He ruled out a career in the church, as he was ‘fitted neither by habit nor temper to so dull, insipid and inglorious a life’, but also forbade him from transferring to the army:
The absence, and occasionally the hardship of the army are as bad as those of the navy; the temptations to expense, the danger of bad company much greater, and, what I confess would weigh more strongly with me, your health more exposed to the consequences both of bad climate and intemperance and excess than any other profession. In short, I do not think you have constitution for the army and I do not believe that you would supply the defect by great caution and self-command, if you were exposed to the temptation.
He therefore insisted that Fox should study for the law, and he was admitted to the Middle Temple in January 1814 and placed under the Rev. William Manning, rector of Diss, later that year.12 Despite admitting that ‘your education hitherto has been somewhat irregular’, Holland decided to take Fox with him on a tour of France, Switzerland and Italy at the end of July 1814.13
On 21 July 1815 Fox informed his father, who had withdrawn his opposition to his entering the army, that Lord Lauderdale had given him a commission in the 85th Foot at Chatham
so that I fear I shall not be in France this time. It is a mere skeleton having been very much cut up in America: however, any will do and they say a year’s drilling in a marching regiment is a good thing. I am content and hope you will never have occasion to be otherwise with my conduct.
He also served at Liverpool and eagerly sought promotion, but with the war having ended, he found time to visit Naples, Venice, Munich and Brussels, partly, as he noted, in order to pursue his ‘dearest LLL’, Louisa Lloyd.14 He was elected to Brooks’s, 7 May 1816. In July 1817 he arrived in Corfu to take up his appointment as aide-de-camp to Sir Frederick Adam, with whom he subsequently travelled in Greece, Morea and Albania.15 He laconically informed Holland, 17 Jan. 1818, that ‘a canister of powder was good enough to explode under my nose and scarify my face to a great degree’. He had apparently been playing with it in his room, and was ‘shockingly burnt’, but luckily survived without losing his eyesight.16 Back in England, he reported to his brother, 15 Aug. 1818, that
Sir John Osborn* dit on is to be made Lord Halifax, which will cause an election in our county [Bedfordshire]. Should I stand? I would to please the party, but that it would so much interfere with my military duties, and ... it is a prodigious bore.17
Nothing came of it. In January 1819 Sydney Smith commented that ‘I scarcely ever saw a more pleasing, engaging, natural young man’; though two months later George Villiers, a nephew of the 2nd and 3rd earls of Clarendon, reported that ‘that sweet woman, his mother, treats him like a dog and quite worries him out of his life’.18 Fox, who had gained a lieutenancy in the Royal West Indian Rangers in late 1818, and a few weeks afterwards joined the half-pay list, exchanged back into the 85th Foot in 1819, and returned to Corfu.19
From there, 10 Sept. 1819, he congratulated Lord John Russell* on his Life of Lord William Russell, confessing that ‘it has made me a far better being than I ever was before, because I am so used to hear such ultra-Whiggish sentiments that I had almost forgotten the rational and true principles of that party’.20 He admitted to Henry, 6 May 1820, that ‘I am not sorry to be out of the vortex of the elections for I hate them heartily’,21 and repeated to Holland, 17 May, that they ‘are I think tiresome and (at least those I have seen) productive of ill blood and squabbles’. In a rare reference to politics in his letters to his father, 29 Aug., he expressed his admiration of his speech of 18 July on the aliens bill, which
is an oppressive one and gives far too great power to the minister, for however necessary it may be to have such bills during the revolution and during our struggle against the gigantic power of France, it is quite absurd, quite ridiculous and illiberal to keep such force at this time.22
He complained to his brother, 24 Aug., that
I don’t quite understand your line of politics, and your excessive access of opposition. All parties are bad enough, but I do not think them worse than the usual quota of really honest men amongst them. I shall say nothing of the Queen [Caroline affair] ... except that it is a consolation that I hear a little less about her here (though more than I wish) than if in England.23
He lamented the ‘alarming state’ of the country to John Allen, 3 Sept., and hoped that ‘all honest men will forget party, and leave off wrangling as to whose measures brought on the disaster, giving their minds to the best remedies’.24 On 7 Dec. 1820 he told his brother that the ‘queen’s affair is nasty and uninteresting. Let me hear nothing about it I beg’.25
1820 had begun with Fox renouncing his love for Eliza Fitzclarence, one of the illegitimate daughters of the duke of Clarence with the leading actress Dora Jordan, the daughter of an Irish ‘stage underling’. Not only had she spurned his advances, but the Hollands had refused to countenance the match, and Fox had had to submit to his father’s wishes.26 He then had a protracted period of illness and depression. As he wrote to Henry, 6 May:
What do you mean by Oxford having faults for mind and body? Of the first I am no judge, but if by the latter you mean what I suspect, for God’s sake take care and take warning from me who have been now ever since December confined to the house and, the greater part of the time, to my room, except three weeks, from strictures, the consequence of former follies, for follies they are, God knows ... I greatly fear that I shall not be quite recovered for many months, and these things bring on suppression of urine and death. You may guess under my circumstances what irritation, what vexation, I have endured and I do not exaggerate when I declare to you that I would sooner die than pass such another five months ... I cannot but warn you against indulging indiscriminately and if ever anything does happen to you to lay up at once and by no means ever use an injection in the first instance ... You will think I shall never have done writing, but the end is approaching and I must go to my bed. I am not fitted to live alone and to tell you how gloomily my time passes is impossible. Many serious, very serious reflections have passed in my mind, my dear Henry, and the prominent and most painful one is that I have never acted from any religious principle and consequently have never done as I ought. You are too sensible, I hope, to laugh at what I say, but depend upon it unless a man does think upon those subjects he will like me have the bitterest reflections and reproaches of conscience.27
Eliza Fitzclarence married Lord Erroll late that year, which Henry feared would ‘cost dear Charles a pang’.28 After a lengthy correspondence and much useless speculation about various possible promotions, Holland informed Fox, 3 Sept., that the duke of York, the commander-in-chief, had obtained a captaincy for him in the Cape corps infantry.29 He travelled extensively in Asia Minor, Turkey and Greece during the rest of 1820 and early 1821, and continued to collect coins, sometimes simply by scavenging among ancient ruins, a pursuit which had already engaged his fancy for some time.30
Henry Fox commented, 21 Apr. 1821, that Charles was ‘lingering and dawdling’ at Paris: ‘provoking boy, he will get into her ladyship’s black books even before arriving’.31 After a few weeks in England, he embarked for Cape Town, and eventually joined his regiment at Grahamstown.32 That year the Irish poet Tom Moore noted down some of Holland’s lines on Fox, who apparently had a good memory: ‘That he’s like a palm tree, it may well be said, having always a cluster of dates in his head’. He also recorded that Lady Holland had ‘forced Charles Fox into exile by her conduct to him’.33 After much further consultation, Fox procured an exchange into the 72nd Foot, but this had to be abandoned when he learnt that, at Holland’s request, he had already been gazetted into the 15th, and he accordingly returned to England in the autumn of 1822.34 A good indication of the nature of Fox’s relationship with his mother can be seen in his letter to Henry, 22 Dec. 1822:
Mama said in her letter yesterday or the day before, after the usual ‘financial lament’ ... ‘neither Parliament for Henry nor promotion for you for years to be thought of’, to which, after a scold for other offences, I daringly answered ‘with regard to money for my promotion it will be time enough to refuse it when I ask it of you’, which I think a just reply for she never gave me a fraction that I can recollect, except £20 to spend a month with at Paris ... However I am not in bad humour with her and only think it necessary and advantageous to my reason always to give her blow for blow as it prevents ‘precedent of having her own way’.35
In 1823 he suffered a recurrence of his former illness, and Robert Vernon Smith* commented to Henry, 3 Mar., that
your brother Charles complains dreadfully of his urethra and I believe submits to constant insertions and injections. If [only] he could make water as fast as he talks, and all secretions pass as glibly through his urethra, as secrets do through his throat.36
He himself confided to his brother from Ireland, where he spent the spring and summer, that he had not yet recovered from ‘my swelled testicle’, a ‘most infernal complaint’, and had ‘spent a most melancholy two months, what with illness and other bothers’.37 He informed Allen, 16 June 1823, that
I hate Irish politics from my heart and never was in any country (not since Cape Town) where I felt less interest about what was going on. Both sides are so much more violent and absurd than any other parties elsewhere that it is unpleasant to talk upon the subject.38
Expecting a majority, Fox had to settle for a company in the 95th Foot in May 1824.39 The following month, with his family’s approval, he married Mary Fitzclarence, who, like her sisters, received a pension of £500 a year. She was ‘a fine looking, brown girl with a pleasant countenance and manners’, though Lady Holland feared she was ‘a sickly subject’ and had been in hopes that the ‘roturier blood of the mother might have mitigated the royal constitutions’. On 31 Aug. she noted that
dear Charles is very well in health, but getting into his usual restless way ... In that yesterday he was in one of his ways: got out of bed the wrong side. He does not like the notion of three days at Bushey, where she naturally likes to be. When he has been in harness a few months longer he will bear the restraint better. En attendant, though fond of her, he only considers her as an auxiliary to his medals and other possessions, not as a principal. But it will all do well; as she is very winning, and very firm, and sincerely fond of him.40
He left England with her in October, to take up his appointment as aide-de-camp to Lord Hastings, the new governor of Malta, and the following month York allowed him to purchase an unattached majority for £3,200. Having taken, at his father’s request, a concerned interest in Henry’s desponding state of mind and erratic character, he travelled home via Naples, Avignon and Paris in 1825, and took up residence at Dover as a major in his old regiment, the 85th Foot.41
Fox was ruled out, by the Whig adviser James Abercromby*, from taking advantage of a vacancy at the duke of Norfolk’s pocket borough of Horsham, and instead was asked by Holland to attend the by-election there in March 1826 on behalf of his brother, who was still abroad. Holland soon afterwards apologized to Charles that ‘I have not been unmindful about you for Parliament, but have not succeeded. Something may turn up, but I have no money’.42 At the general election later that year Holland asked him, 10 June, to attend the Bedfordshire election to support Lord Tavistock* and a possible second Whig candidate. He added that
were so strange an event to happen as a call upon you in the town hall, I would have [you] simply say that your principles were those of civil and religious liberty, peace and reform, in short those of the person whose name you bear (the late Mr. Fox), that you were not conceited enough to imagine that in any quality but sincerity you could bear any resemblance to that person, and that you had never aspired to a seat in Parliament, still less to represent a county, but that if you were chosen you would do your best to do your duty, though it was unnecessary to add that if the freeholders could think of conferring such an honour upon you, it was quite out of your power to be at any expense.
On 26 June Holland wrote that ‘we hear delightful accounts of your conduct and speeches too at Bedford’. Holland, who had forbidden Henry to marry Villiers’s sister Maria Theresa, agreed with Charles, 29 June, that ‘the main objection is to the connection not the individual’, and urged him, 3 July 1826, to accompany Henry on a trip abroad to overcome his disappointment.43 According to Henry’s journal, Charles did join him for a while in Paris that year, when he described him as ‘very amiable and agreeable, though for his own sake I regretted his coming, as he has no more prudence or foresight than a boy of 18’.44
By 1827 the Foxes had happily settled in Addison Road on the Holland estate in Kensington, in a mansion originally called Spectator House, but which became known as Little Holland House.45 Fox regularly attended debates in the Commons in March and April, and took a close interest in the formation of Canning’s ministry, vindicating his father’s conduct in the negotiations. He wrote to Henry that the ‘greedy looks of many Brooks’s people was on the late resignations most amusing and continues to be so. I am really glad to have been in London at one of the great epochs, though I cannot say it has exalted my view of human nature’. He condemned Lord Grey’s attack on his friends for adhering to government, and stated that
there is much to be said, as Whigs, as to the propriety of joining Canning without any pledge for the Catholics and with the king decidedly hostile to them, however I think they have acted rightly in doing so and all the Catholics themselves were most eager for it.
At the end of May, complaining of having ‘lost the skin off the roof of my mouth, which renders eating unpleasant and champagne excruciating’, he added that the ‘burst of interest and excitement about politics is now over’, and he took little further notice of them that year.46 Holland applied to his Whig colleague Lord Lansdowne, the new home secretary, and Clarence, the lord high admiral, for a promotion for Charles, and in August 1827 he was appointed to an unattached lieutenant-colonelcy on half-pay.47 Later that year Holland admitted to Lansdowne:
I wish that something could be done to turn his talents and good qualities (which without neutrality are not inconsiderable) to some object useful to his friends and profitable to himself, as he has nothing to do and not quite enough to live comfortably. He is, however, contented and happy.
Lansdowne responded positively, but nothing came of it, nor of a later application for a position in Ireland.48 Holland praised Fox’s interpretation of affairs, 3 Jan. 1828, writing that he was ‘quite right (including Parliament) in all you say yourself. You err in nothing but too much humility and excess on that side is so rare that it is not only pardonable but amiable’. On 19 Jan. 1828 he observed that ‘if you had been still at that d--d place Dover you might possibly have slipped into Parliament, for Bootle [Wilbraham]’s unpronounceable peerage vacates the seat’.49
Fox had to wait until July 1829 to return to active service, and then, despite preferring a regiment based in the Mediterranean, it was through the purchase of a commission in the 34th Foot, which was embarking for Halifax, Nova Scotia. He left England in September, and planned to stay in Canada until July 1830, and then to travel in the United States until April 1832.50 However, the death of George IV in June 1830 put Fox’s father-in-law on the throne as William IV, and he was anxious to bring his daughter home by having Fox transferred to the cavalry. He duly joined the Grenadier Guards soon after his return in September, and reluctantly took up his appointment as equerry to the queen, which he had been tempted to decline (as he had the offer of a Guelphic knighthood), professing no desire for ‘court places and civil ribbands’, and only acquiescing in the expectation of future promotions.51 From the Tower, where he was on duty, he informed his brother, 12 Nov., that ‘of our ministers, their conduct, the state of the feeling everywhere regarding them, I shall say nothing. Je ne l’aurais jamais cru! is all I can say’; and four days later he reported that ‘the Tower has not been assaulted, though many of the great people wanted to make us think that it would’.52 On the subsequent accession of the Whigs to office, Holland, who became chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, applied to the new prime minister Grey, 18 Nov., for an appointment for Fox, claiming that
the king likes him and would I know like to find him recommended and himself fortified in any favour, professional or not, that he is disposed to bestow on him. He has in truth promised to make him aide-de-camp, but it is without pay and in the spring 1832, and that is a long way off.
Having raised the possibility of a seat at the admiralty board, but instead pursuing an ultimately unsuccessful plan to have him appointed principal storekeeper of the ordnance, Holland again wrote to Grey, 27 Nov. 1830, informing him that
my bringing Charles into Parliament is entirely out of the question. No doubt I should like to see him there but I have no means and even if I had, it would not be very pleasant on the eve of reform to engage for the first time in my life in purchasing seats. Should this circumstance lose Charles a place it will I believe cause very little disappointment to him. He scarcely expected it and is moreover much more indifferent to such matters than he ought to be.53
The king’s anxiety not to arouse the jealousy of his sons, for whom no seats had been found, and a preference for giving the vacancy at New Windsor to Sir William Fremantle*, prevented Fox from coming in at an expected by-election there. He deferred to his father’s judgment about his future, emphasizing that ‘I do not want to be the means in any way of weakening the government and that if a more efficient person is thought of, I do not wish to press Lord Grey or make you do so and have it said that he sacrificed any body for your sake’. Holland was vexed that his son was left with only the equerryship, which in March the following year was transferred to the king’s household.54
Nothing came of Holland’s suggestion to Grey, 23 Apr. 1831, that Fox might fill the seat offered by John Calcraft* at Wareham.55 Instead, on Macdonald’s transferring to Hampshire, Lansdowne invited him to fill a vacancy at Calne, and despite an opposition, he was returned with Tom Macaulay, 2 May, when he spoke in favour of parliamentary reform and, although a stranger and no orator, ‘gained much upon the affections of the people by his gentlemanly manner and deportment’.56 Previously spoken of as a possible candidate for Bedfordshire, he attended the election, voting for Tavistock and his fellow Whig Peter Payne*; Holland believed he would have come in there free of expense, had he not already been committed at Calne.57 Like her sisters, Mary Fox was granted the title and precedence of a marquess’s daughter, 24 May. Recommending that ministers pay heed to the grievances of Sir John Doyle*, Fox stated in a letter to Holland, 6 July 1831, that
I merely write this for the good of that government which I wish well to generally for its opinions and chiefly on your dear account, but which, as I said to Mama, will, when reform passes, fall to bits like an half-boiled pudding when taken out of the bag, unless they very much change their manner, their recklessness on many important points, and above all their nonchalance as to keeping the friends they have in good humour.58
He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against adjourning proceedings on it, 12 July 1831, and steadily for its details. He divided in minorities for swearing the original Dublin election committee, 29 July, and postponing the writ, 8 Aug., and with ministers in favour of punishing only those guilty of corrupt practices there, 23 Aug. He paired against allowing town and city freeholders to vote in boroughs, 17 Aug., and two days later wrote to Henry that
I have taken to pairing lately more than before you were here for it grows both tiresome and unwholesome. By the paper I see the government was beaten last night upon a question of detail of some importance [Lord Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will], but I do not think it will hurt either them or the bill. Ireland is their present danger ... and this yeomanry business is full of great difficulty ... In short, I believe no one can foresee any thing but inconvenience and possible disaster whatever measures are pursued regarding that unhappy country.
A week later, he reported his inability to join his brother abroad:
I hope when it gets (great tiresome beast as it is) into the House of Humbug then I [can] get away, en attendant I have only been able to get a pair for three days in next week to go and shoot at Ampthill ... [Mama] has taken my parliamentary attendance under her special care and talks to me in a tone on that head that would divert you and would make any one imagine that to her I owe my seat. You know me well enough to know the effect it has on me.59
He voted for the third reading of the bill, 19 Sept., and its passage, 21 Sept. When Sir Henry Hardinge attempted to place army half-pay officers on the same footing as naval ones in accepting civil offices, 7 Oct., Fox complained that he had ‘made a most invidious distinction between the two services’. He voted for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831. Later that month, at the king’s request, he accompanied the Grand Duchess Hélène of Russia to Amsterdam.60
Margaret Macaulay recorded, 22 Nov. 1831, how Fox, by now an intimate member of the Court, had told her brother that
he never saw the king in such humour and spirits, that the queen being away, he could now play a round game every night; whereas when she was there she liked to play a game called German fortresses, which he could not bear. Keeping the king in good humour and spirits seemed to be a question of great importance, Colonel Fox saying they must see what they could do to keep it up now the queen was come back, but he was afraid it would be rather difficult.61
He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec., and, approving ministers’ handling of it, agreed with Allen, 28 Dec. 1831, that
the better way was adopted, especially as it gave an opportunity of discussing each borough that was to be disfranchised, of which discussion, though God knows we had enough of it, the withholding of it, as by your plan would I conceive have been the case, would have been called injustice, and many of the places would have not been as convinced of their being impartially dealt with as they now must be.62
He voted against the production of information on Portugal, 9 Feb. 1832. He was added to the select committee on the East India Company, 16 Mar., and heard evidence given to its subcommittee on military affairs.63 He apparently continued to pair,64 but was present to vote for the partial disfranchisement of Helston, 23 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. He informed his brother, 11 Mar., that he ‘had been now three weeks suffering from a most irritating and persevering cough, but without a cold: it is so violent as to prevent my getting to sleep till generally five or six and has at last reduced me to keep my bed this day’. On 20 Mar. he wrote: ‘think of my being up to speak last night in consequence of Croker quoting unfairly from my father’s "Letter to a Neapolitan"!’ He attended the debates on the third reading of the bill, and voted in its favour, 22 Mar.65 He was in the minority for restoring the salary of the Irish registrar of deeds to its original level, 9 Apr. Making his maiden speech proper, 18 Apr., in praise of British and German support for the interests of Poland, he stated that
the days of Frederick the Great are past; Germany now is no longer the Germany of those days; education has made there great progress; and I feel confident that all parts of that powerful and generous country will feel that she owes sympathy for Poland, in consequence of having formerly been a party in the shameful partition of that unfortunate and gallant country.
His father soon afterwards expressed himself ‘delighted with Althorp’s account’ and that ‘nothing escaped you at all disagreeable to government’; as well as ‘satisfied with the report I have heard that you gave hopes of doing more’.66 On 6 Apr. 1832 Greville noted that Fox had been proposed as one of the new peers, if they were needed to carry reform.67
On the dismissal of the Grey ministry, Francis Thornhill Baring* reported to his wife, 10 May 1832, that ‘the king was hooted on going out of town last night, they say, and I know that Charles Fox and Lady Mary were hissed in one of his carriages’.68 Fox immediately resigned his household office, and voted for Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the reform bill unimpaired, 10 May. He wrote to Henry from Addison Road, 15 May, that
my head has been really so addled and events have passed so rapidly that I have not had composure of mind sufficient to write even to you ... Living out here and sitting up in the House of Commons till 2, 3 or 4 with the excitement of these times I do assure you leave me hardly time to eat my dinner, besides mounting guard occasionally and being also shut up in a barrack yard ... I went on guard the day before yesterday. When relieved yesterday we went to the barracks and there found officers and men kept in, and they were not allowed to go out till 10 last night. However, at 4 o’clock out I went of course as a legislator, which supersedes all other duties. Well! What changes have occurred! Last night’s was the most extraordinary debate I ever witnessed and so the oldest hands allow ... We shall hear the result today, but it is generally thought the duke of Wellington cannot form his cabinet on reform principles! ... I resigned my equerryship, a great bore as it takes away one third at least of my income ... but I could not do otherwise, feeling strongly as I do, and also respecting Calne. The king was kindness itself in his manner of taking it, as he always has been on all occasions towards me.69
Three days later he carried to his friends at Westminster the news that ‘he had met Lord Grey on the stairs in the Palace, and Lord Grey in passing had said, "It is all right",’ and the government was reinstated.70 According to John Cam Hobhouse’s* recollections, Fox confided to him that
a good deal of the late mischief had been caused by [William’s eldest son] Lord Munster, whom he called a lover of money, not a politician. He had not spoken to the king for eight months, but ... helped to bring about the duke of Wellington’s foolish effort. ‘The other Fitzclarences are with us,’ said Fox. ‘Munster and [William’s brother] the duke of Cumberland are now forbidden to talk politics at the Court. The king has no liking or disliking for ministers - a good old man, but forgets what he says’ ... Fox said to the king, ‘By recalling Lord Grey, you have saved the country from civil war’. ‘Yes,’ said the king, ‘for the present’.71
Holland recorded in his diary, 25 May, how Charles
while on guard at St. James’s, was sent for by the king, whom he found at luncheon with his family and his sisters and who, rising, bade him kneel down immediately. He then told him to kiss hands and exclaimed, "Now rise Colonel Fox and my aide-de-camp". All this was done de proprio motu. Neither ministers, I, Charles, nor Sir Herbert [Taylor*, the king’s secretary] were further aware of his intentions than from his having promised Charles himself, in 1830, that in March 1832, he would make him aide-de-camp.
A report had circulated that, as Edward Littleton* noted on 20 May, the king had said to Fox that
my equerries are my personal attendants, my minister has nothing to do with those appointments. If therefore you mean to continue equerry ... you must go out of Parliament. If you continue in Parliament you cannot be my equerry.
This having reached the press, Fox corrected it ‘with great calmness and temper’ by a paragraph in The Times, 26 May. The commander-in-chief, Lord Hill, resented the appointment because, as Lord Ellenborough commented, it automatically made Fox a colonel ‘over the head of almost 700 lieutenant-colonels, some of whom had their lieutenancies for service at Waterloo’. At Hill’s instigation and by the king’s oversight, he was not gazetted colonel when the household appointment was announced. ‘Not a little hurt and exasperated’ by this, he almost decided to quit the army, but was swayed against this determination by his duty to the king as a soldier.72 Holland recorded that William
is certainly much agitated and his manner as well as conduct are, by the account given me by Charles, so inconsistent and even incoherent as to raise some apprehensions in the minds of persons immediately about him. This is unpleasant. In Charles’s affair he is at least friendly, just and candid, insists on his right of conferring and adhering to the appointment, and acquits ministers, me and Charles of any importunity, advice or application about it.73
Fox voted against increasing the county representation of Scotland, 1 June, and for the dismemberment of Perthshire, 15 June. His only other known votes in this Parliament were with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16 July, and he paired in this sense, 20 July 1832.
Following extensive negotiations that month, Fox was finally accommodated with a place at the ordnance, which he took up at the dissolution, when he left the one remaining seat at Calne to Lansdowne’s elder son, Lord Kerry.74 After hearing rumours about possible seats, including Lambeth, Rye and Shaftesbury, and having been seriously considered for Surrey East, he was returned, after a contest against a Benthamite radical, as ‘the town Member’ for Tavistock, with the duke of Bedford’s candidate Lord William Russell*, at the general election of 1832.75 He subsequently represented Stroud and Tower Hamlets as a Liberal, continued to hold office at the ordnance and received regular promotions in the army. Provided with almost nothing under the wills of his parents, he was denied his inheritance of the Bedfordshire estate at Ampthill by its sale, and resided in Addison Road throughout his life. After the death of his first wife, who for many years was housekeeper at Windsor Castle, he married a childhood sweetheart, Katharine Maberly.76 Renowned as a numismatist, he edited Engravings of Unpublished or Rare Greek Coins in two parts (1856 and 1862), and at his death, after ‘a long and tedious illness’, in April 1873, his remarkable collection was sold to the Royal Museum in Berlin. In an obituary which emphasized his learning and benevolence, The Times averred that
he did not take, like his father, a leading part in politics, but he inherited from both parents those social qualities for which his family has been distinguished for three generations. In him was combined the genial temperament of his father with that keen and rapid intuition of character which Lady Holland possessed in an eminent degree. His conversation had a peculiar charm; it was so fresh and original, so Horatian in its inexhaustible joyousness and playful irony, so frank and fearless in denouncing shams and conventionalities, and in upholding right against wrong.77
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
- 1. Oxford DNB; The Times, 11, 22 Feb. 1797; LJ, xli. 333-4, 379.
- 2. Lady Holland Jnl. ii. 148-9.
- 3. Blair Adam mss 3/163 (NRA 9954).
- 4. Ibid. 3/164-6; Lord Ilchester, Home of Hollands, 225, 230, 235-6.
- 5. Mems. of Clan ‘Aulay’ (1881), 218.
- 6. L. Mitchell, Holland House and Hollands, 26.
- 7. For example, Add. 51786, Holland to Fox, 26 Nov. .
- 8. Lady Holland Jnl. ii. 259, 272.
- 9. Blair Adam mss 3/167-70; DNB.
- 10. Home of Hollands, 258-9.
- 11. Add. 52057.
- 12. Add. 51780, Holland to Fox, 1806-14; 51781, same to same, 29 June 1814; Home of Hollands, 259-61, 290.
- 13. Add. 51781, Holland to Fox, 29 June 1814; Blair Adam mss 3/171.
- 14. Add. 51781; Blair Adam mss 3/172-4.
- 15. Blair Adam mss 3/140-1, 174-5; Home of Hollands, 331.
- 16. Add. 51782; 51789, unknown to Lady Holland, 2 Jan. 1818.
- 17. Add. 52057.
- 18. Smith Letters, i. 309; Maxwell, Clarendon, i. 26.
- 19. Blair Adam mss 3/384.
- 20. Russell Early Corresp. i. 50.
- 21. Add. 52057.
- 22. Add. 51782.
- 23. Add. 52057.
- 24. Add. 52176.
- 25. Add. 52057.
- 26. DNB; Add. 51782, Fox to Holland, 4 Jan., 11 July, replies, 12 Sept., 1 Oct. 1820.
- 27. Add. 52057.
- 28. Fox Jnl. 40.
- 29. Add. 51782.
- 30. Blair Adam mss 3/142, 176-7; Add. 51789, Fox to Lady Holland, 21 Apr. 1814; 51966, Fox to Caroline Fox, 28 Mar. 1815.
- 31. Fox Jnl. 69.
- 32. Blair Adam mss 3/178-9.
- 33. Moore Jnl. ii. 482, 489.
- 34. Add. 51692, Lauderdale to Holland, 12 Dec. 1821; 51783, Holland to Fox, 7 Jan., replies, 12 Jan., 7 May 1822; 51831, Macdonald to Fox, 11 Dec., Tues. Sat. [n.d.] 1821; Lord Ilchester, Chrons. of Holland House, 30-31; Fox Jnl. 95.
- 35. Add. 52057.
- 36. Add. 52059.
- 37. Add. 52057, C.R. to H.E. Fox, 27 July, 10 Aug. 1823.
- 38. Add. 52176.
- 39. Add. 51783, Fox to Holland, 17, 23 Apr. 1824.
- 40. Blair Adam mss 3/181; Black Bk. (1823), 34; C. Tomalin, Mrs. Jordan’s Profession, 310; Lady Holland to Son, 28, 30; Chrons. of Holland House, 41-42, 55.
- 41. Add. 51533, Hastings to Holland, 14, 16 Aug.; 51783, Holland to Fox [10 Aug.] 25 Oct. 1824; 51784, same to same, n.d., 29 Mar. 1825; 52057, C.R. to H.E. Fox, 13 Dec. 1824, ?3 July, 13 Aug., 11 Sept., 28 Oct. 1825; Lansdowne mss, Holland to Lansdowne, 29 Oct. 1824; Chrons. of Holland House, 41-42, 71; Blair Adam mss 3/182-3.
- 42. Add. 51574, Abercromby to Holland, 7, 17 Mar.; 51784, Holland to Fox, 5 Mar., 12 Apr.; 52057, C.R. to H.E. Fox, 19 Mar. 1826.
- 43. Add. 51784.
- 44. Fox Jnl. 225.
- 45. Survey of London, xxxvii. 105; Lady Holland to Son, 54; Add. 52011, Eleanor Fazakerley to H.E. Fox, 2 July 1827.
- 46. Add. 52058, C.R. to H.E. Fox, 6, 30 Mar., 27 Apr., 13, 31 May, 12 Oct. 1827.
- 47. Canning’s Ministry, 247, 317; Add. 51784, Holland to Clarence [n.d.].
- 48. Lansdowne mss, Holland to Lansdowne, 22 Oct.; Add. 51687, reply, 10 Nov. 1827; 51567, Anglesey to Holland, 2 Oct. 1828.
- 49. Add. 51785.
- 50. Ibid. Fox to Holland, 25 Dec. 1829; Chrons. of Holland House, 105; Blair Adam mss 3/186.
- 51. Add. 51575, Abercromby to Holland, 13 July; 51786, Holland to Fox, 13, 28 June, 1 July, 9 Sept., reply, 8 Sept. 1830; Chrons. of Holland House, 116-17; Russell Letters, ii. 213-14, 280; Blair Adam mss 3/187.
- 52. Add. 52058.
- 53. Grey mss; PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/27A/87; Add. 51568, Anglesey to Holland [21 Nov.] 1830.
- 54. Grey mss, Taylor to Grey, 6 Dec.; Add. 51786, Holland to Fox, 18, 24, n.d. Nov., 16 Dec., replies, 28 Nov., 16 Dec. 1830.
- 55. Grey mss.
- 56. Devizes Gazette, 28 Apr., 5 May; Add. 51786, Fox to Holland, 2 May 1831.
- 57. The Times, 28 Apr. 1831; Anglesey mss 27A/114; Beds. Pollbook (1831), 48.
- 58. Add. 51786.
- 59. Add. 52058.
- 60. Lady Holland to Son, 123.