MIDDLETON, Charles, 2nd Earl of Middleton [S]. (c.1650-1719).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1650, 1st s. of John, 1st Earl of Middleton [S] by 1st w. Grizel, da. of Alexander Durham of Easter Pourie, Forfar. educ. travelled abroad (France, Italy) 1669-71. m. by 1683, Lady Catherine Brudenell (d. 11 Mar. 1743), da. of Robert, 2nd Earl of Cardigan, 2s. 2da. styled Lord Clermont 1 Oct. 1660. suc. fa. 3 July 1673.1

Offices Held

Capt. of ft. Holland Regt. (later The Buffs) 1673, lt.-col. 1674-8; gov. Bruges 1678.

PC [S] 1674-Dec. 1688; envoy extraordinary, Vienna 1680-1; sec. of state [S] 1682-4, (north) 1684-Oct. 1688, (south) Oct.-Dec. 1688, to James II in exile 1693-1702; gent. of the bedchamber 1682-3; ld. of session extraordinary [S] 1684-6; PC 11 July 1684-Dec. 1688; ld. chamberlain to Queen Mary of Modena 1714-18.

Freeman, Portsmouth 1687.2


Middleton came from a Scottish gentry family that can be traced back to the 15th century. His father, after service in the French army, fought for the English Parliament in the first Civil War. An engager in 1648, he took part in the Scottish invasion of England, and thenceforth remained an ardent and active Royalist, who, at the Restoration, formed the brief but enjoyable ‘drunken administration’ of Scotland. Middleton, who was brought up as an Anglican, inherited little but debts from his convivial sire. Lauderdale obtained for him a pension of £500 p.a. and a commission in the English army, from which he retired after the Flemish campaign of 1678. ‘A man of generous temper, but without much religion’, according to Burnet, he was ‘well learned, and of good judgment and a lively apprehension’. He next embraced a diplomatic career. Surviving the wreck of the Gloucester in 1682, he married an English Roman Catholic and became secretary of state in the southern kingdom in 16843.

In 1685 James II nominated Middleton to a seat at Winchelsea, and entrusted to him and to Lord Preston (Sir Richard Grahme) the management of the Commons. When Parliament met he proposed Sir John Trevor as Speaker and conducted him to the chair. A very active Member, he brought nine messages from the King and was appointed to 11 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges. To his inexperience (Sir) John Bramston attributed the breach of procedure by the Court on 22 May in moving for supply before any bills had been read. When it was proposed in the House on 26 May to ‘set a mark’ on those who had supported exclusion, he said that ‘he had command from his Majesty to acquaint them that, as he had forgiven, so he would forget all things that had been acted against him there as Duke of York’. To assist in this process of oblivion, a committee was nominated to recommend expunctions from the Journals, to which Middleton was named, and he also served on the committee to prepare the Duke of Monmouth’s attainder. Together with Preston he was ordered on 23 June to bring in a bill for the relief of London widows and orphans, and he was among those to whom the bill for the general naturalization of Huguenot refugees was committed. He complained that he was so overworked that he had time neither to eat nor to sleep; but his management of an enthusiastically loyal House met with no serious setbacks in the first session. After the recess, however, he was unable to stem the protests against James’s disregard of the Test Act, and he was appointed to the committee to draw up the address against the employment of Roman Catholic officers. He denounced John Coke II for his ‘incendiary’ remarks on 18 Nov., and had the limited satisfaction of consigning him to the Tower.4

Middleton’s religion, such as it was, gave rise to many rumours that he would be dismissed. In June 1686, for example, the Spanish ambassador reported that Middleton was ‘out of favour with the King, because, having no religion, he interferes in that question, and certainly he would go if the King could find someone he could trust in religious matters’. It may be that the Queen’s favour enjoyed by Lady Middleton, one of her ladies-in-waiting, helped to keep her husband in office, and even to secure his promotion on the fall of Sunderland. He continued to urge moderation and at the end advised his master (though not very forcibly) against leaving the country. He himself remained in England after the Revolution, and spent two months in the Tower in 1692, after which he joined James at St. Germains, and was attainted by the Scottish Parliament. He became a Roman Catholic in 1702. He died on 28 July 1719 (old style), aged 69, and was buried at St. Germains. His sons, both active Jacobites, died unmarried, and no other member of the family entered Parliament.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Scots Peerage, vi. 183-8.
  • 2. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 368.
  • 3. Scots Peerage, 171; Burnet, ii. 436.
  • 4. Kent AO, NR/AEp/50; Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 199; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 164; CJ, ix. 713; HMC Downshire, i. 182; Grey, viii. 370.
  • 5. Scots Peerage, vi. 188-9.