POWLETT, Charles II, Earl of Wiltshire (c.1661-1722).

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.1661, 1st surv. s. of Charles Powlett I, being 1st s. by 2nd w.; bro. of Lord William Powlett. educ. G. Inn, entered 1674; Winchester 1675; travelled abroad (France) 1675-8. m. (1) 10 July 1679, Margaret (d. 7 Feb. 1682), da. of George, 3rd Baron Coventry of Aylesborough, s.p.; (2) 8 Feb. 1683, Frances (d. 22 Nov. 1696), da. of William Ramsden of Byrom, Yorks., 2s. 2da.; (3) by 15 Oct. 1697, Henrietta Crofts (d. 27 Feb. 1730) illegit. da. of James, Duke of Monmouth, 1s. styled Earl of Wiltshire 5 Mar. 1675, Mq. of Winchester 9 Apr. 1689; suc. fa. as 2nd Duke of Bolton 27 Feb. 1699; KG 16 Oct. 1714.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Lymington 1685, Winchester 1689; commr. for assessment, York, Brec. and Glam. 1689, Hants, Wilts. and Yorks. (N. Riding) 1689-90; j.p. Hants 1689-d., dep. Lt. 1689-99; col. vol. horse, London 1690; militia ft. Hants by 1697-d.; bailiff of Burley, New Forest 1691-1710, 1714-d.; v.-adm. Hants and I.o.W. 1692-1710, 1714-d.; ld. lt. Hants and Dorset 1699-1710, 1714-d.; custos rot. Hants 1699-1710, 1715-d.; warden, New Forest 1699-1710, 1714-d.; high steward, Winchester ?1699-d.; gov. of I.o.W. 1707-10.2

Ld. chamberlain to Queen Mary II 1689-94; PC 3 June 1690-d.; one of the lds. justices [I] 1697-1700; commr. for union with Scotland 1706; one of the lds. justices 1714, 1720; ld. chamberlain 1715-17; ld. lt. [I] 1717-19.


Although the earldom of Wiltshire had been in the Powlett family since 1550, it had seldom been used as a courtesy title. Lord Wiltshire was first returned for Hampshire in 1681 as an exclusionist, but left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament. He may have acted as second to Lord Herbert of Chirbury (Hon. Henry Herbert) in a political duel later in the year. Before the next general election his father (who liked to compare himself to Brutus) wrote to Sunderland: ‘If my son Wiltshire be ungrateful to the King, I would not have him stand, because I cannot pass for him, having been for some time past a stranger to him’. Nevertheless he was re-elected to James II’s Parliament, in which he was appointed only to the committee on the bill for the general naturalization of Huguenot refugees.3

Danby listed Wiltshire among the country opposition in 1687. In April 1688 it was reported that he and Lord Campden (Wriothesley Baptist Noel) intended to stand for re-election, ‘and will probably carry it against all other interest’. Shortly afterwards his father sent him to Holland, but in September the King’s electoral agents reported that there was still no opposition to him in Hampshire. He returned with William of Orange, who appointed him a commissioner for managing the revenue. At the meeting of Members of Charles II’s Parliaments on 26 Dec. he moved for the introduction and signature of the association for the defence of the Protestant religion and the ancient laws and liberties of England, and on the next day he told the House that the prince was ready to receive their address asking him to assume the government of the kingdom and hold an election.4

Wiltshire was re-elected in 1689 with his brother, probably unopposed. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he proposed Henry Powle as Speaker, and was appointed to 28 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in both sessions. In the debate in grand committee on the state of the nation on 28 Jan. he moved for putting the question, and he urged the House to defer filling the vacancy on the throne no longer than it must. He was among those ordered to bring in a list of the essentials for securing religion, law and liberty, and to prepare reasons for insisting that James had abdicated and the throne was vacant, after which he was sent to the Lords to desire a conference. On 7 Feb. he said:

Now that the Lords have agreed the throne [to be] vacant, I hope you will proceed to fill the throne. The persons formerly named are the most proper that can be thought of, the Prince and Princess of Orange. I have not parts able to set out their merits, and what we owe this great prince for delivering us from Popery and slavery; and there is no way to secure us from the return of it but by placing them on the throne, and to preserve the ancient government. You have been told here of going about to make this an elective government; but I believe nobody here is of any other opinion but that the government is in King, Lords and Commons.

With the Leveller John Williams I as seconder ‘to prevent anarchy’, his last point was as good as proved. He was appointed lord chamberlain to the new Queen, and on 21 Feb. the House sent him to ask the King to make a donation to the foreign troops who had assisted in the Revolution. He was named to the committee to inquire into the authors and advisers of recent grievances, and on 15 Mar. he asked the Lords not to rise until the Commons sent them an address on the mutiny. He helped to draw up the address thanking the King for his promise to maintain the Church, and was named to the committees to consider the toleration bill and to inquire into the delay in relieving Londonderry. On 13 June he moved for a committee to inspect the Privy Council registers in order to except from indemnity those ‘who sat with King James from first to last’, and was named to the committee to summarize the proceedings about the Popish Plot as recorded in the Journals. On 3 July he helped to draw up the address for permission to examine the Privy Council records relating to Ireland, and to prepare reasons for disagreeing with the Lords about the rehabilitation of Titus Oates. Before the recess he spoke in favour of dismissing the Tory marquesses, Halifax and Carmarthen.5

In the second session Lord Winchester (as Wiltshire had been styled since his father had been raised to a dukedom) was named to the committees for the more effectual tendering of the oaths and for the inquiries into the expenses and miscarriages of the war. Although not prepared to defend the regicide Edmund Ludlow he demanded proof that he had returned to England in defiance of his attainder. He was among those appointed to examine the state of the revenue, to draw up an address asking for provision for Princess Anne and her husband, and to consider the bill to restore corporations. Although a supporter of the disabling clause and present in the Palace of Westminster during the vital division, he did not vote for it. In the debate on Sir Robert Sawyer he said contemptuously: ‘This person is not fit for the King’s mercy’.6

Winchester remained a court Whig, and as Duke of Bolton held high office after the Hanoverian succession. He died on 21 Jan. 1722 and was buried at Basing. His descendants continued to sit for Hampshire for most of the century.

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: Paula Watson / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 368; 1677-8, p. 372; 1678, p. 526.
  • 2. Winchester corp. assembly bk. 6, f. 38; HMC Le Fleming, 280; Eg. 1626, f. 45; Lymington Recs. 10.
  • 3. HMC Stuart, ii. 512; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 42.
  • 4. Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 431; Dalrymple, Mems. ii. bk. 5, p. 92; Reresby Mems. 525; HMC 7th Rep. 417; CJ, x. 6, 7.
  • 5. CJ, x. 9, 19, 32, 49; IHR Bull. xlix. 260; Hardwicke SP, ii. 424; Grey, ix. 70, 298; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 590.
  • 6. Grey, ix. 397-8, 536-7; Morrice, 3, p. 84.