LEIGH, Hon. Charles (1686-1749), of Leighton Buzzard, Beds.
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Family and Education
bap. 28 Mar. 1686, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Thomas, 2nd Baron Leigh of Stoneleigh Abbey, Warws. by his 2nd w. Eleanor, da. of Edward Watson, 2nd Baron Rockingham. educ. I. Temple 1701; Balliol, Oxf. 1702. m. 1716, Lady Barbara (d. 1755), da. of Richard Lumley, 1st Earl of Scarbrough, sis. of Henry, Visct. Lumley*, Hon. Richard*, Charles†, John†, James† and Thomas Lumley†, s.p. suc. uncle Hon. Charles Leigh 1704.1
Leigh’s grandfather, Sir Thomas Leigh†, had represented Staffordshire during the opening session of the Cavalier Parliament. His father was described by Thomas Hearne as ‘an honest, debauched Tory’, and was remembered for having struggled to London in March 1710, despite terminal illness, to vote for Dr Sacheverell. In 1704 Leigh inherited the Bedfordshire estates of his paternal uncle, Hon. Charles Leigh. A month after his father’s death in November 1710 he stood against the Greville interest in a contested by-election at Warwick, defeating Hon. Algernon Greville*, but he played no substantive part in the proceedings of the House. Classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament, he was also named as a ‘worthy patriot’ who during the first session helped to expose the mismanagements of the former Whig ministry. He caused offence to some Tories for his reported abstention on 24 Jan. 1712 when the House divided on the motion censuring the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) for his ‘unwarrantable and illegal’ acceptance of money from bread contractors. As William Bromley II* explained to Lord Oxford (Robert Harley*) in July of that year, Leigh had taken the view that the Duke’s conduct had indeed been ‘unwarrantable’, but not ‘illegal’. However, such reasoning did irreparable damage to him at Warwick, Bromley observing that although he had ‘behaved himself unexceptionally well in all other respects’ he ‘has suffered so much in his interest that he will scarce recover it’. Another example of his ‘whimsical’ Toryism was given in the following session when he voted on 18 June 1713 against the French commerce bill. Though he must have expected that he would not be readopted at Warwick in the next general election, he made no attempt to contest in another constituency. The following year, however, his maternal uncle, Hon. Thomas Watson Wentworth*, was able to return him for Higham Ferrers which he represented until 1722. In the next two Parliaments he served as knight of the shire for Bedfordshire, featuring as a staunch opponent of the Walpole administration. He died on 28 July 1749.2