POWLETT, Charles I, Marquess of Winchester (1661-1722), of Hackwood, nr. Basingstoke, Hants and Bolton Hall, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1681
1685 - 1687
1689 - 1698

Family and Education

b. 1661, 1st surv. s. of Charles Powlett†, 1st Duke of Bolton, by his 2nd w. Mary, illegit. da. of Emmanuel Scrope, 1st Earl of Sunderland, wid. of Henry Carey, Ld. Leppington; bro. of Ld. William Powlett*.  educ. Winchester 1674; G. Inn 1674; travelled abroad 1675–8.  m. (1) 10 July 1679, Margaret (d. 1682), da. of George Coventry, 3rd Baron Coventry, s.p.; (2) 8 Feb. 1683, Frances (d. 22 Nov. 1696), da. of William Ramsden of Byrom, Yorks., 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da.; (3) c.Aug. 1697, Henrietta Crofts (d. 1730), illegit. da. of James Scott, 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; cr. KG 16 Oct. 1714.1

Offices Held

Commr. for managing the revenue 1688; ld. chamberlain to Queen Mary 1689–94; PC 3 June 1690; commr. prize appeals and Admiralty cases 1694–8; ld. justice [I] 1697–1700; commr. union with Scotland 1706; ld. justice 1714, 1720; ld. chamberlain 1715–17; ld. lt. [I] 1717–19.2

Col. of vol. horse 1690.3

Bailiff of Burley, New Forest 1691–1710, 1714–d.; v.-adm. Hants and I.o.W. 1692–?1710, 1714–d.; freeman, Winchester, by 1695, Southampton 1697, Dublin 1697, Cork 1698, Kinsale 1698, W. Looe 1700; high steward, Winchester ?1699–d.; ld. lt. Hants and Dorset 1699–1710, 1714–d.; custos rot. Hants 1699–1710, 1715–d.; warden of New Forest 1699–1710, 1715–d.; recorder, St. Ives 1700–d.; gov. I.o.W. 1707–10.4

Commr. Greenwich Hosp. 1695; Q. Anne’s Bounty, 1704.5


Winchester's father, who was given his dukedom in 1689, was one of the largest landowners in Hampshire, with electoral influence throughout the county, as well as at St. Ives in Cornwall where the Powletts also owned land, and in Yorkshire where his landholdings included extensive lead mines. Although of the same Whig party principles, Winchester and his father were often at odds, a situation no doubt exacerbated by the latter's unstable temperament.6

An Exclusionist under Charles II and James II, Winchester (then Lord Wiltshire) was an active supporter of the Prince of Orange in 1688. He and his brother, Lord William, were sent over to Holland by their father in April 1688 and accompanied the Prince and his invasion force in November. He was denounced by James II and was rewarded by the new King with the office of chamberlain to the Queen. Both father and son seemed to hope for more and in July 1690 the Queen wrote to her husband that Bolton, ‘who, I think, will lose nothing for want of asking’, had requested the lord lieutenancy of Somerset for his son. The request was denied, but in June Winchester was made colonel of a volunteer regiment of horse raised by the city of London.7

Returned in 1690 for Hampshire, Winchester was classed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in a list of the new Parliament. His name appeared on nine further lists of placemen and Court supporters in this Parliament, chiefly those drawn up by Carmarthen, Robert Harley* and Grascome. On 13 June 1691 it was reported that he had fought a duel with the Earl of Scarbrough, the latter taking exception to Winchester's questioning of Sir John Trenchard's* ‘good service to the government’. He spent the summer of 1691 as a volunteer on campaign in Flanders, returning in September in time for the opening of the new session in which he was again inactive. On 26 Jan. 1692 he joined the attack on on the East India Company by presenting a petition from several seamen claiming a share in a number of prize ships captured from the Mogul emperor. He also, on 4 Feb., successfully offered a clause on behalf of the Earl of Monmouth to be added to the bill for vesting forfeited estates in the King and Queen. On 22 Nov., at the beginning of the new session, he moved for a committee of the whole to vote a supply to enable the King to carry on the war. The question of whether the words ‘vigorous war’ should stand in the resolution was subjected to some debate, but was eventually allowed. On 3 Dec. he spoke in favour of putting the question that 54,562 men should be voted for land service, opposing Robert Harley's motion that the army estimate should first be examined head by head, and on 14 Dec. he spoke in favour of committing the bill for preserving the King and Queen and their government. During a debate on 30 Dec. he acted as a teller against a motion to put the question of agreeing to a Lords' request for a conference on the St. Malo expedition. This headed off the possibility of a direct refusal, and allowed a resolution that the Commons would send an answer by messengers of their own. On 1 Feb. 1693 he presented a petition on behalf of Henry Killigrew against the lottery bill. His last recorded speech in this session was on 8 Feb., when he and a number of friends of his father, then warden of the New Forest, spoke against the bill for the increase and preservation of timber in the New Forest, claiming that ‘it would prejudice and waste the timber instead of preserving it ... and was designed only for private advantage’.8

In the previous November Sir Robert Holmes*, governor of the Isle of Wight, had died and there had been speculation that Winchester would succeed him, but whatever hopes Winchester may have entertained, they were not realized at this time, Lord Cutts (John*) being appointed instead in March 1693. Winchester received some reward for his services to the court in November 1693 in the form of the profits of a prize ship, and in April 1694 he was granted some Catholic estates in Staffordshire, forfeited to the King. Shortly afterwards, he and his brother, Lord William, were satirized in a political poem, ‘The Club Men of the House of Commons’, as

          The two Winchester Geese would be just like their Dad
          Could they tell how to get wit enough to be mad;
          In pied coats these bawlers by rights should be clad,

an illusion to the feigned insanity assumed by the Duke of Bolton during the last years of James II's reign. Winchester has been identified as a member of the Whig Rose Club from his appearance in this satire.9

In the 1693-4 session, Winchester was a teller on the government side on 26 Feb. for agreeing with the House's resolution on ways and means. In the next session on 26 Nov. 1694 he laid information before the House from the King on the quotas to be supplied by the allies for the war, and as Queen Mary's lord chamberlain, was first-named on 12 Jan. 1695 to the committee appointed to organize the procession of the Commons at her funeral, from which he reported on 26 Feb. The Queen's death had deprived him of his only court office, but his annual pension of £1,200 was continued. He had a further appointment to a conference committee with the Lords concerning Sir Thomas Cooke*.

Winchester was returned again for Hampshire without a contest in 1695, and continued loyally to support the government, now largely dominated by his Junto friends. He was not, however, any more active in the Commons, being first-named to a second-reading committee on a private bill concerning his relations. In addition, he was forecast in January as likely to support the government in connexion with the proposed council of trade, and in March he voted for the government on fixing the price of guineas at 22s. When the assassination conspiracy was discovered in February he was among the first to sign the Association, and on 2 Apr. he reported from the committee sent to examine two of the conspirators, Sir John Friend† and Sir William Parkyns, in Newgate. In the following autumn, when Sir John Fenwick† was attempting to implicate Lord Shrewsbury in the plot, Winchester was approached by Lord Keeper Somers (Sir John*), who reported to Shrewsbury on 3 Nov.: ‘I have, as by your order, acquainted the Marquess of W[inchester] with as much as was expedient of this matter and he desired me to assure your Grace of his hearty, zealous service.’ His absence from the division on Fenwick's attainder, on the 25th, was no doubt due to the death of his wife only three days earlier.10

In April 1697 Somers was able to reward Winchester's loyalty. During a meeting with the King and the Earl of Sunderland during which the appointment of new lords justices for Ireland was discussed, Somers recommended Winchester who, he told the King,

was very desirous to go, had very particularly deserved well of his Majesty and was in great straits in his fortunes ... The King objected to my Lord Winchester's qualifications, but agreed to the other arguments I had used for his being qualified; but wished it might be done some other way. Lord Sunderland agreed entirely with the first part of his Majesty's discourse; but he said not so much as I expected to the second.

Despite the King's misgivings as to Winchester's competence, he was appointed one of the lords justices with the Earl of Galway and Viscount Villiers. The office carried a joint salary of some £6,953 and Winchester also received £1,000 towards his equipage. Others, however, shared doubts as to his suitability for the post. James Vernon I* wrote to Shrewsbury on 15 May:

Ben Overton* and I have formerly had some discourse about the Marquess; he thinks him not very governable and apprehends he will busy himself the worng way. The advice he gave him was to enjoy the sweets of his employment, and not to set up for a manager. He did not tell him he would do it awkwardly; but he was to expect others would have the secret and he would find the most ease and perhaps give the greatest satisfaction in yielding to the current.

Vernon reported that even Lord Chancellor Somers had a low opinion of Winchester and had ‘long concluded him pretty incapable of instruction and expects he will make but a very indifferent figure in his government’. Unfortunately Winchester did not follow Overton's advice, but allowed himself to fall under the influence of Philip Savage, the Irish chancellor of the exchequer, which rapidly caused a breach with Galway, who suspected Savage of secretly obstructing government business in the Irish parliament. Although Winchester wrote assuring the ministry in England of his diligence for the government, they remained unconvinced. On 3 Feb. 1698 the Irish lord chancellor John Methuen* wrote to Shrewsbury, that this matter ‘if continued, will quickly ruin this government’ and if Winchester did not ‘come to himself’ the King would no doubt consider his recall.11

A further cause of trouble to Winchester at this time was his third marriage. A correspondent wrote to Sir Joseph Williamson* on 10 Aug. 1697:

It is confidently reported ... that Lord Winchester, going over with fine Mrs Crofts, has fallen in love with her and married her in Dublin, she being certainly the blazing star of that kingdom. I never inquired after her fortune, nor I believe did Lord Winchester.

Winchester openly acknowledged his marriage in October, ‘at which the Duke of Bolton is not a little displeased, and it is probable that Lord William Powlett will have a great advantage by it’. Bolton, however, wrote to his son at the end of October that ‘I freely forgive you as the King has commanded me’, and by November that ‘I ... have so much kindness for you that I shall always show it to you and yours’. Bolton wrote in January the following year that he was pleased to hear from Charles Montagu* that Winchester and Galway ‘go on so amiably, and that the people are well pleased with your government’. Evidently the Junto were keen to conceal their true opinion of Winchester. Bolton was at first active in promoting Winchester's re-election in 1698 and in April believed (mistakenly) that he had secured it. However, Ben Overton wrote to Winchester in May, his letter indicating some decline in Bolton:

I pity the poor Duke of Bolton for your lordship's sake, for he hath really contrived the matter so as to be the last man in the nation on all sides ... even those who profit themselves of his mistakes exposed him, and they do not value him who have him, because they are not sure to have him half an hour.

Overton, who in the past had relied on Bolton's interest, now asked for Winchester's assistance for his own election, as Bolton's promise six months ago to bring him in was not to be depended on. Moreover, in another letter of 16 May, Winchester's agent wrote to him that Bolton had said ‘that he cared not whether either of his sons were chosen’, would interest himself only for Mr Norton [Richard II*], and was ‘so full of his supporting liberty and property that for what I can find, he cares for nobody nor nothing that does not’. After the county elections, which Winchester lost, his brother William wrote to him indicating that Bolton had been more of a liability than an asset.12

Winchester had not lost hopes of being returned on petition when Overton wrote again on 7 Nov. 1698 advising him that ‘the ministry do all pretend to be your friends’, and to keep in with Galway. Overton also felt compelled to offer moral advice, being concerned by what he had heard of Winchester's extravagant living, drinking, and non-payment of creditors, reports which his enemies used against him. It was soon apparent that he would not gain a seat, Bolton writing to him on 2 Dec. that despite all efforts no grounds could be found for petitioning against either the county or Andover elections. Winchester appears to have suffered further disappointment on Bolton's death in February 1699, for the late Duke's will was widely understood to have been very ungenerous to his eldest son, although as it had been written in 1694 Winchester's third marriage cannot have been the reason for such treatment. Indeed, Winchester (much less his third wife and their children) scarcely rated a mention in the will, and had ‘nothing added to his marriage settlement, which is £10,000 per annum’. By contrast, Bolton's second son, Lord William, was given considerable legacies and Bolton's daughter, the Countess of Bridgwater, and her husband (John Egerton†) inherited all the residue which, according to Vernon, amounted to more than £30,000. Moreover, Winchester was not even named one of his father's executors.13

Bolton's death gave rise to some political intrigue, with Galway suggesting to Shrewsbury that the new Duke would no doubt make every effort to succeed his father as lord lieutenant of Hampshire and might now consider his position in Ireland beneath him, which would necessitate an ‘entire change’. However, this subtle suggestion that the Duke's return to England on this occasion should be used as an opportunity to oust him from the government of Ireland was not acted upon. His commission as a lord justice was renewed in April 1699 although it is not clear that he went back to Ireland. When a single lord lieutenant was to be appointed in 1700, Bolton hoped to be chosen, although his patron Somers had already been dismissed. Hearing that Shrewsbury might get Ireland, Bolton wrote angrily to him on 30 May 1700:

I was struck with admiration when the news ... was told me that your going for Ireland was determined ... But this false report, as you call it, was told to me by Lord Sunderland (who I did then suppose was agreed on to break it to me), and others that my Lord Albemarle told it to, did tell me of it ... I think that ... you had not used me with that friendship that I did hope ...
     And from the usage I have received, after having been 12 years in his service, after my coming over with him, during all which time I have served him with zeal and integrity, and with some good success which, to be plain, makes me believe that though my Lord Nottingham [Daniel Finch†] is removed, that I am so unfortunate that the only thing that remains of him is the impressions that he made in the King of me, to my disadvantage.

Bolton continued to be politically active. He retained the lord lieutenancies of Dorset and Hampshire on Anne’s accession but remained a faithful adherent of the Junto: in February 1707 he had been one of the first of the Junto’s close followers to be given a post of real electoral influence, when he was made governor of the Isle of Wight. Not surprisingly, he was deprived of all his offices in September 1710, ‘in order to a new Parliament’, but came back into favour in the reign of George I, when he ‘muddled and intrigued about the court’ until his death at his house in Dover Street, London, on 21 Jan. 1722, aged 60. He was buried at Basing. Regarded as a ‘great booby’ by Swift, he was described by Hearne as ‘a most lewd, vicious man, a great dissembler and a very hard drinker’. His three sons, Charles*, Henry† and Nassau†, all sat in the Commons.14

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. CSP Dom. 1675–6, p. 368; 1677–8, p. 372; 1678, p. 526; Bolton mss at Bolton Hall, A/58, birthdates of Lady Wiltshire’s sons.
  • 2. HMC 7th Rep. 417; CSP Dom. 1694–5, pp. 61, 204; 1695, p. 112; 1697, pp. 129, 511.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1690–1, pp. 66, 68.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 980; x. 46; xvii. 290; xxiv. 443; xxix. 202, 633, 660; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 39; Hants RO, Winchester bor. recs. ordnance bk. 7, f. 127; assembly bk. 6, f. 38; Southampton RO, bor. recs. SC3/1, f. 248; Cal. Ancient Recs. Dublin ed. Gilbert, vi. 179–80; Cork Corp. Council Bk. ed. Caulfield, 268; Kinsale Corp. Council Bk. ed. Caulfield, 202; J. H. Matthews, St. Ives, 293–4.
  • 5. J. Cooke and J. Maule, Royal Hospital at Greenwich, pp. 8–30; A. Savidge, Queen Anne’s Bounty, pp. 123–5.
  • 6. VCH Hants, iii. 362, 368; iv. 46, 108, 116-17, 122, 157, 179, 191, 193, 246, 251, 255, 261, 348, 526, 632; Matthews, 439; VCH Yorks. North Riding, i. 271, 275, 277-9; PCC 127 Pett.
  • 7. Dalrymple, Mems. ii(1) bk. 5, pp. 91-92; iii(2), bk. 5, p. 72; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 401; 1689-90, p. 12; 1690-1, pp. 66, 68; Reresby Mems. ed. Browning, 525; HMC 7th Rep. 417.
  • 8. Trinity, Dublin, Clark mss 749/7/738, Robert Yard* to George Clarke*, 13 June 1691; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 233, 241, 296; CSP Dom. 1690-1, p. 520; Luttrell Diary, 156, 170, 249, 291, 318, 342, 394, 409; Bodl. Carte 130, f. 339.
  • 9. Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 584; Nat. Archs. Ire. Wych mss 1/63, William Ball to Sir Cyril Wych*, 8 Dec. 1692; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/059/2, Yard to Alexander Stanhope, 22 Nov. 1692, 3 Jan 1692[-3], 11 Apr. 1693; CSP Dom. 1693, p. 409; Cal. Treas. Pprs. x. 590-2, 1450; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Cameron, v. 436; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III. 209.
  • 10. Shrewsbury Corresp. 422; Vernon-Shrewsbury Letters, i. 42.
  • 11. Shrewsbury Corresp. 477, 480; CSP Dom. 1697, pp. 137, 162; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiv. 414; Vernon-Shrewsbury Letters, i. 237-8, 239, 250, 256; Northants RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss, 46/108, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 29 May 1697; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 528, 534-5, 543-5, 551-8, 567, 601; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck)mss PwA 1021a, Powlett to Portland, 10 Aug. 1697.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1697, pp. 293, 419; Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/146, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 30 Sept. 1697; Bolton mss, D/10, 11, 9, 14, Bolton to Powlett, 29 Oct., 22 Nov. 1697, 7 Jan. 1697[-8], 28 Apr. 1698; D/16, Overton to Powlett, 3 May 1698; D/18, Thomas Cobbe to same, 16 May 1698; D/20, Lord William Powlett to same, recd. 21 Nov. 1698.
  • 13. Bolton mss D/26, Overton to Powlett, 7 Nov. 1698; D/32, Bolton to same, 2 Dec. 1698; Add. 30000C, f. 36; Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/151, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 2 Mar. 1698[-9]; PCC 127 Pott; CSP Dom. 1699-1700, p. 81.
  • 14. HMC Buccleuch, ii. 622, 651; Add. 30000C, f. 78; CSP Dom. 1699–1700, pp. 131, 137, 233; Luttrell, vi. 625; Hearne Colls. vii. 322; Swift Works ed. Davis, v. 258.