TRELAWNY, Charles (c.1653-1731), of Hengar House, nr. Bodmin, Cornw.

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



1685 - 1687
1689 - 1698
1698 - 1713

Family and Education

b. c.1653, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Jonathan Trelawny, 2nd Bt.†, of Trelawne, Cornw. by Mary, da. of Sir Edward Seymour, 2nd Bt.†, of Berry Pomeroy, Devon; bro. of Henry*, John† and Sir Jonathan Trelawny, 3rd Bt., bp. of Bristol 1687–9, Exeter 1689–1707, Winchester 1707–21.  m. (1) lic. 1 May 1690, Anne (d. 1690), da. and coh. of Richard Lower, MD, of Covent Garden, Westminster, wid. of William Morice† of Werrington, Devon, s.p.; (2) 25 June 1699, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Mitchell, rector of Notgrove, Glos. 1665–86, 1da.1

Offices Held

Capt. 2nd R. Eng. Regt. (French army) 1674–7; capt.-lt. Duke of Monmouth Ft. 1678, maj. 1678–9; maj. 4th Ft. 1680, lt.-col. 1680, col. 1682–93; brig.-gen. 1689; maj.-gen. 1690; gov. Dublin 1690, Plymouth 1696–1722.2

Freeman, Liskeard and E. Looe 1685, Plymouth 1696; mayor, E. Looe 1694–5; v.-adm. S. Cornw. 1702–14.3

Commr. reforming abuses in the army 1689; groom of the bedchamber 1689–92; commr. receiving subscriptions to land bank 1696.4


A professional soldier, Trelawny had joined the Prince of Orange in November 1688, although his elder brother Jonathan, the bishop of Bristol, always denied complicity in his brother’s actions. Returned for his family’s borough of East Looe in 1690, Trelawny was classed as a Tory and Court supporter by the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). He was present in the House on the 21 Mar. and gave an account of an assault by Sir Thomas Mompesson* upon William Okeden*. Indeed, one account had Trelawny coming to blows with William Ashe I. At the end of the session Trelawny went over to Ireland with his regiment and fought at the battle of the Boyne. He was left as governor of Dublin and took part in the siege of Cork under the Earl of Marlborough (John Churchill†).5

In mid-December 1690 it was reported to George Clarke* that Trelawny’s wife had died soon after a ‘reconciliation’ with her father by which Trelawny had reached an agreement that, had she lived till the next legal term, he would get ‘£7,000 to have quitted her jointure’. Later that month Carmarthen listed him as a likely supporter should his ministerial position come under threat in the Commons. In April 1691 Robert Harley* likewise classed him as a Court supporter. However, at the end of 1691 Trelawny resigned his military and Court offices, probably in sympathy with the plight of the Earl of Marlborough, who had sided with Princess Anne in her quarrel with William III. Observers were somewhat puzzled by his move which may also have reflected the contemporary disapproval of the employment of foreign officers. Harley put it down to ‘some discontent’, and Robert Yard* to a desire to live quietly in the country. On 5 Feb. 1692 Trelawny was given leave of absence from the Commons. Information was passed to Lord Portland, the King’s Dutch favourite, in May 1692 that Trelawny and his officers had engaged for King James in a Jacobite plot, whereupon Trelawny sent Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) a letter, via his brother, the bishop, affirming his devotion to the King and zeal for the government. Nottingham wrote to William Blathwayt* on 17 May:

I send you Major-General Trelawny’s letter that you may acquaint his Majesty with his zeal for his service. I have writ him a civil letter by the Queen’s command, but if his Majesty thinks fit to employ him again in his service, I believe he may be very useful as being very well beloved by the army, which at this time is very necessary.

The King expressed his readiness to receive Trelawny back into service. Blathwayt considered him suitable to be sent to the West Indies but in June Nottingham did not know ‘whether he will serve again’ and, the following year, pressed for his appointment as governor of Plymouth as ‘some mark of favour upon a man of his principles’. The Whig Junto, on the other hand, displeased at the High Churchmen’s zeal for Trelawny, protested in 1694 at a report that he would succeed Hon. Thomas Tollemache* as colonel of the Coldstream Guards, the Duke of Shrewsbury writing to the King in July that it would be ‘a thing that will universally dissatisfy that party which is distinguished under the name of Whig’. Though Trelawny remained out of office, he continued to be classed as a placeman in the lists of this Parliament.6

Trelawny was again returned for East Looe in 1695. He was forecast as likely to oppose the government in January 1696 on the proposed council of trade, signed the Association and voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. He was granted leave of absence on 7 Mar. to go into the country, and in late April succeeded the 1st Earl of Bath as governor of Plymouth. He was absent from the division on the impeachment of Sir John Fenwick† on 25 Nov. As governor his claims to the control of the Plymouth militia brought him into conflict with the Earl of Stamford, the lord lieutenant of Devon, who maintained it was part of his own jurisdiction. This became a party matter which rumbled on into 1697, even though Trelawny was added to the Devon bench in March (see PLYMOUTH, Devon).7

The Whigs in Plymouth, led by Sir Francis Drake, 3rd Bt.*, were justified in their concerns about Trelawny. At the 1698 election, he was returned not only for East Looe but also for Plymouth, opting for the latter seat. On a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments he was classed as a placeman and a Court supporter, although this was subsequently queried. He was also forecast as likely to oppose a standing army, but on 18 Jan. 1699 he voted against the disbanding bill. In an analysis of the Commons into interests in the first half of 1700 he was marked as a query. On 7 Nov. 1700 he wrote to Colonel Sidney Godolphin* rejoicing at the news of the return to office of Lord Godolphin (Sidney†), Marlborough and Lord Rochester (Laurence Hyde†), adding that since a new Parliament was expected to be called after Christmas, the bishop, himself and his brother Henry ‘have put our heads together’ on the choice of new Members. In the first Parliament of 1701 he was listed as a likely supporter of the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. He was blacklisted as having opposed the preparations for war against France. On 4 Dec. 1701, Godolphin, the acknowledged patron of the Trelawny interest, wrote to the bishop ‘to muster up his squadron’ to be in town by the 30th. Classed as a Tory by Harley in December, Trelawny voted on 26 Feb. 1702 for the motion vindicating the impeachments of the King’s ministers. On the accession of Queen Anne, Bishop Trelawny renewed his efforts to get control of the Plymouth militia for Trelawny, writing to Nottingham on 17 Aug. 1702:

[I] am much pleased that the reasons I offered for the militia of Plymouth being in the hands of the governor are so well approved by your lordship and I hope the matter is not so far gone as not to be retrieved or that my brother’s commission may be passed with a non obstante to the Lord Poulet’s grant [as lord lieutenant of Devon]. Give me leave my lord to say that I expected such usage in the last reign for I always opposed with pleasure their designs against the true English interest, and laboured therefore the more earnestly to defeat them in that very place where this clause was given to the Earl of Stamford to break my family interest, but my lord it grieves me to find such usage in this reign, and that the same objection should be still continued which the fanatics then made use of against us, that we are not now more in the favour of the crown notwithstanding our services for it. I will not go back to what I have done for the true interest of our English monarchy in former Parliaments, but I may without vanity say I have effectually served it this session having sent 11 Members (whereof I will answer for all but one which I need not because the court must answer for him), besides the share I had in preventing the disagreements and heats which had likely to have broken out and would have been very fatal about the knights of Devonshire and Cornwall.

Although the bishop’s cousin Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, had undertaken to press Trelawny’s claim, he does not appear to have succeeded. At any rate the efforts of the rival Granville clan to get Trelawny removed as governor of Plymouth in April 1703, and to replace him with Hon. John Granville*, failed.8

Under Queen Anne, the ties between Godolphin and Trelawny became even closer: Godolphin’s power base lay in Cornwall, and Trelawny’s interest formed a considerable part of it. On the eve of the occasional conformity bill crisis, William Lowndes* wrote to the bishop:

Lord Treasurer Godolphin earnestly desires you to use your endeavours to hasten up the West country Members that so the House may be able to go upon the great business of the ensuing session as soon as may be, my lord being apprehensive that the fair weather may otherwise invite some of them to tarry longer in the country than her Majesty’s weighty affairs in Parliament can easily admit.

As part of this contingent, Trelawny did not vote for the Tack on 28 Nov. 1704. Classed as a placeman and a High Church courtier in 1705, he voted for the Court candidate as Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705 and supported the Court on the regency bill proceedings in February 1706. However, he clearly leaned towards the Tories, voting for the Tory candidate in committee on 19 Feb. 1706 in the dispute over the Bewdley election petition. On 16 Dec. 1707 he was named to draft a Plymouth workhouse bill, which he presented two days later but did not manage further. Early in 1708 he was classed as a Tory. His brother having been promoted in 1707 to the rich bishopric of Winchester, Trelawny assumed a more prominent role in the management of the Trelawny estates and electoral interest. He was named on 13 Jan. 1710 to draft a bill for preserving Catwater harbour in Plymouth, but did not vote on the Sacheverell impeachment, having received a month’s leave of absence on 18 Feb. 1710. However, he was not a good judge of the portents of that affair, writing on 28 July that he was certain no new Parliament would be called that year as ‘a book of Lesley’s lately published hath quite opened the Queen’s eyes and design of the Sacheverellites which was to give her a kick and bring in the Pretender. God damn them for it!’ Classed as a Whig on the ‘Hanover list’ in 1710, he was listed as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who detected the mismanagements of the late ministry in 1711. In December he presented a bill for erecting a workhouse in Plymouth. He did not sit in Parliament after 1713 and died on 24 Sept. 1731, leaving as his heir-at-law Edward Trelawny.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 477; Soc. of Geneal. Exeter mar. lic.; Atkins, Glos. 308.
  • 2. J. Childs, Nobles, Gent. and Profession of Arms (Soc. for Army Hist. Res. Sp. Publn. xiii), 93; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 15; 1690–1, p. 192; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 79.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1685, p. 66; 1696, p. 424; A. L. Browne, Corporation Chronicles, 58, 60.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 97; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 350; x. 34; CJ, xii. 510.
  • 5. Glos. RO, Hardwicke Ct. mss, Lloyd pprs. box 74, Bp. Trelawny to Sharp, 5 Feb. 1716–17; DNB; Burnet, iii. 279; Bodl. Ballard 22, f. 15; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 552; Luttrell, ii. 79.
  • 6. Trinity, Dublin, Clarke mss 339, T. Maule to Clarke, 13 Dec. 1690; Poems on Affairs of State, ed. Ellis, vi. 239; Add. 70119, Robert to Sir Edward Harley*, 2 Jan. 1691–2; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/O59/1, Yard to Alexander Stanhope, 5 Jan. 1691[–2]; HMC Finch, iv. 115, 154, 161–2, 179, 243; H. Horwitz, Revol. Politicks, 142; CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 222.
  • 7. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 1405, Bp. Trelawny to Portland, 22 Apr. [1696]; CSP Dom. 1696, pp. 162, 267–8; 1697, pp. 180, 249, 255, 316; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 126; Shrewsbury Corresp. 481; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 356, 363, 374, 385, 512, 524, 527, 547; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss, 46/104, 107–8, 112, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 20, 27, 29 May, 3 June 1697; Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss, 371/14/E10–11, Drake to Somers, 4, 22 Oct. 1697.
  • 8. Add. 40771, f. 325; 40772, ff. 137–8; 28052, f. 100; 29584, f. 95; Luttrell, v. 107; HMC Portland, iv. 28; Marlborough– Godolphin Corresp. 171–2.
  • 9. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne 258, 497n.34; Cal. Treas. Bks. xix. 378; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 733–4; Burnet, v. 337; Add. 28052, f. 144.