SOMERSET, Lord Charles Noel (1709-56).
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Family and Education
b. 12 Sept. 1709, 3rd s. of Henry Somerset, 2nd Duke of Beaufort, by his 2nd w. Lady Rachel Noel, da. and coh. of Wriothesley Baptist Noel, M.P., 2nd Earl of Gainsborough. educ. Westminster 1717; Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1725, D.C.L. 1736. m. 1 May 1740 (with £3,000),1 Elizabeth, da. of John Symes Berkeley of Stoke Gifford, Glos., sis. and eventually h. of Norborne Berkeley, Lord Botetourt, 1s. 5da. suc. e. bro. Henry as 4th Duke of Beaufort 24 Feb. 1745.
Gov. and guardian, Foundling Hospital 1739; high steward, Hereford; gov. Christ’s Hospital 1745; steward, anniversary dinner of independent electors of Westminster 1746.
At a by-election in 1731 Somerset was returned for Monmouthshire, which his family traditionally represented, but at the next general election he transferred to Monmouth, where his brother had a strong interest. ‘A most determined and unwavering Jacobite’,2 he was active in the House, speaking in favour of the repeal of the Septennial Act in March 1734, and against the Address in January of the following year. He opposed the repeal of the Test Act in March, and the mortmain bill in April 1736, and moved for a reduction in the army in February 1738. In December 1741, he and Shippen unsuccessfully pressed for a division on the Address, against the advice of Pulteney.3
After Lord Gower, hitherto the head of the Tory party, joined the Broad-bottom Government in December 1744, Somerset, now Duke of Beaufort, in Newcastle’s words,
set himself up, and the Tories have taken him, for the head of their party. In consequence of which, they have excluded Lord Gower from a negotiation depending about justices of peace [for the inclusion of Tories into the commissions], [and] put it into the hands of the Duke of Beaufort.4
Beaufort, meeting Lord Hardwicke, stated that ‘the lords and gentlemen with whom he had met or consulted, were uneasy that nothing was done in the affair of justices of the peace’ and asked that new commissions should be issued for six specific counties ‘as an earnest of what should be done in other counties’. But the Pelhams excluded him from the negotiations on the matter, which they conducted with Lord Gower.5 His brother, the 3rd Duke, had been privy to the negotiations with France which led to the Forty-five,6 and he himself joined wholeheartedly in the project, sending assurances of support to the French in August 1745, and pressing a month later ‘for a body of troops to be landed near London’. Lord Lovat declared that ‘if the Duke of Beaufort had not promised to raise £12,000, he would not have concerned himself’,7 but the Government took no action against him.
On the eve of the dissolution of 1747, Beaufort was one of the prominent Tories who agreed to support the Prince’s programme.8 In May 1749 Horace Walpole reported a meeting ‘between the Prince’s party and the Jacobites’:
The Duke of Beaufort opened the assembly with a panegyric on the stand that had been made this winter against so corrupt an administration; and hoped it would continue, and desired harmony.9
In September 1750 he and Lord Westmorland (John Fane) jointly presided at a meeting of English Jacobites held during the Young Pretender’s secret visit to London in September 1750.10 He died 28 Oct. 1756.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. Stuart mss 222/109.
- 2. Walpole to Mann, 29 Mar. 1745.
- 3. HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 55; HMC Carlisle, 146-7, 192; Harley Diary, 15 Apr. 1736; Walpole to Mann, 10 Dec. 1741.
- 4. To Chesterfield, 26 Mar. 1745, Add. 32804, ff. 286-7.
- 5. Add. 35602, ff. 46, 55; see Owen, Pelhams, 262-3.
- 6. AEM and D Angl. 82, ff. 62-109.
- 7. Murray of Broughton, Memorials (Sc. Hist. Soc. xxvii), 57n. 510; Stuart mss 268/5.
- 8. Add. 35870, ff. 129-30.
- 9. To Mann, 3 May 1749.
- 10. The Times, 29 Dec. 1864.