D'OYLY, Christopher (c.1717-95), of Walton-on-Thames, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1774 - 1780
4 Dec. 1780 - 1784

Family and Education

b. c.1717, 1st surv. s. of Christopher D’Oyly of Banbury, Oxon., an attorney in the court of common pleas, by Susanna. educ. I. Temple 1741, called 1744. m. 2 Dec. 1765,1 Sarah, da. of George Stanley of Paultons, sis. and coh. of Hans Stanley, s.p. suc. to an estate at Walton-on-Thames, Surr. under will of Adria, da. of William Drake of Amersham, wid. of Denton Boate 1754, his w. and Mrs. Welbore Ellis suc. to Paultons on d. of Hans Stanley 1780.

Offices Held

1st clerk, War Office, 1761-2; dep. sec. Jan. 1763-Jan. 1772; under-sec. in the colonial dept. May 1776-Feb. 1778; commissary gen. of musters May 1776-Sept. 1780.


Christopher D’Oyly is not a dim figure but is seen only in bits: like a landscape from an aeroplane through breaks in thick cloud. He retired from practice at the bar on inheriting the Walton-on-Thames estate in 1754. The reason for his entering the War Office is not known. He owed his promotion to Welbore Ellis, whose sister-in-law he married three years later; and his place was taken by his friend Philip Francis. When Charles Townshend died leaving his financial affairs in utter confusion, Lady Mary Coke, who was staying with his widow, noted in her diary on 17 Sept. 1767: ‘Mr. D’Oyly came about 8 o’clock. I am glad she has so sensible and so worthy a man to assist her in her business.’2

On 21 Dec. 1771 D’Oyly wrote to Francis:3 ‘This morning, my dear Francis, I desired Lord Barrington’s permission to retire from the War Office. My request was readily and, which is mortifying, without one civil speech, granted. I am persuaded whenever you please you may obtain the same permission on as easy terms.’ Francis’s resignation or dismissal followed—the reasons of neither are clear. And ‘Veteran’ (pseudonym of Francis-Junius) asserted in the Public Advertiser, 23 Mar. 1772, that Barrington had driven them both out of the War Office.

When Clive went to the continent early in 1774, he left his election affairs in the hands of John Walsh, George Clive, Henry Strachey (all three M.P.s), and of D’Oyly.4 The origin of D’Oyly’s connexion with Clive has not been ascertained, but he appears afterwards as close to Strachey. Similarly Francis, when he left for India in February 1774, made D’Oyly one of his trustees during his absence.5 Moreover on 28 Feb., the eve of his departure, he wrote to the executors of John Calcraft who had desired Francis to be returned for his borough of Wareham:6

As my absence from England will prevent my immediately availing myself of the benefit and honour intended me by Mr. Calcraft, it is my earnest desire and request to you, that you will employ the interest vested in you by his will, to return my intimate friend Christopher D’Oyly ... as Member for the borough of Wareham, at the next general election or at the first vacancy that may happen, instead of myself. He is a man whom Mr. Calcraft highly esteemed, and to whom there can be no objection on any account. My own particular reason for wishing that he may be elected in my room is, because I can depend upon his honour that if, on my return from India, I should require of him to vacate his seat, he will be ready to do so; and that in the meantime he will supply my place in Parliament with the greatest honour and ability.

Accordingly D’Oyly was returned in October 1774. In 1779 the Public Ledger wrote about him: ‘A placeman of very good character. He is a private friend of Mr. Rigby, and has likewise a great regard for the two Howes.’ It was as late deputy secretary at war ‘and a particular friend of Howe’ that D’Oyly, according to his then colleague William Knox, ‘had the entire conduct of the military business’, and together with Burgoyne settled the plan and instructions for Burgoyne’s expedition.7

In January 1778 D’Oyly protested against Germain’s treatment of the Howes: that his letters ‘were so cold and dry in respect to Sir William Howe’s successes in Pennsylvania, and left him in doubt as to his continuance in the command, which he thinks will have made him more fully bent upon quitting’, and that ‘it is necessary to consider how to persuade them to remain in the command, if it is intended that they should be continued in it’.8 And on 19 Feb. 1778 D’Oyly wrote to Francis:9

I had last Friday asked and obtained leave to retire from my situation in Lord G. Germain’s office, and at this moment various are the speculations upon it, as it is not in general known that leave is gone to Howe to give up his command. My reasons for giving up are many, but must not be trusted in a letter. The friends of Opposition increase, and we are now in the midst of an inquiry into the state of the nation; in short, we are in a damned bad way.

Still, he retained his post at the War Office, but even so his support of Government became less whole-hearted. He was used as an intermediary with Lord Howe.10 But when after the division of 3 Mar. 1779 on Sandwich’s naval administration, in which Government mustered only 204 votes against 170 of the Opposition (and from which D’Oyly and Strachey were absent), the list of the House of Commons was carefully scrutinized, the King hoped that the two had been ‘strongly spoke to’.11 After the further division of 8 Mar. on the state of the navy, Jenkinson wrote to the King: ‘Admiral Keppel and Lord Howe ... must be considered as enemies. Mr. D’Oyly and Mr. Strachey who are to be considered as Lord Howe’s friends, were both present some part of the day, but neither voted.’12 But in the divisions February-April 1780 D’Oyly voted regularly with the Government.

None the less his position may possibly have been irksome to him. By the time Robinson drew up his survey in July 1780, D’Oyly’s continuance in Parliament was doubtful; and in an additional note on 31 July Robinson stated that D’Oyly desired ‘to quit Parliament on account of health’. On 4 Sept., three days after Parliament had been dissolved, North wrote to D’Oyly:13

You are as you wished out of Parliament and I suppose that it continues to be your resolution never to come into Parliament again ... While you are leaving the House of Commons Mr. Bowlby is resolved to undertake a parliamentary life ... As you are changing your political situation, I do not see why you should not change places at the same time. The place he now fills [comptroller of army accounts] is not tenable with a seat in the House of Commons, your place ought always to be held by a Member of Parliament.

According to an endorsement by D’Oyly, North’s letter did not reach him till 25 Sept.; but as Bowlby’s election was fixed for 11 Sept., the exchange of places was gazetted on the 6th.14 But D’Oyly declined the place assigned to him, and on 4 Dec. 1780 was returned for Seaford after a contest, on the Treasury interest. His reasons for re-entering the House are not known, nor the Government’s in returning him. In February 1781 he was classed as no more than ‘hopeful’, and was absent from the critical divisions of 12 Dec. 1781 and of February-March 1782. On 18 Feb. 1783 D’Oyly voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, and was classed by Robinson as a friend of North. But he did not vote in the divisions on Fox’s East India bill, nor in those of January-March 1784. He did not stand again in 1784. There is no record of his having spoken in the House.

He died 19 Jan. 1795.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Par. reg. Rotherwick, Hants.
  • 2. Jnl. iii. 128.
  • 3. Parkes Merivale Mems. of Francis, i. 274.
  • 4. Minute of ‘a Meeting of Lord Clive’s Attorneys on Sunday, 24 Apr. 1774’, Clive mss, Salop R.O.
  • 5. Parkes Merivale, i. 349.
  • 6. Ibid. 344-5.
  • 7. HMC Var. vi. 277.
  • 8. North to the King, 10 Jan. 1778, Fortescue, iv. 9.
  • 9. Parkes Merivale, ii. 133.
  • 10. Fortescue, iv. 293-4.
  • 11. Ibid. 299.
  • 12. Ibid. 469-70. Correct date, 9 Mar. 1779.
  • 13. Gent. Mag. 1829, i. 506-7.
  • 14. T52/69/64-65.