FREDERICK, Charles (1709-85), of Hammersmith, Mdx.

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



1741 - 1754
1754 - 1784

Family and Education

b. 21 Dec. 1709, 3rd s. of Sir Thomas Frederick, gov. of Fort St. David and director of the South Sea Co., by Mary, da. and h. of William Moncrieff; bro. of John Frederick.  educ. Westminster 1719-20; New Coll. Oxf. 1725; M. Temple 1728; Grand Tour with his bro. John 1737-9 (Italy, Constantinople, Nr. East, France1).  m. 18 Aug. 1746, Hon. Lucy Boscawen, da. of Hugh, 1st Visct. Falmouth, 4s. 2da.  cr. K.B. 23 Mar. 1761.

Offices Held

Clerk of deliveries of the Ordnance 1746-50; surveyor gen. of the Ordnance 1750-82.


Charles Frederick was an eminent antiquary, a scholar, artist, and civil servant, rather than a politician. He collected early French coins which he engraved ‘in 36 quarto plates’;2 and made drawings of churches, monuments, views, etc. for Smart Lethieullier’s folio volumes, ‘the work of many years’ tours about England, on which Sir Charles Frederick spent near £500’.3

In 1754 he was put up for Queenborough ‘where the fleet and the Ordnance have great influence ... and therefore their dependants want to nominate [the Members]’.4Still, there were difficulties because of ‘the strange fellow at the head of the corporation’, and apparently New Shoreham was kept open for Frederick if he failed at Queenborough.5 In 1761 he was returned unopposed; and again in 1768. He was marked in Bute’s list of December 1761 ‘Falmouth. Bute. Government. Pro’; was included in Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries; and was counted by Newcastle, 13 Nov. 1762, as ‘contra’.

In the reshuffle of offices, December 1762-January 1763, Shelburne, who wanted the surveyor-ship of the Ordnance for Barré, suggested that Frederick should be made receiver general of the customs.6 Fox saw Frederick about it. ‘He seemed to like the offer’, Fox wrote to Bute on 13 Jan., ‘and if what he said of the profits of his present place and of his own circumstances is strictly true, he will undoubtedly be thankful for the exchange.’7 And Bute to Fox, 14 Jan.: ‘Sir Charles Frederick was with me, but did not seem so fond of the idea as I could have wished. He has taken till Monday to give his answer. However I believe I have a lure to tempt him if necessary.’8 But nothing more is heard of it—possibly he was too much attached to the office in which he had already served sixteen years, and remained there another twenty.

He retained the character of a civil servant, even in the House—his very few recorded interventions in debate were all on technical matters concerning his department. Two letters from Frederick to Lord Townshend,9 since October 1772 master general of the Ordnance, deal with his constituency. On 15 Sept. 1774 he writes about a late clerk of the Ordnance who threatened to destroy Frederick’s interest at Queenborough:

He talks ignorantly though he is a voter; for he must know I can have no interest there, but from the support of the master general.

This time the borough was contested, Piercy Brett, the Admiralty Member in the previous Parliament, having been dropped, and now standing against the official candidates. A month after the election, 8 Nov., Frederick wrote to Townshend:

All under your Lordship (except two or three) behaved with uncommon firmness and disinterestedness ... The dissolution of the Parliament was so very secret and sudden, and my election being four days after the dissolution, I had not time to apply to you for your commands. Sir Walter Rawlinson who was chose with me, was the person sent by Lord North and Lord Sandwich, and who I never saw till an hour before we got into a post chaise for Queenborough; it is to the master general’s interest I owe my seat, and therefore return your Lordship my sincere thanks for permitting me to be chose there.

In 1779 the Public Ledger wrote about Frederick: ‘A superannuated placeman. He just continues to crawl to the House, to keep a debate out, and give his vote.’ This he did with great regularity. But he was too ill to attend the crucial divisions of February 1782; his physician told Sandwich that going out would kill him—‘you will however see’, wrote Sandwich to Robinson, 16 Feb. 1782, ‘that he is very hearty in our cause, and that therefore we must not give him up’; he voted with the Government on 8 Mar. and wrote to Sandwich on the 13th: ‘You may be assured, notwithstanding the weak state of my health, I will attend on Friday next, and shall at all times when in my power be happy to obey your commands.’10

On the fall of North he was removed from office. Pleading ‘extreme poverty’ he applied to the new Administration for a pension,11 but begged to be allowed to retain his seat in Parliament: ‘he was so poor he was afraid of the Fleet or King’s bench prison’. On 18 Feb. 1783 he voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, his first recorded vote against any Administration. He adhered to the Coalition; was granted by them a pension of £500 p.a.; and opposed Pitt. He did not stand in 1784. He is commemorated in Fox’s Martyrs:

If he had persisted in the constant line of worship which he had so long shown to the minister of the day ... he would not (to invert the scripture penalty) have been cast out of the furnace of the Woolwich foundery, nor possibly would he have been rejected by the electors of Queenborough.

He died 18 Dec. 1785.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. E. H. Fellowes, Family of Frederick, 43-44.
  • 2. J. Nichols, Literary Anecs. vi. 383.
  • 3. Gough’s account quoted in Yale ed. of H. Walpole’s Corresp. ii. 238.
  • 4. H. Pelham to Newcastle, 24 July 1753, Add. 32732, f. 348.
  • 5. Same to same, Add. 32733, f. 138.
  • 6. Fox to Shelburne, 25 Dec., Lansdowne mss; and Shelburne to Bute, n.d., Bute mss.
  • 7. Bute mss.
  • 8. Ilchester, Letters to Hen. Fox, 171.
  • 9. WO46/9/47-9.
  • 10. Abergavenny mss.
  • 11. About this, see Stockdale, viii. 91-94.