HOWARD, Charles, Earl of Surrey (1746-1815).

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



1780 - 31 Aug. 1786

Family and Education

b. 15 Mar. 1746, o.s. of Charles, 10th Duke of Norfolk, by Catherine, da. and coh. of John Brockholes of Claughton, Lancs., and gd.-s. of Charles Howard of Greystoke, Cumb.  educ. in France. m. (1) 1 Aug. 1767, Marian (d. 28 May 1768), da. and h. of John Coppinger of Ballyvolane, co. Cork, s.p.; (2) 2 Apr. 1771, Frances, da. and h. of Charles Fitzroy Scudamore, s.p.  suc. fa. as 11th Duke 31 Aug. 1786.

Offices Held

Ld.-lt. Yorks (W.R.) 1782-98; ld. of Treasury Apr.-Dec. 1783.


Surrey, born and bred a Roman Catholic, conformed to the Church of England in 1780. He stood for Carlisle at the general election on his own interest but with the support of the Duke of Portland. He wrote to Portland on 16 July:1

Your Grace’s kind intimation to me about a public declaration of my religious opinions, I take as one more to the many instances of friendship already received. I am very decided and have been for some time ... I am ready to declare my religious conformity on all proper occasions, but would wish to avoid an ostentatious declaration, that I might give as little mortification as possible, to a set of men who are labouring under persecution and have lately been cruelly marked as the objects of odium and outrage.

On election day he ‘addressed the freemen in a very gentleman-like manner’,2 and was returned unopposed. ‘I perceived a heartfelt satisfaction in Lord Surrey’s countenance’, wrote George Mounsey, Portland’s agent, ‘which even his powers of eloquence (which were great on the occasion) could not express.’

In Parliament he spoke frequently and voted regularly with the Opposition. On 20 Mar. 1782 he was to have moved a motion of no confidence in North’s ministry, which North prevented by announcing his resignation. Surrey, however, threatened

in case any deception should be practised ... and any part of the present Administration remain, he would, on Monday, come forward with a motion, not the same as that he had intended to have moved ... but a very, very different motion indeed.

On 7 May he spoke in favour of parliamentary reform and on 16 May supported Sawbridge’s motion for shorter Parliaments.3

On 31 July Surrey wrote to Shelburne (now head of Administration):4

Having had no intimation of the secret causes that produced the late changes ... I have not presumed to form an opinion of them. I do not mention this with a desire of knowing them, it being my present resolution to keep unconnected till the meeting of Parliament, presuming Government to be right until I think I see error ... The parliamentary reform in the boroughs is the object in which I am most sanguine. In regard of your Lordship’s Administration, I beg leave to repeat when I come to town I mean to be thoroughly explicit in what and how far I mean to support it.

On 9 Sept. Shelburne offered Surrey the lord-lieutenancy of the West Riding of Yorkshire (which Fitzwilliam had declined). Surrey accepted on 17 Sept., and concluded his letter to Shelburne:

Since I saw your Lordship [I] have met with some friends of Mr. Fox and the late Lord Rockingham who much regretted Lord Fitzwilliam’s refusal, which confirms one in the propriety of it’s having been offered to him as a measure which would tend to conciliate, which your Lordship may depend it will be my endeavour to promote.

‘I ... am glad he seems now heartily in the cause’, commented the King.5 In Shelburne’s list, drawn up in October 1782, he was classed as ‘pro’.

In December 1782 Shelburne offered him the post of ambassador to the United States. Surrey replied on 16 Dec.:6

Should the provisional treaty now pending come to a happy issue the appointment of ambassador to ratify it and adjust the terms of a federal commercial union that might in consequence take place, would be very flattering to my ambition, and ... I have no doubt from the candour I have experienced from your Lordship and the similarity of our ideas on the subject, that the lesser arrangements would with great ease be settled to our mutual satisfaction, but as I cannot bring my mind to the resolution of leaving England for a longer time than may be necessary for settling the greater objects of the two agreements, which I do not suppose will extend to the limits of one year, I must leave it entirely to your Lordship to determine whether it is worth while to consider me farther in this matter.

He did not speak in the debate on Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 17-18 Feb. 1783, but voted with Government, and was naturally classed by Robinson in his list of March 1783 as ‘Shelburne’. But on 22 Mar. Robinson described him as ‘now violent Fox’,7 and on 24 Mar. he seconded Coke’s motion for a new Administration. On 27 Mar. he told the House:

In case ... no arrangement of Administration ... should soon be made, he desired to be understood as giving notice, that he would on Monday next move for an inquiry into the causes that had so long prevented an arrangement’s taking place.

He moved this motion on 31 Mar., and, when taunted about the coalition with North, whom a year ago he had threatened to impeach, replied:

He had exerted his endeavours to turn the noble Lord out of office last year, because he then thought his measures tended to the ruin of the country; he was now anxious for an Administration, without any consideration who was to form it, because he was convinced the country would be ruined unless some one was soon appointed.

He held office as lord of the Treasury under the Coalition. On 7 May 1783 he voted for Pitt’s motion on parliamentary reform. ‘He had hoped’, he said, ‘the burgage tenures would have been abolished, and the rotten boroughs disfranchised.’8 He voted for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783, and was dismissed with the Coalition, December 1783.

Surrey now became a great borough monger. In 1784 he was elected for Carlisle, Arundel, and Hereford; and secured the return of a candidate on his interest at Gloucester. From 1786 he began buying burgages at Horsham. In the Parliament of 1784 he was one of Fox’s staunchest supporters and a constant advocate for parliamentary reform. ‘He never shrunk from any exertion’, wrote Wraxall, ‘however rough or personal.’9 ‘A lively, affable, talking man’, wrote Boswell, ‘with very good sense and competent knowledge.’10

He died 16 Dec. 1815.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Portland mss.
  • 2. Geo. Mounsey to Portland, 19 Sept. 1780.
  • 3. Debrett, vi. 509; vii. 134, 182.
  • 4. Lansdowne mss.
  • 5. Fortescue, vi. 137.
  • 6. Lansdowne mss.
  • 7. Add. 38567, ff. 137-40.
  • 8. Debrett, ix. 540, 583, 732.
  • 9. Mems. iii. 56.
  • 10. Private Pprs. xiii. 137.