PALMER, Charles (1777-1851), of 16 Upper Gower Street, Mdx. and Bath, Som.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 6 May 1777, 2nd s. of John Palmer* by 1st w. educ. Eton 1791-3; Oriel, Oxf. 1793. m. 14 Feb. 1823, Mary Elizabeth, da. of John Thomas Atkins of Huntercombe House, Bucks., s.p.m.s.
Cornet, 10 (Prince’s Own) Drag. 1796, lt. 1797, capt. 1799, maj. 1805, lt.-col. 1810, brevet col. 1814; lt.-col. 23 Drag. Nov. 1814, placed on half-pay Dec. 1814; maj.-gen. 1825.
A.d.c. to Prince Regent Feb. 1811-May 1825.
Palmer’s earliest ambitions were military. A commission in the 10th Hussars, the Prince of Wales’s regiment, secured him an entrée at Carlton House.1 The Prince warmly espoused his father’s claims on the government for his services to the Post Office, and when they were revived in the Parliament of 1807 Palmer replaced his ailing father as Member for Bath to champion them in the House. He met with ministerial opposition and from time to time returned the compliment on other issues, though his speeches were almost entirely confined to the compensation question. Thus he was in two minorities against his commander-in-chief the Duke of York, 17 Mar. 1809, and, after serving in the Peninsula, for the censure on the Scheldt expedition, 30 Mar. 1810; against the imprisonment of Burdett and Gale Jones, 5 and 16 Apr.; in favour of parliamentary reform, 21 May, and in the minority on the droits of Admiralty, 30 May 1810. The Whigs had listed him one of their present supporters earlier that session. He further voted with them on the adjournment, 29 Nov. 1810, and on the Regency, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811. He was then appointed a.d.c. to the Prince Regent and voted less often with the minority, though the Regent’s desertion of his father’s cause in May 1811 was a severe test of his loyalty2 and was followed by his breakdown in debate (30 May). He voted with opposition on Irish questions, 22 Feb., 16 May and 11 June 1811, and for Catholic relief, 24 Apr. 1812. He opposed the leather tax, 26 June 1812.
Palmer was an eye witness of Spencer Perceval’s assassination, which removed the major obstacle to his father’s hopes of remuneration. After the election of 1812 the Treasury were hopeful of his support. He served in the Peninsula until May 1813; on his return he voted for Catholic relief, 24 May, and finally secured a measure of compensation for his father (reduced to £50,000) at the end of the session. His troubles were not over. Since 1810 he had been acting in command of the Prince’s regiment. In that year the Prince had ordered him to investigate the regiment’s affairs and the discovery of peculation by Lt.-Col. Leigh had led to his resignation and to Palmer’s promotion. In 1812 he put in a few words in debate in favour of Col. Quentin, who had been promoted from the German Legion to the command of the Prince’s regiment. Quentin’s conduct in France in the spring of 1814 was reprehensible and, on 9 Aug., 24 of his officers requested a court martial and Palmer was called upon to act as their spokesman. They subsequently disowned their request, but the Regent commanded Palmer to surrender their letter and directed him to prosecute; the court martial (17-24 Oct.) referred Quentin’s guilt on only one of four charges to the Duke of York, while regretting the ‘want of cooperation among the officers of the regiment’. The Duke of York then announced the Regent’s pleasure that the officers, including Palmer, should be disbanded as ‘a mark of his displeasure’. He was removed from the 10th Hussars on 9 Nov. On 11 and 17 Nov. 1814 he brought the matter before the House, which refused it by 144 votes to 37.3 Four days later the Regent was informed by Col. McMahon that the Duke of York was of opinion that Palmer, who had no intention of quitting the army, should no longer be allowed to act as the Regent’s a.d.c. and added that, in his own view, the grounds for dismissal were not his prosecution of Quentin:
No, it has been for subsequent conduct, and what higher crime could a military man commit against his profession, than, in such a case, to avail himself of the adventitious circumstance of his being a Member of Parliament, for the purpose of wresting from the military jurisprudence their solemn determination, and to drag it before the very tribunal on earth that an army has the strongest right to be jealous and suspicious of. Besides, when sinking under personal kindness and obligations, to deliberately expose your Royal Highness to the expected fury of a faction, and to all the vile filth of the rankest democracy. I have likewise seen Lord Liverpool ... who is also clearly of opinion that Palmer should be removed.
On 23 Nov. Palmer justified himself and his fellow officers in the House. Lord Egremont, sitting under the gallery while this ‘very long speech’ was being delivered, commented ‘that he ought to state the matter shortly, and say ‘Mr Speaker—I was a damned fool for giving up the letter to the Prince, and the Prince was a damned rascal for making use of it’. He was not dismissed, but there were other repercussions. On 28 Nov. he asked the Speaker’s advice as to whether Membership of the House would excuse him from orders to join his regiment, now the 23rd dragoons. He was placed on half-pay within a month. On 3 Feb. 1815 he fought a bloodless duel with Quentin at Paris and on 21 June he defended his disciplining of his men in a motion against military flogging, claiming that Quentin’s laxity only entailed greater severity in the long run by undermining discipline: even before Quentin was placed in command, Palmer’s severity had been drawn to the attention of the Prince Regent.4
Palmer now felt no restraint about acting with opposition, though in 1815 his hostility was confined to the new Corn Law and Romilly’s motion for the disbanding of the militia on 28 Feb. On 20 Feb. 1816 he voted against foreign entanglements. He opposed the army and navy estimates and the property tax in the following month and voted for retrenchment, 3, 25 Apr., 7 May. He spoke on 25 Apr., calling his plea against the large military establishment ‘his first political opposition’. He was in the minorities on the state of Ireland, 26 Apr., and against the Bank restriction, 8 May. He was in the opposition majority of 12 June on the disqualification of the Member for Rochester. On 11 June he withdrew a motion to prevent the manufacture of small arms by the Ordnance, the expense of which he had complained of on 8 Apr: he was assured that the Ordnance now merely repaired and did not manufacture small arms. In the session of 1817 he appeared late, voting against the salt duties, 25 Apr., for Catholic relief, 9 May, for the opposition choice for the Speakership, 2 June, and against the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June. In 1818 he voted against the Duke of Clarence’s marriage grant, 15 Apr., for the resumption of cash payments, 1 May, and for Brougham’s motion to inquire into popular education, 3 June. He opposed the Bath gas light bill on behalf of his constituents, 23 Feb. 1818. At the ensuing election, he came in for Bath on his own interest, his father having died, leaving him in charge of his theatrical concerns.
Palmer remained in opposition in the Parliament of 1818. He voted for criminal law reform, 2 Mar. 1819, for Admiralty retrenchment, 18 Mar., against the Irish window tax, 5 May, and for burgh reform, 6 May. On 18 May he voted for Tierney’s censure motion. He opposed the foreign enlistment bill, 3 and 21 June. On 6 Dec. he voted to limit the duration of the seditious meetings bill to three years. His later years were ‘embittered by the money-lenders’, following the failure of his investment in vineyards in Bordeaux.5 He died 17 Apr. 1851.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Camden mss C35; Gronow, Reminiscences (1900), i. 138.
- 2. Holland, Further Mems. Whig Party, 106-8.
- 3. Ward, Letters to ‘Ivy’, 151; Farington, vi. 55; Gent. Mag. (1814), ii. 484, 495, 522.
- 4. Geo. IV Letters, i. 501; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 25 Nov. 1814; Prince of Wales Corresp. viii. 3228.
- 5. Gronow, i. 138-43.