POLE, Sir Charles Morice, 1st Bt. (1757-1830), of Aldenham Abbey, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1802 - 1806
1806 - 1818

Family and Education

b. 18 Jan. 1757, 2nd s. of Reginald Pole of Stoke Damerel, Plymouth, Devon by Anne, da. of John Francis Buller of Morval, Cornw.; bro. of Reginald Pole Carew*. educ. Plympton g.s.;1 Portsmouth naval acad. 1770. m. 8 June 1792,2 Henrietta, da. of John Goddard, Rotterdam merchant, of Woodford Hall, Essex, 3da. cr. Bt. 12 Sept. 1801; KCB 2 Jan. 1815; GCB 20 Feb. 1818.

Offices Held

Midshipman RN 1772, lt. 1777, cdr. 1778, capt. 1779, r.-adm. 1795; c.-in-c. and gov. Newfoundland 1800-1; v.-adm. 1801; c.-in-c. Baltic June-Aug. 1801, Cadiz Aug.-Dec. 1801; adm. 1805; adm. of the fleet July 1830-d.

Groom of bedchamber to Duke of Clarence 1789-1830; chairman, commission of naval inquiry 1802-5; ld. of Admiralty Feb.-Oct. 1806; master of the robes July 1830-d.

Mayor, East Looe 1785.


Pole served in the East Indies, American waters and the Mediterranean during the American war and later became friendly with Prince William Henry, the future William IV, who appointed him to his household in 1789. Before he sailed for Toulon in 1793 he showed an interest in a seat for East Looe, the pocket borough of his kinsmen the Bullers, currently being managed by his uncle William Buller, bishop of Exeter. In 1795 his elder brother Reginald agreed that

if you could come in upon the terms that I have sometimes heard mentioned at Looe, the expenses of the whole election, and recommended or not by the Minister, and you had so much loose money which was not wanted for other purposes, this would be as good a moment as any to try the experiment. I mean the next general election.

Pole expected to be returned for East Looe in 1796, when he was on active service in the Caribbean, but was annoyed to learn that the bishop had passed him over.3 At the same general election he was put up for Minehead, financed by his wife’s uncle Henry Hope, the wealthy Amsterdam merchant, as a running partner for his brother-in-law John Langston in an attack on the Luttrell interest, but Langston could do no more than win the second seat for himself. Although Pole’s younger brother Edward thought he had been ‘shabbily deserted’, Pole himself was satisfied and hoped to be adopted by Langston again.4

When a vacancy occurred in 1797 at Plymouth, his native town, Pole, who subscribed £1,000 to the loyalty loan for that year, asked his brother whether government might support him:

Plymouth would be possibly more pleasant to me than most other places and as I cannot expect to be in Parliament in so satisfactory a manner as I should have been had Langston succeeded to the utmost of his wishes, therefore I should entirely prefer being enlisted under the protection and recommendation of the people you act with and of those that I live much with and love than under any probable introduction connected with opposition.

Reginald made inquiries, but government had already fixed on another candidate.5

Pole served in the Channel until 1800 and subsequently held brief commands in Newfoundland, the Baltic and off Cadiz. In September 1801 he was created a baronet on the recommendation of Addington, his brother’s friend. Shortly afterwards Lord St. Vincent considered him as a possible ministerial candidate for Westminster at the next general election.6 In the event he was provided with a seat for Newark on the Newcastle interest. St. Vincent had recently described Pole as ‘an old woman’ in disciplinary matters, but in December 1802, on the recommendation of Lady Pole’s cousin John Markham*, he appointed him to the statutory commission of inquiry into abuses in naval administration.7 Pole became chairman, and it was in this capacity that he made his first known speech in the House, 4 May 1803, when he answered criticism of the commission’s apparent lack of progress. He presented its first report eight days later and on 11 July obtained leave to introduce a bill to regulate the administration of the Chatham Chest, which passed into law on 29 July.

Pole defended St. Vincent’s naval administration against Pitt’s attack, 15 Mar. 1804, acted as teller for the government in the subsequent division and was named with his brother as one of Addington’s parliamentary squad in the ministerial lists of May and September 1804. He voted against Pitt’s additional force bill, but was pleased to see Thomas Jervis’s naval prize agency bill in the hands of ministers, 19 June, only to be disappointed when they abandoned it shortly afterwards. He privately deplored Addington’s junction with government early in 1805, believing that Pitt, driven by ‘envy and jealousy’, merely wished ‘to entail on Addington the odium of supporting measures, the very reverse of those adopted by his administration’.8 He denied charges that the naval commission had acted like a criminal tribunal, 1 Mar., and on 25 Apr. accused Canning, as treasurer of the navy, of attempting to obstruct inquiry into the allegations against Melville contained in the tenth report. Pole took no part in the initial proceedings on the Melville affair but, having told Sidmouth on his brief reconciliation with Pitt at the end of May that ‘this was not the first time he had been taken in’,9 he voted for the criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June. He condemned the new prize agency bill as a measure ‘for the encouragement of Doctor’s Commons’, 29 May, and on 11 July 1805 strongly defended the naval commissioners, whose powers were about to expire, against renewed attacks.

Pole accepted a seat at the Admiralty board in the ‘Talents’ ministry, but only after Grey, the first lord, had agreed to dispense with the etiquette whereby former members took precedence in the patent, which would have ranked Pole, an admiral, below a captain, (Sir) Harry Burrard Neale*, and which had initially prompted him to decline the offer. His brother reflected that ‘tiresome and vexatious as have been many of the labours of the naval commission ... it has contributed to make you known, and ... paved the way in some measure ... to this pleasing consequence’.10 He made no attempt to cut a figure in the House. He voted for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr., praised St. Vincent’s record at the Admiralty in answer to Jeffery’s slurs, 14 May, and objected to the cider tax, 19 May 1806. In October Thomas Grenville, the new first lord, offered him the second-in-command in the Channel under St. Vincent in exchange for his seat at the board. Pole agreed to the arrangement and resigned from the Admiralty, but a month later declined to put to sea because Grenville, who condemned him for lack of ‘enterprise’, refused to guarantee his succession to St. Vincent in the command.11

At the general election of 1806 he stood for Plymouth where St. Vincent, anxious to turn out Sir William Elford, a personal enemy, had obtained ministerial backing for him. He topped the poll. As ministers recognized, he was ‘adverse’ to the abolition of the slave trade. He condemned it as ‘the most barbarous proceeding, even to the negro himself’, 20 Feb., voted against the abolition bill, 23 Feb., and forced a division on his own amendment to postpone abolition until 1812, 6 Mar. 1807. Percy’s motion for the abolition of slavery, 17 Mar., revealed, so Pole said, the ‘cloven foot’ of the abolitionists and he successfully moved to have the House counted out.

Pole did not vote for the motions of April 1807 regretting the fall of the ‘Talents’, but his electoral prospects at Plymouth seemed uncertain in view of the change of ministry. Elford, who now expected and received ministerial support, reported that Sidmouth’s friend Lord de Dunstanville was ‘getting Penryn canvassed for Pole’; but Pole too was eventually endorsed by government and it was the unpopular Elford who had to stand down.12

Listed in the Morning Chronicle of 22 June 1807 as one of the Members returned who were ‘totally unconnected’ with the Portland government, Pole, who applied in vain to the Admiralty for an active command at least three times in 1807 and 1808,13 remained friendly with Sidmouth, but his line in the 1807 Parliament was essentially his own. He defended Grey’s naval administration against Cochrane’s implied censure, 10 July 1807, voted against government on the Copenhagen incident, 3 Feb., and spoke and voted for Burdett’s motion for inquiry into the droits of Admiralty, 11 Feb. 1808. His own motions of 8 Mar. and 11 Apr. to reform the administration of Greenwich Hospital and the naval asylum were opposed and defeated by government, but he supported them against Calcraft’s attack on the Admiralty over Strachan’s retreat from the blockade of Rochefort, 9 May. Writing to Sidmouth, 18 Dec. 1808, of the set-backs in the Peninsula, he condemned the ‘inefficient and perplexed councils’ of government14 and voted against them on the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb. 1809. He also opposed Perceval’s exculpatory resolution on the Duke of York scandal, 17 Mar. His motion of 21 Mar. 1809 to commit the House to reform of the victualling department was negatived without a division. He demanded better pay for marine officers, 16 Mar., and found fault with the seamen’s wages bill, 31 May, trying unsuccessfully to add an ameliorating clause on the third reading, 7 June.

The Walcheren fiasco provoked him to describe ministers to Sidmouth, 15 Sept. 1809, as incompetent ‘wretches’. Tierney was wooing him on behalf of opposition in November, but Creevey, who met him at Brighton, found him non-committal and dismissed him as ‘not much better’ than the ‘shabby fellows’ more immediately connected with Sidmouth. On 7 Jan. 1810 he told Sidmouth he was willing to come to town to ‘rally around my friends’: Sidmouth’s talents were needed in government and the new ministers were not ‘equal to the direction of the great machine’. Grey believed that Pole ‘would vote with me if he came’ and he did so on the Walcheren inquiry, 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar., prompting the Whigs to number him among their ‘thick and thin’ adherents.15 He argued for reform of Admiralty court procedure, 19 Feb. and 9 Mar.; voted for the release of John Gale Jones, 16 Apr., and for sinecure reductions, 17 May; put the case for selective naval economies, 4 and 11 May, and supported exemption from the property tax for officers on active service, 22 May, and reform of prize money adjudication procedures, 13 June. On 7 June the Whig James Abercromby* mentioned him to James Loch as one of a number of Sidmouth’s friends who would almost certainly not follow him in a junction with government.16

The appointment of Charles Philip Yorke* as first lord of the Admiralty in April 1810 was evidently thought likely in ministerial circles to change Pole’s ‘hostility into zealous support’ and he told his brother, 15 Sept. 1810, that ‘as far as he is concerned it certainly will, as I believe he is disposed to act honourably by the service and until I see the contrary to be the case, I shall not be disposed to cavil at trifles’.17 He duly complimented Yorke on the naval estimates, 15 Mar. 1811, though he continued to press for Admiralty court reform, 22 Mar., opposed the increase in salaries for Board of Control clerks, 24 May, because it placed them on a better footing than navy board employees, and on 12 June unsuccessfully moved for a full inquiry into naval pay. On the Regency question, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811, he voted with opposition, being the only ‘deserter’ from Sidmouth’s friends; and in September his colleague at Plymouth, Thomas Tyrwhitt, a Carlton House man, recalled that Pole had been ‘very steady’ to the Prince ‘throughout all the discussions of last spring’ and had ‘answered the whip whenever I requested him to come up’.18

Pole was not much in evidence in the House in 1812. He went away ‘the moment before the division’ on Turton’s state of the nation motion, 27 Feb.,19 opposed Burdett’s motion for an increase in navy board clerks’ pay, 16 Apr., on the ground that it was wrong to excite expectations which could not be met, and rallied to government, of which Sidmouth was now a member, on the call for a stronger administration, 21 May. The following day he told Sidmouth that the conduct of his cousin Edward Buller* in breaking a pledge to accommodate Vansittart, the new chancellor, at East Looe had ‘increased my abhorrence of House of Commons salesmen; if anything could make me wish to see what is often called reform it would be preventing such men having the power which my cousin now hath’.20

Pole had ministerial backing at Plymouth in 1812, was returned unopposed and was expected to support government, but his name appears on their side in only six division lists in the 1812 Parliament, on the army estimates, 6 Mar., the civil list, 24 May, the Irish vice-treasurership, 14 June 1816, the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817, the Duke of Clarence’s allowance, 15 Apr., and the imprisonment of radical booksellers, 21 May 1818. At the same time, only two hostile votes are recorded in his name, both in favour of Admiralty economies, 25 Feb. 1817 and 16 Mar. 1818, though he also demanded regulation of West Indian prizes, 14 June 1814; condemned continued abuse in the administration of the naval asylum, 17 Mar.; supported exemption of serving officers from the property tax, 1 May 1815; called for a complete review of the pension system, 19 Apr.; supported inquiry into the management of the Greenwich Hospital estates, 15 May 1816, and opposed the salt laws excise bill. 29 Apr. 1817.

The sequence of events which culminated in his defeat at Plymouth at the general election of 1818 is not entirely clear, but it seems that in 1817 Pole agreed to make way for his friend Sir Thomas Byam Martin, the new comptroller of the navy. He was indignant when, early in 1818, his current colleague Benjamin Bloomfield, the Regent’s private secretary, unexpectedly vacated his seat and was replaced by another Carlton House man, Sir William Congreve. Complaining to his brother that ‘the introduction of a new man ... was never in the contemplation of anyone when I yielded to Sir B. Martin’s wish’, he evidently thought that knowledge of this intended vacancy had been deliberately kept from him and that he had thereby been tricked into agreeing to an unnecessary sacrifice of his seat. Encouraged by his friends at Plymouth, he resolved to stand at the general election: ‘Parliament’, he told his brother, ‘can have few charms for anyone at sixty-one or two and less for me than most others, but I do not like the manner of being out-manoeuvred’. He was heavily beaten by Martin and Congreve, who had strong ministerial backing. Charles Arbuthnot subsequently put down his former seat as an ‘additional’ government gain, pointing to Pole’s election literature, which condemned ‘that influence and power which has not been spared’, as proof of his contention, which seems scarcely justified, that ‘he was our enemy’.21

Pole, who bought Aldenham in 1812, was appointed master of the robes by William IV on his accession to the throne, but he died a few weeks later, 6 Sept. 1830.22

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Naval Chron. xxi (1809), 265.
  • 2. Woodford par. reg. (Essex RO D/P 167/1/8).
  • 3. Pole Carew mss CC/K/23, Pole to Pole Carew, 4 Mar. 1793; CC/K/26, 15 Sept. 1796; NMM, WYN/107, Pole Carew to Pole, 1 Sept. 1795.
  • 4. Pole Carew mss CC/K/26, E. Pole to Pole Carew, 30 May, Pole to Pole Carew, 15 Sept.; NMM, WYN/107, Hope to Pole, 2 June, Pole Carew to Pole, 21 June 1796.
  • 5. Pole Carew mss CC/K/27, Pole to Pole Carew, 27, 28, 29 June 1797.
  • 6. Geo. III Corresp. ii. 2502; St. Vincent Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. lv), 374.
  • 7. Spencer Pprs. (Navy Recs. Soc. lix), 16; Markham Corresp. (Navy Recs. Soc. xxviii), 8, 11, 14; St. Vincent Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. lxi), 201-2.
  • 8. Pole Carew mss CC/L/38, Pole to Pole Carew, 8 Jan. 1805.
  • 9. Colchester, i. 555.
  • 10. Sidmouth mss, St. Vincent to Sidmouth, 5 Feb.; Pole Carew mss, Pole to Pole Carew, 7 Feb.; NMM, WYN/102, St. Vincent to Pole, 8 Feb.; WYN/105, Grey to same, 9 Feb.; WYN/107, Pole Carew to same, 14 Feb. 1806.
  • 11. Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 78, 86, 96, 103; HMC Fortescue, viii. 386, 391; Pole Carew mss CC/L/39, Pole to Pole Carew, 26 Nov. 1806.
  • 12. PRO, Dacres Adams mss 10/14.
  • 13. NMM, WYN/105.
  • 14. Sidmouth mss.
  • 15. Ibid.; Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 114, 122.
  • 16. Loch mss.
  • 17. Pole Carew mss CC/L/43.
  • 18. Sidmouth, J. H. Addington to his son, 1 Jan. 1811; Prince of Wales Corresp. viii. 3188.
  • 19. Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 437.
  • 20. Sidmouth mss.
  • 21. Pole Carew mss CC/L/50; Martin Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. xix), 242; Add. 40279, f. 62; The Late Elections (1818), 255-6.
  • 22. According to The Times, 8 Sept.; but Gent. Mag. (1830), ii. 466 gives 31 Aug.