GORDON, Charles, Lord Strathavon (1792-1863), of Orton Longueville, Hunts.
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Family and Educationb. 4 Jan. 1792, 1st s. of George, 5th earl of Aboyne [S], and Catherine Anne, da. and coh. of Sir Charles Cope, 2nd bt., of Brewerne, Oxon. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1812. m. (1) 20 Mar. 1826, Lady Elizabeth Henrietta Conyngham (d. 24 Aug. 1839), da. of Henry, 1st Mq. Conyngham [I], s.p.; (2) 9 Apr. 1844, Maria Antoinetta, da. of Rev. William Peter Pegus, 7s. (1 d.v.p.) 7da. (1 d.v.p.). styled Lord Strathavon 1794-1836, earl of Aboyne 1836-53. suc. fa. as 10th mq. of Huntly [S] and 2nd Bar. Meldrum [UK] 17 June 1853. d. 18 Sept. 1863.
Ld. of bedchamber 1826-30, in waiting 1840-1.
Ld. lt. Aberdeen 1861-d.
Capt. Hunts. yeoman cav. 1817.
Strathavon was again returned for East Grinstead in 1820 on the interest of his aunt, Lady Whitworth, widow of the 3rd duke of Dorset. He continued to support the Liverpool ministry, but was a very lax attender. He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 25 Apr., 10 May 1825. He paired against mitigation of the punishment for forgery, 23 May 1821. He voted against the abolition of one of the joint- postmasterships, 13 Mar. 1821. He was in the ministerial minorities against inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and the Scottish juries bill, 20 June 1823. His next recorded vote was for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb. 1825. He divided against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825.
In March 1826 Strathavon married Lady Elizabeth Conyngham, the daughter of the king’s mistress. He had first proposed to her in May 1824, according to Mrs. Arbuthnot, who commented: ‘I think they will accept him. He is a very good natured rattle and I think, considering all her adventures, she will be fortunate to end in this manner’.1 His offer was in fact refused, but he persisted and Lady Williams Wynn informed her daughter, 11 Dec. 1825: ‘the Strathavon marriage is ... again at a hitch, Lord Aboyne saying that he has since the last time of asking paid £10,000 for his son’s debts, and cannot therefore make his allowance what he then offered’. Later that month she reported the ‘renewal of contracts’, which had ‘probably been facilitated by royal interference’.2 Certainly the king took a lively interest in the match, suggesting in an enigmatic letter to Sir William Knighton that Lord Conyngham’s ‘great glee’ at Lord Aboyne’s final approval of the settlement was founded on his ignorance of some unspecified problems concerning it.3 It was thought that Lady Elizabeth’s fortune was £80,000. The family’s Huntingdonshire residence at Orton Longueville was ‘assigned’ to them.4 Williams Wynn implied that Strathavon was seriously ill at this time, but he recovered and was appointed a lord of the bedchamber after the marriage.5
He was returned again for East Grinstead in 1826 on the interest of the new patrons, Lords de la Warr and Plymouth. He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. He was in the Wellington ministry’s majority against reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July 1828. Planta, the patronage secretary, expected him to vote ‘with government’ for their concession of Catholic emancipation in 1829, but he ‘stayed away’ (a report that he had divided in the hostile minority, 6 Mar., was false).6 He voted against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform motion, 18 Feb. 1830. At the 1830 general election he confirmed earlier rumours by contesting his native Huntingdonshire, with the support of the Sandwich interest and the retiring Member William Henry Fellowes. George Day, a leading county Whig, informed Lord Milton*: ‘I learn from Strathavon’s agents that no expense will be spared, that success is their object and that they are reckless of money to attain it’. He was attacked by the independents as a servile Tory courtier, but he pointed out on the hustings that he had relinquished his bedchamber post on the death of George IV. He overcame the challenge of the Whig John Bonfoy Rooper* to finish in second place.7 The Wellington ministry of course numbered him among their ‘friends’, but in early November Lady Granville reported that he would vote for reform in the anticipated confrontation on the issue.8 However, he sided with government in the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. The following day he presented a Petworth petition for the abolition of slavery. He was granted a month’s leave of absence ‘on account of the disturbed state of his county’, 2 Dec. 1830. He presented a tradesmen’s petition complaining of the duty on carts, 11 Feb. 1831. He was granted a further two weeks’ leave to attend the assizes, 7 Mar. 1831. On his return, he voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., before facing a county meeting called to discuss the question, 2 Apr. He there described himself as a ‘friend to reform’, but, to general disapproval, vowed to vote against the bill’s third reading unless it was ‘altered to meet the views of all’.9 He voted with ministers against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831, and presented the county’s reform petition, with which he had been reluctantly entrusted, 20 Apr. In debate the same day he concurred in Sir Richard Vyvyan’s comments on the desirability of allotting more time for such presentations and the ‘inconvenience’ of lengthy discussions on the validity of individual petitions.
Strathavon’s lukewarm support for reform brought about his political downfall at the 1831 general election, for it alienated the Huntingdonshire Tories while failing to convince the reformers. Rooper wrote to Milton, ‘I am uncharitable enough to think we must attribute his vote on reform to an habitual subserviency to courts and ministers [rather] than to any regard for, or conviction of, the necessity of the measure’.10 The lingering faint possibility of Whig endorsement for his candidature disappeared when in his address he pledged himself merely to ‘support the bill as it corrects abuses’, but to ‘consent to nothing that will endanger the constitution in church and state’.11 This statement was enough to placate Lady Sandwich, who had threatened to withdraw support, but not the duke of Manchester, who refused to exercise his influence in Strathavon’s favour.12 According to one report
Lord Strathavon spoke rather violently at the close of poll ... with great bitterness against those who had deserted him, and said that other persons had run away from the fight in other places; but in this county, the freeholders should turn him out, and he would keep the poll open till they did so.13
He finished a distant third, and subsequently retired from public life.14 His father became 9th marquess of Huntly in 1836.
Widowed in 1839, Strathavon remarried five years later. In 1848, on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s visit to Alwyne Castle, the family seat in Scotland, his wife’s half-sister, Lady Charlotte Guest, commented on his father
old Lord Huntly, who has fitted up two rooms and taken up his residence there ... It was a melancholy sight. There in the house of his ancestors, now little more than a ghostly ruin, amidst the fine old property which he has so comparatively wrecked! ... His noble-minded son, struggling himself with poverty, coming up with his beautiful wife from their inn lodgings, to meet there on that almost haunted ground, which he holds only by the sufferance of reigning creditors and trustees. But some day, though the estate be crippled irremediably, it is to be hoped it will revive under Lord Aboyne’s good rule and brave exertions.15
He succeeded to the marquessate in 1853 and died in September 1863, leaving his wife pregnant with their 14th child. He was succeeded in the peerage by his eldest son Charles Gordon (1847-1937).
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Howard Spencer
- 1. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 317.
- 2. Williams Wynn Corresp. 331-2; Add. 52017, J.R. Townshend to H.E. Fox, 20, 29 Nov. 1825, 6 Jan. 1826.
- 3. Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1228.
- 4. Huntingdon, Bedford and Peterborough Gazette, 7 Jan.; Add. 52017, Townshend to Fox, 17 Jan. 1826.
- 5. Williams Wynn Corresp. 335.
- 6. Grey mss, Howick jnl. 10 Mar.; Gurney diary, 6 Mar. .
- 7. Fitzwilliam mss, Day to Milton, 23 June; Huntingdon, Bedford and Peterborough Gazette, 24, 31 July, 7, 14 Aug. 1830.
- 8. Countess Granville Letters, ii. 67.
- 9. The Times, 5 Apr. 1831.
- 10. Fitzwilliam mss, Rooper to Milton, 24 Apr. 1831.
- 11. The Times, 10 May 1831.
- 12. Hunts. RO, Sandwich mss Hinch/8/149/1-7; 161/1.
- 13. The Times, 10 May 1831.
- 14. Huntingdon, Bedford and Peterborough Gazette, 7, 14 May 1831.
- 15. Letters of Lady Charlotte Guest ed. Lord Bessborough, 219-20.