WARREN, Charles (1764-1829), of 15 Bedford Square, Mdx. and Sundridge, Kent

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



18 June 1819 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 19 Mar. 1764, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Richard Warren (d. 1797), MD, physician in ordinary to George III, and Elizabeth, da. of Peter Shaw, MD, physician in ordinary to George II and George III. educ. Westminster 1774; Jesus, Camb. 1782, fellow 1786-1813; L. Inn 1781, called 1790. m. 9 July 1813, Amelia, da. of Charles Sloper of Sundridge, s.p. d. 12 Aug. 1829.

Offices Held

Commr. of bankrupts 1790-1816; chanc. diocese of Bangor 1797-d.; KC 8 Mar. 1816; att.-gen. to prince of Wales May 1819-Jan. 1820; c.j. Chester circuit June 1819-d.

Bencher, L. Inn 1816, treas. 1821, librarian 1822.


Warren, whose father and maternal grandfather were noted royal physicians, was initially an advanced Whig and enjoyed a successful practice, at 4 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, as a counsel in election cases; he acted, for instance, on behalf of the opponents of the Grosvenor interest at Chester in 1818.1 Yet his cynical decision to throw in his lot with Lord Liverpool’s ministry in 1819, by accepting a Welsh judgeship, with a salary of about £1,000, destroyed his career and resulted in his public humiliation.2 As Sir George Philips* recounted in the mid-1840s:

Warren was the best and most leading counsel in parliamentary committees of that day. The same preference was given to him as is now given to [Charles] Austin. His political opinions were democratical to an extreme. They went far beyond those of most Ultra Whigs. Lord Castlereagh* having conceived a high notion of his talents, thought him worth bribing, and he was ready enough to be bribed. The report of what was going on between them was soon circulated. One of the leading members of the Whig party (Creevey*) saw him early one morning at Lord Castlereagh’s door, and going up to him, said ‘I have caught you in the fact’. Castlereagh made him chief justice of Chester, meaning to advance him, as he might have opportunities of doing. He seemed however to have lost his talents with his principles, for no man ever proved himself in my time so incompetent a judge. He could not even state the evidence correctly in his charges to the jury, and the counsel on both sides were obliged to point out to him his unintentional omissions and misrepresentations. Lord Castlereagh afterwards called him ‘my bad bargain’.3

Having been provided with a seat for Dorchester by the ministerialist Lord Shaftesbury in June 1819, when he became a freeman of the borough, Warren defended the government’s repressive policies and was taunted for his desertion of opposition.4 He was returned unopposed for Dorchester at the general election of 1820.

Following an (ultimately unsuccessful) application in king’s bench, 22 Apr. 1820, for a retrial in the case of the king v. Sir Charles Wolseley and Joseph Harrison, whom Warren had found guilty of seditious activity at a meeting in Stockport the previous summer, the Whig James Macdonald* wrote to Edward Davies Davenport* on the 24th that

the rat Warren is likely to receive such a set down as no man in a judicial character ever yet has. A new trial is likely to be granted on account of his most flagrant and iniquitous summing up at Chester. This will be followed by a motion in Parliament to exclude the Welsh judges from the House of Commons.5

Warren vindicated the Welsh judicature on a motion for inquiry, 1 June, when he attacked Lord John Russell for apparently having stated (in the debate on the civil list, 8 May) that being dependent on government for promotion he would support their measures, however unconstitutional; he concluded by boasting that ‘he could, even from his practice before committees above stairs, soon contrive to earn enough to purchase a moiety of the fee simple of the salary which that office afforded’. The anomalous position of his judicial appointment being compatible with a seat in Parliament was criticized by Creevey, who said that for 20 years Sir Francis Burdett* had been ‘uniformly the subject of his most fervent panegyric’, and Russell, who declared that if Warren ‘actually thought his character stood higher in the country in consequence of his recent change, he should only say, that he wished the learned gentleman joy of his taste and judgement’. Condemnation was swift and universal, because, as Philips put it, he showed ‘such a low and sordid character of mind in his mode of venerating himself, that even his new friends could not fail to be disgusted with him’. Charles Williams Wynn* reported to his wife that ‘Warren was certainly well roasted and made as angry, as vain and as bad a speech as ever I heard’; and, according to Sir James Mackintosh*, Warren ‘made a wretched figure ... He struggled ineffectually to conceal his agitation under the appearance of a gross and vulgar buffoonery which much resembled a total indifference to character’.6 Warren, who was portrayed in one satire blacking George IV’s jackboots and was denounced in a radical publication as ‘a notorious RAT’, thereafter lacked any political credibility.7

He spoke in favour of the king’s bench proceedings bill, 20 June 1820. He seconded the treasury secretary Stephen Rumbold Lushington’s motion to recommit the marriage bill and was a teller for the minority, 30 June. He was added to the select committee on election polls, 3 July. He called Phillimore’s resolution declaring illegal the paying of out-voters at Grantham ‘crude and ill-digested’, 12 July 1820, when he was a teller for the hostile minority, and the following day he commented on the offences at sea bill.8 He divided against condemning ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He was granted leave to go the Chester circuit, 23 Mar., and for a fortnight on account of ill health, 2 May 1821. He voted against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11 Feb., abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., and inquiry into the conduct of the lord advocate relative to the press in Scotland, 25 June; and for the aliens bill, 29 July, and the grant for government proclamations in the Irish newspapers, 22 July 1822. He divided against parliamentary reform, 20 Feb., and alteration of the Scottish representative system, 2 June 1823. He sided with ministers against rescinding the tax on houses valued under £5, 10 Mar., and limiting the sinking fund to the real surplus of revenue, 13 Mar. He divided against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into chancery administration, 5 June 1823. No evidence of parliamentary activity has been traced for the 1824 session. He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar. 1825. He divided in favour of the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 6, 10 June 1825. His only other known vote was against condemning the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826.

Liverpool had envisaged the possibility of Warren leaving the House in January 1824, but he did not retire until the dissolution in 1826.9 Later that year the barrister John Campbell II* noted the opinion of John Copley*, the new master of the rolls, on his failure in the Commons in 1820: ‘poor Warren, he did not know how to carry it off. He defended himself instead of attacking his accusers’. To this Campbell was tempted to reply, ‘Ille crucem sceleris, etc. You have a crown and he has a cross’. Elderly and in poor health, his official duties were largely taken over by the second judge Thomas Jervis†, and it was he, not Warren, who gave written evidence to the common law commissioners, whose first report was published in February 1829. He was the last chief justice of Chester, none being appointed to replace him before the court of session there was abolished under the Administration of Justice Act of 1830.10 Warren died at Sundridge in August 1829.11 Philips, who commented that ‘what makes Charles Warren’s case the worse is, that all his family were virtuous and excellent people’, believed that he

proved as worthless in private as he had done in public life. He robbed his nephews and nieces, of whom he was the guardian, of a great part, if not the whole, of their fortunes. I have been told that he also defrauded his widow.12

By his will, dated 17 Dec. 1825, Warren left his wife his entire estate, which included personalty sworn under £14,000 (resworn under £16,000 in 1831), ‘knowing she will be kind to such of my relations as may require her assistance and to those persons who have been dependent on me’. He bequeathed a Gainsborough portrait of his father to his brother, the society doctor Pelham Warren (1778-1835).13

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. Report of Committee on Late Controverted Election for Chester (1819), 18; J. Hemingway, Hist. Chester (1831), ii. 417.
  • 2. Extraordinary Red Bk. (1821), 237; Black Bk. (1823), 376; PP (1822), iv. 349 gives £900 in 1821.
  • 3. Warws. RO MI 247, Philips mems. i. 396-7.
  • 4. C.H. Mayo, Municipal Recs. of Dorchester, 434; HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 491.
  • 5. The Times, 12, 13, 24 Apr., 13, 16 May 1820; JRL, Bromley Davenport mss.
  • 6. Philips mems. i. 397, 400; NLW, Coedymaen mss 939; Add. 52444, f. 125.
  • 7. M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 14217; Black Bk. (1823), 201.
  • 8. The Times, 14 July 1820.
  • 9. Add. 40304, f. 214.
  • 10. PP (1829), ix. 211-12; Sir W. Holdsworth, Hist. English Law (1856), i. 131-2; W.R. Williams, Hist. Great Sessions in Wales, 54-55.
  • 11. Gent. Mag. (1829), ii. 188.
  • 12. Philips mems. i. 395-6, 400-2.
  • 13. PROB 8/222; 11/1764/742.